Tips for Healthy Holiday Travel During a Pandemic

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As the holidays approach and COVID-19 vaccination eligibility expand to younger children, many Americans may be making plans to travel. According to Tripadvisor, 55% of Americans plan to travel this winter, which is a 5% increase from those who traveled last winter. Not surprisingly, the most popular travel dates are the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Additionally, the majority of Americans planning to travel this winter will remain stateside.

If you’re planning to hit the road or the skies this holiday season, there are some general tips to keep you safe while traveling:

  • Stay domestic. Although foreign borders continue to open up to fully vaccinated U.S. travelers, the global travel situation is in flux. Some countries are closing their borders again or enforcing strict curfews and mandates.
  • Take a road trip. Traveling by car is still safer than flying as it involves less exposure to people. Depending on your allotted travel time or the distance of your destination, car travel can be a solution.
  • Check travel restrictions. Be flexible and continue checking state and local policies for your current location, stops along your route, and your destination. It’ll be equally important to understand all cancellation policies associated with tickets or lodging so there are no surprises if you have to change your plans.
  • Manage your stress levels. Travel can be stressful, and elevated stress levels can make you more prone to illness. While traveling, eat healthy meals and snacks, exercise, stay hydrated, and get plenty of sleep.
  • Keep up with COVID-19 safety precautions. Regardless of your vaccination status, you should still wear a mask, avoid crowds and wash your hands frequently when traveling. Try to maintain a 6-foot distance from others in public spaces like boarding areas, lines, gas stations, restaurants, and stores.
  • Pack the pandemic essentials. Bring along extra masks and alcohol-based hand sanitizer for any outing. You may also want to pack disinfectant wipes, gloves, and a thermometer for your trip.

As the pandemic evolves, continue to find ways to reconnect with friends and family you’ve missed. Travel isn’t necessary to celebrate; you can still call, text, or video chat those you usually see this time of year.

CDC Travel Considerations

The CDC continues to recommend delaying travel like flying unless you’re fully vaccinated.

If you’re fully vaccinated, you should still follow all state and local recommendations and requirements during travel, including mask-wearing and social distancing. In areas of high numbers of COVID-19 cases, consider wearing a mask in crowded outdoor settings and for activities that involve close contact with others who aren’t fully vaccinated.

After travel, you should self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms but do not need to self-quarantine. If you develop symptoms, isolate immediately and get tested.

If you’re not vaccinated, the CDC recommends getting a viral COVID-19 test one to three days before your trip. After traveling, you should get tested three to five days after travel and self-quarantine at home for a full seven days after travel. Even if you test negative, stay home and self-quarantine for the full seven days. If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel. Regardless of getting tested, avoid being around people at increased risk for severe illness for 14 days. Check out these additional travel tips.

If you’re traveling internationally, check your destination’s COVID-19 situation and travel requirements before traveling. Countries may have their own entry and exit requirements. You’ll have to show a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before you board your return flight to the United States.

Keep in mind that all travelers—even if fully vaccinated—must wear masks on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation and indoors at U.S. transportation hubs like airports and stations. Travelers are not required to wear a mask in outdoor transportation areas, such as open deck areas of a ferry or the uncovered top bus deck.

Summary

Holiday traditions are undoubtedly important for families. By working together, you can enjoy safer holiday travel and protect your health and the health of loved ones.

The CDC recommends delaying holiday travel unless you’re fully vaccinated. If you are considering traveling for a holiday or event, visit the CDC’s travel page to help you decide what is best for you and your family. If you become ill during or after traveling, contact your health care provider as soon as possible.

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