Getting sick while traveling doesn’t have to be a disaster.
It’s been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic forced major changes to most of our lives. Countries all over the world continue to have a hard time responding to the spread of the virus and the resulting crises.
Since the vaccine became available, more countries have opened their borders. People who have been itching to travel can finally hit the road.
There’s still some risk in traveling during the pandemic, but it feels a bit safer.
Some people want to escape the homes they’ve been cooped up in. Others desperately want to see their family members.
And others need to take a mental health break, go to a place with different weather, move for a new job, or get access to a service that’s not available in their home countries.
Whatever the reason, people are traveling, and the tourism industry is making room.
Vaccinated people have a sense of security because of the protection provided by antibodies. But it’s still possible to contract COVID-19, even after you’ve had your full dose.
It’s especially risky if people don’t wear masks or don’t properly wash their hands, sanitize, and practice physical distancing.
Taking these measures isn’t just about preventing illness. It isn’t even just about preventing the spread. It may also be the difference between getting back home — or not.
Most countries now require a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) or rapid antigen test for (re)entry of residents and visitors alike. Even if you’re asymptomatic, you likely won’t be able to return to your home country as planned if you test positive for COVID-19.
That could result in a cancellation or change fees on your flight, additional hotel days, an increase in spending on food and other supplies, and possible loss of workdays.
It costs less money to take the precautions and continue to follow COVID-19 safety protocol.
If you test positive for COVID-19 or learn that you were exposed to the virus while traveling, it’s important to be responsible, doing everything possible to avoid spreading it.
This kind of news can be disorienting, but you’ll need to act quickly to spare other people the same fate and limit your added expenses.
The tips below can help you get back on track with your travel plans sooner rather than later.
Do the math
If you test positive, you may be able to figure out when you contracted the virus based on the timing of any previous tests and your recent activities.
According to the
Still, it’s possible to test positive beyond that period, even if you’re no longer able to pass on the virus.
If that’s the case, you may need to prepare to stay where you are for a longer period of time, depending on the restrictions of the country you’re in.
You can check detailed, frequently updated country-to-country travel restrictions on TravelBans.org.
Reschedule your flight
You can reschedule your return flight based on your best estimate of when you contracted the virus and when you are likely to test negative.
It’s usually best to do this by phone, so an agent can help you with fare differences and change fees. Have something handy to take notes, because the options will likely be more than you can remember.
Sorting this out early can save you money and will definitely spare you some guessing games.
Book appropriate accommodations
Find a place to stay for your entire isolation period. You need an accommodation where you won’t have to leave for meals, ice, restroom use, or anything else.
- a kitchenette
- 24-hour staff
- a restaurant
- an onsite or nearby convenience store
- a sympathetic bellhop or concierge
Go for a room with a kitchenette, so you have the ability to refrigerate food items and cook. Contactless delivery might not be an option in every country, and it can get expensive.
Be sure to let the staff know you don’t need your room serviced and use the “do not disturb” indicator if one is available, so housekeeping doesn’t come in.
If you communicate with them, the staff may even be able to help you get necessary personal items, like toiletries, and leave them outside your door. They’ll likely be grateful that you’re taking precautions and respecting their safety.
Book your next COVID-19 test
Now that you have a flight booked and place to stay, you need to schedule another COVID-19 test.
Make sure this test is both:
- ten or more days after your first positive test
- within the window required by your home country, which is typically 72 hours
If possible, use a concierge service where someone will come to you to administer the test. This way, you won’t expose anyone else to the virus. There will likely be a convenience fee.
If this option isn’t available to you, and you’re driving, you can opt for a drive-thru test. Many airports are now offering COVID-19 tests to travelers.
Make notes, and check them often
There will be a lot to keep track of during this period. Don’t leave anything to chance.
Take note of:
- dates and times of your test
- how long your test results are valid in your home country
- check-out times for your accommodations
- check-in times for your flight
- any other necessary details, like train or bus timetables
Once you’re settled into your room, meal plan. If your budget is tight, try to plan meals that make use of the same ingredients. For example, if you like eggs for breakfast and you have to buy a dozen, you may consider making quiche for your lunches.
You don’t want to order too many grocery items that you’ll end up throwing away or stuffing into your luggage.
Order groceries and necessary supplies
Once you’ve made a grocery list, place the order for delivery or ask accommodation staff if they can help you get what you need. If you go for the second option, be prepared to tip generously.
Do not, under any circumstances, venture out to do the shopping.
Don’t forget to include:
- vitamins and supplements, like vitamin C
- any necessary medications
- a thermometer
- sources of hydration
You may feel completely fine, but there’s no telling how that positive test result will affect your mental health.
Being able to check your temperature and take supplements daily can help a lot.
If you’re experiencing symptoms, make sure to hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Pedialyte, or even sports drinks in a pinch, can restore lost electrolytes due to vomiting or diarrhea. This is especially important in hot climates.
If you test positive for COVID-19, chances are you are stressed, feel sick, are far from home, and have logistical details to work out.
You might not want to announce on your social media that you’ve tested positive or been exposed to COVID-19, but you should definitely let a trusted loved one know what’s going on.
Be clear with them about how you’re feeling and the kind of support you think you’ll need. Maybe you’d like quick daily check-ins via text message, or maybe you need them to run interference with other people you’re not ready to deal with yet.
Ask for help.
It might be a good time to schedule some extra telehealth sessions with your therapist, too.
Do something nice for yourself
Being stuck in a room that isn’t even in your own house under stressful circumstances is likely not be the vacation you had in mind. You can still make it a better experience for yourself with some effort.
Order fresh flowers or a plant, a nice mug to have your morning beverage in, some essential oils and a small diffuser, or even a fancy body wash.
If you can, go for room service and order some pay-per-view. If you brought your own computer, what better time for a favorite TV show binge-watch?
These small things can help brighten your days and give you a greater sense of control.
Testing positive for COVID-19 is an unwelcome surprise under any circumstance. It comes with added stress if you’re traveling.
Before you leave home, be sure to budget for unexpected events. Be prepared to pay for a few extra nights and an additional COVID-19 test.
If you test positive, make the necessary plans to ensure that the following days go as smoothly as possible. It doesn’t have to be a disaster.
Keep your cool, take your to-do list one step at a time, and give yourself permission to ask for support and treat yourself to something nice.
Alicia A. Wallace is a queer Black feminist, women’s human rights defender, and writer. She’s passionate about social justice and community building. She enjoys cooking, baking, gardening, traveling, and talking to everyone and no one at the same time on Twitter.