Officials have generally advised against non-essential travel during the pandemic, but as case counts decline in the U.S. and other countries, many people are starting to consider how best to travel and assess risks.
You should avoid air travel whenever possible, but you can limit your chances of getting of COVID-19 from flying by understanding the risks, making advance plans, and taking precautions throughout your journey. This post is focused on how to lower your risk while at airports, especially the security screening. To find out what airlines are doing to stop the spread of COVID-19 on flights, we've done a separate post on the safest airlines during COVID-19.
In this post, you’ll find tips for navigating airports during the coronavirus pandemic, including how to limit your time in security, what to bring with you to the airport, and what times are the best to fly to avoid the crowds.
What Should I Bring to the Airport During COVID-19?
If you want to decrease your exposure at airports during the coronavirus pandemic, we recommend the following items. Of course most airports, and nearly all airlines, currently require masks to be worn at all times.
- Hand Sanitizer: hand sanitizer bottles up to 12 ounces are currently allowed in carry-on luggage per COVID-19 TSA rules. Bring one with you and keep it accessible at all times. Sanitize your hands after touching anything.
- Wipes: TSA is also allowing containers of sanitizing and antibacterial wipes in hand luggage. Bring wipes with you to wipe down tables, seats, and door handles.
- Mask: Make sure you select a mask that is comfortable for you to wear throughout the airport and on your flight. Face coverings are now required throughout travel. Double or triple-layered cloth masks, surgical masks, or N95 masks offer the best protection.
- Face Shield: Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci is now recommending face shields for higher-exposure settings such as airports as an extra layer of protection. Your face shield should be worn with a mask and is not a replacement for a mask.
- Food: Limit your exposure by not purchasing meals at the airport and instead bringing any snacks you’d like to have with you.
How Can I Limit My Time in Security During COVID-19?
One of the highest exposure points in the airport is the security screening. Security involves high-touch items like bins and being in close proximity to other travelers. The easiest way for you to spend less time in security lines and touch less is by signing up for TSA PreCheck, which we can help you do with Skip. PreCheck members don’t have to remove their shoes, jackets, or belts, and can leave their liquids and laptops in their bags. The TSA PreCheck line is usually shorter and moves much more quickly.
In addition to getting TSA precheck, make sure you have your ID out and ready to present before getting in line for security. You can use a passport or driver’s license for identification for domestic flights, as long as they are up to date. We can help you renew your ID with Skip.
What Time Should I Fly During COVID-19?
To minimize your risk of contracting COVID-19 at the airport, fly at off-peak times and days when there are fewer travelers.
Although airport peak periods vary, generally evening flights (after 9 PM), are less crowded, as are early morning flights (before 7 AM). Weekends are usually the busiest time in airports. Mid-week, such as Tuesday or Wednesday, flights are cheaper and the airport is usually less crowded. Book a flight at an off-peak time to lessen interaction with other travelers in the airport.
Brief Recap: Take Precautions to Minimize Risk
In conclusion, you can't completely eliminate the risk to yourself and others from flying and moving through airports, but you can reduce it. Experts consider flying to be the riskiest form of travel, followed by bus and train travel and finally driving. It isn't always possible to social distance in airports and planes the way that it is in a personal vehicle. However, if you do choose to travel by air, you can make it as safe as possible by preparing before you reach the airport.
Bring proper protective equipment, sign up for TSA PreCheck, and fly at off-peak times to protect yourself and other travelers from COVID-19. We publish safe travel guides, COVID news, and more here on the Skip blog so check back for updates.