Traveling? Here’s What to Expect and How To Stay Safe


We asked travel agent Carla Thorson about what to expect before you hit the road

As vaccination rates continue to increase, more and more people are hitting the road and booking vacations. A recent survey by the Travel Leaders Network found that those who are vaccinated are 20 percent more likely than their unvaccinated counterparts to book a vacation. What’s the CDC saying? Regardless of if you’re vaccinated or not, the CDC urges everyone to not travel, unless it’s necessary. With spring break and summer vacation right around the corner, we asked travel agent Carla Thorson about how the travel industry has changed since the start of the pandemic and what to expect over the next few months.

Katie Couric Media: It’s been one year since the pandemic hit. How does the travel and the hospitality industry look different today?

Carla Thorson: The travel industry was decimated by the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of scheduled flights decreased roughly by 50%, and 8 out of 10 hotel rooms sat empty. Even though the industry has a long way to go, there is light at the end of the runway! We will travel the way we live our lives now… with social distancing, a mask, and hand sanitizer.

Here’s how airlines have changed since Covid-19 hit: 

On a positive note, most large airlines are no longer charging change fees (as of right now). Before Covid-19, change fees ranged from $75.00 to $250.00 per ticket for domestic travel. So this adjustment eliminates the stress of the “What ifs?” when booking travel. However, international flights are continuing to charge fees.

The industry has embraced the fact that “touch-less travel” is crucial and has implemented new technology to accommodate this demand. Some examples include: Pre-check-in for all flights with a boarding pass, checking baggage from home with receipt and baggage tags, controlling in-flight entertainment from the passenger’s cell phone 

Looking ahead, new technology is being researched and developed for use soon. The developments include rapid COVID testing at airports and a travel pass app for tracking vaccines and health.

Here’s how hotels have changed: 

Hotels are offering guests high-tech, no-touch options for check-in with digital room keys, and booking room service and housekeeping. Rooms are intensely cleaned before the guest’s arrival and housekeeping is paused until the guest requests service or additional amenities. The strict protocols to ensure the health of hotel guests has warranted the new staff position of “Hygiene Manager” found in many 4-and 5-star properties. 

What are five tips you recommend to help people stay safe while traveling by planes, trains, or automobiles?

1. Double mask at all times: In addition, make sure to change your mask every couple of hours if you are at the airport, on a flight, or out in public for a long period of time.

2. Social distance more than the six feet suggested: Do not be afraid to ask for distance if you are feeling uncomfortable.

3. Start with a short trip: Start small and see how you manage logistically and emotionally. We have barely left our homes for a year. Do not get overwhelmed by the new procedures you will encounter.

4. If flying or driving, plan as few stops as possible.

5. Avoid contact areas that are frequently touched: Railings, elevator buttons, walls. 

For many families, Spring Break is right around the corner. What are some ways people can get creative this year with their family trips and still feel safe? 

If a family is not ready to fly, road trips are the way to go and can be done on any budget. Decide on a destination within a six-hour drive. House and condo rentals offered by Airbnb and similar companies have implemented special cleaning routines and procedures to limit contact. 

What are your favorite products for traveling right now? 

I love Dolan, which makes “smart basics.” They have a great line of masks, a washable crossbody bag and an anti-bacterial travel kit.

1. Nylon or Cotton Washable Carry-On: Try The Everywhere Bag by Away. It comes in nine different colors and is currently on sale for $115.

2. Clorox Wipes: I take the big size, but here’s a smaller To Go pack on Amazon.  

3. Hand-free Door Opener Tool: This pack on Amazon is $7.99 and comes with three key chains to prevent you from touching doors, pin pads, kiosks, and more. 

4. Lightweight Travel Blanket: Order a blanket you can toss after your flight, like this one for $4.99 on Amazon.

5. KN95 Disposable Masks: Order this 60-pack on Amazon, which features individually wrapped 5-Layer masks with a comfortable elastic ear loop. I also like to wear a gaiter on top of my mask.

What are some of your current clients’ top destinations? 

Top destinations include Hawaii, National Parks, the Caribbean, and Tulum, Mexico. 

Hawaii, the Caribbean, and Mexico are all requiring negative covid testing within three days of travel or a vaccine confirmation. Some of these countries are requiring antigen tests when leaving. Be sure to always check with the airline, destination, and the CDC regarding travel restrictions and procedures before you leave or contact a travel advisor.

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