Illustration of masks floating in ocean waves
Illustration: PGN

What you need to know

  • The best way to ensure safe travel is to stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinations.
  • Wearing a mask on the plane and in indoor public spaces, even if it’s not required, can reduce the risk of getting infected.
  • Think through contingency plans and be flexible when traveling during a pandemic.

Countries have largely loosened their pandemic travel restrictions and reopened their borders. As a result, summer travel this year is in full swing, with the number of travelers passing through checkpoints approaching pre-pandemic levels, according to the Transportation Security Administration. But the virus remains a risk. Here’s how you can ensure a safe and smooth vacation this summer.

Is it safe to travel this summer? 

There are risks to traveling during a pandemic. But we now have tools like vaccines, boosters, and treatments to mitigate risk and keep people out of the hospital. The best way to ensure safe travel is to stay up to date on your COVID-19 vaccinations.

If you are vaccinated, boosted, and generally healthy, you can feel safe to travel, as you are at low risk for severe disease from COVID-19 and also at low risk of spreading the virus. If you are unvaccinated, you are at higher risk of both contracting the virus and spreading it to others. Take a test before you travel to ensure you aren’t bringing the disease with you and try to wear a mask in public as much as possible.

You may also want to consult the CDC’s COVID-19 travel recommendations page, which monitors COVID-19 risk in destinations around the world and makes recommendations accordingly.

What precautions should I take? 

Staying up to date on your COVID-19 shots is a key precaution to take before travel. Boosters are one of the most effective tools we have against the virus as it continues to mutate. The CDC currently recommends a first booster for everyone 5 and older and a second booster for those who are 50 and older as well as immunocompromised individuals.

Wearing a mask on the plane and in indoor public spaces, even if it’s not required, can reduce the risk that you get infected. You may want to mask more often if you are concerned about your travel destination’s COVID-19 risk level or the lack of COVID-19 safety protocols at your place of lodging. High-quality masks, including N95, KN95, and KF94 masks, are most effective against more transmissible Omicron variants.

What should I be prepared for?

It’s important to have contingency plans and be flexible when traveling during a pandemic. You may need to cancel your trip if there is a surge in cases or if you get infected right before the trip. You may contract the virus while you’re abroad and need to isolate in a foreign country. Thinking through and being prepared for all the potential scenarios will lower stress levels and ensure that you are able to access care if you need it.

Keep track of the situation in your travel destination in the weeks leading up to your trip. Check if your current health insurance covers care abroad and consider travel health insurance, especially if you are at higher risk of falling ill. Make sure to bring all of your health documents and extra medication in case your trip must be extended. Think through the risks you’re willing to take during your trip considering that you may have to isolate in a foreign country if you do catch COVID-19.