Summer travel trends and safety during COVID

By: Bankrate Staff

After several weeks hunkered down at home, a quick grocery store run is slightly exciting nowadays. As states phase in relaxed COVID-19 restrictions and the country slowly reopens, it’s hard to ignore the urge to get away – somewhere beyond the confines of your neighborhood.

From national parks and theme parks to hotels, restaurants and casinos –  the hospitality industry is taking serious steps to mitigate risk to their employees and guests. Disney World just announced their reopening July 11 with a litany of restrictions, like limiting the number of visitors, timed entry reservations, mandatory face masks, contactless payments, and temperature testing both guests and employees.

Even with restrictions and safety measures in place, you may wonder if traveling is worth the risk. While health officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the US Department of State’s Global Health Advisory advise against travel altogether, states that are opened for business, just in time for summer, are hoping people will choose to take advantage of deep discounts and cheap gas.

The latest statistics from GasBuddy suggest that some 31 percent of Americans are planning at least one road trip this summer. With gas below two dollars a gallon, it’s certainly tempting to take at least a day trip in the comfort and safety of your vehicle. And while there’s risk traveling during a pandemic, the rewards are enough to make many Americans venture out. So, if you plan on traveling this summer, here’s what to expect.

The travel and hospitality industry is going above and beyond to ensure your safety

“The whole industry is pivoting to a different way of operating,” says Dr. Donna Quadri-Felitti,  Marvin Ashner Director and Associate Professor at The Pennsylvania State University School of Hospitality Management. “The hotel and restaurant industry is adapting their real estate for the needs of this crisis, to keep people safe.”

In early May, the American Hotel Lodging Association (AHLA) issued enhanced cleaning and safety guidelines. The “Stay Safe” initiative is focused on enhanced hotel cleaning practices and will seek to change hotel industry norms, behaviors and standards to ensure both hotel guests and employees are confident in the cleanliness of hotels as travel resumes.

Dr. Quadri-Felitti says technology has played a huge role in helping the industry continue to operate under a ‘new normal.’ Contactless check-in/check-out, keyless room entry, touchless elevators, virtual TV remotes and social distancing apps are being deployed by hotels across the world to keep visitors safe and comfortable.

Bigger hotel brands are rolling out their own heightened safety protocols. Starting in June, Hilton Worldwide will launch its “CleanStay” program – implementing contactless technologies in addition to rigorous cleaning practices advised by medical experts from the Mayo Clinic COVID-19 Response Team. Marriott International’s “Cleanliness Council” is testing ultraviolet light technology to sanitize guest keys and adding electrostatic sprayers to sanitize surfaces throughout the hotel.

“Cleanliness and security has always been part of the hospitality industry. We are well-versed at  being highly regulated, very well-trained and monitored –  COVID-19 is just taking it to the next level. It’s business imperative that we don’t just meet CDC standards, but exceed them,” says Quadri-Felitti.

Rental properties

Like traditional hotels, person-to-person home rental companies like AirBnB and Vrbo have updated their guidelines around cleaning. AirBnB updated their cleaning requirements for hosts to include new procedures such as wearing a mask and gloves when cleaning, wiping services with disinfectants made of bleach or 70% isopropyl alcohol in addition to traditional soaps, washing all linens in hot water, emptying vacuum after each use and more.

Vrbo also adapted their cleaning practices to the new reality of COVID-19. Their guidelines include focusing on high traffic areas of the rental when cleaning, and letting the property remain empty for at least 24-hours after a renter leaves.

Air travel takes a back seat to road trips 

Whether you’re planning an in-state day trip or a week-long getaway to a mountain rental, road travel provides flexibility and offers a safer, more isolated environment that airlines can’t compete with. And how you get there is just as important as your destination. Road warriors are looking for more inclusive travel and are turning to recreational vehicles and the great outdoors to distance themselves from others and commune with nature.

Self-contained travel 

If spending the night in a hotel or property rental is not your preference – recreational vehicles that offer self-contained travel are increasingly popular. RVshare, a rental marketplace similar to Airbnb, just announced they hit record numbers with a 650% rise in RV rental bookings since early April 2020.

Self-contained RVs provide transportation, accommodation, and a place to cook all in one – allowing travelers to better control their social distance. RV parks and private campground owners are preparing safety processes similar to hotels with specific plans for cleaning, disinfecting and maintaining distancing.

Wellness and wide-open spaces 

Naturally in a pandemic, people look for destinations that offer plenty of room to roam and less interaction with others. With many national parks set to reopen, parks staff, small business staff and owners are preparing for the surge of visitors itching to get outdoors.

Kara Maceross, program manager and guide for Lasting Adventures, a travel service that offers everything from day hikes, backpacking trips and summer camps in Yosemite National Park, started working last week and says business is already picking up. “We’re seeing way more bookings than we thought we would. People want to get out, and parents want their kids to enjoy the summer after months of being cooped up.”

Yosemite hasn’t officially opened (at the time of publication), but when it does, there will be fewer visitors and more restrictions. Visitor capacity will be reduced by about 50 percent to promote social distancing, and day visitors will be required to register for a pass to reserve entrance ahead of time through recreation.gov. Yosemite is one of the country’s most visited national parks, hosting more than 4.5 million travelers in 2019.

Maceross says that besides limiting travel groups to 10 members, they’re also temperature screening employees and camp visitors while implementing strict cleaning procedures for equipment coming back from excursions.

“Sanitizing gear, washing hands more frequently, wearing masks when welcoming guests, and coming up with team-building activities that require no contact is all part of the new norm.”

Advanced planning is required

However you travel, it’s imperative to plan ahead. That means getting more information directly from the hotel or rental property and double-checking your destination’s rules before hitting the road. State, county and even town safety restrictions can change in an instant if COVID hot spots flare up, so frequent checks until the day you leave will help you make an informed decision on whether travel is safe or not.

Be prepared for check-ins and quarantines

If you’re traveling from hot spots like New York, New Jersey, New Orleans and Connecticut, you may be required to quarantine for 14 days. Some states are installing checkpoints and requiring identification and address where visitors will be in quarantine.  Health care officials may also pay a visit at the address given for a health check. It’s a good idea to avoid states with quarantine restrictions if you want to explore the sights and sounds. The CDC has a website where you can check the current rules by state.

Cancellation policies 

Fortunately, cancellation policies are currently more generous than before. However, refunds and credits are up to the hotel, tour operator or travel business. Hotels typically allow cancellations up to 24 hours in advance, but rentals aren’t as lenient. Before booking travel, understand the cancellation policies in relation to state and local laws. Incentives to re-book rather than cancel are being offered by travel companies, airlines and cruise lines.

How your credit card can help you save on your road trip

As you make your travel plans, consider how you can strategically use your credit card to maximize your budget on the road. Credit cards that offer rewards on gas purchases can put cash back in your pocket on purchases you were already planning to make.

 

Eco-Friendly Beauty: Zero Waste Beauty Routine When Traveling

By: Helen Bradford

Are you one of those people who can’t wait to pack their bags and head off someplace new? People who love to travel (sail, fly, camp, backpack, and have road trips) know the importance of proper packing.

27519651

It seems like experienced travelers can fit their entire house into a small backpack, and even when they only carry a small suitcase, they have everything they could possibly need at hand, beauty products included. If you’re striving towards zero waste beauty routine and re worried about how to achieve it while traveling, here’s how you can do it:

Soap and shampoo bars

Shampoo bottles are notorious for randomly exploding and leaking content everywhere in people’s suitcases, especially on long flights. This is why you’re advised to place a plastic bag under the cap or pack your shampoo bottle in a Ziploc bag in case it leaks. Well, with eco-friendly soap and shampoo bars, that can’t happen. Not only are these easier to pack in your bag, but they will also never ever leak (because they’re not liquid), and there aren’t plastic bottles and containers that will pollute the oceans.

There are even shampoo and conditioner bars combined that you can use and save loads of space in your bathroom and your luggage.

Switch to reusable cotton pads

We use cotton pads for removing our makeup and nail polish and for applying and distributing cleansing products on our faces. We use them so often and so much that we rarely stop and think how much wasted cotton that is. Makeup-removing wet wipes are handy, but they contain traces of plastic and take forever to degrade, thus polluting the Earth even further. These are just some of the reasons why you should think about using reusable cotton pads and washcloths instead. These can be used over and over, and once you wash them on high temperatures, they’ll be as good as new. You can keep your reusable cotton pads in a traveling bag, and have another one for used ones, and you won’t have to buy new packs every time you travel somewhere.

Always use natural makeup

Finding makeup brands and products that you like and that are great for your skin takes time, but you should really try to find and buy natural makeup that works for you. You might not always be able to find travel-sized lipstick and eye shadow, but you should at least know that the products you are using are natural and good for your skin and the environment. Also, you don’t always have to carry your big bottle of foundation when you travel: you can pour a bit into a smaller container and pack it in your bag, and wash the container when you get home so that you can use it again next time you go somewhere.

Go plastic-free

We already mentioned soap, shampoo, and conditioner bars and how great these are for reducing the amount of plastic that you buy, but there are more ways you can do this. There are amazing bamboo toothbrushes on the market that you can use instead of regular plastic ones, and seeing as it’s advised that you change your toothbrush every few months, this is a serious change. There is also plastic-free floss that you can switch to instead of a regular one (you won’t even notice the difference). In the end, we would like to mention that menstrual cups are a better choice for your budget, your body, and the environment too, so you might want to think about using them in the future as well.

Use coconut oil

Coconut oil is a God-given beauty ingredient everyone can use and benefit from. It’s great for moisturizing your skin, combining with granulated sugar to create a nice exfoliating paste, using on your hair, and also for removing your makeup. Coconut oil can be found cheap if you decide to buy a bigger jar, and you can always put some of it in a smaller jar or a container and take it with you when you go on a trip. Because there are so many different brands of coconut oil out there, try to find one that’s certified as organic and raw. Some brands even stick to coconuts that are grown on small farms and plant palm trees as a way to “pay Nature back.”

The zero-waste movement has made a great impact not only on the environment but also on the way we look at the world. So many of us have changed our routines and adopted some healthy habits and routines that have made both the world and our lives much better. If you don’t want to change your beauty routine while traveling, try to find ways to adapt it so that you can stick with it no matter where you are and the way you are getting there. Your skin will be grateful and you will make a huge difference.