Your European vacation is canceled and your shoe-box sized apartment is sitting at an unbearable temperature of 105°. If you’re one of the lucky ones who still has a job, Mondays are basically indistinguishable from the weekend and your vacation days feel pretty much useless. At least we’ve made it to summer, and halfway through this dreadful year.
The CDC still advises against travel, and the best way to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19 is to stay home and limit your interactions with other people. However, being around people—particularly in enclosed spaces—is what spreads coronavirus, not the actual act of traveling. This means that there are still ways to take a vacation and plan ahead to ensure you stay as safe as possible this summer. As every company’s email newsletter informed us back in March, these are unprecedented times. So take precautions when allowing yourself to decompress, safely take a vacation, and try to dull the pain of 2020 with tequila sodas.
Travel, But Make It Local
Travel, both internationally and domestically, has obviously taken a serious hit due to the pandemic, with a low point on April 14th of only 87,000 fliers, according to the TSA. Since then we’ve seen a gradual increase in travel both in the air and on the ground as states rushed to open. Memorial Day weekend seemed to be the turning point when everyone just thought we could forget about the pandemic and get on with our lives, with a 48.5 percent increase in road travel compared to the previous weekend. Unfortunately, this jump and people’s general unwillingness to socially distance resulted in a huge spike in coronavirus cases. Anddd this is why we can’t have nice things.
The moral of the story: don’t be that guy! If you’re going to travel this summer, now is the time to keep your group exclusive and spend your money on fancy sh*t rather than just flocking to the hottest vacation spot (or literal COVID hot spot). Forgo the crowded Lake of the Ozarks pool party and show off your bikini body via Instagram from a private pool in an Airbnb instead. Skip the long flight and treat yourself to summer loungewear or dinner on a socially distant street-side patio. We’re always talking about how we want to be where the people aren’t, so let’s take advantage of this opportunity and built-in excuse for getting out of plans.
It also helps to limit your groups, wear a mask when social distancing isn’t possible, and avoid peak travel times. Before booking and going on a trip, be sure to monitor the number of cases in the area you are visiting, follow travel recommendations, and definitely don’t ignore some states’ 14-day quarantine mandates and get arrested.
“Help Me, I’m Poor,” -The Airline Industry, Probably
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While your pink Away luggage set collects dust, your preferred airline has gone into a tailspin and the remainder of 2020 is looking increasingly bleak for the industry. American Airlines may furlough 20,000 employees starting October 1st when the federal bailout expires. United said they could lose 36,000 jobs in the fall. That said, should you be rushing to give them your money? While before, you would probably book flights based on what was cheapest, now you might want to choose your airline carefully.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, airlines have claimed to be doing all they can to prevent the spread of coronavirus. However, as the economic pressures loom and lockdowns are lifted, there has been a gradual abandonment of precautions. Flights have become increasingly full, and airlines like American are booking back at full capacity. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) called his jam-packed connecting flight to Texas “incredibly irresponsible” and “high-risk.” Meanwhile, airlines are not prioritizing cleaning, according to a recent Association of Flight Attendants survey where only 44 percent of flight attendants said their planes were thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between flights. A worker from American Airlines’ evening shift also stated that she and a few colleagues had only ten minutes to clean some incoming flights before they had to board more passengers. Considering I spend double that amount of time just on my nighttime skin care routine, I don’t think ten minutes is enough time to sanitize a whole plane’s armrests and tray tables.
As we know from collecting air miles (remember those?), not all airlines are created equally. Delta will continue to not sell middle seats through the summer, and United will allow you to switch to a different flight if the one you are booked on becomes too full. While most airlines have policies advising all passengers to wear masks during flights, some airlines (you can guess which one) are not enforcing them.
Not Feelin’ Fly Like A G6
Air travel is risky due to the increased time around large numbers of people in enclosed spaces, but if you must travel by plane, be sure to take the necessary precautions. Take the time to disinfect your seat, area, and hands, and opt for shorter flights without layovers to help reduce your exposure. Dr. Farley Cleghorn tells National Geographic, “Choose a window seat as far from the restroom as possible. Keep the overhead vent open and toward your face—continuous airflow creates a small, invisible ‘wall’ that restricts (at least slightly) the exhaled air from other passengers.”
If international travel is essential for you, be aware that some airlines are prioritizing business class seats, which currently can cost as much as some people’s annual salary. While on July 10th American Airlines told flight attendants that “for now, it’s OK for customers to move to different seats in the same cabin,” that policy isn’t always the case. For one couple trying to get home to Australia from the U.S., their only option might be a $24,000 USD business class ticket. Somewhere out there an out-of-touch, super-rich person (Ivanka, is that you?) who only flies private thinks that must be the normal cost of a seat in economy…must be nice.
Trains: Bad And Bougie, Or Just Bad?
Trains can conjure two types of imagery: relaxing on a humming passenger train in comfortable seats like you’re on your way to Hogwarts, or being shoulder-to-shoulder on the subway with a guy who smells as you try to drown out someone’s argument with a podcast on your daily commute.
Doesn’t the first option of train travel just feel so European? While you may just be chugging upstate, it feels like you could be making your way through the Italian countryside. Even though European travel is off the table this summer, trains remain a safer option during coronavirus. Amtrak offers flexible bookings, limited seats for sale, and even private rooms. If your train travel is a little less “martinis in the lounge carriage” and more “essential commute on the L in Chicago at 6am”, you definitely deserve a vacation. Even though cities like New York have gone to great lengths to clean and sanitize their subway systems, transit employees have been heavily impacted by coronavirus with many deaths in the early stages of lockdown. Regardless of the type of train you’re taking, be sure to stay six feet apart when possible and wear a mask.
Roadtrip > Eurotrip
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Ok, fine, an Aperol Spritz in Positano is probably better than Bud Lights from a cooler by a murky lake, but traveling by car is likely the safest way to vacation this summer. It allows the least contact with other people and the most control of your surroundings, plus gas is at record low prices. If you’ve ever dreamed of being Britney Spears in Crossroads and driving down the highway in a convertible with your besties, now is the time!
“Traveling by airplane is much higher risk than traveling by car with your family,” Carl Fichtenbaum, an epidemiologist with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Infectious Diseases, tells CNBC. If you don’t own a car, renting one is fairly easy, or upgrade to a camper van and convince your boyfriend that you are the next Caelynn and Dean, without having to meet on Bachelor in Paradise. Once you rent the vehicle, clean and sanitize it, then download Britney’s full discography for when there’s no cell service. (That last part is just a personal recommendation, not the CDC’s.)
Before you leave, pack a COVID tool kit with hand sanitizer, masks, and wipes. While on your journey, try to limit interacting with others as much as possible: bring your own snacks to avoid going into convenience stores, pay at the pump rather than inside, and limit your number of stops—particularly in public bathrooms, as they can be cramped, and flushing a toilet can stir up aerosol particles. (If we weren’t germaphobes before this pandemic, I’m pretty sure we are now.) Once you’ve completed your road trip checklist, you’re ready to hit the open road like a suburban family in a minivan.
Drinks Well Alone
2020 is certainly a wild ride, and America continues to be the world’s Florida. We won’t be getting drunk in the airport lounge this summer, and Maine is the new Greek Islands, but at least the panhandle state stays consistently wild. Plus, on the bright side, you can delay buying another millennial pink bridesmaid dress for your cousin’s destination wedding for at least a year.
With things looking so depressing, it’s definitely time to salvage what’s left of summer 2020 and book a vacation or even a long-term stay to take advantage of working remotely. Being safe doesn’t mean you have to stay in your apartment alone, but it does mean you have to take precautions and limit your interactions with groups of people. And remember, drinking alcohol doesn’t act as an internal sanitizer, but multiple White Claws can help you forget the terrible Zoom dates you went on in April and make summer feel a bit more normal.
Images: Anna Shvets / Pexels
As coronavirus cases climb in the United States, American passports appear to be losing their value. But America is GREAT AGAIN, haven’t you heard? Thanks, Donny! As if a raging pandemic, lack of accessible healthcare, and systemic racism weren’t enough, you can say au revoir to your European summer holiday, as well as vacations in a bunch of other places around the globe. Great. As the European Union prepares to reopen, U.S. travelers did not make the 15-country safe list and have officially been blocked from entering. So, where else can Americans travel right now? And better yet, should they travel or cancel trips this summer?
“You Can’t Sit With Us”—The EU, Probably
When the EU closed its borders in March, it was no small decision. The same goes for continuing the ban for Americans, considering the fact that 15 million U.S. travelers visit Europe each year, and the industry creates jobs for 26 million people. Clearly, the bloc’s economy will take a substantial hit as the travel industry’s normally bustling summer season comes and (likely) goes without its usual international visitors. The decision was based on epidemiology as opposed to the economy, with the New York Times reporting that the EU “sought to balance health concerns with politics, diplomacy and the desperate need for tourism revenue.”
Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan are on the list of approved countries, and that list will be reviewed every two weeks. However, it seems that the U.S. will have to make a serious reduction in new cases in order to be reconsidered, so we won’t be holding our breath. Unlike Americans, travelers from the approved country list will be permitted access to all EU member states, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. So if you had hoped for some thirst-trap pics for your grid in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon this summer, you’ll have to keep your posting closer to home.
There’s good news for some Americans, as the ban pertains to your residency rather than your passport. This means if you’re an American living in one of the approved countries and can prove your residency there, you may be able to enter. Congrats—it’s like a get out of jail free card!
Cruel Summer—The Countries Americans Can’t Visit
In addition to the EU, there are also a number of other countries not allowing Americans in. Canada’s
regulation hottie Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced the continuation of its border closure with the U.S. until August 21, with the possibility of another extension. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and China’s borders also remain closed to all international arrivals.
honestly it’s surprising that the Bahamas are just now banning Americans when Fyre Festival was like three years ago
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) July 20, 2020
As of July 22, the Bahamas has once again closed its borders to the U.S. due to the recent rise in cases stateside. However, if you’re bougie enough to have a private plane or yacht, you can keep planning your vacation as long as you can provide a negative COVID test… but you may get roasted by the internet for being a covidiot if you do.
Countries Open To American Travelers
Dreaming of the beach? You might be in luck, as a number of Caribbean countries are open to visitors. Belize, Barbados, and Jamaica are all open to international travel, as well as St. Barts, St. Lucia, and Antigua. However, each country or territory has its own COVID restrictions upon entry. Some include providing a negative COVID-19 test no more than a week old, or temperature and health checks upon arrival.
Mexico is also an option, even though the land border between the country and the U.S. remains closed. You can still arrive in certain areas by plane, but keep in mind that states are opening in varying degrees, so not everywhere in the country is ready for visitors.
Despite the ban, Europe is not completely off-limits to Americans this summer; the open countries just might not be the places you have at the top of your bucket list. Albania and Serbia are European countries not yet in the EU that are currently allowing international travelers, so start your research on their tourist destinations if you really want to book a trip. Apparently Serbia has a killer wine region—who knew? Additionally, Croatia has decided to issue its own travel requirements outside of the EU’s restrictions, allowing for non-EU citizens to visit, but requiring proof of pre-booked accommodations. Meanwhile, in the UK (no longer an EU member, as you may recall), international travel is permitted; however, all American arrivals must quarantine for 14 days upon entry.
“Just Because You Ameri-can Doesn’t Mean You Ameri-should”
I hate to be the Debbie Downer here, but even though some countries are open doesn’t mean you should be booking the first flight out. The CDC and the U.S. State Department still have travel advisories that warn against non-essential travel. You know what sucks more than wearing a mask during your staycation? Being on a ventilator.
As much as you’re eager to take new travel Instagrams, we are still amidst a pandemic, and there are still a lot of risks associated with travel. Air travel may increase your exposure to the virus due to difficulties with social distancing and being near people indoors for an extended period of time. If you do decide to fly, take the common-sense precautions we’ve been talking about for the last five months: wash your hands regularly, wear a mask, cover your face when you cough or sneeze, and stay six feet apart when possible.
Travelers should also consider the practical risks, like obtaining health insurance. Some travel health insurance becomes void when there is a government travel advisory, so be sure to always check to see that you will be covered in case you get sick or injured during a vacation.
Many countries are not as lax as the U.S., with nations like Canada and New Zealand still keeping their borders completely closed to visitors even though they have drastically fewer cases and deaths than the U.S. The countries are also enforcing mandatory 14-day quarantine to anyone who enters the country. Additionally, countries like Australia have issued a complete ban on overseas travel, and any exemptions must be approved by the government. Given that the success of flattening the curve in these countries has far outweighed the efforts (or lack thereof) of American officials, it might be wise to take a page from their book.
Party In The USA, Because You Won’t Be Going Anywhere Else
Yes, 2020 has indeed been a horror show, with the U.S. as its main character. For now, let’s hope that next year gets a whole lot better and we can resume our partying in Mykonos in 2021. On the bright side, where other than America can we see a Karen go postal in a Trader Joe’s because her CoNsTiTuTiOnAL rIGhTs are being violated? Plus, there’s still an election that could go horribly wrong! Seriously, just so much to look forward to this year.
Do everyone a favor and find a friend with a beach or lake house, and just stay the fuck home/in said vacation house and drink margaritas until Florida feels like Florence. Good luck.
Images: Anna Shvets / Pexels
Hey! Global warming is real! ICYMI, it’s January, and it was literally just 70 degrees one day then 40 degrees and snowing the next over here on the east coast. IDK, I just feel like I shouldn’t be able to wear a crop top and ripped jeans without freezing my ass off in the dead of winter in New York? This is just one of many obvious signs of climate change. travelhorizons™ is travel marketing brand MMGY Global’s quarterly national survey designed to learn more about American travelers’ habits and intentions with current events in mind. Their newest report, which explored the travel habits of American adults in the global warming age, shows a TON of us are hesitant to travel because we fear adding more fuel to this metaphorical (but also literal?) fire. Time for us to discuss WTF our Instagrammable vacays are doing to our planet and how we can act more responsibly so we can continue bragging about our trips on social media 20 years from now!
How Traveling Impacts Our Planet
Let’s cover the bad news first: your Instagram vacations are definitely f*cking up the planet. “Over-tourism, climate strikes, and global warming are major issues with serious ramifications for the global travel sector,” says Ronella Tjin Asjoe-Croes, CEO of the Aruba Tourism Authority, adding, “plastic and food waste from the tourism industry is another major concern.” Basically, we’re being careless and reckless by overcrowding tourist spots, littering, and not acting mindfully when we travel… and we need to f*cking stop.
On the bright side (there’s always a bright side, right?), MMGY’s study shows that travelers are down to change their behaviors when traveling to benefit the planet. Yay! According to the study, 34% of travelers believe traveling plays an important role in understanding the impact of climate change on the world, and 32% say travel increases their desire to help people in other parts of the country or the world. I feel like Googling is a way cheaper method for learning how to save the world, but all the power to you if you can afford to learn about Japan in Japan instead.
Anyway, sounds like traveling is a problem AND a solution to fighting against global warming? Kinda confusing, but OK. Moving right along.
WTF Is Sustainable Travel?
“Sustainable travel means that locals and visitors of a destination are ensuring the protection of the environment for generations to come,” explains Asjoe-Croes. “In order to achieve long-term sustainability, it requires an investment from all parties (government, hotel properties, tourism board, etc.) in order to shift the cultural mindset, which takes time.” Fortunately, a bunch of countries are already ahead of the sustainability game and have implemented really awesome programs to reduce waste, rely on renewable resources, and educate visitors on how to save our planet, one town at a time.
Aruba is just one of many places at the forefront of sustainable travel, but they’re ranked 4/10 (right after Bhutan, England, and North Macedonia?!) on Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2020 list which highlighted destinations that are progressive in terms of sustainability. “We hope to introduce visitors to the greater community, immerse them in our culture, and help them understand that the island’s nature, beautiful beaches, and culture need to be preserved,” says Asjoe-Croes. Before I visited Aruba last year, I personally volunteered to e-sign the Aruba Promise to pledge I’d be responsible and preserve the island during my stay. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m like, such an eco-friendly traveler.
Costa Rica also ranks #8 on Lonely Planet’s list of top 10 countries leading in sustainable travel. Depending on where you go, you can visit local organic farms, go fishing, and hop in on tours of the island to learn about their green programs. “We want our guests to connect with nature and experience first hand the quality, smell, and flavors of organic and sustainable farming. We want to educate and inspire everyone that visits La Senda the importance of sustainable farming,” says Federico Pilurzu, general manager of Costa Rica-based luxury hotel Cala Luna Boutique Hotel & Villas that offers farm-to-table dinners.
One more place worthy of a shout-out as far as sustainability goes: Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Dubai World Central Airport (DWC), the two busiest airports that see over 90 MILLION people passing through every year, recently announced that they’re instituting a ban on all single-use plastic starting in 2020. This effort alone will reduce tens of thousands of single-use plastics every day.
As awesome as these nationwide programs are, though, sustainable travel is also on you and me—the travelers. So what can us little people do to pitch in and do our part?
Tips For How To Travel More Eco-Friendly
Time for us to step TF up and travel more responsibly! Here’s what you can do to be a sustainable traveler, whether you’re heading to California, flying to Switzerland, or thousands of miles away to sip piña coladas in the tropics:
1. Avoid using single-use plastics
Not to bring it back to elementary school, but in case you forgot: reduce, reuse, recycle. According to that MMGY study, 54% of travelers are willing to use less single-use plastics. That means using reusable straws and utensil kits and BYOB (B as in bottle)! Most hotels have free water stations where you can fill up your old bottle so you don’t have to go buying new plastic bottles every day. Nomader and que bottle are two of my favorite reusable bottles that I bring along with me every day and whenever I travel. They literally collapse into themselves so you can pack them in your carry-on or your purse (do people even call bags purses anymore?).
2. Wear reef-safe sunscreen
Oxybenzone and Octinoxate are two of the (unfortunately) popular chemicals found in most sunscreens, and they harm coral reefs. STOP USING PRODUCTS WITH THOSE INGREDIENTS. A quick Google search for “reef-safe sunscreens” will give you a bunch of alternatives from popular brands like Neutrogena, Aveeno, and Drunk Elephant that are good for your body and the environment. Just make sure to read full ingredient lists and check labels before you buy.
3. Walk or rent bikes wherever possible
27% of travelers will either rent bicycles or walk more instead of taking automobile transportation. Be more like them. Save your $$$ and the world by skipping an Uber and enjoying the fresh air on your trip… aka stop being a lazy bitch and walk one mile to the bars or rent a complimentary bike from your hotel. I promise you’ll be fine (as long as you’re staying in a safe location, obv).
4. Stay at environmentally-friendly hotels
Almost one-third of people will intentionally avoid booking stays at non-sustainable resorts and opt for environmentally-friendly hotels and tour companies instead. Depending on where you’re going, dig around online to find which sustainable hotels are in the area… then stay there. Some use solar energy, treat and reuse sink and shower water, feature local, organic products in the resort, and even host beach clean-up programs. I know, cleaning beaches on your vacation sounds like a bummer. But you know what else is a bummer? Beaches filled with litter that eventually float out to sea and kill cute sea turtles. Yeah. So think about that next time you’re chugging White Claw on the sand.
5. Travel during off-season to avoid overcrowding
Around 4/10 American travelers agree that tourism overcrowding is a serious issue. That same amount of travelers will consciously visit destinations in the off-season to reduce overcrowding. Hate crowds? Perfect! Not only is it eco-friendly to visit hotspots in the slower season, but it’s prob cheaper to travel then, too (especially if you book on a Tuesday or Wednesday). Sooo… win-win.
6. Learn about green travel programs where you’re going
You know how you check to make sure there are good bars and brunch spots where you’re headed? Spend that same amount of time researching how you can be an eco-conscious visitor wherever the hell you’re staying. If you’re heading out of the country, at least visit a tourist center and ask questions about what you can do to help while you’re there. Again, I know. BORING. Grow up. It’s 2020. It feels good to be a good human.
7. Don’t Fly If You Can Help It
Last but certainly not least (probably foremost, actually), try to limit air travel. Even though we’ve all been taught that cars are the devil, traveling by car (provided you’re not driving just yourself), train, or bus are more sustainable options than hopping on a flight. We all know planes are f*cking terrible for the environment, but okay, let’s say your next flight is unavoidable—there are still ways to fly smarter. Fly direct, don’t fly business or first class (who even are you if this is an option), and pack light (it makes it easier on both you and the plane’s fuel expenditure).
These tips might sound like NBD, but they’re a good start—much like I tell myself when I go to the gym just to spend five minutes walking on the treadmill, something is better than nothing. And although traveling more sustainably is important, that’s not the only thing we can do to make sure the planet is like, inhabitable for our grandkids. “Beyond just travel, there’s pressure for all of us as humans to look at our footprint and preserve our planet,” reminds Asjoe-Croes. So don’t just take the bus one time and pack it in. We all better start making moves and going green before it’s too late.
Images: Giphy (6)