While many of us missed the holidays last year with family or friends due to COVID-19, as the pandemic continues, the desire or need to travel may be more and more likely for you this holiday season. Whether you’re heading over the river and through the woods to Grandma’s house, back to the old neighborhood to visit family and friends, or have planned a perfect getaway vacation, these tips can help you stay safe and healthy on your trip. And that will make everyone’s holiday happier!
First, the number one rule for healthier travels: stay home if anyone in the travel party is sick. No one likes to cancel holiday plans or disappoint loved ones, but for everyone’s safety, stay home if you:
- Are sick or think you have COVID-19
- Are waiting on the results of a COVID-19 viral test
- Have been diagnosed with COVD-19 but aren’t showing symptoms
- Have been in close contact with someone with COVID-19
When possible, get vaccinated! Anyone is at risk for contracting COVID-19, but older adults and people of any age with certain medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19. According to the CDC, research shows that COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing the virus and are an essential tool to helping stop the pandemic. While no vaccine is 100% effective, the vaccine does help prevent against severe illness and hospitalization.
Check any local requirements or restrictions of your destination. Some state and local governments have requirements such as masking, testing, proof of vaccination, or requiring those who have recently traveled to stay home for up to 14 days. Restrictions can vary greatly depending on local conditions. Check for updates as your trip approaches.
Make a packing list
When it's time to pack for your trip, make sure to put any medicines you may need on your trip in an easily accessible place, and don’t forget these essential safe-travel supplies:
- Face masks
- Allergy medication
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol)
- Disinfectant wipes (at least 70% alcohol) for surfaces
Stay safe while you travel
In the U.S., you must wear a face mask on all public transportation including planes, buses, trains, even if you are fully vaccinated. Wear the mask so it fits snugly covering your mouth and nose. If you haven’t had the vaccine, r if you have a pre-existing condition where your immune system is weakened, take extra pre-cautions to protect yourself when traveling by:
- Keeping a distance of 6 feet between you and others
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
- Wear a face mask indoors and in crowded outdoor settings
- Avoid high-tough surfaces such as hand rails, elevator buttons or door handles
- Wash your hands often
If you’re flying…
- Most viruses don't spread easily on flights because of how the air circulates. But if your flight is crowded, it can also mean more time in security lines, close contact in the terminal etc. Do your best to social distance at least 6 feet when possible.
- The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has increased cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and equipment, including bins, at screening checkpoints, and adjusted screening for safety including:
- Requiring masks for all travelers
- Requesting that travelers place passes (paper or electronic) directly on the scanner and then hold them up for inspection rather than pass them back and forth
- Allowing each traveler one container of hand sanitizer up to 12 ounces in a carry-on bag
- Placing personal items in carry-on bags rather than bins to cut down on the handling high-touch items during screening
You should still wash your hands with soap and water after going through airport security.
If you’re driving…
If you’ve opted to drive, you may have control over certain factors like when you leave and where to stop. But you’ll still need to be smart about planning ahead, especially if you aren’t vaccinated. Here are some tips if you’re planning on driving to your holiday destination:
- Try to limit your stops – but BE SAFE! If you become drowsy, pull over
- Pack face masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant and be sure they’re easily accessible so that you can use them throughout your drive
- Prepare food and water for your trip to limit time in restaurants and grocery stores
- If you need to pullover for gas, use a disinfectant wipe on the handles or buttons before you touch them. Sanitize your hands after fueling.
- If you stop for food, opt for drive-thru or curbside.
- Once you get to your destination, be sure to wash your hands with soap and water.
If you’re concerned about staying in a hotel, check online for the hotel’s policy on cleaning, and what they are doing to protect guests and staff during the pandemic. Most hotels have:
- Enhanced cleaning procedures
- Social distancing measures
- Masking of staff and guests
- Contactless payment
- Protocol in case a guest becomes ill
Vacation rentals, too, are upping their game when it comes to cleaning in-between guests. If you have concerns, it’s good to still disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, countertops, tables, desks, phones, remote controls and faucets upon arrival. Wash plates, glasses, cups and silverware (other than prewrapped plastic items) before using.
Happy and safe holiday travels everyone!
If you live or are visiting in the San Antonio area and find you need emergency care, Methodist Health System provides a comprehensive network of hospital and emergency services with average ER wait times available online to help you get the care you need fast!