Bon Voyage! 5 Things to Know When Traveling During COVID-19

Every year, families pile into planes, trains, and automobiles to get their fill of summer fun.

“Summer fun” might have looked different last year though, and it’s likely you had to make the tough decision to cancel your 2020 travel plans. In fact, 72% of Americans did not take a vacation last summer.

But it’s been over a year since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. With nearly 55% of Americans having received at least one or both COVID-19 vaccine doses — what does that mean for summer travel now?

Your Mask Should Still Be On Your Packing List

While mask requirements are changing, masks are still required on buses, trains, subways, airplanes, ships, ferries, and ride-shares (like Uber or Lyft).

There are many opportunities for safe travel this summer — especially if you are fully vaccinated (it has been two weeks since your second dose of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, or your single dose of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine).

Whether your family likes to go camping, road-tripping, or park hopping at the House of Mouse, keep these 5 things in mind if you’re planning a summer trip.

1. Some travel choices are safer than others.

In the past, health and safety precautions have just been a part of our seasonal routines. Wearing sunscreen, life jackets, and helmets are baked into summer vacation expectations.

But during a pandemic, your worries about health and safety — and the decisions you make as a result — may look very different.

Simply put, some summer activities are going to be safer than others. This summer, it’s important to know that different travel choices come with different risk factors.

How Can I Make My Summer Travel Safer?

  Safest Less Safe Avoid
How to Get There
  • Short road trips with fully vaccinated people or members of your household
  • Short flights with no layovers
  • Long road trips with frequent stops
  • Short road trips with unvaccinated people or people not from your household
  • Longer flights with layovers
  • Cruise ships and riverboats
  • Long bus or train trips
Where to Stay and Who To Stay With
  • Family or friends who are fully vaccinated
  • A cabin or house with fully vaccinated people or people in your household
  • Long bus or train trips
  • Family or friends who are unvaccinated
  • A cabin or house with unvaccinated people not in your household
  • Hostels or other lodging with shared bathroom
Where To Eat
  • Somewhere where you can bring a home-packed meal and drinks
  • Takeout
  • Curbside pick-up, delivery, or drive-thru
  • Outdoor dining (or well-ventilated indoor dining) where staff and servers wear masks, and where socially distancing is possible
  • Poorly ventilated indoor dining where staff and servers do not wear masks, or where socially distancing is not possible
  • Self-service or buffets (which require touching many surfaces)

2. Traveling abroad has different risks than traveling domestically.

Under normal circumstances, deciding where you want to travel is an exciting part of the planning process. You may consider things like flight prices, weather, or — if you’re going out of the US — brushing up on a language.

But, in the wake of COVID-19, your destination is more than a place on a map. Each travel option comes with unique precautions to take into consideration.

Domestic Travel

Thanks to the hard work of many scientists around the globe, you are able to safely travel within the US once you are fully vaccinated. You do not need to quarantine or get a COVID-19 test before or after traveling, unless required by state or local guidelines.

If you are unvaccinated or not yet fully vaccinated, you have a higher risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 — both while traveling and in general. Traveling within the US isn’t impossible, but you will need to take more steps to protect yourself and others:

  • Get a COVID-19 test 1-3 days before departure.
  • Continue to wear a mask when traveling.
  • Avoid large gatherings, and social distance when possible.
  • Get a COVID-19 test 3-5 days after returning home.
  • Self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel — even if your COVID-19 test is negative.

International Travel

As the world begins opening up, it may be tempting to plan an exotic getaway. However, if you are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend avoiding international travel. They also warn that even if you are fully vaccinated, international travel does not come without risks.

International Travel Checklist

  Fully Vaccinated Not Fully Vaccinated
Check COVID-19 regulations of your chosen airline and destination. X X
Check the CDC’s risk assessment for the country you’re visiting (e.g., estimated at “very high” or “moderate”). X X
Get a COVID-19 test 1-3 days before departure. X
Get a COVID-19 test 3 days before returning to the US (even if you are a US citizen) or present documentation of recovery from COVID-19 within 3 months at the airport. X X
Get a COVID-19 test 3 to 5 days after returning to the US. X X

For more info about different countries’ requirements, visit the CDC’s interactive COVID-19 Travel Recommendations map.

3. Different states have different COVID-19 procedures and restrictions.

Throughout the country, states have had many different responses to the pandemic. For example, some states are renewing state-wide mask-mandates, whereas others — such as Nebraska — are not.

With states being in different stages of reopening, you need to know the expectations — and the risks — of your travel destination.

Do your research, both on the state you are leaving and the city/state you are traveling to. You will want to know about any:

  • Current COVID-19 spikes or trends
  • Testing requirements for travelers
  • Quarantine regulations
  • Indoor/outdoor dining restrictions
  • Mask requirements
  • Limits on gathering size

For more info on state-by-state travel restrictions and guidance, visit the CDC’s Travel Planner.

Learn more about Nebraska’s current Directed Health Measures.

4. Now is not the time to let down your guard.

As of July 2021, nearly 55% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, which is great news for travel. But, while it’s true more vaccinations will mean things improve, it doesn’t mean the pandemic is over.

You may have heard people talking about “herd immunity,” which means that enough of the population has built up an immunity to a disease — either through vaccinations or previous infection — to stop the disease from spreading. In the US, it is expected that we will reach herd immunity when 70-85% of the population has been vaccinated or built up an immunity.

We have not yet reached herd immunity, and the emergence of COVID-19 variants may present potential future challenges — meaning your summer getaway isn’t the time to totally let loose. Vacations are meant to be relaxing, but don’t relax entirely on your COVID-19 precautions.

5. Being grateful — and kind — goes a long way.

Travel can be stressful, even under the best of circumstances. Flights get delayed, kids fight in the backseat, and everyone gets hangry now and then.

Not to mention, there’s still a global pandemic going on.

If you find your trip isn’t living up to your expectations, take a breath and look for the silver
lining. Your family is happy, healthy, and on vacation for the first time in a while.

Remember that people you interact with while you travel might be a little extra stressed right now. From seasonal employees to other traveling families, be kind to one another — even if you have an “everything is going wrong” kind of day.

Give others some grace — and a kind smile every now and then.

Stay up to date on all things COVID-19 with our COVID-19 Resource Center for Families!

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