Whether you are desperately hanging on to that July resort reservation or planning a future return to the wide world of travel in general, most of us are finding ways to look forward to better times ahead. When it comes to our traveling lifestyles, the question will be: What will the post-pandemic world look like and how will we adapt to what lies ahead?
I normally write to you about some of the more trivial aspects of traveling and Disney. We play 5 People You Don't Want to Be, we look at the comebacks for Disney haters and we generally like to have a bit of a laugh together, I hope. This time, I wanted to take a look at 10 ways that you can travel more safely in the post-pandemic climate and reduce your risk of illness while seeing the world, in particular, the Disney World.
The three obvious ones, wearing a face mask, washing your hands regularly, and sanitizing your hands often, are only the beginning of a safe travel routine. The good news is that it doesn't take a lot of extra effort to protect yourself.
Before we begin, a quick word of caution. These tips are travel practices that I have sworn by throughout many years of traveling the world. Some of them forced upon me by my sister, Casey, always for the better. None of them are specific to COVID-19 or are in anyway foolproof in protecting you against any germs that you may encounter during your stay. Even so, every little bit helps, right? Let's begin with your flight.
Wipe down the surfaces around your seat on the plane
Most of the airlines will probably adopt a more rigorous cleaning regime once regular air travel resumes, however, to be honest, that won't be enough for me to rely on them to do it all for me.
Packing antibacterial wipes in your carry on makes them readily accessible to wipe down the surface areas around your seat. These areas include the armrests, tray table (outside when folded and the flat surface when unfolded), your seat belt buckle, and in-flight entertainment screen/remote if applicable. Avoid using spray for the comfort of those around you.
Sure, it might seem excessive, but it only takes one dream vacation that is ruined by an unexpected (and avoidable) cold or tummy bug to make you realize that certain elements of your health are within your control, so it is important to do what you can.
Carry hand sanitizer that can double as a surface spray
Choosing your hand sanitizer carefully can mean that its useful for a lot more than cleaning your hands. Try to avoid gel consistency sanitizer and instead opt for a spray bottle that can double as a surface cleaner. That way, you can use it to clean off those quick-service tables in the parks and give everyone a quick hand spray after each attraction you visit.
Be sure to select one that the right ingredients. While home remedies might sound like a lovely alternative, an effective mixture will require alcohol to do the job.
Use preventive medication to avoid face touching and eye rubbing
Most of you know that I suffer from chronic allergies and asthma, which, in situations such as these, can present two separate problems. The first is that with every change of the season, I sneeze and cough, sounding like I am spreading the black plague when really, it's just the pollen in the air.
The second complication is that my allergies often come with itchy, watery eyes that can leave me rubbing my face constantly, a practice that is a huge no-no when trying to avoid germs in unknown places.
If you have any conditions that allow you to take preventative measures, like antihistamines for allergies, an inhaler for your asthma, or even topical creams for skin conditions that might have you reaching to scratch your face, have those in place before you leave home.
The less you subconsciously reach for your face, the less likely any germs you have picked up along the way will make it into your body.
Bring your own travel utensils and straw for quick service meals
There is a lot of speculation about the changes that Disney will make to help increase the safety of guests when they reopen. One thing that has made its way into takeaway venues across the world is pre-packaged cutlery.
This is a step to ensure that every fork in the container hasn't been manhandled by a hundred guests before reaching your mouth. The downside of offering these is that single-use plastic will once again be on the rise and even still, the packages themselves are often not kept behind the counter, allowing those same hundred people to make contact with it before reaching you anyway.
Save yourselves the hassle and invest in a small reusable utensil set, most come with a fork and spoon, and some even include a reusable straw or chopsticks. Disney's quick service locations won't be the only place these become useful. The mall, the airport, your summer fro-yo fix on the way home from work; these are perfect to keep with you for all occasions.
Avoid holding things with your teeth
We've all done it; I know I have. I think as soon as I became a parent it was suddenly instinctual to hold and store things where I never before thought to. Car key in your mouth, phone shoved under your strap, anything that left your hands free to carry the baby.
Well, now we need to undo all of that necessary multitasking and avoid holding things in our teeth, even if only in there for a second.
Avoid lounging on handrails
You know those attraction lines that are hot, and slow, and seem to last forever without moving? It can be easy to slump to one side, lounging on the nearby handrail to give your feet a rest, sit down, or stretch a little.
Have you ever considered how many people slide their grubby hands along that railing every day? All of them. My kids and I call these Measles Railings because it is one place where any unsuspecting person can pick up any number of germs without even thinking twice about it.
While you may still like to lean against them with the clothed sections of your body, avoid directly placing your hand along the railing in different areas unless you are trying to collect a cross-section of germ samples that other people have left behind.
If you have the option to eat your table service or quick service meals outdoors, take it. With social distancing, which is a tough sell in a crowded theme park, fresh air can play a big part in diluting any airborne germs and reducing the risk.
There are also studies that show that warmer conditions (like the coastal summer areas of Disneyland and Walt Disney World) allow germs to be destroyed because of the higher temperatures and direct sunlight, as opposed to the highly air conditioned spaces of indoor eating areas.
Travel with packaged snacks and your own bottle of water
If you want to take extra precautions, especially if you are in a high-risk category, you may like to consider taking packaged snacks in your backpack and a refillable bottle of water. They really don't weigh that much, and as you discard your rubbish responsibly throughout the day, your backpack will only get lighter.
Doing this will also cut down on the waste of cups when asking for water at quick-service locations and make it easier to stay hydrated in those long lines during the summer months. And hey, they might also save you a bit of money to stash away for that next trip.
Take the stairs
Not only is this one better for your overall health, but it is also a much better option than sharing a small box of air with 15 strangers; and don't get me started on pushing the buttons.
Wherever possible, try to use the stairwell and avoid taking the elevator for shorter trips. Studies are showing that the rate of exposure as two people cross each other on the stairs is much lower than that of being in a confined space for a period of time. If the stairwell is outdoors, that lowers the risk even further as direct sunlight and higher temperatures are thought to kill germs faster.
If there is one thing that ten people can come in contact with in the space of an hour without thinking twice about it, it's money.
Consider it: you buy some popcorn and give a five-dollar bill. That five is then used to give change to someone else's twenty-dollar bill who then uses it a few minutes later to buy a drink. The drink vendor puts it on the top of his stack of $5 bills only to give it to the next person as change for their purchase. See where this goes?
Everyone touching it, no one thinking about where it has been or what it has on it. Stick with debit card payments and tap your card rather than giving or receiving physical cash that may not be as clean as you would hope.
It's easy to say, I shouldn't have to do that, or, I don't want to wear a mask so I am not going to. Ultimately, it is up to each and every one of us to take the necessary precautions if we choose to travel at this time. It will be our own choices that could affect the rest of our lives, seriously.
Care for yourselves. Not because you have to but because you don't want to pay the price of finding out you were wrong and really should have taken additional measures. Not because you should have the right not to, but because you value your own life and those of your loved ones so highly that compromising them simply isn't an option.
For those of you making your way to the reopenings at Disney Springs and Universal Studios in the next week, I hope you have the best time and that the positivity you take with you helps to rebuild the magic for us all.
Stay well and travel safely, my friends.
** Just an added note to point out that I completely understand that this pandemic is far from over. The term Post-Pandemic refers to whenever you make your return to the parks after the way COVID-19 has changed our lives.