If you’ve been sheltering at home during the pandemic but are now planning to travel for the holiday season, things have changed a lot. COVID-19 restrictions and safety precautions vary from place to place. Whether you’re visiting family members just a few towns away, or making flight plans for travels far away, there’s always been a risk of getting sick, but this year is extra risky due to the coronavirus pandemic.

One upside is that the number of people traveling this season will probably be considerably less than last year. While airlines are still operating, and the number of people traveling is slowly increasing, many people are choosing to stay home out of an abundance of caution this year. Transportation companies such as airlines have also set in place rigorous cleaning protocols that make it cleaner than ever to use their facilities.

Still, there are always circumstances that are out of our control when traveling. Standing in line, using public facilities, sitting in boarding areas, car rentals and shuttles, and similar issues heighten the risk of exposure. But most health experts agree that practicing social distancing, wearing a mask that covers your mouth and nose, and washing hands frequently will lower your risk of contracting the virus whether you’re traveling to your local market or traveling across the country.

We understand that the regulations and warnings from place to place can get confusing, so we’ve put together this quick guide with safe travel tips gathered from resources such as the CDC, WHO, Mayo Clinic and other respected health organizations and professionals to guide you in safe travel this holiday season.

Traveling by Car

A mask is not necessary inside a car if you are alone or with close family that you live with, but it’s a good idea to wear a mask outside of the car, especially in high-traffic areas like rest areas or gas stations. Also, always wash hands after touching common surfaces like a gas pump and door handles.

Flying during the pandemic

According to the CDC most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. According to the World Health Organization, ventilation systems on modern aircraft provide a total change of cabin air 20-30 times per hour. And the recirculated air is passed through HEPA filters that remove more than 99% of airborne particles. Ultimately, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), between these HEPA filters, cleanliness protocol and additional procedures, the current likelihood of contracting the virus while on flights is extremely low.

That said, it’s also on you to follow safety protocol, including wearing a mask during your entire flight, as your highest risk might be exposure to a traveler sitting near you who has come in contact with the virus during their travels.

Long-distance travel

Travel restrictions can change quickly, with every state and country around the world constantly changing their plans and protocols for handling traveling during the pandemic. Because rules can vary by destination and also be dependent on where you’re coming from, it’s important to do your research before you hit the road. Check out this travel restriction map for a quick reference to see COVID-19 numbers and restrictions by destination.

CDC Guidelines

Getting back to basics, here is a list of the general guidelines provided by the CDC for safe travel during the pandemic.

  • Maintain a distance of 6 feet between you and others as much as possible.
  • Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
  • Limit contact with frequently touched surfaces, such as handrails, elevator buttons and kiosks. If you must touch these surfaces, use hand sanitizer or wash your hands afterward.
  • Wear a cloth face mask.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes.
  • Clean your hands often. It’s especially important after going to the bathroom, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • If soap and water aren’t available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub hands together until they feel dry.

While we feel that all of these tips are great starting points, if you plan on traveling and are worried about your health and safety, it’s always best to check with applicable government authorities once you’ve selected your destination. For more information and further guidelines from the CDC, click HERE.