Last summer COVID-19 restrictions halted many families’ travel plans. Instead of a vacation, many families opted for a staycation, enjoying their backyard or local park more than ever. This year, however, promises to be different.
Not only are Americans traveling, they are traveling more than they did 2 years ago. Travelers are staying over longer—booking 8 or more nights while the 2019 average was 6, according to CheapCaribbean’s data. The demand for VRBO vacation homes increased more than 20 percent on Memorial Day Weekend 2021 compared to the same period in 2019. But what does travel for families look like this summer?
Do you need the COVID vaccine to travel?
This year, more than 130 million people in the U.S. will be fully vaccinated and ready to get back to normal summer travel. But is proof of a vaccination enough? Do you also need a negative COVID test? “If you are fully vaccinated, you don’t need a test before or after domestic travel unless required by local, state, or territorial healthy authorities,” according to Jan Carney, M.D., M.P.H., professor of Medicine and associate dean for Public Health and Healthy Policy at the Larner College of Medicine at the University of Vermont. The same goes for self-quarantining upon return.
If you’re headed outside the U.S., it’s best to research the current travel rules for your destination. “Traveling outside the United States is where it gets more complicated,” Dr. Carney says. The U.S. Department of State has a helpful website for travelers to search for specific information about their destination.
Do kids need to get the COVID vaccine to travel?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend all children receive the vaccine before traveling. (While kids have accounted for approximately 12 percent of all positive cases, they can still become infected with COVID-19 and transmit it to others.)
Parents of unvaccinated kids who choose to travel will have to check their destination’s regulations before planning their trip. Different countries have different rules for entry—some will accept unvaccinated kids while others won’t. Same goes for cruises. For example, Royal Caribbean and Celebrity said adult passengers would need to be fully vaccinated to sail but children younger than 18 could sail with proof of a negative COVID test instead of proof of vaccination. There is no current vaccine requirement to travel back to the U.S. but all passengers ages 2 and older will still need to provide a negative test result before boarding—even if they have been vaccinated.
How can I stay safe when traveling this summer?
“Traveling by car with people who know they’re negative is likely the least risky because you’re mitigating the known status of strangers,” says Gerald Commissiong, CEO of Todos Medical, Ltd. And while planes have significant ventilation, “the process of getting on the plane carries similar risks to trains, since you’re in areas with strangers of unknown COVID status,” Commissiong says, adding that trains are likely the riskiest location for COVID spread because ventilation systems are not as robust as they are on planes.
If you are flying, the U.S. Department of Transportation has an easy-to-follow guide about travel and what you can expect at the airport. Note: Passport renewals are extremely delayed right now (10-12 weeks versus the typical 4-6) and it’s likely to get worse as travel increases and borders continue to reopen.
What COVID safety precautions do you still need to take when traveling this summer?
Families traveling with unvaccinated kids should take all safety precautions, which means masks and social distancing. Current public health recommendations suggest that even fully vaccinated travelers wear masks, avoid crowds, use good hand hygiene, and stay aware of new illness symptoms. “As of today,” Dr. Carney says, “masks are still required on public transportation, including planes, trains, ships, subways, taxis, and busses, and in airports and train stations.”
Travelers should consider comfortable and breathable mask brands like Primal Wear, INEX Gear, Co.Protect, and HALOLIFE. Primal Wear just launched a 3.0 Collection that features a removable flexible frame to hold the mask off your face, keeping you comfortable, safe, and allowing room to breathe during lengthy travel times.
With all the safety precautions, it won’t be travel like we’ve always known it—but unlike last year, it’s possible to take the family on a faraway and memorable vacation.
Zlata Faerman is a full-time publicist, part-time writer, and round-the-clock ambassador to wit and humor. She writes about food, parenting, health, beauty, relationships, travel and home. When she’s not crafting kitchen concoctions for her food blog @lifeandthymez, Zlata can be found spending time with her family, having @zlatathoughts, and fantasizing about being a Real Housewife of New Jersey.
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