Travel tips from a cancer survivor

Preparing for a trip gets me excited!

Travel is an important part of my life. I love to explore, learn about new cultures, history, nature and more. Between clearing my third cancer and then the Covid-19 pandemic, my travel plans were greatly disrupted. But, thanks to the Covid vaccine and like-minded friends who are ‘Covid conscious’ like me, I recently returned from a wonderful, much-needed getaway. I feel that my cancer journey and learning how to take precautions to protect my health during and after treatment helped me prepare for travel during a pandemic. So I wanted to share some travel tips from a cancer survivor to possibly help you be prepared.

Protecting my health every day

My recent trip was great…..I actually got on an airplane and enjoyed the sun and beach for a few days with some girlfriends. And it felt amazing! But what helped make it relaxing was taking some easy precautions to protect my health as much as possible.

Why am I still so cautious, knowing I have a strong immune system and am vaccinated against Covid? I didn’t bust my butt to clear three cancers only to throw away my efforts by being stupid about Covid (or anything). Covid is contagious and potentially high risk to my heart, lungs and other organs. I don’t take my health for granted.

However, I also am as antsy as anyone to re-introduce social activities, travel and fun. But safely and at my own comfort level. I learned during cancer treatment to assess my comfort level, the risk level and other criteria when I did any activity. So I apply these lessons to activities, including travel, during these weird times.

How cancer prepared me for a pandemic

When the pandemic first started, I often noticed the similarities of protocols I took during cancer treatment to protect my health. Hello, social distancing, masks, avoiding crowds, feeling isolated, etc. Of course, Covid is contagious, cancer is not. This means extra precautions during Covid, especially with so many people tossing precautions and thoughts of others out the window.

Being vaccinated and also receiving my booster dose (per my cardiologist and oncologist) helped ease my mind some about traveling. However, that doesn’t mean I’m ready to throw caution to the wind and not be aware of my health risks. There are still many activities and places that give me anxiety. And people’s behavior, the blatant disrespect for others’ health and safety, still stun and sadden me. Therefore, I take each opportunity one at a time to check in with myself on my comfort level and the risk. But that’s me.

A lot of changes have occurred since the Covid pandemic exploded society. It’s unfortunate it took a pandemic for businesses, especially hospitals and healthcare facilities, to make these changes. I recall many times during cancer treatment wishing for touchless sensors, better cleaning and more. Being hyper-aware of protecting your health, especially when chemo can cause your immune system to be at risk, definitely makes you look at things in a different light. Which is why my travel planning changed years ago.

Travel tips from a cancer survivor:*

Be prepared.

I pack a travel cleaning kit, which is useful for my mode of transportation, lodging or anywhere else that needs extra disinfecting. This typically includes at the minimum travel size items of hand sanitizer, cleaning/disinfecting wipes, disposable and re-usable face masks (I sometimes wore masks traveling long before people fought about wearing masks; usually during winter flu/cold season).

Talk to your travel mates.

It’s good to have clear communication if traveling with others. Be up front with what your comfort level and expectations are, any activities you might want to do, etc. For this recent trip, we all agreed that everyone had to be Covid vaccinated. I shared that I preferred to eat outdoors when possible, which led to others saying that was their preference too (we were in a warm weather destination, which helped with this!). We all also wore masks when in common areas (hallways, elevators) and indoor public places. Our mutual respect for each other made it a fun, relaxing trip!

Long-awaited vacation mode
Clean your travel transportation.

Whether traveling by plane, train or automobile, take a few extra minutes to wipe down surfaces in your space. Especially those shared with other people. When I fly, I bring cleaning wipes to give my seat, armrests, seatbelt, tray table and other areas an extra wipe down. I was impressed that Delta gives every passenger an extra cleaning wipe as you board and many people were using them!

Look for touchless features.

Since Covid, more businesses installed touchless features, such as remote light sensors, automatic soap dispensers, cashless transaction, automatic doors and more. I love not having to touch these often-touched areas.

Disinfect your lodging.

Long before Covid changed our lifestyle, I watched a news story about the germs on hotel television remotes, door handles, etc. It was gross. And a good reminder that it’s easy to disinfect your space. Since then, I wipe down those areas upon arriving. When possible, open windows and/or sliding doors for fresh air flow.

Book your lodging options smartly.

Even when renting a hotel room, I look for a kitchenette or at the minimum a refrigerator and possibly microwave. This lets me cook some meals at the condo or room or easily eat carryout foods. Many rental sites, such as VRBO and Airbnb, now list when hosts provide additional cleaning services, space out bookings to allow for extra cleaning and airing out of rentals, etc. Some hotels are sending housekeeping staff into rooms less frequently to ensure less risk to guests and staff. Think about where you’ll eat, how crowded public areas might be (pool, restaurants, etc.).

Fly early and direct.

Try to book a flight departing in the morning. The airport is often less crowded this time of day versus mid to late day. I also try to book a direct flight whenever possible. This provides less time in an airport and fewer people to interact with.

Travel on your comfort level.

These are simple travel tips from a cancer survivor, based on my personal experiences, comfort level and ideas. The CDC provides great travel tips too. Not everyone is ready to travel, even with vaccines and more. And that’s okay! Even though I’m getting more comfortable, I am still thoughtful about what I do, where I go and who I’m with. You should do what works for you, while also following safety guidelines and being respectful of others.

*The information in this blog is offered as tips. Travel at your own risk and make decisions that work for you. Please get vaccinated, wear a mask and follow local rules and safety guidelines from the CDC and local entities. Always be kind to others.

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