UAB health expert gives tips for a safe family vacation

UAB health expert gives tips for a safe family vacation
The 'new normal' – life within the confines of the COVID-19 pandemic – demands that families take preventative measures during vacation. Play it safe by social distancing on the beach. At restaurants, it's generally safer to sit outside in the fresh air, though it may be warm. Bring masks for the entire family to wear. (UAB)

Destinations are opening up for summer vacation, but does that mean it is safe to travel with your family?

The most important consideration while traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic is weighing the risks, said Curry Bordelon III, assistant professor in the UAB School of Nursing.

The last thing anyone wants is to come home sick from vacation. Practice social distancing for your safety and others’. (UAB)

Whether traveling by plane or car, what are the risks related to your destination? If traveling by air, Bordelon said you will need to take into account the number of available flights, how many connections, the size of the airport and transportation from the airport to your destination. Will you use a ride share, bus or taxi, or rent a car? Are you staying at a hotel or destination resort?

“We often take these steps for granted, but now we have to pay close attention when deciding our travel plans,” Bordelon said. “Despite the fears associated with travel and crowds, there are methods to protect yourself and your family while enjoying some much-needed time away.”

Each family or group should determine what risks they find acceptable in order to vacation. Bordelon shared  recommendations and what he and his family feel comfortable doing during the pandemic.


Many airlines have COVID-19 avoidance plans in place, such as limited flights, restrictive seating and alternative boarding processes. Most are recommending face masks, at minimum, and have enhanced cleaning of surfaces between passengers. Some airports have added additional hand-cleaning stations and offer masks for travelers.

Bordelon’s top concern for air travelers? Pay attention to all the surfaces you touch during the flight process.

“Avoid touching surfaces with your hands – each touch point is a potential for transmission. Use hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes to clean surfaces you are in contact with, such as seats, hand rests, seat backs and tray tables, along with overhead and lavatory handles. Use automatic doors, and avoid touching the handrails on escalators or railing in trains. If you do need to touch a surface, be sure to hand-sanitize and avoid touching your face. TSA is allowing additional volume for hand sanitizer.

“Maintain social distancing and wear masks in public; be sure to bring additional masks with you. I feel safe traveling by air domestically but continue to avoid foreign travel at this time. I carry an extra mask and hand sanitizer in my carry-on backpack.”


For shorter trips, or if transmission risks are considered too great for an individual to travel by air, people may consider driving to a destination. If you choose to travel by automobile, consider the steps necessary to your destination, Bordelon said.

“Everyone has a road distance limit, especially with children. You will need to refuel, stop for food and take bio-breaks.

“Keep hand sanitizer in your door compartment. This will allow you to quickly access it following a stop. I keep a hand pump sanitizer in each of the driver and passenger car doors for quick access. Keep extra masks in the car just in case.”


Bring alcohol wipes to clean hotel surfaces such as arm rests and the phone receiver. Wear a mask in the reception area and only use the elevator with your family. (Donna Cope/Alabama NewsCenter)

This can be tricky, Bordelon said. There are so many options for travelers, from hotels to personal rentals – the key is to do your homework. Larger hotel chains have access to housekeeping and environmental services staff to clean between guests. Smaller hotel chains or personal rentals may not have the same extensive cleaning ability. All are required to illustrate how they are protecting guests, he said.

“Consider bringing surface wipes to clean surfaces within the room. Use your elbow or sleeve to select the elevator doors. Avoid crowded spaces in elevators, lobby, pool areas, etc. Wear a mask in public where you can. I am comfortable staying at most large hotel chains.”

Dining out and entertainment

We all look forward to this when we travel; in fact, for most, that is the reason we travel, for “food, family and fun,” Bordelon said. For larger entertainment venues, such as amusement parks and sporting events, restrictions remain in place. Water parks can be a fun destination this time of year; most zoos and kid venues remain closed or are starting the re-entry process. Be smart, Bordelon said.

If you must go to the beach, take your family to less congested areas. (Donna Cope/Alabama NewsCenter)

“Wear your mask when in crowds or to get to your table at the restaurant. Once there, feel free to remove it and enjoy your meal. Be sure to wash your hands before you eat – hand sanitizer is perfect for the dinner date. We have dined at a few different restaurants since reopening and felt comfortable doing so.

“For larger venues, do your homework. Explore their re-entry plans and available activities. Be prepared and patient. We are big fans of the zoo, botanical gardens, local parks and neighborhood pools, and are planning to visit each of our favorites as they begin to reopen.”

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s UAB News website.

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