What to pack for your first vacation after pandemic quarantine

If you’re planning your first vacation after being under coronavirus pandemic quarantine, you probably have questions. 

What kind of precautions should you take before leaving? What should you pack to stay safe? And what should you expect?

A lot of people are thinking about travel now, and that includes me. Almost half of Americans say they’ll take a trip when COVID-19 vaccines are widely available, according to Expedia Group’s latest Travel Trends Report, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still advises against nonessential travel. 

Experts say you’ll have to take some new steps, like packing a few items you wouldn’t have dreamed of bringing on your pre-pandemic getaway. And as far as what to expect, only one thing is a guarantee: It’ll be unlike any other trip you’ve taken. 

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What are you packing for COVID-19 travel?

You’ll want to slip a few extra items into your carry-on bag before you leave, experts say. 

Your pandemic travel toolkit

Vibha Dania Dhawan, a luxury travel consultant with Ovation Travel Group, advises her clients to pack a few essentials. “An in-flight sanitization kit with hand sanitizer, wipes, masks, gloves, a travel-sized antibacterial hand wash and a Ziplock or similar bag to dispose of any used items safely,” she says.

An at-home COVID-19 test

More and more countries and travel companies are requiring a negative test. “We’ve had several clients scramble to figure out where they can get a COVID-19 test in remote areas,” says Dan Skilken, president of TripInsurance.com. He recommends the at-home tests you can buy before your trip. The tests use your smartphone to report the results and can show that you test negative without trying to find a local source for a COVID-19 test, but make sure they meet the requirements of your destination. 

A vaccine passport – maybe

Already, countries such as Sweden have announced plans to implement a vaccine passport by this summer. Others countries may follow soon. If you’ve received a vaccine, you’ll want to download the relevant smartphone app and upload the required information. “It is very safe to say that this no-weight item should fit very nicely into your packing list and at the top,” says Craig Zapatka, co-founder of the destination site Elsewhere. 

A thermometer

“It can help determine whether you need to get to a hospital or perhaps if you can wait it out when you are not feeling well,” says Carrie Pasquarello, CEO of Global Secure Resources, a travel safety company. She also recommends buying a pulse oximeter, a handheld electronic device designed to measure your heart rate and blood oxygen level. Temperature, pulse and oxygen levels are vital pieces of information and help you and a doctor assess your situation.

What to expect for your first post-pandemic vacation

So you’re packed and ready to go. Now what? Experts like John Gobbels, the chief operating officer of Medjet, recommend doing one more thing. Go back to your bag, open it, and add twice the supplies – just in case.

 “Take an additional 14 days’ worth of any kind of medications you are regularly on and have a plan if you do get diagnosed positive or, worse, actually get sick,” he says. 

Why? Because we just don’t know what will happen out there. The only certainty is the uncertainty. 

Do this before you travel

Get a vaccination. Your COVID-19 shots will decrease your risk of getting sick, and if you are infected, it will reduce your chances of hospitalization or death. “Get vaccinated at least two weeks before your trip,” says Jarod Fox, a physician and chairman of the Orlando Health Infectious Disease Group. “This means if two doses are required, then get both doses, allowing an additional two weeks to develop sufficient protection after the last shot.” 

Upgrade your travel insurance. Instead of a regular “named perils” policy, consider upgrading to “cancel for any reason” coverage. It costs between 10% and 12% of your nonrefundable, prepaid expenses. But if you change your mind about traveling, you can get anywhere between 50% and 75% of your trip refunded, depending on the coverage – regardless of the reason. “Policies that offer cancel for any reason coverage are especially worth considering, given the large number of unknowns in the travel industry right now,” notes Jeremy Murchland, president of Seven Corners. 

Call ahead. Everything is still topsy-turvy out there. “Even with cases falling, spaces are limited at most tourist locations,” says Anne Jordan, who runs a tour operator specializing in the Aquitaine region of France. “Pre-travel planning is essential.” She recommends calling in advance to ensure your chosen activities are operational since many websites are out of date. Don’t leave anything to chance.

Christopher Elliott is a consumer advocate. Contact him at [email protected] or visit elliott.org. The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.

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