Safe Thanksgiving travel tips amid COVID-19 pandemic

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Whether flying or driving, Americans have a lot more to think about when it comes to staying safe if they choose to travel to visit family for Thanksgiving.

According to AAA, not as many people are expected to travel this Thanksgiving due to COVID-19, but if they are, it will most likely be via car.

Have a plan or two

Nearly 48 million are expected to hit the roadways, and Megan Cooper, spokesperson for AAA, said it’s more important than ever to plan every single detail before getting in the car.

“Travel for Thanksgiving this year will look a little different,” Cooper said.

Cooper said while families are mapping from point A to point B, they should also track down pit-stops along the way.

She said they should also make an A, B and C plan.

Know the local restrictions

As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise, COVID-19 restrictions start to change every day, from county to county.

“If you’re staying in a hotel, what services are being offered at that hotel? They could be limited. If you’re planning on stopping and having dinner for the night, you want to take a look at restaurants. Are they limiting capacity? Are you even able to dine in the dining room,” Cooper said.

Cooper said whether you’re flying or driving, it’s important to check the COVID-19 situation in the area you’ll be visiting.

“Are there any travel restrictions? Is there a mask requirement in place? Will you have to quarantine either before you get there or when you get home,” Cooper said.

Vehicle maintenance

Because of the pandemic, many people might have been working from home, which means they haven’t been using their cars as often.

Cooper said it’s important those drivers get their cars a tune up and drive it around the block a few times before committing to a long drive.

She also said every car needs an emergency kit, but this year those kits need a few extra items, such as masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes.

AAA has some apps people can use to find COVID-19 restrictions and easily plan your trip.

You can find those here, and here.

Flying tips

For those flying, FBI agents in Knoxville have cyber safety tips, because who doesn’t travel with their phones or devices these days?

Watching a video while waiting to board might use up your battery life, and your next thought might be to look for outlets or charging stations.

Jason Jarnigan, FBI Knoxville Special Agent Supervisor of Cyber Crime, said travelers need to be wary of charging stations in airports or hotels.

Jarnigan said your phone or device could be “juice jacked.”

“Juice jacking is the method by which your phone is exploited by using a charging station that may have nefarious software on it. So if you’re at an airport, you may see these charging stations,” Jarnigan.

Jarnigan said the charging stations, if hacked, could steal your data or upload malware.

Car rental juice jacking potential

On a similar note, Jarnigan said if you’re planning to rent a car, try not to download your data into the rental when charging your phone.

“Usually there’s a request to share your data, or pull your data down. Those are other things to be mindful of because those are places where your data, your contacts, your messages can be exploited later,” Jarnigan said.

He said most rental companies try to delete the information before the next driver, but that doesn’t always happen.

Jarnigan said you can ask the rental car company to delete your phone information in front of you so you know the next driver can’t steal your phone contacts and other data.

As far as juice jacking, Jarnigan said that doesn’t happen too often, but the safest bet is to plug your own cord into a regular A/C outlet.

McGhee Tyson travel reminders

McGhee Tyson airport staff said the airport does not have phone charging stations.

Becky Huckaby, Vice President of Public Relations at TYS, said passengers are encouraged to download the app of the airline they are traveling with to reduce touchpoints/exchanging of boarding passes in the terminal building.

She said airport tenants are also highly encouraging electronic payment to reduce the exchange of cash.

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