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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Planning for happy trails: What you should consider if you travel as summer approaches

The decision whether to travel is quite a conundrum for many, even after one-quarter of the population has been fully vaccinated. Four Minnesotans who were recently infected with P.1 variant after a vacation in Cancun prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to urge no Mexican travel due to high COVID-19 transmission.

What’s safe, and what should you expect? When planning a trip, research as much as possible since much changes in a span of days during a pandemic. There’s no need to be surprised.

Delta, the lone U.S. carrier blocking middle seats, allowed planes to fly at full capacity starting May 1. Some folks flying for the first time since the pandemic commenced are surprised. During an American Airlines flight to Phoenix, a middle-age woman shrieked when she discovered that all seats were filled. However, that’s not a reason to panic.

According to Dr. Rui Pombal, who wrote about the risk of COVID-19 during air travel for the JAMA Patient Page, the chances of being infected with the coronavirus is lower in a plane than an office building, classroom or supermarket. Considering the many precautions airlines have made since the pandemic started, that’s not surprising.

Masks are mandatory. HEPA filtration systems are the norm. Those filters essentially remove any impurities in the air no matter how small. A New York Times report and NASA study shows this includes tiny COVID-19 microns.

However, the issue is navigating through the terminal. I never would have guessed there was a pandemic while standing in line for two hours waiting for a rental car in Phoenix in February. Six-foot spacing was nonexistent. With patience eroding, travelers were within close proximity while waiting endlessly for their rental seemingly without a care.

With new variants that are more transmissible than the previous strains, there is a need to be even more cautious. Some travelers are double masking.

Every airport is different. The Spokane International Airport is cozy, and it’s difficult to imagine a more convenient car rental. But most airports aren’t as easy to navigate. Check out the airport you will potentially fly into in advance, and it might determine whether that destination is best for you.

At many, you’ll be required to load into shuttles or trains to get around. At others, there’s a dearth of Uber, Lyft or cab drivers making it difficult to get a ride from the airport.

It also comes down to what you’re willing to do for a trip. During a recent excursion to Hawaii, I was tested for COVID-19 twice. To enter the tropical islands, each traveler must take a polymerase chain reaction test, which is performed to detect genetic material from a specific organism such as a virus.

The PCR test is $139 per traveler, who has 72 hours to land in Hawaii in order to be admitted. Your test must be conducted by a safe travel partner and uploaded before you land. Once on the Big Island, another test, which is free, is administered before you even pick up your baggage.

You have to jump through many hoops to enjoy a Hawaiian vacation, but it feels prepandemic safe in the middle of the Pacific. Overall, it’s a much cleaner experience flying than it was before the coronavirus.

However, it’s a good time to lock in a flight. According to wallethub.com, fares are increasing since more people are planning to travel. Here are some flight findings to consider, according to wallethub.com:

• During a recent study, Alaska Airlines earned the best overall airline award for the third year in a row.

• Alaska Airlines also was judged safest due to a low number of incidents and accidents per 100,000 flight operations, with no fatalities and fewer than 15 people injured between 2014 and 2019.

• Alaska Airlines also has a relatively new fleet of aircrafts.

• Southwest Airlines is the most reliable airline. Southwest has the lowest overall rate of cancellations, delays, mishandled luggage and denied boardings.

There is much to analyze when planning a vacation during a pandemic. So much has changed, but a great deal remains the same. The more time you research, the better the chances for a great trip – and, best of all, no surprises.

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