Dr. MeiLan Han
Tips for Traveling this Holiday Season
If you’re like me, you may have been wondering whether traveling home for the holidays is feasible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Before you travel, first ask yourself: who, how, and where.
Who is traveling makes a difference. Older adults and individuals with chronic medical conditions will be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. Even for individuals without health conditions, traveling by oneself makes taking precautions easier. Speaking as a parent, traveling with small children will make adhering to safety guidelines more challenging.
How you travel also makes a difference. Make sure you wear a mask. Where possible, maintain social distancing by staying at least 6 feet apart from anyone not in your household. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently. Air travel will require spending time in security lines and airport terminals that can bring you into close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. Once on a plane, however, the data suggests the risk of transmission is low. This is likely due to air ventilation and filtration systems now in place on commercial aircraft. Traveling on buses and trains for any length of time may make social distancing difficult. Ventilation on these vehicles is likely more variable.
If you choose to travel by car, avoiding close contact with those outside your family may be easier, but still, plan your route carefully. Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after using a public bathroom, or use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. The CDC recommends using disinfecting wipes on the handles and buttons of gas station pumps before using them if available and using hand sanitizer afterward. The safest option is to take your own food or to use a drive-through while on the road.
Finally, where you travel is the final consideration. Does your destination have requirements or restrictions for travelers? Check local public health websites before you go so that you understand entry requirements and any restrictions for arriving travelers, such as mandatory testing or quarantine. Finally, consider the extent of community spread where you are headed. Where community spread is high, so is the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Ultimately, everything we do these days comes down to careful consideration of benefits versus risks.