Traveling cross country is always a bit of an adventure and moving cross country adds many layers of complexity, but what about doing that during a pandemic? A bit crazy perhaps, but that is what we did in July 2020. We sold our house, sold a lot of our stuff, said our distanced good byes, and moved from New York State to Washington State. My husband went by truck with our dog as his co-pilot and I went by plane. Both trips had plenty of extra precautions and complications, but we made it safely and we are both symptom free!
I am not a medical professional and the information on the Covid 19 Corona Virus changes quickly, so use your own judgment and check CDC guidelines. Regardless of the risk level, when it is something potentially life threatening to myself and/or others I feel it is best to minimize risk and exposure. This journey was a choice, but we tried our best to minimize the chance of exposing ourselves and others.
- Finding Housing
- Packing and Moving
- Moving Cars
- How to Safely Sell Things During a Pandemic
- TSA Security
- Airport Amenities and Atmosphere
- In Flight
- Things to Bring
- Rest Stops
Why Move During a Pandemic?
I admit the timing was far from ideal and some of you may be thinking we are completely crazy. I’m sure we probably are a little.
Maybe it was the inability to travel that pushed us to decide to live somewhere where we could have adventures in our own backyard…
The housing market was definitely a contributor, since houses were selling fast in our area, and a potential recession could make selling difficult in the near future…
Maybe it was because it was something we had always talked about and this virus gave us a bit of a wake up call…
Regardless of what the reason was, we did it! For us, a silver lining of this terrible virus is that we may not have gotten the motivation to make the jump without it.
Moving Logistics During a Pandemic
Finding Housing - Since we weren’t going to be able to vet the places ourselves we researched the areas, asked friends/acquaintances in the area for their opinions, and looked on accredited websites. Some landlords wanted to meet in person, but others were open to video interviews and doing a video walk-through of the rental.
Packing and Moving - We have never moved cross country before, but we have moved plenty of times and usually it involves food and a bunch or friends. Not exactly approved activities right now…
So what are the other choices? Hire a moving company? Definitely an option and a good way to employ some people right now, but having a bunch of strangers in our house touching everything didn’t sound much safer than recruiting friends.
We resorted to Option #3, do it ourselves. I quit my job a couple weeks early and sold/packed most of our stuff. We hired a shipping container service that drops off whatever size container you pick, you fill it, they pick it up and drop it off at the new location, then you empty it and they take it away.
For everything that didn’t fit and/or we needed with us, we rented a truck and just enlisted help for a couple items that were too big to move on our own.
Moving Cars - This was more complicated than we expected. Apparently summer is busy season for moving cars and since everything has been locked down, it is extra busy. We hired one broker who called 24 hours before our cars were supposed to be picked up asking for about 30% more money. We declined and found another company. The cars got picked up and everything seemed good there until they got dropped off and we found that the price had been changed without us being notified. We got it rectified but it took some persistence. My only advice is be careful and get everything in writing. We thought we were careful and still ended up in an unpleasant situation.
How to Safely Sell Things During a Pandemic - We got a pretty good system going that felt quite safe. I would list items on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, schedule a time, and arrange to leave the item out front with a jar for the cash. Sure, it relied on a bit of honesty, but everyone paid and it was completely contactless.
Travel by Air During a Pandemic
Flying was different, but not as bad as I expected. I got extra clean with an accidental hand sanitizer shower and managed to get my own row on the plane!
TSA Security - Almost exactly the same as always. They still make you take all electronics, liquids, and food out and put it in bins (supposedly the dirtiest surface in an airport and I didn’t see any sanitating going on). The only difference was the mask, a bit more personal space, and hand sanitizer everywhere.
Tip - Don’t count on the hand sanitizer being there. About 25% were empty, so be prepared and bring your own. Soap and water works well too. TedEd has a great video on this.
When I tried the giant hand sanitizer bottle at TSA it didn’t work so I gave it another pump, more forcefully. It worked…the hand sanitizer exploded out in a spray that coated me from head to waist! I was a bit damp, but clean! The TSA agent saw it happen and we shared a laugh. Luckily alcohol evaporates quickly!
Tip - You may want to carry wipes/spray (counts as a liquid) to sanitize anything that you had to remove from your bag or put things in disposable plastic bags that can be discarded.
Airport Amenities and Atmosphere - On both ends of the trip many of the restaurants and stores were closed, with just a couple coffee/sandwich shops available. The lights were also off in some of the displays and some entertainment was switched off. Specialty lounges appeared to be open.
The airports I was in were definitely less crowded than normal and there were signs everywhere reminding people to distance, wash, and wear masks properly. Some areas had every other seat blocked off and dots/lines on the floors to keep people spaced out. Most people complied fairly well. I saw plenty of people who tore their masks off as they got off their flights, but most put them back on.
Eating and drinking on and off the plane was interesting and it was kind of fun to watch all the approaches. There were the people who would just take their masks off, others would try to stuff food under the mask while keeping it on, and some would get a bite ready and slip the mask on and off between bites (sometimes taking a deep breath through their mask before each unmasked bite).
Boarding - Boarding was mostly normal, just a little slower. My flight boarded the back of the plane first and worked their way forward in small groups and asked people to keep spaced out. No one was really enforcing the spacing, but they were telling everyone that they had to wear their masks and it felt like they were making an effort.
In Flight - I flew Delta and I was pretty happy with the service. They handed out sanitizer wipes as we boarded and came around with a pre-packed snack bag with a bottle of water, a sweet snack, a savory snack, a napkin, and a hand sanitizer packet. All the middle seats were empty, except for families. I ended up with my own row.
Things to Bring - Masks and hand sanitizer might be provided or be available at the airport but it is best to have your own. Proper good quality PPE can make you feel safer and more comfortable on a flight.
Masks - I wore a KN95 mask because it is supposed filter a bit better than the standard cloth or surgical masks. If you are not accustomed to wearing them, be sure the mask is comfortable and fits properly because you will be wearing it for a while. Be sure to bring a spare just in case. I have had the ear straps snap off and had one (different brand) that was defective.
Hand Sanitizer/Wipes - Remember that hand sanitizer still counts as a liquid, so make sure it is travel size and in your liquid bag for TSA. I like refillable bottles that hook on like these. Wipes are optional, but can also be nice to have to wipe down surfaces.
Gloves - These are optional, but I am one of those people who is constantly touching my face and I found that the gloves stop me from doing that and make me more conscious of what I do with my hands.
Change of Clothes - Optional, but you might feel more comfortable if you can change after the flight. I wore light long sleeves with a tank top underneath and long pants on the flight. The pants were more problematic, but I was able to easily take the gloves and outer shirt off as soon as I left the airport.
Fly Direct - This is not always possible or cost effective, but the fewer flights/airports the less exposure.
Book Late - This is a bit of a risk and may not be possible for everyone, but since airlines and areas are changing their rules every day the closer to your departure date you book, the more likely the rules (like spacing passengers on the flight) will be the same when you fly.
Choose your Airline - If you want more control over your flying experience check the different airline options because not all are necessarily offering the same things and taking the same precautions.
Seat Choice - If you pick a window seat you will be farther from the people passing by in the aisle. You also may want to consider choosing a seat away from bathrooms and places where people are likely to congregate.
Cross Country Road Trip During a Pandemic
My husband traveled by road from New York State to Washington State with our dog as a co-pilot.
Tip - Travel restrictions change frequently, so be sure to check the latest for any states you plan to stay in or pass through and also check if there are any Native American Territories because they may have their own rules.
The big thing that he noticed traveling cross country was the difference in Covid response from state to state and even within some states between rural and urban areas. There were some places where things were closed and everyone was wearing masks and other places where things felt completely normal, as if the Corona virus didn’t exist. These trends mostly followed along with how badly the areas had been impacted up to that point.
In some areas it can be hard to be the only one wearing a mask and can attract some stares and weird looks. Even if an area is virus free, we could easily be carriers, so we try to do our part to prevent starting an outbreak.
Hotels - Some states have had hotel closures, and restrictions seem to change daily. We decided it would be prudent to book everything a week or two beforehand, so at least if something changed he would hopefully be notified and he wouldn’t have to keep track and figure it out as he went. We tried to pick hotels close to the highway, so he wouldn’t have to go too far with the moving truck, and in towns instead of cities because they generally have fewer cases.
In general hotels seemed pretty normal, just with limited services. Most still offered some form of breakfast, although it was often a “grab and go.” Many had closed their pools, gyms, and common areas. Every hotel had signs about all the extra cleaning they were doing.
Cleaning Tip - You can’t clean every inch of the room, but wiping things down with sanitizer wipes and opening the windows to air it out when you get there might make you a bit more comfortable. If you are staying more than one day you can put the do not disturb sign up so you don’t get housekeeping.
Breakfast Tip - If you are a breakfast person I would not count on it being available or to your standard so you might want to have a Plan B. One grab bag was a granola bar and an orange. If you book a room with a microwave and fridge you can bring your own breakfast.
Food - Due to the Corona Virus restaurant closures and changing hours have become so frequent that Google and other map/info sites have not been keeping up. Some areas allow eating in, while others are only open for take-out. It is hard to balance safety, convenience, and supporting local businesses.
Restaurants - If you want to go to a restaurant I highly recommend calling ahead or being flexible. Getting hot food and ordering take-out is the safest option.
Avoiding Restaurants - If you want to steer clear of restaurants you can pack lunches and snacks for during the day and book a room with a microwave or bring a camp-stove to cook prepared or frozen meals in the evening.
Rest Stops - This was something we were completely unprepared for and were caught off guard. Some rest areas were closed and others had limited hours or cleaning hours. In a couple instances stores had also closed their public bathrooms and/or taped off their drinking fountains. I wish I had a tip for you, other than be aware, take advantage of them when they are available, and maybe pack some extra toilet paper.
Settling into a New Area
So now what?
Well, we are in a new home, in a part of the country I have never even been to before, where we hardly know anyone. It feels both super exciting and a bit isolating. We have already been out on a few spectacular hikes!
Friends - Getting to know people in a time of social distancing and masks is a bit challenging. Many groups have been temporarily put on hold, but we found a few that are doing small group masked walks and hikes. I have found it to be surprisingly difficult to recognize people with their masks on.
Paperwork - For things like driver licenses, vehicle registrations, and such many of the rules have changed so check ahead. Some places require appointments now or have changed hours.
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Another much shorter but still epic hike: Suicide Cliff in Hong Kong