You’ve been planning for months. That long-awaited family vacation to the beach is within sight. You can almost smell the saltiness of the ocean and feel the granules of sand tickling the soles of your feet. Sixty-eight percent of all family travelers will embark upon a summer getaway this year, of which about half plan to pack up the car and hit the road to their chosen destinations. Other travelers elect to go by air or train. Despite the mod of travel, over 100 million Americans plan to go on a family vacation this year.
Unfortunately, along with the joys of taking much needed time off come the risks of encountering dangerous pathogens that can make you sick and take the fun out of your trip. From rest stops to airports, roller coasters to vacation rentals, dangerous pathogens are present at every turn waiting for their chance to be spread by the human touch.
But don’t let the risk of picking up a bug keep you at home. There are a few simple precautions you can take to help you stay healthy during your travels. We’ve curated safety tips for three common hot spots for germs: the airport TSA checkpoints, rest stops, and vacation rentals.
A necessary evil, TSA checkpoints see millions of travelers a year. Along with these travelers come their personal effects that must be shed and crammed into tiny gray bins and scanned. The security we love, the residue left behind, not so much. According to the Mayo Clinic, the hard surfaces at airports (and anywhere else for that matter) allow viruses to live and stay alive longer, making them easier to transmit from traveler to traveler. Not only does that go for the bins stuffed with dirty shoes but also the floors that most of us walk on barefoot while trudging through the body scanner.
So, while flip flops help you avoid the hassle of unlacing shoes to go through security, bare feet also walk on hard surfaces that may be crawling with pathogens that you track back to your personal spaces later on. Consider wearing socks through the checkpoint and wash your hands as soon as you make it through security.
Stopping at rest stops for snacks and bathroom breaks is part of the quintessential road trip. For families traveling with kids, it’s also a chance to let them get out and run around a bit and burn off restless energy. But the last thing you want to do is get back in the car, snacks in hand, and realize that you’ve picked up an uninvited passenger – a virus. WebMD suggests that when traveling with kids, encourage them to practice good hygiene, washing hands after using the restrooms, before meals, and advising them to keep objects out of their moths (good luck!). Also, parents should carry alcohol-based hand sanitizers as a backup and sanitizing wipes to wipe things down, especially at densely populated areas like theme parks and zoos. The same applies if you’re flying. Wipe down tray tables with disinfectant and stay clear of the bathrooms if possible. Go before you board.
The sharing economy has created exciting innovations in lodging. Travelers can now book a conventional hotel or an Airbnb for an at home feel in a new town. Whichever route you decide to go, the rules are the same – do your homework and prepare for the worse.
Read the reviews from past travelers. Take red flags seriously. Before arriving at your destination, stop by the closest store and pick up disinfectant spray and wipes, and a can of cleanser. While rental spaces are spruced up, the churn of guests doesn’t allow for deep cleaning. Be ready to wipe down the remote controls, doorknobs, and toilet seats, and any other hard surface you’ll come in contact with regularly, including the bathroom floors. Wash out the tub if you decide to take a bath, or play it safe and opt to shower.
Family vacations offer travelers a welcome break from everyday stress and strain. Dangerous pathogens, however, could care less about your need to get away and look forward to ruining your travel plans. Don’t let these inconsiderate microbes win. Reduce your risk of getting sick by following these simple tips and enjoy your vacation. To be on the safe side, consider investing in travel insurance, especially if traveling overseas!