A Guide to Traveling With a Face Mask

Traveling in the time of COVID-19?

In addition to frequent hand washing and social distancing, you’ll need a face mask to help protect yourself and others from the virus.

Airlines, train services and ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft are requiring travelers to securely cover their mouth and nose while many destinations are mandating the use of masks indoors and in outdoor public spaces where physical distancing isn’t feasible.

With the advice of medical experts, the U.S. Travel Association has stated that mask usage is among the biggest keys to a safe and speedy recovery for the travel and tourism industry.

“The travel community strongly urges visitors and residents alike to wear masks and adhere to all healthy practices, such as physical distancing, frequent hand washing and remaining home if sick—no matter where you may be traveling in the country,” U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow said in a statement earlier this month.

There are a variety of different masks to choose from, including lightweight and disposable surgical masks, N95 respirator masks that filter out both large and small particles and convenient cloth masks, which can include a simple scarf or bandanna.

The most important thing to remember is that, when worn properly, all of these options work to trap potentially harmful droplets that are released when you talk, cough or sneeze. But each has its own benefits.

For example, surgical masks tend to be less heavy or bulky compared to cotton or other types of cloth and thus better for wearing over long periods such as a flight while cloth masks can be properly cleaned and therefore reused.

There’s no shortage of places where travelers can purchase face masks, from their local drug store to Amazon.com and even personal protective equipment (PPE) vending machines popping up in airports across the country. Travelers can even make their own masks at home as the CDC has published a helpful tutorial for those seeking a quick and affordable option.

With face-coverings becoming the new normal, many popular brands are even selling fashionable masks that allow wearers to showcase their favorite colors and patterns, share positive messages and even represent their favorite sports teams.

Leaving home? Grab a mask. Do your part so that everyone can #TravelConfidently. pic.twitter.com/dlo7NukO7C

Regardless of which you choose, once you have your mask it’s imperative that you wear it correctly, covering up both your nose and mouth securely so droplets aren’t escaping around the top, bottom or sides. Always wash or sanitize your hands before and after putting on and taking off your mask and avoid touching your mask while it’s on your face. If your mask is reusable, you can put it into a sealed bag until you’re able to wash it again.

The Mayo Clinic recommends starting slow by wearing your mask around the house or on short walks outside so that you can get more comfortable, especially if you’re preparing for a long-haul flight or an extended layover spent inside of the airport.

Unless outdoors and away from other people who aren’t members of your household or in a private space such as a hotel room or a rental car, you should be sure to wear your mask to ensure you’re doing your part to protect your fellow travelers and slow the spread.

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