Now that fall is officially here, the holiday season is right around the corner! Despite the ongoing pandemic, many people are likely to travel using methods of transportation that will put them in contact with others.
Not everyone has a choice when it comes to getting to and from their holiday destination. For those who do, we’ve gathered some of the pros and cons of traveling by plane, train, and automobile to help you evaluate the risks – and decide which option is most comfortable for you and your family.
Many experts warn that the greatest concern with air travel is spending time in crowded airports – not on planes. According to the CDC, the risk of infection on a plane is relatively low because of how air circulates and is filtered in the cabins. The majority of aircraft have high-grade HEPA filters (high-efficiency particulate air) that can remove up to 99.999% of airborne particles. The real risk with COVID and flying is how close you sit to other passengers, for how long and how infectious they may be at the time, and mask requirements have been put in place to help reduce this risk.
When it comes to pandemic travel, experts give the edge to trains over planes. For starters, many train stations have open-air platforms, fewer bottlenecks for check-in and no security screening lines. Amtrak has instituted extensive safety protocols including deep cleaning and sanitizing trains before service and mandatory face coverings for passengers and crew. The company is limiting capacity and strictly monitoring where passengers sit and how many board each car. Trains also have significantly more spacing between seats than airlines and there is no middle seat. Even so, the CDC does warn that traveling on trains for any length of time can involve sitting or standing within six feet of others, so observe social distancing, wear your mask and access fresh air whenever possible.
Car travel is rated the safest way to travel now in terms of protecting yourself from COVID. The obvious advantage to driving your own car is that you are not sharing air space with someone whose risk of infection is unknown. Assuming you are traveling with family members, friends or colleagues, your own car can provide much more protection than public forms of transportation. However, the CDC warns drivers to be mindful of the risks in making stops along the way for gas, food or bathroom breaks that can put you and your traveling companions in close contact with other people.
A word about car rentals: all of the major rental companies have implemented safety protocols such as enhanced cleaning and social distancing at check-in. To be on the safe side, wipe down touch points such as the steering wheel, gear shift, door/window/seat controls, seatbelts, mirrors, and radio and control knobs.
If you’re driving around the northeast, check out some of the fall festivals in the area.
Taxis, Ride Shares and Car Services
Taking the occasional taxi or ride-share car is not a huge risk provided you wear a mask and keep the windows open as much as possible. Major ride-share companies require drivers and passengers to mask up, and some drivers have installed a plastic shield between the front and back seats. Shorter rides pose a lower risk than long ones, and keeping conversation to a minimum can reduce risk since talking releases aerosols that can spread the virus.
Many travelers continue to choose car services over ride-hailing services or public transportation. Reputable private limousine companies have boosted traveler confidence throughout the pandemic by focusing on safety protocols that include masking up while driving, installing partitions, providing hand sanitizers and not touching passenger bags.