The dilemma of visiting family after prolonged locked-up fatigue while keeping safe social distancing guidelines may have travelers rethinking their holiday plans this year, according to Virginia Tech travel expert Mahmood Khan.

“The upcoming holiday season will bring unprecedented travel challenges that will demand a lot of patience and sacrifice. The greatest risk is catching the virus from sources we least expect,” says Khan.

Khan says to avoid taking longer trips, going to crowded cities, and visiting places where COVID numbers are on the rise. “Local and short distance travel may prove to be lifesaving - there will be plenty of opportunities for making up missed travel in the future.”

Khan offers the following tips for holiday travel:

1.   The safest travel will be by personal cars, which gives more control as to where to stop and take other precautions. The chances of exposure are more in crowded places like airports and restaurants.

2.   When traveling by air, the longer the flight, the greater the risk. On longer flights passengers are liable to fall asleep and may unintentionally move their mask if they are wearing one. Snoring, coughing, and talking can release unwanted germs.

3.   Make sure to have personal protective equipment (PPE) handy and available in hand-carrying bags, particularly face masks since airlines and restaurants in many states will require them. Hand sanitizers, face coverings, and gloves are necessary items. Remember that gloves or hand sanitizers are no substitute for handwashing. A slight negligence can be costly.

4.   Do realize that the rules have changed, and both travelers and service providers are being extra careful. The wait times are much longer due to spacing requirements so pack a lot of patience. Some service providers are checking temperatures and other requirements. The best thing is to be patient and not be argumentative.

5.   Use as many "touchless" services as possible. Many restaurants offer kiosks, delivery services, and curb-side pickup. Some airports have robots and other innovative devices to reduce as much human handling as possible. The use of apps and mobile phones are also valuable instruments during these times. Advance checking and reservations can help avoid standing in line or getting stuck in the crowd.

6.   Avoid using restrooms that are crowded, and be sure to wash your hands. If there are several restrooms, go to the farthest one away or the less used location.

7.   Do not forget to thank or pass on a positive comment when service providers are going out of the way to help. Expressing appreciation is essential, considering the difficult and unprecedented times. Consider all the stress, risks, and sacrifices front line servers face due to the pandemic.

8.    Remember, when wearing a mask, the eyes are a means of communication and convey your feelings. Use them for sharing appreciation by winking, facial expressions, or hand gestures.

9.     Do not shoot the messenger! Service providers on the front-line often get the brunt of the anger or frustrations. This is particularly true in the case of air travel. The person responding to a delayed or canceled flight might have absolutely no control over the circumstances.

10.   Be prepared for unexpected situations. Be careful and take care of all safety precautions, especially if traveling with or for those traveling with small children.

Traveling might not be right for every situation. These Virginia Tech experts offer some reasons to stay home and celebrate within your household.

About Khan
Mahmood Khan is a professor and director of the Pamplin College of Business Master of Science in Business Administration/Hospitality and Tourism Management program in the Washington, D.C., metro region. Major areas of his research include hospitality franchising, services management, customer relationships, food service and operational management, and consumer preferences in hotels, restaurants and institutions. More here.

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