Once we start traveling the world again, we’ll need to be a lot more hands-on in safeguarding our own health.

Our experience with COVID-19 will change the way we travel. Because this won’t be our last brush with viral or bacterial threats on our planet.

Governments worldwide and the global travel industry are all scrambling for new regulations and schemes to protect travelers. That’s the good news. It’s also the bad news.

Every country and every segment of the travel industry, right down to individual airlines, hotels, tour operators and like, is doing their own thing when it comes to setting and following health safety standards for travelers. There is no international standard — and thus, no consistency, — from one destination or provider to the next.

Example — many countries will require travelers to arrive with proof of a negative COVID test. Some will demand that those results be no older than 72 hours before your arrival. In other countries, it’s 48 hours.

Ultimately, this means we will have to take our travel health into our own hands.

The healthier you can make yourself prior to travel, the better off you’ll be. That will never change. That means healthy eating and regular exercise — months, not a few days in advance.

Your need to do your departure and destination homework not only will remain, it will expand.

Government policies on admitting foreign visitors will vary from one country to another, so you will need to keep current. Or work with a travel agent who can do that for you.

As always, before setting out on any international trip, check online with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for the latest international travel health info — and as always, talk with your doctor.

When you know where you’re going to be staying, ask what specific steps they take to protect both guests and staff. Don’t accept sweeping generalizations. Get details.

Here are some best practices you should expect from a hotel:
1. Enhanced cleaning of all public spaces, elevators, guest rooms, kitchens and laundries.
2. Masks available for staff and guests
3. Protocols in place in the event that a guest falls ill.

Here’s another idea: Ask to be put in a room that has been vacant for at least 24 hours before you arrive.

You’ll need to be just as careful — if not more so — when scrutinizing private homestays like Airbnb, or VRBO, to name only two or the better-known outfits. Ask these companies what kind of health safety protocols they have for their homestay hosts — and more importantly, how they monitor and enforce them.

And wherever you stay, be prepared to take your own health safety measures when you arrive. Which brings us to…

Health and first-aid kits for travel have been around for ages. Now, some companies are pivoting toward selling health and safety kits with things like viruses in mind. You can buy one of those ready-made commercial kits — which you can find all over the Internet these days — or assemble your own.

You’ll want your own PPE — Personal Protective equipment. My suggestions:
* 2-3 cloth face masks.
* hand sanitizer
* thermometer
* disinfectant wipes
* isopropyl alcohol wipes
* insect repellent

Plan on putting those alcohol wipes into use as soon as you find your seat on the plane. Contrary to popular belief, your greatest risk of contracting an illness comes not from the air inside the plane, but everything around you that previous passengers have touched.

Armrests, tray table top and bottom, the clip that locks the tray tablet closed, the magazine pocket and everything in it, the In-Flight Entertainment screen and the hand-held IFE remote.

If you’re sitting at a window seat, the window shade pull tab, too. And don’t forget to wash your own hands often, even if it’s only with hand sanitizer instead of soap and water.

If you checked any bags on your flight, wipe them down once you get them back. On check-in at your hotel or lodging, you may want to do that again.

And wash your hands.

To your kit, you’ll naturally add any prescription medications you take (in their original bottles from the pharmacy, along with copies of your prescriptions, in case you run out during your trip.) Hopefully, though, you will have bought refills in advance.

Protection against insect bites, especially mosquitoes, is crucial. Zika, dengue and chikungunya are a few of the viral diseases transmitted by mosquito bite.

One thing that likely will not have changed from the “good old days” is the long-standing requirement of most tropical countries that visitors be vaccinated against yellow fever prior to arrival.

All this may seem like a hassle at first. But having the chance to re-connect with the world we love to experience and explore will make it all worthwhile.

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