Planning a Trip? Here Are Five Tips for Traveling Safely after COVID
As of May 13, over 35% of Americans have been fully vaccinated thanks to the hard work of scientists, medical engineers, and state government officials. The result is a declining number of positive COVID-19 cases and death rate, leading many states to slowly begin reopening. Here in Vermont, we currently rank first in the nation for rate of vaccine administration!
With all this good news, it might soon be safe to travel again and perhaps reschedule that trip you canceled in 2020. In fact, CNBC reports that 65% of Americans plan to travel more in 2021 than in years prior to COVID-19! Here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your post-COVID adventures out in the world.
WHEN NOT TO TRAVEL
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends waiting to travel until you are fully vaccinated. For the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, that means two weeks after your second shot. For the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, that is two weeks after your single dose. If you haven’t been vaccinated yet but have to travel for unavoidable circumstances, see CDC recommendations for traveling domestically and internationally.
Even if you have been fully vaccinated, you should not travel with symptoms of COVID-19. You also should not travel if you think you might have been exposed to COVID-19. However, if you have been fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 in the past three months, you do not need to self-quarantine and can travel even after an exposure.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU TRAVEL
The most important thing during any type of travel, whether you are fully vaccinated or not, is to protect those around you by wearing a face mask. According to the CDC, “The principal mode by which people are infected with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is through exposure to respiratory droplets carrying infectious virus.” A face mask drastically reduces the likelihood you’ll spread COVID-19 or other respiratory illnesses and is a courtesy that may remain for the next few years. Get a quality face mask or two and keep one on as much as possible! I personally hope that COVID-19 has helped reduce the stigma of wearing a mask so that everyone will take preventative measures even if they only have a common cold.
When you travel, touching a lot of surfaces is unavoidable. According to the CDC, “It is possible for people to be infected through contact with contaminated surfaces or objects…, but the risk is generally considered to be low.” The most important thing you can do to protect yourself from this low-risk transmission is to wash your hands frequently and try to reduce contact in highly trafficked areas.
HOW TO OVERCOME A FEAR OF TRAVELING
Forbes reported that 41% of individuals are planning to travel much less after COVID-19. If you’re feeling anxious about traveling, you’re clearly not alone! Here are a few ways to ease yourself back into it.
Try smaller “practice” trips around where you live before leaping right into that cross-country flight you were planning in 2020. Or you can decide to travel to somewhere you’ve already been, rather immediately traveling somewhere completely foreign to you. If being around a number of other people is making you nervous, perhaps consider a road trip! The United States is full of scenic drives and beautiful open spaces for you to explore via the comfort of your own car.
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WHEN BOOKING TRAVEL
As you plan your next trip, think about unique destinations that might not be as crowded as the larger tourist traps. Often the road less traveled offers the most exquisite experiences and you’ll be far away from the big crowds of eager post-COVID travelers! A unique travel experience doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, either. Think hiking in Canada or kayaking in Portland, Oregon!
Now more than ever might be a wise time to purchase trip cancellation insurance. Due to COVID-19, the unpredictable nature of travel basically necessitates it! Last year, many people who opted out of trip cancellation insurance were unable to get refunds for trips they had booked prior to the pandemic. Many credit cards offer some level of protection, but if the vendor you purchase your tickets from offers a relatively affordable insurance option, it might be worth it! Trip cancellation insurance should cost no more than between 5% and 10% of your total trip cost.
Note that trip cancellation insurance is different from travel protection, which offers additional benefits like rental car damage, flight delays, lost luggage, and medical expenses. Some travel protection also includes basic trip cancellation coverage, so it is worth reading the fine print to determine which type of insurance is best for your needs.
WHAT TO EXPECT FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL
As of May 5, all air passengers boarding flights to the United States must show documentation of a negative COVID-19 test or of a recent COVID-19 recovery. This applies to U.S. citizens as well. There has been no additional clarification from the CDC about how this policy might change for vaccinated people. Rest assured, though, for the next few years you can expect significantly extended lines at airport immigration and be required to carry more than just your passport and visa.
I personally am excited to travel again, even with the potential risks. After being isolated in my neighborhood and eating the same food for over a year, I can’t wait to explore the world again. A silver lining of the new requirements for travel? You can bet everything is much cleaner!
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The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of VSECU.
About Oliver Ames
Oliver is VSECU's social media strategist and spends most of his day engaging with members through our Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram profiles. He has a background in science education, non-profit fundraising, business communication, media production, and membership-based organizations. When not at work, Oliver spends much of his time with his wife and their little dog Butterscotch at their home in Montpelier.