Should You Travel During the Covid-19 Pandemic? Is there a safe way to travel during the pandemic?

St Mark's Square Venice 2020 Covid Travel

    Should you travel when coronavirus is still an issue? What a tricky question! It's something being discussed as the holiday season is here, and large family gatherings are being discouraged. If seeing family isn't an option, can we use our vacation days for...vacation?

    Travel has become a sensitive issue these days due to Covid-19. When I decided to travel to Venice in August, I was really concerned I would get a flood of comments telling me it's unethical to travel or irresponsible to promote it. I was afraid I would get "travel shamed." Thankfully, my followers understood that I put a lot of thought into the trip and wasn't carelessly risking myself & others. But I can't say the same for others.

    The problem with it all is that there isn't a straightforward answer. There are so many factors to traveling - especially during this pandemic. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), 1 in 10 jobs worldwide is supported by the Travel & Tourism sector. Can we really tell 10% of the world, “Sorry, you'll lose your job and home and go hungry. Nobody should travel till there is a vaccine. Your life doesn't matter as much as other lives."?

    When COVID first struck earlier this year, hospital systems were overrun and "flattening the curve" became first priority. We were told the best way to do so was to lockdown and stay home. I wholeheartedly agreed and did so. But is that still the case? Should we still be in lockdown mode 9 months later? Does this situation appear to be human lives vs the economy? Or are the human lives linked to the economy? And does all travel have to be dangerous?

    I'm not here to downplay the coronavirus. It is very real. It's scary how fast it spreads, and it leaves long term health issues even if it doesn't kill you.

    At the same time, the world can't shutdown for a year and expect to bounce back. The lockdown was necessary at the beginning because the virus was new and hospitals weren't prepared. Travel then was 100% irresponsible. But now, months later, we know much more about the virus and how to handle it. We may even have a vaccine on the horizon as Pfizer announces promising vaccine trial results.

    If you're cautious and prefer to stay home for your health, that's awesome. It's the safest way to do so. I'm not telling everyone to leave their home. Just that we shouldn't be so quick to judge those that do choose to travel now - that it doesn't have to be reckless endangerment. It just really depends on the who and how.

So what are the factors that set the responsible travelers apart?

  • Making flexible travel plans according to the Covid numbers in both your area and destination. The less crowded your destination, the better. Do your research. We looked at Venice's live cams on Youtube to track crowd levels every day before leaving.
  • Getting tested before and after travel to/from destination. Keeping viral loads in mind and leaving enough quarantine/testing times into your travel schedule there and back. Don't be responsible for bringing the virus to other countries. Not all countries have the resources to handle the virus. 
  • Following the rules. If they require you to quarantine, make sure you do so properly. If they require you to stay in a certain area, do it. No questions asked.
  • Social distancing is one of the most important factors in Covid prevention. A sneeze can spray out to 27 feet (source). A cough can spray out to 19 feet. Even just breathing and talking sprays droplets that can stay in the air for 8-14 minutes (source). Traveling to busy areas, attending concerts, and clubbing are entirely unnecessary and completely irresponsible. But taking a road trip to quiet areas is reasonable. See the difference?
  • If you really have to come into contact with a person, keep it short and distanced with masks on. Even if it's not required, these are the factors that will keep your travel responsible and ethical.
  • Keep everything outside. Droplets can build up inside of a room. This is all factored by length of time, air circulation, room size, talking volume, etc. 95% of our plans in Venice were outdoors, and we always picked outdoor seating when eating. Too cold to sit outside now? Order your food togo and eat at your hotel, or choose accomodation with kitchens and learn local recipes.
  • Hygiene! We all know washing our hands as much as possible is a good preventative, but are you washing it properly for long enough? Are you washing your hands and then touching contaminated items like your phone and your mask? Are you crumpling up your mask into your pockets and then rewearing them without checking which side is which?

    As you can see, there are a lot of components to travel, and we all travel differently. I don't think we should be lumping all travelers into the same group. Even before the pandemic, "bad tourists" were a thing. It's HOW we travel that sets us apart.

    If you aren't willing to be respectful, follow the rules, and care about the well being of others, you shouldn't be traveling. Travel is a privilege - especially these days. Don't be selfish assholes like these French tourists. Take care of the communities you are visiting. An entire industry doesn't have to crumble because of carelessness. If everyone followed the rules and actively social distanced, travel could be sustainable.

TLDR;  Travel, ONLY when done responsibly, is possible and doesn't have to be unethical. Social distance. Wear a mask. Follow the rules. Don't ruin travel for others.

preventing covid spread