• Franny the Traveler

COVID-19 Travel Survival Guide for Every Mode of Transportation

Updated: Oct 29

Itching to travel? Had about enough staying stationary in your own city or state all these months? 


I hear ya! I am not the expert when it comes to traveling during this pandemic which is why I reached out to some of my traveler friends who have become experts on this! 


To be transparent, the last time I left the country or took a real trip was February 2020. The last time I boarded Amtrak was December 2019. I have stuck to exploring my local backyard this entire time. I am part of the majority when it comes to this -- NUMBERS DON’T LIE! 


I want to present some stats for you right now from the Bureau of Transportation of travel patterns this year vs. last year as of September 13, 2020:



However, travel is inevitable!  We will all eventually get back on that plane, train, or bus on our own time and comfort level. I want you to be prepared to travel WHEN you do (as it is not an IF) no matter what the mode of transportation is. 

I got you! To help you be prepared, I reached out to several traveling ladies who have been catching these trips during this pandemic as they share their insights from personal experience. I also discuss the pros and cons of each mode of travel so you can make an informed decision for which mode of transportation is best for you:

  • Catching Flights

  • Taking Road Trips

  • Riding Amtrak

  • Riding a Bus




Catching Flights in Pandemic 


Pro & Cons of Pandemic Airline Travel


Pros:

  • Prices are the cheapest they have ever been:  For example, round trip tickets to Los Cabos, Mexico from NYC now cost under $300 when they used to cost $500-$700. People have also gotten round trip tickets to Miami for $30-50 when it is typically $150-$300.

  • Airports aren’t as busy & they are cleaner. Most airports are less crowded, leading to a very quick, seamless experience when flying. Fewer people along with stricter cleaning protocols have led to a cleaner airport.

  • Flights overall are less full: Some airlines are still not flying at full capacity and are blocking off the middle seat. For example, Delta has limited to 60% capacity in economy through September and has blocked middle seats through early January. 

  • The risk of exposure to COVID-19 is almost non-existent on flights. According to a study done by the U.S. Department of Defense for United Airlines, you would need to be wearing a mask on a plane for more than 54 hours for air particles to build up to infectious levels, even when the flight is full.


Cons:

  • Airlines have been inconsistent with cleaning and precautions in place. For example, American Airlines has been known to have full flights including the middle seat and not cleaned as well.

  • Flight schedules are different. Since fewer people are flying, many airlines have cut non-stop flights to smaller cities. It has also been reported that some airlines have canceled flights without warning, leaving people stranded. Overall there are fewer flight routes to choose from.

  • Although flying may be safe, the destination you are flying to may not be. Every state and country has their own COVID-19 guidelines and quarantine rules (or lacking for that matter), which may mean that you are an increased danger once you arrive at your destination.

  • The beverage and meal service looks very different. Typical beverage service has been suspended. Most airlines are giving mini kits with a small bottle of water and a snack with no option to buy food onboard. You can still bring your own food, but that also means you have to take off your mask to eat.

Tip #1:  Be Prepared -- Bring everything you need! 

Carry enough masks and hand sanitizer. Also, bring your own wipes even though they are provided for you. I would also recommend bringing some of your own light snacks as nothing the airlines are serving is very appetizing at the moment. 


Tip #2: Wear your mask...

in the airport, on the plane, and when walking into establishments (restaurants, museums, etc). They are practically required everywhere. 

Tip #3:  Wipe everything...

your seat, armrests, table, and air vents on the plane. ⁣

Tip #4: Practice social distancing.

Introverts link up 🤣⁣

Tip #5: Keep your hands clean always.

Sanitize your hands frequently⁣. Wash your hands for 20-30 seconds every time you return to your hotel/Airbnb.⁣



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Pandemic Flight Travel Locations:

  • Georgia

  • California

  • Oregon

  • Mexico

  • Jamaica

  • Chicago


1. What was your airport experience amidst the pandemic? 

I mainly flew out of Newark and the airport was much emptier than expected. JFK had a few more crowds than Newark, but it was still empty for what I’ve known JFK to be like.


There were social distancing marks everywhere and masks were required for everyone inside the airport. security lines were non-existent or a 5 minute wait at most. I think it’s great to see things running more seamlessly. However, when I visited places like Atlanta, the airport was much more crowded. 



2. What was your flight experience amidst the pandemic?

I flew with United, Delta, and American Airlines. American Airlines hasn’t made many changes post Covid. They have full flights with no social distancing. Each airline gives you alcohol wipes to clean your seat and tray down. United and Delta seemed to be taking more precautions by boarding the plane from back to front and letting a few rows at a time get up when the plane lands. Delta is the only major airline that is blocking middle seats for the time being. Although the distance is still not 6 feet, it makes people feel safer. The meal options are limited down to a plastic bag with budget water, crackers, pretzels, and cookies. I will be happy when warm meals return to the planes. 



3. What was your experience at your travel destination? What were you able to do there? Any limitations?  I’ve visited Georgia, California, Oregon, Mexico, Jamaica, and Chicago since the pandemic. Other than mask requirements, there weren’t many limitations besides social distancing and curfews. Places have curves ranging from 8 pm-11 pm where things will shut down.

Only In California was I not able to dine indoors. Indoor dining was a breeze everywhere else. Most people were doing outdoor activities, but I did a mixture of both such as museums and art galleries. 


Left to right: Atlanta, GA; Los Cabos, Mexico; Chicago, IL


Need more resources? Check out Walk with Ms. Walker’s Posts:



Tip #6:  It is important to incorporate things that will allow you to stay grounded while you are traveling. 

All over, everyone is sharing tips on what you should do when you are traveling: wipe your seat, use your hand sanitizer, etc. and all those tips are very important. However, it is also important to incorporate things that will allow you to stay grounded while you are traveling. It is normal to feel anxious and nervous leading up to a trip. I have flown over 10+ times all over the country and every time, I still get anxious. Recognize that the feeling is normal and in the days leading up to your travel, take some time to do some calming exercises. 


Tip #7: Follow these Hotel Travel Tips During COVID-19

  • Spray or wipe down everything

  • Choose hotels with Kitchenettes

  • Limit or opt-out of housekeeping services


Tip #8: Follow these Air Travel Tips During COVID-19

  • Take an early flight

  • Sanitize your hands

  • Keep your distance when boarding & deplaning

  • Sanitize your area

  • Choose a window seat


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Pandemic Flight Travel Locations:

  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida

  • Los Angeles, California

  • Memphis, Tennessee

  • Atlanta, Georgia


1. What was your airport experience amidst the pandemic? 

I have flown quite a few times since the pandemic. Although I don’t have any really specific memories that stand out, I will share a few things. In my area, I have the choice of 3 airports to choose from. DCA, BWI, and IAD. I usually start by looking at flights from BWI because, in my experience, their passenger rate is much lower than the other two. I usually travel either early in the morning or late at night for the same reason: it reduces my chances of encountering a lot of people. 


2. What was your flight experience amidst the pandemic?

Whenever I travel these days, I am only going with SW or Delta. They are the two that have shown me that they are doing what it takes to keep passengers and employees safe. On every flight I have been on with those airlines, I have had the middle seat empty. I can’t say the same for United and American. 


3. What was your experience at your travel destination? What were you able to do there? Any limitations?  These last few times I have flown have been for work, so I would only go back and forth to my job and hotel. Hence, I wasn’t doing much exploring. When I went to Cali back in August, some things were open, but not a lot. In regards to restaurants, they were open, but we had to take everything to-go. We tried to do as much outdoor exploring as we could. 

Left to right: Memphis, TN; Fort Lauderdale, FL ; Los Angeles, CA


Need more resources? Check out Breakfast with Tiffani’s Blog Posts:


Taking Road Trips in Pandemic


Pro & Cons of Pandemic Road Trip Travel


Pros: 

  • You have more personal space: You are confined to your vehicle instead of being next to strangers if you took a plane, train, or bus.

  • You have more control of your environment: You can control how clean your car is, the ventilation in your car, who is in your car (assuming everyone in the car has been tested and is negative). You can also pack all the snacks and drinks you need without having to worry about getting through airport security first.

  • Easier access: Road trips make access to nature and the outdoors more convenient. It is also easier to find or get to hidden gems of a specific destination. 


Cons:

  • It takes much longer to get to a destination. For example, instead of an hour flight from NY to Burlington, you have to drive for 6 hours. 

  • There are still public places you will be in contact with and surfaces you are touching that you may not be thinking of -- for example, the gas pump at the gas station or the bathroom handle at the rest stop.

  • Lots of traffic and unexpected crowds: Since more people have been opting into road trips, people are finding all the outdoor locations you have in mind crowded. This has led to more traffic on the road and very limited parking. Many outdoor spots are filling up to capacity much earlier than normal. Ironically, it is becoming more difficult to social distance because everyone is traveling to the same outdoor locations by road trip.

Tip #1Always Fill up on Gas!

(Franny’s Side note: Make sure to disinfect the gas pump before pumping your gas. Have no wipes? Then use a paper towel, tissue, or napkin to touch the pump)

Tip #2: Enjoy the Scenery!

Take Lots of Pictures!


Tip #3: Be Flexible.

Do Your Research. Talk to Locals.



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Pandemic Road Trip Locations:

  • Southern Road Trip: Atlanta —> Memphis —> Birmingham —> Montgomery —> Selma —> Atlanta

  • West Coast Road Trip 1: Arizona → Utah → Nevada

  • West Coast Road Trip 2: Montana → Wyoming → Idaho

  • West Coast Road Trip 3: New Mexico


1. Briefly describe your road trip.

Throughout 2020, I have been road tripping up and down and across the United States in pursuit to visit all 50 states. Each trip has been anywhere from 4 days to a week and I have literally touched every region of the country. 



2. What was your road trip experience amidst the pandemic? 

My experience amidst the pandemic was very similar to my experiences before just because of the type of traveler I am and have always been. However, I will say that road-tripping amidst the pandemic has made traveling 10x more scenic. Although a lot of places are still closed or shut down for good, it has challenged me to get creative and become one with nature. For example, I was challenged to get creative in Taos, New Mexico. Due to Covid-19, the town of Pueblo de Taos was closed and that was one of the main attractions on my itinerary. As a result, I had to improvise and find other sites to see that mimicked the town's clay buildings. 



3. What was your experience at your travel destination? (What were you able to do there? Any limitations? (Name destination).  My experiences in each state have all been VASTLY different. In most places, I have leaned towards doing hikes, visiting national parks, soaking in hot springs, and some type of extreme activity. As a result, I didn't face any limitations in any parts of the country that I can recall. I found that on the West Coast, however, restrictions weren't as enforced. Mask coverings weren't required in some places (Utah) and social distancing wasn't really a thing (Montana). 

  • Montana: I jumped off a bridge into 30-degree water at Glacier National Park. 

  • Idaho: I did a 10 mile hike to one of the most beautiful alpine lakes I’ve ever seen

  • New Mexico: I took a hot air balloon ride over Albuquerque. 

  • Utah: I chased waterfalls at Bryce Canyon National Park.

  • Alabama: I took a pilgrimage journey through the Civil Rights capital of the South.


Left to right: Utah; Yellowstone National Park, Montana; New Mexico


Need more resources? Check out That Mia Girl’s Blog Posts:



Tip #4:  Bring absolutely everything that will make you feel comfortable with you in the car. 

First, load up on hand-sanitizer and wet-wipes. On top of washing my hands when I arrive and leave establishments, I also disinfect my hands with hand-sanitizer every single time I come back to the car, even if I didn’t touch anything. Now, the wet-wipes are great in case you need to use the bathroom, whether it is a formal one or an informal one on the side of the road. 

Tip #5: Get some snacks. 

What is a road-trip without your favorite snacks? My go-to snacks are caramel popcorn, gummy bears, and the orange flavor Gatorade to avoid dehydration. 


Tip #6: Get comfortable in the car. 

My husband calls it the “Premium Economy Kit” which consists of a 3D Mask so it doesn’t mess up my make-up, a wink emoji pillow, and a fluffy blanket. This is great for those long stretches of road where you just want to take a well-deserved nap!


Tip #7: Always always always download the offline map of all of the surrounding areas where you are traveling to. 

There have been so many times when I’ve lost service, but since I always think ahead and have the offline maps already on my phone, I had a way to get to my next destination. 



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Pandemic Road Trip Locations:

  • Cross Country Road Trip: Cross Country Road Trip (California → Nevada → Idaho → Wyoming → South Dakota → Nebraska → Iowa → Michigan → Ohio → Pennsylvania → New Jersey

  • East Coast: Upstate NY, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Connecticut


1. Briefly describe your road trip (How long was it? Where did you go?)

I took a cross-country road trip in the middle of the Pandemic for 17 days, covering 12 states. Of those 12, 9 of which were newly visited states! Each state had its own gems to explore. It was truly a surreal experience and something I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time. I also traveled to various areas in Upstate NY, and the South of New Jersey. These trips ranged from 3-5 days. For the Indigenous Day Weekend, I traveled to Rhode Island and Connecticut. This trip allowed me to experience state #33 out of my goal of all 50!



2. What was your road trip experience amidst the pandemic? 

My experience overall was enjoyable. Given the restrictions, every city did its best to allow me to enjoy what it had to offer. Sometimes it was really challenging to book activities. Therefore, flexibility was key. Many activities were sold out because of capacity constraints and the massive amount of people reacquainting themselves with vehicle travel. I think this is superb! I highly encourage everyone to go out there and experience their own backyards. If you are interested in exploring your surrounding areas, I recommend you book well-in-advance so you don’t miss out on certain popular activities especially since there is limited availability as almost all establishments are following local safety protocols. For the most part during the pandemic, I was able to book something or do things outdoors. 



3. What was your experience at your travel destination? (What were you able to do there? Any limitations? (Name destination). 

My experience has been smooth. There is a certain level of efficiency and organization in how businesses are running lately which I’ve come to appreciate and love. Everything is cleaner, everyone wears gloves, and masks, there is hand-sanitizer everywhere, the checking processes are clearly marked, etc. There are absolutely some closures, or limitations about dining indoor, outdoors, or only allowing carry-out, but I’ve been able to cope with it. 


Left to right: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming; Hidden Valley Preserve, Connecticut; Prescott Farm, Rhode Island


Riding Amtrak in a Pandemic


Pro & Cons of Pandemic Amtrak Travel


Pros

  • Many train stations are outdoors: this means not having to wait in close quarters. 

  • Boarding is much more spread out: passengers often have multiple doors to get in and out, while that is not the case on a plane.

  • It is easier to spread out: Amtrak has no middle seats --  there are only two seats per row.  They have a new initiative where passengers traveling alone will have an empty seat next to them. They are also limiting the number of people who can book. 

  • Amtrak is offering lots of deals to incentivize people to travel (example: along the Northeast Corridor, they are offering a free ticket for a companion)

  • You have the option to book a private room (such as a roomette) which allows you to completely social distance from everyone during your entire trip if you choose to never come out.

Cons

  • You can end up sitting or standing within six feet of others, especially if you do not have your own room. 

  • There may be crowding in the train terminal, making it difficult to avoid social distancing.

  • Longer trip times: It will take longer to travel by train than plane. Depending where you are going, it may take significantly longer. For example, going from NYC to NOLA takes 30 hours by Amtrak versus 3 hours. 

  • Trains do not have as advanced airflow and filtration systems as airplanes.

  • Although Amtrak says you must wear a mask 100% the time, that is not always enforced based on some people’s experience.


Tip #1: Bring Lysol wipes and/or gloves for moving around the cars


Tip #2:  Bring your own snacks.



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Pandemic Road Trip Locations:

  • Kansas City to Chicago (12 hours)

  • Kansas City to St. Louis (almost 6 hours)


1. What was your Amtrak trip experience amidst the pandemic?

I traveled from Kansas City to Chicago in June and from KC to St. Louis in September. On both occasions, the train was sanitized, and wasn't booked to capacity. There were at least 2-3 rows between me and the other passengers. The food cart was open, but the dining cart was closed. So, people had to eat in their seats. Masks were required in the station and to board. It was strongly suggested to keep masks on during the ride. I didn't keep mine on the entire time and it wasn't enforced. The observation car was open, but there was no way to social distance. I didn't mind since we were wearing masks. 



2. What was your experience at your travel destination? (What were you able to do there? Any limitations? (Name destination). 

Chicago had just entered phase 2 of reopening so hotels were open, but none of the amenities were. There were protests. Therefore, it was tense in certain areas. The restaurants were open patio seating only. Most tourist attractions were open too.


STL museums, restaurants, and tourist attractions were open. However the city was under curfew and everything shut down 10 pm - 11 pm. Also, the restaurant in the hotel was open but none of the other amenities were available.



Tip #3:  Sign up for the Amtrak rewards program as well as their newsletter.

I was able to find a deal through an email campaign that they sent me.


Tip #4:  Being more flexible in terms of when you leave home will save you money.


Tip #5: Leave during an off-peak time.

I think that because I left during an off-peak time (late Saturday morning), the train had fewer people versus if I would have left after work on Friday. 



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Pandemic Road Trip Locations:

  • NYC to Washington, DC


1. What was your Amtrak trip experience amidst the pandemic?

The train ride was a little over 3 hours; an overall great experience. The policy for wearing masks was enforced and most riders were social distancing. I think that because I left during an off-peak time (late Saturday morning), the train had fewer people versus if I would have left after work on Friday. From a cleaning perspective, I observed Covid-19 signs and hand sanitizer in the restroom. However, besides that, I didn't observe any cleaning during my trip.



2. What was your experience at your travel destination? (What were you able to do there? Any limitations? (Name destination). 

I recently traveled from NYC, and at the time there were similar restrictions to my final destination in DC. Primarily, all indoor dining was closed, but most restaurants had outdoor seating and food and drink options to-go. I was primarily in the DMV area for an outdoor (surprise) birthday, so I didn't feel restricted in terms of going to stores or picking up last-minute supplies.



Riding a Bus in a Pandemic


Pro & Cons of Pandemic Bus Travel


Pros

  • You can arrive right before your bus is scheduled to leave, decreasing the amount of time waiting in an area with lots of strangers

  • Out of the modes of transportation, it is usually the cheapest option to travel.


Cons

  • Social distancing is nearly impossible considering that everyone is crammed on a bus; it will depend if the bus company limits capacity (for example, Greyhound is not limiting capacity, but Megabus has).

  • If you do not arrive early to wait in line, you may end up sitting very close to strangers as it is first-come, first-served for seating. 

  • There is no way to enforce masks since the only employee on the bus is the driver versus the fact that on a plane, there are flight attendants who are monitoring.

Tip #1:  Clean surfaces...

the seat and window. 


Tip #2: Travel with extra supplies...

disinfecting wipes, spray, hand sanitizer, and extra masks.


Tip #3: Make sure to use the bathroom before boarding the bus.

I didn’t use the bathroom on the bus, but I used it at the bus terminal. 



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Pandemic Road Trip Locations:

  • Manhattan, New York to Atlantic City, New Jersey


1. What was your bus trip experience amidst the pandemic?

The bus ride felt normal, the only difference is that everyone wore masks. It was approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes. I used Greyhound from Manhattan to Atlantic City. The bus was pretty full. I didn’t see any bus cleaning. However, at the bus terminal, there were several employees cleaning.



2. What was your experience at your travel destination? (What were you able to do there? Any limitations? (Name destination). 

Atlantic City was pretty much open besides nightclubs and certain night activities. However, there were plenty of restaurants, bars, casinos, and stores open and available. 



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Tip #3: Get food before boarding.


Tip #4: Use the bathroom somewhere else before boarding since you are not at an actual bus terminal



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Pandemic Road Trip Locations:

  • Manhattan, New York to Washington, DC


1. What was your bus trip experience amidst the pandemic?

My experience with Megabus was actually quite smooth. The bus picked us up by the Javits Center, not at an actual bus terminal. Therefore, the only thing that I would suggest when heading out is probably getting food and using the bathroom somewhere else before boarding. However, once on the bus, everything was clean, and other travelers were socially distanced. There weren’t many travelers, to begin with, so it felt very safe. You still have to wear your mask at all times. 


2. What was your experience at your travel destination? (What were you able to do there? Any limitations? (Name destination). 

I went to DC, which was 4 hours from NYC, and stayed in the NoMa area. We were 5 minutes away from restaurants and lounges. The only thing that we couldn’t do at our hotel was use the pool, which was pretty much the same for all hotels in DC. As far as restaurants go, there were indoor and only some outdoor options, so we had no problem looking for places to eat. On our way back to NYC, the mega bus experience was the same, and I have no complaints at all!



Trip to Washington, DC by Megabus

5 Things to Keep in Mind Before You Decide to Travel


1. There’s no such thing as risk-free travel in a pandemic. Just stepping out your house means that you are opening yourself to the chance of contracting or spreading the virus.


2. There are many ways of decreasing your risk factors while traveling -- mode of transportation, limiting contacting, coming prepared with cleaning supplies, etc.


3. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have pre-existing conditions?

  • Will I be putting others who are high at risk further at risk by traveling when I return home? 

  • Am I traveling to a COVID hot spot? 

  • What precautions are in place where I am traveling and/or with the mode of transportation I am taking? 

  • How important is this trip? (For example, this may be necessary for your mental health)

4. Do your research! Research your destination. Ask others who have traveled what their experience has been -- people you know in real life or through Instagram, reading this blog post, and connecting with those on the post! 


5. Ultimately it is your decision to make. Do what works best for YOU and you only!


Which mode of transportation will you travel with first during this pandemic? Comment Below!


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About Me

Part-time traveler and full-time nationally award-winning educator. My passion for travel led me to start my travel blog so I could share the stories of my adventures and tips I have learned along the way as I conquer at least two new countries and two new states a year to reach 50 states & 50 countries by age 50.

 

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