A pandemic like COVID-19 is quite possibly the worst thing that has happened to civilization in quite some time. While we’ve all been cooped up at home and taking adequate safety precautions for those rare work trips or dashes to the supermarket, there are things that we’ve been missing. Things like impromptu hangouts with friends and colleagues, weekend parties and gatherings, celebrations like birthdays and anniversaries of loved ones and most importantly, travel with family.
If there’s one thing that the nationwide lockdown has majorly put the brakes on, it is family travelling or journeying with our close pals. And aren’t you just raring for a little break, somewhere without any crowds, easier traveling options and for some time away from working at home and the mundane routine each day? You’re not the only one. Fortunately, as they say, every cloud has a silver lining. Provided you take necessary precautions and look out for yourself and your companions, there are safe places that you can visit in the near future.
As part of the Unlock phase of the Indian Government, restrictions on traveling are steadily being lifted and hotels bookings are being taken across several States and cities. There are amply sanitized stays and isolated vacations on offer in addition to several attractive packages to draw travellers once again. Yet, it is easier said than done; simply venturing out on a short yet safe vacation requires considerable planning and effort on your part.
It seems like you will be able to take family vacations again although there will be numerous precautions to abide by. Along with road trips, even airports are opening up steadily across the country. Contrary to common fears, infection risks on flights are actually low as per WHO (World Health Organization). Ventilation systems on contemporary planes ensure a complete air change at least 20-30 times in an hour while re-circulated air goes through EHPA filters, the ones similar to those used in hospital OTs (operating theatres). Hence, risks of infection, like everywhere else, come from coming into contact with infected surfaces or individuals on airplanes. So, while you scour some of the most isolated and best places to visit sometime soon, here are some things that you ought to keep in mind.
The Indian hospitality industry has undergone a rapid transformation in recent months, particularly owing to the need to shift gears due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Hotels are now pulling out all the stops (quite literally) to make customers feel safe and comfortable, even more than before. Staying in a hotel will not be the same anymore, at least not for the foreseeable future.
Here are some things that are making their presence felt on the horizon as far as Indian hotels are concerned:
And it goes beyond sanitization and preventive measures. Hotel brands are now coming up with more innovative measures for attracting customers and ensuring greater convenience at the same time. OYO Rooms, for instance, has launched its OYO Wowcher, which ensures greater flexibility and affordability for customers, ensuring double value propositions and flexible redemption time periods.
Workations are another innovative concept being employed by hotels for individuals and families looking for longer stays, connectivity and safe facilities for a break. Staycations are now turning into workations where people are being encouraged to visit sanitized and safe hotels for mini vacations where they can also work in peace. With most offices not opening to full capacity anytime soon, more and more people are showing interest in these new-age vacations where they work while staying at a hotel and enjoying the amenities, ambience and other attractions on offer. This mix of both work and leisure will naturally be a major trend for the hotel industry in the future since outdoor activities and tourism will be restricted for the time being.
Coming to the key question that has been on everyone’s mind of late- How do we travel safely with our families and friends in a post-COVID scenario? Agreed, the Government is making every effort to ensure safe traveling experiences for citizens but a lot of responsibility has to be taken at an individual level. If you follow these handy tips and remain alert at all times, then there is no reason that you cannot start taking vacations again.
Risks of contracting the coronavirus are considerably higher for elderly and senior citizens and also those who have health problems like diabetes, heart ailments and kidney disease among others. If you have aged family members, you may want to reconsider your traveling plans. Is it absolutely urgent to travel with them or go to meet them? Will you have to be quarantined where you travel?
Take the decision to travel only after you have analyzed your personal situation and possible risks. Do you have a very small child or infant? Will it be okay to travel with him/her? These are aspects which you should rationally think about.
If you wish to travel with family anytime soon, advance planning will be the bedrock of your successful journey. Do not wake up one morning and book your tickets all of a sudden just because they’re sold at jaw-dropping prices. COVID-19 is not the time for surprise plans and sudden vacations. You will need substantial time to prepare for the trip while looking into the needs and requirements of your family members, transportation and many other factors. Plan well in advance.
As far as possible, look to hire or rent a private vehicle for the trip or simply take your own car if it is a distance of just a few hours. You will be required to get the vehicle disinfected while ensuring that you take breaks at safe places on the road. Air travel and railway travel are good options for long distances although the risks are also higher. You should be carrying disinfectants for toilet seats, hand sanitizer and your own toilet paper in such cases.
Prior to going on a journey with your family members, it could be a good idea to get yourself and them tested. This will ensure the safety of everybody else you come into contact with. If it so turns out that you’re asymptomatic COVID-19 positive, then you will have to wait until you make a full recovery.
Just because you are traveling safely does not mean that you will let loose once you arrive at the final destination. Limit movements across the new destination, maintain social distancing strictly and keep following norms related to hand and respiratory hygiene consistently. In many destinations, you may be required to quarantine yourselves for a week or two once you reach. Be prepared for longer stays in this regard.
You should always be carrying a few things with you mandatorily while journeying. The first thing, of course, is hand sanitizer with more than 60% in terms of alcohol content. You should also have your own tissues, disinfectant wipes and face mask. Make a list of whatever you require and stock up in a higher volume than normal since you will be traveling.
Be careful of whatever you touch while you’re outside. You should be careful while using ATMs, escalators, check-in machines and so on. Use sanitizer thoroughly whenever you touch any surface and do not touch your face by all means. Be careful about keeping your wallets, phones and other items in a bag rather than exposed in security check bins. The phone should be wiped with disinfectant at least a few times every day.
As much as possible, you should depend on automation and technology to get you over the line. Get the boarding pass yourself from the machine and sanitize your hands thoroughly thereafter. Do not touch any common surfaces at airport food or retail outlets and maintain 6-foot distance from all staff members everywhere you go. Attempt payments via digital and contactless options as far as possible.
If you’re one of those scrambling for window seats while traveling (like many of us fellow Indians!), you’ll be happy to know that window seats just assumed greater importance. Studies by several researchers have revealed that avoiding germs while on a plane is possible if you sit at a window seat and stay seated for the entire duration of the flight. Infected travelers are most likely not to infect those sitting farther than two seats beside them or one/two rows behind or in front. Indirect transmission risks can be combated by keeping your hands sanitized and avoiding any contact with your nose, eyes and mouth.
At the risk of looking funny (it doesn’t really matter anymore!), you should scrub all surfaces around you with the right disinfectant wipes. Scrub your seat, the flap of the seat, tray table, armrests, etc. Keep them wet with disinfectant without putting your hands on them. Do not use wipes on softer surfaces like upholstery which will spread germs further. Remember that you will only be directly infected from these surfaces if you touch them and then touch your face, nose, mouth or eyes. Use tissues while touching any handles and dispose them safely afterwards.
As much as possible, carry your own water while traveling. Do not drink coffee/tea made on the plane if you can avoid it. Carry a flask from home that is filled with your favorite blend and you’ll be sorted.
Strictly adhere to the basic premise that if you’re feeling down in the mouth, sick, groggy, feverish or are suffering from cold/cough, you should stay home without going anywhere. You should wait till you are fully cured and give it a further gap of 24 hours before venturing out.
Follow these tips for safe and secure traveling experiences with family members or buddies. Maintain social distancing, prepare thoroughly for the trip, do your homework on the destination and of course, choose properly sanitized stays with adequate safety precautions and infrastructure to ensure isolation, contactless experiences and greater convenience. Here’s hoping that we all emerge stronger from the pandemic and that things return to normal at the earliest!
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