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Is it safe to travel this summer? Here's what the experts say, and what options you have

Denver airport
Posted at 11:38 AM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-21 09:47:45-04

Editor's Note: Denver7 360 stories explore multiple sides of the topics that matter most to Coloradans, bringing in different perspectives so you can make up your own mind about the issues. To comment on this or other 360 stories, email us at 360@TheDenverChannel.com. See more 360 stories here.

The days of summer traveling in a busy airport are gone, at least for this summer.

Airline travel is down 95% across the world, according to AAA Coloradao, and as the travel industry prepares for a brave new world of post-coronavirus vacations, travelers are left with a lot of questions.

So buckle your seatbelts and stow away your carry-ons, because we are going 360 with a whole suitcase full of options for summer travel.

On our voyage we will hear from a travel agent, an infectious disease doctor, an expert in hospitality, a former airline executive and the American Automobile Association about what is safe and affordable right now. We will also hear from travelers themselves about their own experiences as travel restrictions begin to lift.

How to get there: Flying vs. Driving

The first question for many travelers is how to get there: Four wheels or a pair of wings?

I would say that the airlines are still operating. It's a reduced schedule. So if you want to fly, there is that option," said Skylar McKinley Director of Public Affairs, AAA Colorado.

Although traffic is way diminished, flights are still taking off and landing in most airports like Denver International Airport. And travelers we spoke with here say their experience was comfortable.

"Yeah. I think it's perfectly safe," said Debra Williams, a traveler on Southwest Airlines.

Terry Bond, another Southwest traveler, said "nobody’s really moving around" on flights. "There's enough room in the seats, so it hasn't been bad."

But comfort over caution is not the right choice —yet, said Dr. John Hammer, who has studied infectious diseases for over 30 years.

"There are a lot of unknowns with respect to flying right now," Hammer said. "Airline policies with regards to the ability to distance yourself from others while on the plane is not clear."

If you choose to book that flight, know that an entirely new standard of conduct awaits you. And it’s about more than masks.

Be prepared to be asked over and over again, are you feeling well? Be prepared to have your temperature taken.

The CDC will tell you viruses do not spread easily on flights. However, your flight will likely be packed and the risk is there. Driving might be the best bet this summer.

"Areas that are reasonable within a day or so by car is the safest way to travel outside of the city," Hammer said.

Where to Stay: Hotel or Airbnb?

As for accommodations once you arrive, there are about as many opinions on that as there are room choices. One travel agent we spoke with says if you want a clean room, your best bet is a hotel.

It's a good point, but hotels also mean more people.

Home rentals like Airbnb also offer more options for social distancing, especially when it comes to cooking and entertainment. But their cleaning standards will be inconsistent. Regardless of where you stay, some disinfecting may be up to you.

"I think that you need to think about how to keep yourself and your loved ones in a relatively safe bubble," Hammer said.

“Know Before You Go”

All travel requires planning. Traveling today, requires preparation.

That same patience and preparation becomes even more important if you plan to eat and drink your way through your destination.

"I would say resist the temptation to vacation, just because there are restaurants or bars," McKinley said, "and if you end up going to a restaurant or bar, again, you got to take a lot of precautions, because we want to keep our other communities safe.

Finally, interruptions and inconveniences will be part of our new travel norm. Spare you sanity and plan on them.

Thousands are already planning their summer escapes. It will be those who take off with the right attitude who will spend a vacation worth remembering.