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7 Tips to travel safely during the COVID-19 pandemic

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

After staying close to home for weeks or months due to the pandemic, you might be ready

to get out of town. No matter if you’re planning travel for work or pleasure, there are significant safety considerations to keep top of mind.

Use these seven tips to travel safely during the COVID-19 outbreak.

1. Find out if your health insurance covers you.

Many people aren’t sure what happens if they need medical care when traveling outside of their network or service area. Before leaving your state or the country, find out what your plan covers.

Some health insurance plans cover you everywhere in the U.S., but others may have limitations on travel or may not extend coverage at all if you travel outside of a specific provider network.

If you don’t have a health plan or have limited out-of-network coverage, you may be fully responsible for expensive medical bills. Instead of being caught off guard, consider other options, such as purchasing a short-term plan. You can buy one for a period as short as one month.

Short-term health insurance benefits aren’t as comprehensive as those of ACA-qualified plans, but they give you some protection for the cost of an unexpected accident or illness.  

2. Consider buying travel insurance.

Another type of temporary coverage you can purchase is travel insurance. Most travel policies include a broad range of customizable protections, including:

  • Emergency medical insurance reimburses you for healthcare or evacuation if you get sick or injured during a trip.
  • Trip insurance reimburses you for travel delays or cancellations due to events, including lost baggage, sickness and natural disasters.
  • Travel assistance provides help with a broad range of issues, such as language translation, making reservations and managing emergencies. 

The more extended and expensive the trip, the more having travel insurance makes financial sense. You can buy a policy from an insurance company, a travel agent or an insurance broker. Visit the U.S. Travel Insurance Association website to learn more.

3. Check your off-premises property coverage.

If you have homeowners or renters insurance, it gives you certain protections when you’re away. For example, typical policies cover your belongings from theft, after you pay your deductible.

However, off-premises coverage is much less (such as 10% or 20%) than for losses inside your home or rental. Also, specific categories of expensive belongings—such as jewelry, watches, laptops and cameras—have relatively low coverage caps.

If you travel with valuable items, consider adding a personal articles rider to your home or renters policy. Or you might purchase a stand-alone insurance policy to make sure you have enough coverage if your valuables are damaged, lost or stolen.

4. Know what rental car coverage you need.

If you plan to rent a car while traveling within the U.S. and you have auto insurance, it typically extends to your rental vehicle. However, if your current policy doesn’t include collision coverage, you should purchase a collision damage waiver from the rental company.

If you travel for work or don’t have auto insurance, be sure to purchase rental car insurance. If you need guidance on what is and isn’t covered under your existing car insurance policy, contact your insurer before leaving for your trip.

5. Be a defensive driver.

Everyone who drives during the pandemic should be extra cautious and committed to safety. The summer months are the most dangerous time to be on the road. The period between Memorial Day and Labor Day is known as the “100 Deadliest Days.”

This year, there may be fewer travelers boarding flights and more getting behind the wheel. Stay alert for distracted drivers, bicyclists and motorcyclists. Look out for pedestrians at crosswalks and when you drive near parks or popular destinations.

Stay focused on the road by never taking calls, responding to texts or engaging on social media when driving. Taking your eyes off the road and hands off the wheel for just a few seconds can be deadly if something unexpected occurs.

6. Maintain your physical distance.

According to the CDC, travel increases your risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19. No matter if you use rest stops, airports, bus stations or restaurants during a trip, remember the virus could be on surfaces and in the air. Getting food from drive-throughs or restaurants with curbside delivery is a safer option than dining inside.

Keep hand sanitizer with you in case soap and water aren’t available. And always keep at least six feet of distance between yourself and others. Have masks handy just in case you can’t.

7. Ask about no-contact hotel services.

Before you leave home to travel overnight, find out what prevention practices a hotel uses. Services such as contactless check-in, payment, mobile room keys and additional sanitization are critical for your safety.  

Minimize time spent in common areas, such as lobbies, business centers and fitness rooms. Consider staying on a lower level of the hotel and taking the stairs instead of riding in an elevator.

Check with the state or local health departments along your travel route to determine what restrictions are in place. Get up-to-date information on whether the coronavirus is spreading widely in your local area or at your travel destination.

Laura Adams

Laura is a frequent media source and has been featured on most major news outlets including ABC, Bloomberg, CBS, FOX, NBC, NPR, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, USA Today, U.S. News, Consumer Reports, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Fortune, Kiplinger’s, Marketplace, Money, MSN, and many other broadcast, print, and online outlets. Laura’s mission is to empower consumers to live richer lives through her writing, podcasting, spokesperson, and advocacy work. Millions of readers and listeners benefit from her practical financial advice. Laura earned an MBA from the University of Florida. She and her husband reside in Vero Beach, Florida. Connect with her and learn more at LauraDAdams.com.

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