A photo of a woman with her bag and rolling suitcase in an airport is used to illustrate the concept of traveling to in-person continuing education classes.

Preparing to travel to continuing education classes for massage therapy can be an exciting and challenging experience. In this era of air-travel challenges, unpredictable weather and the need to stay healthy, there are some precautions to take in order to make the most of your trip.

This guide provides suggestions on how to prepare for travel—to help you make the most of your planning, your travel—and your educational experience, to ensure it’s successful and enjoyable.

Plan Ahead

Start planning your trip as early as possible to ensure you can reschedule clients, take time off from an employer or make other necessary changes to your schedule. Keep in mind that last- minute airfare changes and cancellations can occur, so you may want to consider travel insurance in the event you need to change or cancel your trip.

“Travel plans should be made well in advance if using airlines, buses or trains, as worldwide travel is surging,” said Melinda Hastings, LMT, BCTMB, MTI, an NCBTMB Approved CE Provider and business coach. Be prepared for airline delays and cancellations and have a backup plan, said Hastings. “Therapists might even consider arriving to the location a day early if traveling by plane. It’s important to remember that educators are prohibited from issuing CE credit if all class hours are not met.”

Take Time Off

Planning ahead will ensure a smooth transition at your practice or place of employment for the time you take off for your educational course. “I encourage therapists to let clients know about their education plans as part of their marketing strategy,” said Hastings. “This gives ample time to restructure their schedule or find a temporary fill-in, while also getting clients excited about what’s to come.”

You should give your employer or clients three to six weeks’ notice before blocking yourself out for a continuing education course. For private practice massage therapists, let your clients know you will be taking time for continuing education.

“You can suggest they book a practice session with you when you come back or mention the modality and say, ‘Let’s talk about this when I get back and see if I can incorporate it into your session,’” said Kelly Bowers, LMT, an NCBTMB Approved CE Provider and massage business educator. You want your communication to clearly express that the education you take will expand what you do with your work and also expands your professionalism, said Bowers.

If you are an employee, giving ample notice to your employer shows professionalism and allows them time to find coverage for you. Independent contractors should give the same notice but have zero obligation to find coverage. “You may do that as a courtesy, but it’s not legally required,” said Bowers.

Budget for Your Trip

Research the geographic area where your class will be held to determine the best options for your budget and needs. There are many exciting courses and modalities to invest in for continuing education. Create a budget for the cost of your trip and include transportation, accommodation, food and any other expenses that may arise during your stay.

Be sure to factor in additional costs such as travel insurance, visas if you’re traveling abroad or taking a course on a cruise ship, and any additional costs associated with attending the massage therapy continuing education class, such as the cost of checking a massage table.

Once you have a clear idea of the cost of your trip, book your transportation and accommodations according to your budget. Consider your options in airfare, rental cars and public transportation, location proximity to the educational center, and such amenities as food and Wi-Fi.

You may find paying a bit more for a hotel with a restaurant within it that is a walkable distance to the educational center ultimately saves you money on rental car or other transportation fees, as well as valuable time.

Pack Wisely

When you pack, take into account the weather of the location and bring appropriate clothing and accessories. Throw a compact umbrella and lightweight, waterproof jacket into your carry-on in case of inclement weather. Double-check the instructor’s requirements for any massage supplies you are expected to bring to class, such as a massage table, linens or lubricant.

“Packing should include everything the instructor has indicated is required for class, plus enough masks, hand sanitizer, table sanitizer and rapid tests for each day of class,” said Hastings.

Keep a small bottle of your own hand sanitizer in your purse or backpack, said Liz Smith, a travel expert with That Florida Life. This can be especially useful when you are in crowded places like an airport, train or bus station. This simple precaution can help reduce the spread of germs and ensure a safe and healthy travel experience.

Before you leave for your trip, make sure you have all necessary documents and that your information is well-organized. This includes a valid identification or driver’s license, passport, visa, travel itinerary, location and directions to your hotel, a map of the area where you’ll be staying, location and directions to your class, massage license number and a schedule of your CE class. If you are traveling abroad, familiarize yourself with local laws and customs.

Stay Healthy

Traveling can take a toll on your body, so it is important to take extra steps to stay healthy. Make sure to eat a balanced diet, stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. Bring items such as a refillable water bottle, healthy snacks, and any necessary medications and supplements with you.

Continuing education classes may or may not have precautions related to COVID-19. Reach out to the instructor and ask what their guidelines are and decide if that aligns with what you are comfortable with. At this point in the pandemic, said Hastings, it’s important that therapists understand their personal health care requirements and ask any and all necessary questions to ensure the environment meets those requirements. She suggests you pack and use gloves and a mask to your individual comfort level.

“It’s OK to ask for a partner who practices similar safety precautions or for extra space if you’re weary of working with people you don’t know,” said Hastings.

“At this point in the pandemic we all know how to take care of ourselves in terms of being around other people,” said Bowers. “Mask up if that’s what you need to do, but understand that if the instructor doesn’t require it, other people may not be masked up,” she added. Consider asking the instructor if they require masks, if social distancing is required, or if massage tables and chairs are six feet apart. “If that is important to you, check beforehand. Don’t assume that the instructor is coming from the exact place you are with health considerations,” said Bowers.

Taking a rapid COVID test prior to the class is another way for you to be proactive about your health and the health of your fellow massage therapists, said Bowers. Consider bringing tests with you on your trip or knowing where to go for a test if you show symptoms while traveling.

Practicing good personal hygiene and respiratory etiquette is a must, said travel expert Bonnie Whitfield of Family Destinations Guide. “Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and avoid close contact with people who are sick,” Whitfield said. “I recommend that you stay away from densely populated areas, such as busy streets and public transportation, and instead opt for less-populated options.

Protect Your Personal Safety While Traveling

Pre-planning, awareness and communication will help you stay safe when traveling to a new place alone. “Before you go, know how you’re getting from the airport, bus station or train station to your accommodations,” said Hastings. “Know where restaurants are and how you’ll get there; scope out the class venue to ensure it’s in a safe location; make sure your phone is fully charged.”

If she had to identify one travel safety tip she would suggest for both men and women when traveling to a new place within the U.S., and especially when traveling alone, it would be to stay aware of your surroundings, said travel expert Smith. “This means being mindful of the locations, people and activities in the area and taking steps as necessary to stay safe.”

Smith suggests you familiarize yourself with the local attractions, restaurants and shops, especially if you are planning to explore the area during your trip. If you head out on an excursion alone, tell someone where you are going and when you will call them to let them know you have arrived back safely at your accommodation. Consider carrying a personal siren or alarm with you if you walk alone.

Communication is also important, our sources say. Stay connected with your friends and family while you are away. Share your hotel and flight information with a friend or family member for additional safety while traveling alone.

If you need to travel alone between your accommodations and the educational venue, tell the instructor or a classmate of your plans and how they can contact you if concerns arise. If there’s a way to connect with your CE classmates before the class begins, such as through social media, consider asking if someone will be your travel buddy and walk with you from the accommodation to the class and back each day. (Do not, however, share on your personal social media that you will be away from your home and practice, as this can give a heads-up to burglars.)

Ultimately, if you find yourself in a questionable situation it is most important to listen to your own gut. “Trust your intuition and be prepared for any unexpected situations,” said Smith. “If you find yourself feeling wary or uncomfortable in any situation, don’t hesitate to seek out help from local law enforcement or other nearby individuals.”

These suggestions can help keep you safe during your travels, so you can focus on what your trip is really about: professional massage or bodywork continuing education.

When you are preparing for travel, be thorough in your planning, budgeting, packing and self-care as you prepare to attend your upcoming in-person CE class. Putting your awareness on these areas can help you make the most of your trip.

Aiyana Fraley

About the Author

Aiyana Fraley, LMT, is a freelance writer and health care professional with more than 18 years of experience in the massage field. She teaches yoga and offers sessions in massage, Reiki, sound healing and essential oils. Her articles for MASSAGE Magazine include “Yoga Nidra for Self-Care.”