Is it Safe to Travel for the Holidays? Here’s What You Need to Know.

by | Updated: December 8th, 2020 | Read time: 4 minutes

Anyone who takes a plane, train, bus or car to visit loved ones this holiday season will have a dangerous travel companion — the coronavirus pandemic.

Many experts have flatly advised people to stay home until the risk of COVID-19 infection decreases.

Holiday Travel Concept Represented by Mint Green Suitcase with Santa Hat Against Blue Background |

“Postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others this year,” says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at its website.

Nevertheless, millions of people will take vacations anyway, especially during the holidays.

If you decide to risk traveling in the near future, it is important to take extra precautions to keep yourself – and others — safe.

Where are you at risk?

The CDC notes that your risk of infection is higher in many places associated with travel, including:

  • Airports
  • Bus stations
  • Gas stations
  • Train stations
  • Public transport
  • Rest stops

Whenever you are in these locations – or any other public area – wear a mask. The CDC also recommends keeping 6 feet of distance from others. Remaining closer than that to someone infected with COVID-19 for at least 15 minutes greatly increases your odds of infection, the CDC notes.

Wondering if you are maintaining the proper distance? The CDC suggests always keeping the equivalent of two arm lengths away from others.

The risk of traveling by plane, train or bus

All forms of travel carry some level of risk, although some types might be more potentially dangerous than others.

For example, traveling by airplane, train or bus can expose you to infected travelers, possibly for hours at a time.

On the other hand, some risks may be less substantial than you would assume. The CDC notes that because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes, viruses and other germs do not spread easily in planes.

The key to staying safe when traveling by plane, train or bus is to wear masks and remain as socially distanced as possible. Also, thoroughly wash your hands after touching surfaces.

The risk of traveling in your own car

The risk of contracting coronavirus is reduced if you drive in your own car, although you still can become infected during food, bathroom, fueling and hotel stops.

Steps for staying safe when driving include:

  • Using wipes to disinfect handles and buttons at gas pumps before you touch them, and sanitizing your hands after by washing them or using hand sanitizer.
  • Keeping your own food and beverages in the car instead of stopping at restaurants.
  • Paying with credit card – instead of cash — by using terminals at gas pumps and in stores and other places. This should help minimize contact with others.

Staying safe after you reach your destination

Once you arrive at your destination, remain cautious. If you are staying at the home of a family member or friend, try to remain socially distanced from others when possible.

The NewYork-Presbyterian health care delivery system also suggests planning outdoor activities during your visit, as the risk of getting and transmitting the virus is much lower outside. Such activities might include:

  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Spending time at the beach

If you plan to stay in a hotel, the American Hotel & Lodging Association recommends online reservations, check-ins and payments when practical. This limits face-to-face contact with hotel staff.

Many hotels have upgraded their efforts to sanitize everything from elevator panels to light switches in rooms. For example, Hilton has unveiled CleanStay and Choice Hotels have implemented Commitment to Clean.

However, if you want to be extra careful, use wipes to sanitize high-touch surfaces in your room soon after you check in.

When should you postpone travel?

There are times when you simply should not travel, regardless of how much you want to celebrate the holidays with loved ones.

If you feel sick – or have been in contact with someone who has been infected – cancel or delay your trip.

The CDC also recommends postponing travel if you or someone you plan to visit is especially vulnerable to becoming gravely ill upon infection with the coronavirus.

Those at highest risk of serious illness include the elderly and people with specific health conditions. The CDC has published a list of such conditions, which range from obesity and pregnancy to diabetes and cancer.

Additional reasons to skip travel include: