Safe Travel Information for College Students and Parents

As parents and students make trips across the country to return to college, you are probably wondering how to do so safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. This guide will outline some of the safer options.

Information for Parents

As you make trips across the country to take your children to college, you are probably wondering how to do so safely during the COVID-19 pandemic. This guide will outline some of the safer options.

Driving is the safest way to take your student to college. Going in your personal car keeps you and your family isolated from other travelers. If driving long distances, try to use the restroom before you leave and bring enough food and drink with you so you don’t need to stop. If you do need to use a bathroom, try to go quickly, touch as few surfaces as possible, and immediately use hand sanitizer afterwards. If you need to get something to eat, try to use a drive-through window or find a restaurant with socially distanced outdoor seating. Always   wear a mask when you get out of your car -- even to pump gas. While pumping gas, you should also wear gloves or use hand sanitizer immediately afterwards.

For parents making cross-country trips, you may need to stay in a hotel or rental property -- or with friends or relatives . Choosing a place to sleep is an important decision during the pandemic. If you’re staying in a hotel , you should check the hotel’s website to ensure that is following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Call the hotel or email to learn about the measures it is taking to keep guests safe. Airbnb has also released guidelines for both guests and hosts, but you should contact the host directly before staying in an Airbnb to make sure that you are protecting each other from COVID-19 exposure as best as you can.

If you have friends or family members in the area or on the way that you wish to stay with, you should take care to do so safely. Before you stay, ask them to clean and disinfect the room you will be staying in. Once you are in their home, you should maintain at least six feet of distance at all times and wear a mask unless you are in the room that they have designated for you. If you plan to eat meals together, it is best to do so outside or at least at a distance from the members of the other household.

Driving in a personal car might not be an option for every traveler. If you and your student must fly to their college, you should carefully choose the airline. Some airlines have done a good job of enforcing social distancing guidelines and mask policies, while others have not taken sufficient action to ensure their passengers are safe. US PIRG has released a guide outlining which airlines are enforcing social distancing and other health and safety policies. Additionally, if you need to cancel your flight for any COVID-19-related reason, you should check out this guide with information about different airlines’ refund policies. 

Regardless of how you take your student to college, you should be cautious, always socially distance, and wear a mask. If you travel between states, there may be a mandatory quarantine period when you arrive. If there is a quarantine period from your state to the state where your student’s college is, do not go into any stores or restaurants while you are there, and check the college’s policy for dropping off your son or daughter. You may also have to quarantine after your trip when you get back to your home state. When you get home, you should make an appointment to get a COVID-19 test as soon as possible and self-isolate until you receive the results. Check out this state-by-state list to see if you have to quarantine during or after you return from your trip.

Once you have dropped your child off, you should expect to leave them there for the entire semester without visiting. Although it may be difficult not to see your student for this period of time, it is crucial for your health -- and the safety of the entire campus community -- that you do so.

 

Information for Students

After you arrive at college, get settled and begin taking your classes, you may wonder about breaks. Many colleges have adjusted their schedules by cancelling the usual fall breaks and ending classes before Thanksgiving to avoid back and forth travel. They’re encouraging in-person students to stay at college for the entire semester to limit COVID-19 outbreaks.

Students should stay on campus as much as possible and limit travel during the semester to the best of their ability. However, sometimes situations arise where travel becomes necessary. In these cases, students should use this guide to decide which method of travel is best for them.

Just weeks into the semester, some colleges already have sent students home unexpectedly because of COVID-19 outbreaks on their campuses. If you are unable to get home, emergency housing may still be available for you, and you should contact your campus residential life office to book a room. If your campus does close and you need to return home suddenly, consider the following methods to travel safely:

  1. Driving is the safest way to travel during the pandemic because it allows you to stay socially isolated. Most students do not have a car at college, but Enterprise is allowing college students 18 and older to rent cars with a fee of $20 per day, on average. Rental cars are generally a safe option as long as you don’t ride in a car with someone you have not been in close contact with already.

  1. The next best options are to travel by train or by plane. If you are flying, you should check out this guide with information about steps that airlines have taken to ensure safety and only fly on an airline that is taking sufficient precautions. In addition, be sure to wear your mask and socially distance at all times both in the airport and on the plane, to the best of your ability. If you have to cancel your flight for a COVID-19 related reason, you may be able to get a refund. Check out this guide for various airlines’ policies.

  1. Amtrak has hired a medical team to make sure its trains are safe, and it has implemented measures to improve cleaning and make the journey entirely contactless. For most trains, Amtrak is limiting ticket sales to half of their normal capacity to allow for social distancing. It also has mask-wearing mandates for passengers and staff, so if you cannot drive home, a train is likely your safest option. Greyhound and Megabus have adopted similar rules, including mask mandates, extra sanitation of buses and terminals, and social distancing measures to ensure a safer travel experience.

Whether your trip is short or long; whether you travel by car, by train, or by plane, you should make an appointment to get a COVID-19 test before you leave and again when you arrive at your destination. Then, plan to self-quarantine for two weeks while awaiting your test results.