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Life and living: Safe summer travel

cartoon illustration of suitcase, map and airline ticket

There’s no doubt that travel during a pandemic can be stressful and even scary. If you’re dreaming of a summer getaway but are hesitant in the age of COVID-19, here are some tips from the experts at the CDC to help you plan a safe vacation.

STEP 1: Choose your destination

State, territorial, county and local governments may have restrictions in place that include testing requirements, stay-at-home orders or quarantine requirements upon arrival. For up-to-date information and travel guidance, check all the health departments along your route in addition to your destination. Prepare to be flexible during your trip, as restrictions and policies may change during your travel depending on local health conditions. And please follow all prevailing travel restrictions. 

STEP 2: Decide how you’ll get there and where you’ll stay

Airports, bus and train stations, and rest stops are all places where travelers can be exposed to the COVID-19 virus in the air and on surfaces. Decide which method of travel you feel most comfortable with. Keep in mind that masks are currently required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within or out of the United States. If you’re planning a car trip, you won’t have to wear a mask until you stop. Restaurants may be closed—or you may not feel comfortable eating indoors—so be sure to pack snacks and drinks. Try to plan your stops for fuel, food and bathroom breaks in advance if possible. When it’s time to rest, stay in a hotel, guest house or short-stay rental. While it may be cheap and easy to stay with friends or family, remember that you increase the risk for exposure if you’re in close quarters with others. 

Ways to protect yourself… 

  • When you’re eligible, get fully vaccinated for COVID-19, then wait two weeks after getting your second vaccine dose to travel. It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination. 

  • In public settings, wear a mask over your nose and mouth. 

  • Avoid crowds; stay at least six feet (two meters) from anyone who didn’t travel with you. It’s important to do this everywhere, both indoors and outdoors. 

  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60 percent alcohol) often. 

  • Bring extra supplies, such as masks, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes or disposable gloves. 

  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick. 

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. 

STEP 3: Determine what to do once you’re there

Ultimately, the goal is to avoid crowds, so keep that in mind when you plan your outings. Outdoor activities like walking, hiking, biking and fishing are low risk, while eating at a restaurant, going to a movie theatre or going to a bar put you at a high risk for exposure. Activities that involve just your party would be best, but if you’re doing a group activity keep your distance and limit interaction. 

STEP 4: Consider some post-travel advice

Take a viral COVID-19 test three to five days after your trip. Stay home and self-quarantine for a full seven days after travel, even if your test is negative. If you decide not to get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel. 

Because you can be exposed to COVID-19 on your travels and show no symptoms, it’s smart to take these actions to protect others from getting COVID-19 after travel: 

  • Read “Ways to protect yourself…” again. 

  • If there are people in your household who didn’t travel with you, ask everyone in the household to wear masks in shared spaces inside your home for 14 days after travel. 

  • Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness. 

  • Be alert for symptoms of COVID-19. 

While these guidelines may seem excessive, a bit of advance planning can help everyone avoid illness and heartbreak down the line—and allow you and your travel companions to enjoy a summer getaway that’s not only fun, but safe for all. 

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