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Travel Tips for a Safe Summer

Safety | July 22, 2021
Parents and two children put belongings into back of car for a trip
Unvaccinated Travelers Still Need to Take Precautions.

Q: My husband and I plan to travel with our kids this summer, but as the COVID-19 virus continues to lurk in the background, I am nervous about what is safe vs. unsafe. I have been trying to do some research online, but there is so much information, and I often feel overwhelmed and confused. Can you advise me on what safety precautions I should keep in mind when traveling this summer with my family? Also, are the safety precautions different if you are vaccinated vs. unvaccinated?

A: With COVID-19 still circulating in our communities, it’s important to take appropriate precautions to travel safely this summer, especially if you or your family members are not fully vaccinated.

Below are some recommendations and resources to help you and your family make the right travel decisions for you:

Guidelines if you’re fully vaccinated

If you are fully vaccinated, the CDC states that you can “resume the normal activities that you undertook prior to the pandemic" without wearing a mask or physically distancing, except in public indoor settings or when required by federal or local laws.

Before leaving on your vacation, check local conditions at your destination. State and local governments may have masking or physical distancing requirements in place that are different than your home area, but the latest recommendations from the CDC advise the use of masking when you're in public indoor spaces. Prepare to be flexible as restrictions may change while you are traveling.

If you plan to travel by air, remember that all airports and airlines require travelers to wear masks regardless of vaccination status unless they are actively eating or drinking. At your destination, follow all local guidelines regarding masking and physical distancing.

Traveling with children under 12. If you are traveling with children who cannot get vaccinated at this time, follow recommendations for unvaccinated people and the tips below for a safer trip. 

  • Children under 12 should still wear face coverings and practice physical distancing when in public. Avoid crowds and, when possible, limit contact to just your traveling party or people who are fully vaccinated.
  • If possible, go on short road trips with few stops along the way. If you must fly, try to book flights with the fewest stops or layovers. Avoid long-distance travel on trains and busses.

After traveling, fully vaccinated people do not need to quarantine or get tested. However, you should still self-monitor for symptoms. If any develop, isolate yourself and get tested. Unvaccinated children should quarantine at home and be monitored for symptoms. If any appear, isolate and get your child tested.

Stay cautious if immunity is low. If you have a condition or are taking medications that weaken your immune system, you may NOT be fully protected even if you are fully vaccinated. Talk to your healthcare provider about what precautions to take.

If you’re unvaccinated, travel is not recommended

Because we haven’t reached herd immunity, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that those not vaccinated delay their domestic travel until they are fully vaccinated. Herd immunity means enough people are immune to the virus, either through exposure or vaccination. Scientists believe more than 70% of the population should be vaccinated or have immunity to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The best way to have a carefree summer is to make sure you and your eligible family members get the COVID-19 vaccine. Vaccination means you can participate in many of your favorite summer activities without worry. If you have questions or concerns about the vaccine, learn more here.

Everyone 12 years and older is currently eligible for the vaccine. It’s easy, quick and currently free to get vaccinated. Learn how to schedule your COVID-19 vaccine appointment today.

Be aware that you are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after you receive the Pfizer or Moderna second dose, or Johnson & Johnson single dose. Until the two weeks have passed, you should continue to take precautions like wearing masks and physical distancing. 

People who have symptoms of COVID-19, recently tested positive for COVID-19, or been exposed to a person with COVID-19 should NOT travel because they put others at risk.

Guidelines if you’re unvaccinated

If you must travel and are not fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends getting a viral test no more than three days before leaving.

Per federal law, all travelers—vaccinated or not—must wear face coverings while on public transportation, such as airplanes, trains, busses, etc.

Once you arrive at your destination, follow the local rules and regulations. It is highly recommended that unvaccinated persons continue to wear face coverings at large outdoor gatherings and indoors at public places and stay 6 feet from people outside of their household. Keep washing your hands frequently or use hand sanitizer when washing is not possible.

The CDC has placed activities into three categories: safe, less safe and least safe for unvaccinated individuals.

Safe activities include:

  • Outdoor physical activities like walking, jogging or biking with members of your household.
  • Attending a small, outdoor gathering with fully vaccinated family and friends.

Less safe activities include:

  • Dining at an outdoor restaurant with multiple households.
  • Going into an indoor shopping center or museum.
  • Attending a small indoor gathering of fully vaccinated and unvaccinated people from multiple households.

Least safe activities include:

  • Attending a crowded outdoor event, like a live performance, parade or sports event.
  • Going to an indoor movie theater, attending a full-capacity worship service, or singing in an indoor chorus.
  • Eating at an indoor bar or restaurant or participating in an indoor exercise class.

Finally, upon returning home, make sure you are tested again. Even if you test negative, the CDC recommends that you monitor your health for symptoms and self-quarantine for seven days. If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days.

Additional resources

There is a lot of COVID-19 information out there, so it can quickly become overwhelming. As a starting point, check the CDC’s COVID-19 safety guidelines for clear, concise and reliable information. You might also get additional insight from your local or state public health offices.

It’s always a good idea (whether vaccinated or unvaccinated) to make an appointment with your primary care provider before your summer travel. Unfortunately, many of us put off general checkups at the height of the pandemic. Now is a great time to schedule an appointment to get additional advice on summer travel and identify any health issues that may need attention.

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