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Follow These Tips for Safe, Stress-Free Travel

By Leigh Weingus
August 5, 2021
Photo Credit: Alita Ong

After a year of canceled plans, we’re finally starting to think about traveling again. According to a survey released in June, nearly nine out of 10 people living in the United States have travel plans in the next six months! That’s a lot! But while we might be booking flights and buying train tickets, just how safe travel actually is can feel a little bit murky. Maybe you have this feeling deep down: Should I really be doing this? These COVID travel tips should help clear things up.

As with most things COVID-related, the good news is that if you’re vaccinated, any activity you choose to engage in, inside, outside, or in the air, is very safe. The three vaccines available in the U.S .— Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson — are very effective. Even in the face of the highly contagious delta variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that fully vaccinated people can safely resume travel.

However, we are still in a pandemic. If you are not fully vaccinated, traveling is still a risky activity. And even if you’re fully vaccinated, there are still things you can do to make it safer.

Here are three smart COVID travel tips to know before your next trip.

1. Wear a mask. 

Airlines still require people to wear masks in the airport and in-flight regardless of vaccination status. And it makes sense. At an airport or on an airplane, you’re surrounded by people who may not yet be vaccinated, or who could be immunocompromised.

“There’s no way to know their vaccination status or who they’ve been exposed to,” explains Dr. Vivek Cherian, MD, an Internal Medicine physician affiliated with the University of Maryland Medical System.

It’s not just airports, either. If you’re taking a cab or Uber to (or from) the airport, you should also mask up. Even if you and your driver are both fully vaccinated, the issue lies with the previous (potentially unvaccinated) passengers. 

“Studies have shown that this virus spreads mainly via aerosols,” Dr. Cherian says. “When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, tiny particles called aerosols carry the virus into the air from their nose or mouth. And they can remain in the air for several hours.”

2. Sanitize, sanitize, sanitize.

We know now that the virus doesn’t spread easily via surfaces. Still, it’s not a bad idea to sanitize the areas around you when you travel, according to Dr. Cherian: “There is no question that the virus primarily is transmitted via droplets and aerosols, however when traveling, particularly with children who are unvaccinated, why take the chance?”

Wipe down surfaces with disinfectant wipes before you use them (in the airport before you eat, or your tray table on the plan). And carry a travel-size bottle of hand sanitizer with you at all times.

Also, don’t forget to wipe down the air vent, which is a germ hot spot.

3. Do your research. 

It’s never a bad idea to know how many people are vaccinated or what the COVID-19 infection rate is like in the area you’re visiting. This way, while on vacation you can determine when you should mask up, and when you can feel safe going mask-free.

“Logically areas with higher rates of vaccination also tend to have lower levels of infection,” Dr. Cherian notes.


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