Alright, let’s address the elephant in the room right away. For us travellers, this has been one of the saddest years ever. We are now as done with the ‘C’ word as done could be. We still can’t forget the sheer disappointment and heartbreak that we had to endure when we were forced to cancel all those amazing trips we had planned this year.
And just when things had started to look brighter, and the travel and tourism sector had begun to bounce back on its feet with people hitting the road again, a sudden surge in coronavirus cases across India has left travellers in a dilemma all over again. To travel or not to travel seems to be the most important question, or perhaps the only question bothering us right now. The pandemic is far from over. Yup, that’s the harsh reality. But hey, who are we? Travellers. What do we want? To travel. So, are we still going to do that? Absolutely.
After spending almost nine months wearing masks and sanitising our hands endlessly, we have finally adopted to the new normal and how. Everyone who is willing to embark on a vacation knows the importance of keeping the virus away.
We reached out to public health expert Ravi Duggal, an independent researcher and activist, for some quick tips on ensuring one’s safety while taking a road trip.
Travel Only If All’s Well
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one should avoid travelling if they are sick or have been in contact with someone who was down with COVID-19 in the past 14 days. You should also not travel with people who are even mildly sick or unwell.Ravi Duggal says that safety is an important concern in these times and as far as possible, it is best to avoid travelling to places which are crowded. “Yes, there is boredom and the stress built up from being indoors for many months. And people would like to venture out for a change. If you must take a break, then you could go for a few days but travel to a place which will not be crowded and assures a sanitised and protected environment” says Duggal.
Avoid using public transport, is Duggal's advice. “Take your car or hire a vehicle and see that there is not more than four people in the same vehicle, including the driver."
Speaking about basic precautions, he says that if you use public toilets, sanitise door handles and toilet seats before using them. “In restaurants, maintain your distance from other groups. Keep your masks on the whole time. When you eat, avoid talking to one another as your masks are off. Assure that the hotel you are going to stay in has sanitised the rooms before you arrive. Limit your interactions with others to what is absolutely necessary. When sightseeing, stay away from other groups.”
Prepare a Basic First-aid Kit
There is no specific medicine for coronavirus so your first aid kit would not be very different. “In case you develop symptoms then it would be good to have a broad spectrum antibiotic apart from the usual paracetamol and take it with your doctor’s advice,” says Duggal.He adds that it would be good to keep your immunity in shape by taking vitamin C and D and zinc during your trip. “Of course, other stuff like mosquito repellents are a must because you don't want to develop any comorbidity. Taking an anti-malaria prophylactic before the trip would be useful,” Duggal suggests.
Sanitisation is an Absolute Must
You can’t afford to take a road trip without carrying a hand sanitiser and sanitising wipes to clean frequently-touched surfaces like the handle of your car door. According to Duggal, alcohol-based hand sanitisers must be used for your hands, and sprays for the vehicle. “After spraying the vehicle, keep the windows open,” Duggal says. He also says that it’s best to keep the car windows open and not use air conditioning. “Let the natural air flow in.”
A Safe Car
According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), disinfecting frequently-touched surfaces is one of the most reliable ways to prevent the spreading of the novel coronavirus. Your car too has many surfaces which must be sanitised before, during and after the trip. Make sure to clean the steering wheel, shift lever, door handles, and music system buttons or touch screen, auxillary cable, turn signal stalks, and door armrests, grab handles and seat adjusters. You can use the same disinfectants that you’ve been using to clean surfaces at home for the last few months. Even basic soap and water would do. However, alcohol solutions, especially isopropyl alcohol is the most effective to clean the interiors of your vehicle thoroughly. You must also keep a surface cleanser or the usual hand sanitiser in a dispenser for on-the-go cleaning. After returning from the trip, you must get your car professionally sanitised at a garage or car wash.
Choosing the Right Face Mask
Over the last nine months, face masks have become an inseparable part of our lives. But are you wearing the right face mask, is a question, you can’t ignore. “A three-layered washable mask is the best option. Do not use surgical masks,” suggests Duggal. To be doubly safe, one could also carry a face-shield when stopping at crowded places, which brings us to another pertinent question - to stop or not?
Avoid Unnecessary Stops
Gone are the days when you would stop every now and then for taking a leak, or a quick selfie session, or a cup of hot tea while on the road. These are the times when one should make a stop only if it’s super urgent and unavoidable. According to the CDC, stopping for a gas refill or for getting food or for a bathroom break can put you and your loved ones in close contact with other travellers and frequently touched and unsanitised surfaces.
Select the Right Hotel
Choosing a well-sanitised hotel should be on your top priority before planning a road trip. “Assure that rooms are sanitised, avoid meeting other groups and maintain a distance," says Duggal. "Wash your hands each time you have touched surfaces like door handles, railings etc."
You should also check with your hotel and request them to provide you with a room that has been vacant for at least 24 hours and has been properly disinfected. If you are ready to go the extra mile, it doesn’t harm to carry your own set of pillows or pillowcases and sheets.
DON'T MISS: How to Choose a Hotel Right Now
Do Not Avoid Testing
We know that most people don’t like the hassle and testing deters them but to be very honest, testing in itself is not a bad thing. “Oh, wow, I didn’t have to get tested,” this fundamentally reflects a poor attitude. It actually makes the destination hugely unsafe. Go for the test, we’d say. According to Duggal, testing should be done only when one has symptoms and if one has been in contact with others, or have failed to take precautions like wearing a mask. “These are general suggestions but it would be best to consult your doctor for any healthcare related concern."
We hope these pointers will help you in planning a safe and sound road trip this winter holiday season. Happy road tripping!