From one anxious flyer to another: Here’s how to travel during a pandemic

Let me start by saying, I am terrified of the Coronavirus.

Having a close family member with cancer and personally battling asthma puts me at “high-risk” for getting the virus. So when it came time to decide whether my fiance and I would go through with travel plans we made a year ago, it was a tough call.

We went for it.

Knowing we quarantined well & were symptom-free, we chose to fly Alaska Airlines round trip from Seattle to Boston. I want to share our journey because we love to travel and if people don’t start flying again, we could lose this incredible way to connect with the people & places we love most and the rich experiences that come with flying around the world.

Travel wasn’t as scary as I thought.

Boston Logan International Airport sure knows how to social distance, check out those blocked seats!

Even though I work for an airline, the fear of flying was real. But it was scarier in my head than in real life. I worried people wouldn’t keep their distance or wear masks. I was even concerned about touching bins through security and standing too close to people, but none of that happened. Most airports, TSA and airlines (plus fellow travelers) seemed to be taking serious precautions to ensure everyone’s safety.

It was next-level.

You can tell Alaska Airlines has put a lot of thought & care into every step of its guests and employees’ travel journey. From blocking middle seats to placing plexiglass and social distancing stickers at every touchpoint in the airport—the preparedness shows.

My fiance & I ready to travel! JFYI families or parties that wish to sit together can upon request.

Planes have also never seemed so clean. I’ve always been the type-A traveler who brings wipes onboard to sanitize everything (this trip was no different) but I’ve never heard a flight crew announce to their guests when the aircraft was last cleaned, that was a nice touch.

Alaska also has an effective mandatory mask policy that not only encourages compliance, it empowers their flight attendants to hand out a yellow card to a guest who isn’t wearing a mask, which could put them on a no-fly list if they don’t comply.

It’s nice to know everyone is helping to keep everyone safe. Unless you are a child under the age of two you must wear a mask, bandana or neck gaiter (face shields alone don’t count)—whether we like it or not, they are proving to be effective. Plus, I ran a half marathon while wearing one so I believe in you!

Alaska has you covered.

Currently, Alaska’s food & beverage service is still limited to reduce interaction onboard but they are offering some snacks and drinks—you can check out what they’re serving ahead of time on their website.

Thankfully, if you lose or break your mask during your trip, Alaska has you covered & you can ask for one free of charge. They also offer EO sanitizing wipes with a relaxing natural lavender scent (unscented wipes are also available). And, if you have to use the bathroom, Alaska’s aircraft & lounges have the freshest smelling Antica Farmacista foaming soap, which is so much nicer than generic soap.

Alaska’s inflight entertainment also has new movies and old favorites you can stream (like all the Harry Potters), a free chat feature (so I could text my mom I was OK) and free Headspace listening sessions (which usually cost $$$) so I was feeling namaste the whole way instead of stressing out.

All in all, I felt safe and at ease.

Travel is different, but better.

Day-of travel is much like it used to be. You still get a boarding pass, walk through security and hop on a plane. That being said, the prep work leading up to your travel day and what you do when you get to your destination may be different.

Here’s what I mean:

Airports are judgment-free [fashion] zones.

As you can see, I wore the trendiest eyewear of 2020—I’m sure a pair of regular glasses or sunglasses would have sufficed—because I wanted to feel safe & secure (even if my ego felt the opposite). You can make the jetway your runway, too, by wearing things like a hooded sweatshirt, pants, high socks and closed-toe shoes—whatever helps cover up!

Never have I ever packed this.

We also packed our own snacks and filled our reusable water bottles at touch-free fill stations. #FillBeforeYouFly
Can’t go wrong packing hand sanitizer & gloves (just be careful not to catch your zipper on your gloves). And, yes. That is a fanny pack. Who doesn’t like to have all their essential items easily accessible?

I packed a 3-ounce bottle of disinfectant spray, knowing I would use it on almost anything I would touch that day, especially on my luggage before stepping foot into my in-law’s house. I’ve never sanitized my luggage before but I’m not taking any chances these days.

Packing multiple pairs of hospital-grade gloves was also a first for me. I know some don’t agree with using gloves as a precaution, but they came in handy (see what I did there?!) when I needed to wipe down high-touch areas like airport seating, drinking fountains and bathroom stalls, etc.

I’ve also never had to pack or wear a mask before for a travel experience. We were lucky enough to be gifted N-95 masks, which we wore under a fabric mask. I’ll be honest, it was difficult to breathe, but it made me feel safer. My advice? Try out different masks at home before your flight—there are so many, you just have to find which one is right for you. I firmly believe wearing a mask (of any kind) was the main reason we tested negative for COVID-19 when we returned from our trip.

Keep your mask & air clean.

Don’t forget to turn on your air vent for your own personal air bubble!

Before traveling, I researched how to properly take off & store your mask if you need to eat or drink, which is allowed. According to Duke University of Medicine, you should store your mask inside a bag to keep the inside from touching other surfaces or being exposed to the air. But don’t worry, Alaska’s planes have hospital-grade HEPA filters that clear 99.95% of germs in the air.

Wash up when you get there.

Although unnecessary, we disinfected our bag(s) at our final destination, took showers and washed the clothes we wore while traveling plus shoes before we unpacked. You gotta do what you gotta do to feel more confident about traveling.

Know before you go.

Don’t have the Alaska Airlines app? Download it here.

Download Alaska’s mobile app before you go. It’s easy to use and makes your trip almost entirely touch-free. With the app, you’re able to get your boarding pass right on your device, change seats and prepay for your bags. The app also keeps you up to date on your flight status, gate changes and boarding notifications. Soon, the app will also allow you to print your bag tags without needing to touch the kiosk. Learn more.

It’s also important to note some states have strict quarantine rules & travel restrictions in place due to COVID-19, so check out travel advisories before you go!

Have a great flight!

Leaving your house, let alone stepping foot onto an airplane right now might seem like a challenging task—but I’m here to remind you, it’s possible. If someone as high-risk as myself can do it and come back healthy, we all can. All it takes is doing things a little differently to enjoy the people, places and experiences that we get from travel.