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Tips for Holiday Travel During COVID-19

CollegiateParent


With school breaks quickly approaching, we're sharing tips and tricks for safe travel during COVID-19.

Recent mass flight cancellations on Southwest and American Airlines have led to predictions that the upcoming holiday air travel season may be especially tumultuous. This is because of the potential of winter weather coming on top of ongoing labor shortages that have impacted the airline industry like many others. Problems with any airline or in any region can ripple through the entire system and are always most likely when travel volume is at its heaviest.

It's important for students and families to plan as far ahead as possible and prepare for cancellations and delays. Here are our best tips!

Getting Ready to Travel

  • Whenever you help your college student prepare to travel, it's a good idea to double check the dates of breaks and final exams.
  • When booking a flight this winter, consider travel insurance and be sure to read the fine print regarding cancellations and reschedules.
  • COVID-19 tests and quarantines are not required for air travel within the U.S. However, it might be a good idea for your student to get tested after arriving home, especially if they'll be spending time with older or health-compromised family members.
  • Suggest they save photos of their ID (drivers license and student ID) on their phone as well as a photo of their COVID-19 vaccination card.
  • To protect their health (as well as yours), whatever mode of transportation they'll use (plane, train or car), your student should travel directly home without any side trips.

At the Airport

Any time your student travels by plane, they should be sure to bring a valid ID (see below for what they should do if they forget one), their phone and charger, and a credit or debit card.

A few more recommendations:

  1. Remind your student to put the airline app on their phone and update their contact information with the airline so they receive text updates about flight status, gate changes, etc.
  2. They (and you) can also view real-time flight delay and cancellation information on FlightAware.com.
  3. Bring a supply of cloth and/or disposable masks as well as hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes.
  4. Download their favorite Netflix series to their smartphone before going to the airport.
  5. If they check a suitcase, carry a toothbrush, toothpaste and extra underwear in their backpack.
  6. Fill their water bottle after going through Security.
  7. Pack extra snacks (including items with some protein) in case they get stuck in an airport or on a plane.
  8. Be patient!
Bonus Holiday Travel Tip!

Parents, when you get the text from your college student that they are at the airport and have misplaced their wallet with drivers license and school ID, take note of these tips that may help your student get home without ID.

Your student should see a TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agent and be prepared to:

  • Show a backup copy of driver's license and/or school ID (accessible on a smartphone or printed copy). This is appreciated, but a photo of your ID alone will not get you through security; you must be able to answer the questions below.
  • Answer “on the spot” personal questions that will assist TSA in confirming identity, such as:
    • Social Security Number
    • Both parents' birthdays including year
    • Siblings' birthdays
    • Names of anyone who is a resident of your household (and their birthdays)
    • Home address

This advice came from a college student who ran into this situation last summer. Luckily she knew the answers to the verification questions. The TSA agent shared that most college students aren't able to proceed because they can't answer the personal questions. Note also that you must be able to answer the questions with no hesitations and without a heavy pause to think about your answers. So help your student study up ahead of time!

Hotels, Trains and Car Travel

Hotels

Like airlines and airports, during the pandemic hotel chains adopted rules about social distancing and face coverings in public areas and some enacted enhanced safety and disinfecting measures (like the Hilton family of hotels' CleanStay program).

Most breakfast buffets are still on hold. The biggest risk will occur in high traffic areas like lobbies and elevators. Staying on the ground floor or in a room with doors that lead directly outside will limit the need for elevators or other small, enclosed spaces.

A few other ways to minimize risk in a hotel:

  • Wear a face covering at all times in the lobby and hallways.
  • Bring your own supply of antibacterial wipes and, once you get to your room, clean any frequently touched surfaces (table tops and counters, doorknobs, telephones, light switches, remote controls).
  • Use the stairs rather than the elevator when possible.
  • If breakfast is offered, take it to your room to eat.
Train and Car Travel
  • Amtrak partnered with RB, the makers of Lysol, to make train travel on Amtrak as safe as possible. It has required all its employees to be vaccinated and continues to waive change fees for reservations made before January 4, 2022.
  • It's easy to stay safe while pumping gas and using rest areas during a road trip — just wear your mask, wash hands thoroughly and frequently, and have antibacterial wipes or spray at the ready.

Don't Travel If You're Sick

Stay home, call your doctor, get tested for COVID-19 if appropriate. Many airlines are still waiving change fees. Don't risk your own health and the health of others.

If you or your student develop symptoms of COVID-19, whether at home or while on travel, contact a health care provider to get tested immediately. Remember that even fully vaccinated people can get breakthrough infections and transmit the virus.

Visiting Older Family Members

If you hope to visit with high-risk individuals after traveling this holiday season, take thorough precautions including getting tested, wearing a face covering and avoiding sharing items.

It may also be a good idea to spend time together outside, if weather permits, or allow for proper airflow when indoors to further minimize the risk. Pay special attention if you’ve traveled through areas of high risk, but also be aware that there are no guarantees even if you think your area has been low risk.

Click here for CDC guidelines on traveling safely during the pandemic >

CollegiateParent has collected information and resources in order to suggest best practices. We can not guarantee the safety of you or your student during travel, nor do we vouch for any particular airline or hotel.
CollegiateParent supports you on your own personal journey during your student's college years. We answer questions, share stories and connect you to life on campus. Reach out to us at any time!

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