Wide-spread vaccination holds promise for ending the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, but it won't happen overnight.
In the meantime, continue taking precautions to protect yourself and others if you must travel. If you’re fully vaccinated, you’re less likely to get and spread COVID-19, but international travel can still increase your risk of getting new COVID-19 variants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that you should avoid travel until you’ve been fully vaccinated when possible.
As you think about making travel plans, consider these questions:
Some state, local and territorial governments have requirements, such as requiring people to wear masks or get tested, and requiring those who recently traveled to stay home for up to 14 days. Save yourself unpleasant surprises and delays by checking for restrictions at your destination and anywhere you might stop along the way.
Keep in mind that restrictions can change rapidly depending on local conditions. It's also important to keep in mind the COVID-19 situation, such as the level of spread and presence of variants, varies in each country. Check back for updates as your trip gets closer.
If you have been fully vaccinated, the CDC states that you do not need to get tested before or after your trip within the U.S. or quarantine after you return.
If you are planning to travel internationally outside the U.S., the CDC states you don't need to get tested before your trip unless it's required at your destination. Before arriving to the U.S., you need a negative test within the last three days before your arrival or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 in the last three months.
Plan to get tested three to five days after your trip. You don't need to quarantine when you return home. But check for any symptoms and stay at home if you develop symptoms.
Testing before and after travel can reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19. If you haven't been vaccinated, the CDC recommends getting tested with a viral test one to three days before your trip. Delay travel if you're waiting for test results. Keep a copy of your results with you when you travel.
Repeat the test three to five days after your trip. Even if you test negative, reduce nonessential activities for seven days. If you don't get tested, reduce nonessential activities for 10 days.
If at any point you test positive, stay home. Immediately isolate yourself if you develop symptoms and follow public health recommendations.
In the U.S., you must wear a face mask on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation, even if you are fully vaccinated. The mask must fit snugly and cover both your mouth and nose.
If you haven’t had the COVID-19 vaccine, follow these steps to protect yourself and others when you travel:
Because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, most viruses don't spread easily on flights. However, crowded flights make social distancing difficult. Plus, air travel involves spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has increased cleaning and disinfecting of surfaces and equipment, including bins, at screening checkpoints. TSA has also made changes to the screening process:
Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds directly before and after going through screening.
Air travel might not be for you. You may prefer to drive, which also gives you more control over your environment. You'll still need to be smart about any stops you make, but that just takes some planning.
If you’re unvaccinated, here are things to consider before you hit the road:
If you travel by bus or train and you are unvaccinated, be aware that sitting or standing within 6 feet (2 meters) of others for a prolonged period can put you at higher risk of getting or spreading COVID-19. Follow the precautions outlined above for protecting yourself during travel.
Even if you fly, you may need transportation once you arrive at your destination. You can investigate car rental options and their disinfection policies on the internet. If you plan to stay at a hotel, check into shuttle service availability.
If you'll be using public transportation, maintain social distancing, wear a mask, and use hand sanitizer or wash your hands after reaching your destination. If you plan to use a ride-hailing service, don't sit in the front seat near the driver.
The hotel industry recognizes that travelers are concerned about the coronavirus and safety. Check any major chain's website for information about how it's protecting guests and staff. Some best practices include:
Vacation rentals, too, are upping their game when it comes to cleaning. They're committed to following public health guidelines, such as using masks and gloves when cleaning, and building in a waiting period between guests.
Once you arrive at your room or rental, if you’re unvaccinated, disinfect high-touch surfaces, such as doorknobs, light switches, countertops, tables, desks, phones, remote controls and faucets. Wash plates, glasses, cups and silverware (other than prewrapped plastic items) before using.
When it's time to pack for your trip, grab any medicines you may need on your trip and these essential safe-travel supplies:
Anyone can get very ill from the virus that causes COVID-19, but older adults and people of any age with certain medical conditions are at increased risk for severe illness.
Conditions that increase your risk include cancer, chronic kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Down syndrome, serious heart problems, weakened immune system, obesity, pregnancy, sickle cell disease, smoking and type 2 diabetes.
Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. If you’re unvaccinated, staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. If you must travel, talk with your doctor and ask about any additional precautions you may need to take.
Even the best-laid plans may need to be set aside when illness strikes. Stay home if any of your travel companions or you: