Safety Guide: Holiday Travel during Covid

This holiday season, travel safety comes with a long list of pandemic-related restrictions, advisories, and recommendations by airlines and states as COVID-19 cases continue to surge. Before making plans – whether you’re getting on a plane or in a car to see family and friends or taking a vacation – be sure you are well aware of all COVID-19-related rules, recommended or required, to keep you and others safe.

In the Airport, On the Plane

Travelers must maintain a social distance of six feet wherever possible while at the checkpoint and wear a face mask throughout the travel experience. Travelers are also encouraged to practice good hygiene, such as washing hands regularly, including directly before and after completing the security screening process. If it is not possible to wash your hands, use hand sanitizer. All major U.S. airline carriers will ban passengers who do not wear masks (considered a violation) from boarding. In addition, how long a passenger remains banned by an airline depends on the airline and the behavior of the passenger during the flight when the violation took place, according to the TSA.

Rapid COVID-19 Testing Being Offered to Certain Destinations

Airlines are increasingly offering testing for COVID-19 as a way to reassure travelers that flying is safe. For example, United Airlines, during a pilot program running November 6 to December 11, is offering free rapid testing to passengers on select flights from Newark to London in an effort to ensure that all individuals on board (except children under age 2) have tested negative before takeoff. In fact, United Airlines began offering COVID-19 testing at San Francisco International Airport to fliers bound for Hawaii, which requires negative test results in order to avoid quarantining for 14 days. American Airlines is also offering testing to Hawaii-bound travelers either in person or through an at-home kit.

Maintaining Your Bubble Away from Home

If you plan on meeting up with other family members or friends away from home, it’s important that everyone follows the same precautions leading up to the trip. Choose a neutral site, like a vacation home, to reduce the chances of encountering other strangers while preserving your bubble. Buy food to cook or where possible, dine outdoors. Hotels are considered a safer option than staying at the home of a friend. Hotels have adopted strict cleaning and disinfecting measures.

New State Restrictions, Advisories

Know state advisories, recommendations, and requirements before your holiday travel during covid. For example, New York now requires travelers to the state to get tested within three days prior to landing, quarantine for at least three days upon arrival, and get tested on day four of arrival. States contiguous (Connecticut, New Jersey) to New York are exempted.  New York has also imposed a 10 p.m. curfew for most bars and restaurants and limits gatherings at private residences to 10 people. The new restrictions apply to both indoor and outdoor gatherings.

California, Oregon, and Washington also issued travel advisories urging visitors entering their states or returning home from travel outside these states to self-quarantine. The travel advisories urge against non-essential out-of-state travel, ask people to self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving from another state or country, and encourage residents to stay local. Oregon has also imposed a limitation on social get-togethers (indoors and outdoors) to no more than six people, total, from no more than two households, among other measures from November 18 to December 2.

It’s important to note that state requirements and advisories could change as the number of coronavirus cases rises and state and local governments grapple to keep the public safe.

In addition, CDC recommendations for holiday gatherings at-home or away include keeping them small, socially distant, short, and outside or well-ventilated. While the holiday season is a time for family and friends to gather and celebrate, keeping one another safe is also critical. Depending on your plans, stay current on new and evolving measures for a safe and happy holiday.