The COVID-19 pandemic forced all of us to make major changes to many aspects of our lives, one of the biggest changes being how we travel. Countries all over the world continue to have a hard time responding to the spread of the virus which has made traveling both risky and at times difficult. Since the vaccine became available, more countries have opened their borders allowing everyone who has been itching to take a trip to finally get back to doing what they love. Whether they wish to travel as an escape from being cooped up at home or to visit family members, many people have longed to get away throughout the pandemic. Although many people have received the vaccine, traveling still carries some risk of infection especially as new cases of both the Delta variant and COVID-19 surge. As more people seek to travel it is important to know what to do if you or a loved one contracts the virus while traveling.
People who are vaccinated have a lower chance of contracting the virus and having severe symptoms thanks to the protection provided by antibodies. However, even those who are vaccinated can contract COVID-19, even after they have had their full dose. It is especially risky if people don’t wear masks or don’t properly wash their hands, sanitize and practice physical distancing as they practices can help prevent transmission of the virus. Taking these measures isn’t just about mitigating the risks of contracting COVID-19, it may also be the difference between getting back home-or not. Most countries around the world now require a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or rapid antigen test for (re)entry of residents and visitors alike. Even if you are not experiencing any symptoms, you likely won’t be able to return to your home country as planned if you test positive for COVID-19. That could result in a cancellation or change fees on your flight, additional hotel days, an increase in spending on food and other supplies, and possible loss of workdays. In the long run, it costs less money to take the precautions and continue to follow COVID-19 safety protocol.
If you test positive for COVID-19 or learn that you were exposed to the virus while traveling, it’s important to be responsible, doing everything possible to avoid spreading it. This kind of news can be troubling, but you will need to act quickly to make sure you don’t spread it and to limit your added expenses. The first thing you should do if you test positive is to try and figure out when and where you contracted the virus based on the timing of any previous tests and your recent activities. According to the CDC, asymptomatic people can discontinue isolation 10 days after testing positive. Still, its possible to test positive beyond that period, even if you’re no longer able to pass on the virus. If that’s the case, you may need to prepare to stay where you are for a longer period of time, depending on the restrictions of the country you’re in.
After you have pieced together a timeline, you can reschedule your return flight based on your best estimate of when you contracted the virus and when you are likely to test negative. It’s usually best to do this by phone, so an agent can help you with fare differences and change fees. Sorting this out as early as possible can save you money and will definitely spare you some guessing games. Finding a place to stay for your entire isolation period will be the next step in managing your situation. You will need to find a place where you won’t have to leave for meals, ice, restroom use, or anything else. Look for a place with a kitchenette, 24-hour staff, a restaurant, and an onsite or nearby convenience store. A room with a kitchenette will give you the ability to refrigerate foot items and cook to limit your contact with others since contactless delivery may not always be available for food. Make sure to notify hotel staff that your room does not need to be serviced and use the “do not disturb” indicator if one is available. After you have figured out your hotel accommodations and flight situation, you will need to schedule another COVID-19 test. Make sure this test is both ten or more days after your first positive test and within the window required by your home country, which is typically 72 hours. If possible, use a concierge service where someone can come to you to administer the test so that you limit contact with as many people as possible.
During this time period there will be a lot to keep track of so make sure you are taking note of dates and times of your test, how long your test results are valid in your home country, check-out times for your accommodations, check-in times for your flight, and any other necessary details like train or bus times. Once you’ve figured out your schedule, make a grocery list and place an order for delivery or ask accommodation staff if they can help you get what you need. Remember to include some vitamins and supplements, water/other sources of hydration, and a thermometer to track any fever you may have. You will also want to let your close loved ones know what’s going on so they can help provide support during this stressful time. They may be able to cheer you up or help you keep your mind off of the virus as you attempt to entertain yourself while you wait it out. Testing positive for COVID-19 is an unwelcome surprise under any circumstance that comes with added stress if you’re traveling. If you test positive, make the necessary arrangements to ensure that the following days go as smoothly as possible by following some of these steps. Happy and safe travels!