Is It Safe To Take A Train, Flight, Or Road Trip? What You Need To Know

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

How TF Are We Going To Travel Post-Pandemic? 

We’re approximately two months into quarantine and everyone’s going a little stir-crazy. We’ve started dreaming of where we will travel once restrictions are lifted and we enter back into society, emerging from our homes as little house gremlins in need of vitamin D and sobriety. Over the last 10 years, the travel and tourism industries have grown exponentially with the help of technology, making it easier than ever to plan a trip. But this expansion has stalled as a result of travel restrictions and isolation in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. As we stay home and try to flatten the curve, many people have started to consider how to travel in the future—while praying that their 2020 vacation days will carry over to 2021. While it’s difficult to predict when we’ll be able to travel outside of our one-bedroom apartments again, there’s no doubt the industry will change as a result of the pandemic. So, as travelers, how will we spend our holiday time and how the f*ck is the industry going to bounce back?

Can We Get A Refund On 2020?

The travel industry supports nearly 10% of the world’s global jobs, and that doesn’t even take into account its supply chain for things like farmers who provide food to hotels, and restaurants who rely on the tourist season for foot traffic. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, 75 million jobs and $2.1 trillion in revenue in the travel and tourism industry could be lost due to COVID-19. With such an impact to a large global industry, the vicious cycle of people having less disposable income to spend on travel and people in travel-related jobs being laid off, begins. Travel influencers are shaking in their latest ShoeDazzle collection clear-heeled boots.

No sector of the industry will go untouched, meaning we’re about to experience a huge change in how we travel as companies try to adapt. Many organizations in travel were ill-equipped for a financial crisis, only preparing for a positive trajectory continuing from the last few years. A recent article from National Geographic on how coronavirus is impacting the travel industry states that “international carriers, including Delta and United Airlines, had less than two months of cash on hand to cover expenses before the coronavirus hit.” I mean, same, but I’m a millennial with student debt so that’s to be expected, not a gigantic company. Plus, I don’t think my stimulus check compares to their $25 billion bailout. I guess all those oversize bag fees and change fees were a lot more important than we thought.


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TSK TSK!!! | credit/permission @kacoleman

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Hotels are another part of the industry with unprecedented losses. Seventy percent of hotel employees have been laid off, and the projected occupancy rate for 2020 is worse than during the Great Depression. Yikes. Hotels also may have more difficulty bouncing back and recouping losses than other sectors, since they will likely need to offer steep discounts to entice travelers. While offering cheaper rates is probably necessary to draw us out of our sweatsuits and into swimsuits after months of a 90% carb diet, doing so is not exactly sustainable for hotels, putting them between a rock and a hard place.

the biggest lesson I’ve learned from all this is that I should continue to not go on cruises

— Betches (@betchesluvthis) April 2, 2020

Cruise lines have essentially been the face of the pandemic with horror stories all over the news about onboard quarantine of infected passengers and ships unable to dock. The cruise industry has faced the most intense struggles of any sector and is not currently part of the government bailout. One saving grace for the industry could be its affordable lines for those looking for a cheaper travel option. And things appear to be looking up for cruises, as a rep for Carnival Cruise Lines told TMZ that its bookings were up 600% from the previous three days once the company announced they would resume travel in August, and that their bookings were 200% higher than those Cruise Planners received during the same period last year. Just when I thought we would all wake up and realize that cruises are basically floating environment-killers that spread disease.

The Year Of Realizing Things

While projections are looking bleak for the travel industry, there is a lot of optimism around the opportunities for change and growth in every industry, especially travel. This might seem hard to believe right now, since all anyone is doing is baking banana bread, but they say this is how innovation starts. 

In a recent webinar with LinkedIn, Co-Founder and CEO of Airbnb Brian Chesky predicted that we’ll see decades of revolution condensed into weeks. Confident in people’s desire for travel and need for connection, Chesky is certain that we’ll see a resurgence in the industry. He sees it resurfacing slowly in a few steps, starting with domestic vacations, and traveling by car rather than plane. This means that smaller towns and remote areas would return to normal levels of tourism faster or even see growth (plus, cars are less bad for the environment than planes). We may also see a change in travel itineraries. Pre-pandemic, traveling was all about visiting landmarks (getting the best Instagrams) in high-density cities and checking off bucket-list destinations (the places everyone else in your feed has been to). Chesky claims we’re likely to see the end of that mindset, so be prepared for lots of rolling unpopulated hills in your Instagram feed. We’re not saying Iowa is the new Mykonos, but like, maybe we are. 


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if only we could actually escape. where’s the first place you’re traveling once we’re able to?

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We can also expect leisure travel to resume before business travel, as conferences and large events are not expected to go forward in 2020. Additionally, with everyone adopting remote work, there may be a huge shift in the need for these events at all. With so many people working remotely, and companies realizing that you can be productive outside of the office, more people will likely relocate or not be tied to a city. As a result, there will be more demand for long-term stays in places like hotels and Airbnbs, as people take their work anywhere in the world. 

We might also see emergence of new technology as we start traveling again. Think about it: Uber and Airbnb rose from the 2008 financial crisis, looking to provide more affordable ways to travel and for others to generate income. So we could see new innovations rise from the ashes of the pandemic. This could be in the form of robots in airports or start-ups looking to better handle travel disruptions or detect fevers. Maybe we’ll finally get hover cars, who knows?

Another important change will be people’s increased concern regarding health and safety, which would affect every aspect of travel. That girl Clorox-ing her armrests and tray table before take-off is no longer a crazy germaphobe, she’s doing the bare minimum to avoid getting sick. You were concerned about the cleanliness of your Airbnb when booking? You can bet this is much more of a concern post-pandemic. *Googles the dirtiest part of an airplane*

Part of the industry most heavily affected by new sanitization standards and personal space could be the activities and adventures sector, valued at $254 billion in 2019. Some companies might not be able to adapt. Can you imagine going zip-lining and using the same gloves or helmet as the person before you? Or sleeping on a cramped boat with 20 other strangers during Yacht Week? These activities were hotbeds for germs before the virus, now we’re just hyper-aware of them. We might consider our own, more spacious accommodations over experiences like sailing along the Dalmatian Coast or the through the Greek Islands on a cramped boat with 20 strangers.

Wake Me Up When We Can Leave The House

Over the last 10 years, the travel industry has grown exponentially with the help of technology. This has made it easier than ever for people to hop on a plane, but that growth has come to a halt in 2020. However, in areas like China where the virus has already peaked, domestic travel has resumed and brings some hope.

Unfortunately, with the current state of the U.S., it doesn’t seem like we’ll be back to “normal” anytime soon. There are few that industries have suffered as much as travel since the beginning of 2020, but the challenges bring opportunities for change. While it may take time to rebound, we will return to travel and see new breakthroughs in the way we visit our own countries and the world. Maybe if we keep ordering tie-dye loungewear, we’ll accumulate enough travel points for a trip in 2021. For now I’ll settle for margaritas in my living room and making my Zoom meeting background a tropical location.

This article has been updated to reflect the correct amount of the airline bailout.

 Images: Russ Widger / Unsplash; betchestravel / Instagram; betchesluvthis / Twitter