If you're looking to make holiday travel plans this season, there are a few things to keep in mind as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
Most importantly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that anyone who travels be fully vaccinated. Since you may be asked to provide proof of your vaccination status, travel with your vaccination card. If you're not vaccinated against COVID-19, if you're immunocompromised or if you have children who are too young to be vaccinated, it's especially important to strictly adhere to travel precautions and to refrain from traveling when possible.
Based on guidance from the CDC, American Medical Association and others, here are five tips worth following when traveling during COVID-19:
1. Check guidance for your destination before you leave
If you're traveling within the United States, you should check the local public health restrictions at your destination, as they may differ from the rules currently in place where you live. In general, practice extra caution if you're venturing through or toward areas of high community transmission. These regions can be tracked through the CDC's county-by-county map.
For international travel, check for any specific travel restrictions in your destination country. Before coming back to the United States, you'll need to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test no more than three days prior to travel or proof that you've recovered from COVID-19 within the past three months. This rule applies to everyone, including U.S. citizens and fully vaccinated individuals.
2. Pack masks and hand sanitizer
You might want to pack a few extra masks and hand sanitizers for yourself and your family members, given how much you need them when traveling. Hand sanitizer is good for when you're unable to properly wash your hands while on the go — and masks are essential in nearly any setting.
Regardless of vaccination status, everyone must wear a face covering on public transportation, including planes, trains and buses. You'll also be required to mask up at airports and other travel stations. Some areas may also require masking outside at certain events or venues, so always travel with your face covering just in case.
3. Choose safer travel options for unvaccinated children
If you're traveling with kids who are too young to receive their COVID-19 vaccine, check the CDC's page regarding safer travel options for this potentially vulnerable group. According to the CDC, some ways to make travel safer include taking short day trips with fewer stops for gas or food, staying in a private vacation rental instead of a hotel and getting takeout instead of dining in restaurants. In general, it's best for unvaccinated children to only come into contact with fully vaccinated people.
4. Continue safe practices
Don't let vacation be an excuse to get careless about COVID-19 precautions; if anything, you should be even more diligent about health and safety when away from home. For example, maintain social distance from others not in your travel group, cover your mouth with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze, and regularly clean your hands with soap and water or hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.
5. Watch out for COVID-19 symptoms and make a plan for if you get sick
Stay on high alert for any COVID-19 symptoms, including but not limited to fever, cough, shortness of breath or fatigue. Pack a thermometer so you can check the temperature of anyone who feels feverish. Check your insurance ahead of time for any providers who may be in-network at your destination so if someone in your travel party develops COVID-19 symptoms, you can get them to a medical provider.
If someone has emergency symptoms, including trouble breathing, lasting chest pain or pressure, confusion, trouble staying awake or pale or blueish lips, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room. Your insurance can't charge you a higher rate for visiting an out-of-network medical facility in a true emergency.
Keep safety top-of-mind this holiday travel season
We're all eager to move past the pandemic and get back to normal life with loved ones. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is still with us and may continue to linger for some time. Right now, the best way to safely travel is to be fully vaccinated while continuing to take precautions — from mask-wearing and social distancing to frequent handwashing.