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Our top 5 tips for safe flights and more comfortable travel during the pandemic

We know that travel is especially difficult right now. But alongside the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates, we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content so that when the world opens its doors again, you'll be ready.

With almost a year of limited travel behind us, many of us are itching to explore somewhere new. Whether you’re looking at a domestic holiday or you’re waiting to go overseas again, knowing how to find safe flights and travel comfortably is more important than ever. In this guide, we’ll reveal our five top tips for planning your next journey, wherever it may be.

Travel during the pandemic: how to stay safe and comfortable

No matter where you’re going, you’ll need to follow guidelines and advice from local governments and health authorities during your trip, such as the CDC for the latest information. You can also check out Skyscanner’s COVID-19 travel advice page. Here, you’ll find up-to-the-minute travel regulations and restrictions on a state-by-state basis.

Booking safe flights in 2021: Passenger with passport and suitcase

Tip #1: Check your destination(s)

Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen both local and nationwide governments enact travel restrictions based on COVID-19. These restrictions can include lockdowns and travel bans, often implemented on short notice to contain community spread. If you are based in an area with a high number of cases, you might be restricted from entering other regions. Likewise, some destinations have closed their borders with the goal of keeping their cases contained.

Before booking any flights, it’s worth looking at how your destination is doing in terms of COVID-19 numbers. You’ll want to check the official government advice for not only where you’re flying to, but also any cities you’ll stop at along the way.

Tip #2: Pack plenty of comfortable masks

There are a few things that are becoming second nature to us by now. Hand sanitizer, keeping our distance, and wearing a mask are all among them. This remains true for those planning safe flights.

For many of us who have spent plenty of time at home this past year, we might not have had to wear a mask for more than a couple of hours at once. However, if you plan to fly to your next destination, you might be spending a bit more time wearing a mask than usual.

While some airlines are doing their best to ensure passengers are sticking to guidelines by wearing a mask, this all depends on where you’re flying and the airline you will be flying with. Some airports and airlines provide disposable masks to passengers, but this is not guaranteed and the masks might not be as comfortable as your own. Pack enough masks for the duration of your flight—including check-in, baggage collection, and any layovers. According to the WHO, masks should fit snugly around the nose and chin and be breathable with two to three layers of tightly-woven fabric.

While there is good news about the cleanliness of the air in planes, it’s always best to play it safe. If you’re sat next to other passengers who refuse to wear a mask, alert airline staff.

Safe flights require masks

Tip #3: Pack sleep aids

Sleeping on planes has never been effortless, but packing a few comfort items can help make dozing off that little bit easier. A few things you might want to include are earplugs, a neck pillow, and a comfortable face mask. A toothbrush and toothpaste will also help you wake up feeling fresh. Some airlines and cabin classes even gift some of these items to passengers seeking a snooze.

Booking a window seat will give you something to lean against during the flight. If you’re tall, opt for seats with extra legroom, like those found in premium economy. Double-check that your seat isn’t found near a galley or a bathroom, which be a bit noisier than seats found in the center rows of the plane.

Sleeping on a plane makes travel more comfortable

Tip #4: Clean flights are safe flights

Planes get cleaned between every journey, with airports and airlines paying extra attention to proper sanitization these days. The risk of catching COVID-19 on a plane is low, but it never hurts to double up on cleanliness. For peace of mind, take along your own hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes to make sure everything you touch is clean. When you arrive at your seat, wipe down your armrests, the window area, the entertainment screen, and any other high-touch areas of your space.

Tip #5: Share your quarantine plans

Many countries (and even states) require a self-isolation or quarantine period when you arrive. Letting people know that you may have two weeks on your own when you step off a plane can help relieve the boredom. The kindness of friends and family will spill over as you’ll be inundated with phone and video call requests. You can also put your hand up for any family members or friends who have spare add-on accounts to their entertainment apps and websites. Now is a great time to binge-watch that travel show you’ve been itching to see.

If you want to spoil yourself, make full use of food delivery services to up the ante of your culinary options. Consider ordering some flowers or plants to add life to an otherwise sterile hotel room.

Flowers can make a hotel stay more comfortable

Tips for before and after your plane journey

As well as all the steps above, smooth trips and safe flights involve being prepared at all stages of your journey. From sorting our transportation early on to arranging all your paperwork on time, being prepared saves you a lot of hassle when traveling.

Be prepared for paperwork

There’s plenty of paperwork to think about when traveling. From travel insurance to arrival cards, filling out forms is a vital part of the experience. To save time on the day, make sure you have details of flight numbers, your passport number, valid visa, and accommodation details handy. Some destinations may require you to download contact tracing apps, which may need some form of proof of identity to access.

Many destinations require visitors to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test prior to their arrival. Each destination is different when it comes to testing requirements, so be sure to read the fine print on official government websites.

Pre-plan your transportation

Your journey doesn’t end once your plane lands. The best way to continue your trip comfortably after a flight is to pre-plan your transportation.

Depending on your origin and arrival destination, public transportation might be an option. It’s a good idea to download any maps and timetables for offline use onto your phone, so that you can board the first train or bus available. Of course, if COVID-19 is within the community, it’s best to adhere to all social distancing and safety measures.

Otherwise, consider getting your own set of wheels. That could be organizing for a company to pick you up (perhaps with someone waiting for you with your name on a board) or doing most of the form filling for a hire car before you leave. Either way, breezing out of an airport is a rewarding feeling.

When at the airport

In this new world of travel, many airports have enacted social distancing measures and procedures to keep travelers safe. You might find a few new features as you journey through. This could include leaving more space between lines, check-in desks, and check-in kiosks. To limit physical interaction with airline staff, many airlines allow you to download your flight ticket onto your phone that can be scanned directly. You might also find more hand sanitizing stations, automated procedures, and blocked off areas of the airport to ensure social distancing.

Many long-haul flights (remember those?) come with a gap at a stopover airport in the middle. In many instances, the best you can do is to pack a good book for the break, but that’s not always the case. Check your transit airport to see if they have a hotel where you can lie down for a few hours, allowing you to get a comfortable rest before the next leg of your trip.

Whenever and wherever you end up flying, travel might be a bit different to how it was before. To fly safe, make sure to take advice from the government authorities of where you’re traveling to and from as well as advice from the airlines themselves.

Common questions travelers have about safe flights

Do I have to wear a mask when flying?

Most airlines make it a requirement of travel that all passengers wear a mask when flying, except while eating, to ensure safe flights. The World Health Organization advises travelers to wear a mask whenever they are around other people, like while flying or transiting through an airport.

Can I travel overseas during the COVID-19 pandemic?

While there are travel restrictions across the world, some countries are allowing tourists from the US. Some requirements include health screenings at airports, presenting a negative PCR test, or a quarantine period.

Discover where you can travel safely from the USA

Making plans to get back out there? Find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map. You can also sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations and our borders reopen.

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