What you need to know
- Get up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines at least a couple of weeks before your trip.
- Consider wearing a high-quality, well-fitting mask in crowded, indoor areas, especially if you are high risk or immunocompromised.
- Testing before and after travel can help reduce the virus’s spread.
The summer travel season is here. By now, COVID-19 testing and vaccination requirements for travel are largely a thing of the past. The U.S. ended its vaccination requirement for international travelers arriving in the country earlier this month when the public health emergency expired. But even though these mandates are now rare, it’s still a good idea to take precautions if you’re going on a trip. Here’s how you can protect yourself against COVID-19 while traveling this summer.
The public health emergency is over. Why should I still care about COVID-19?
While the end of the public health emergency is a huge victory, it is not a declaration that COVID-19 is over as a public health threat. We are no longer in an emergency situation, but the virus is still around and here to stay. Going forward, it’s important to continue staying up to date on vaccines and taking advantage of tests and treatments in order to prevent transmission and severe disease. This is especially important if you are traveling. Traveling increases your risk of exposure to the virus by being in contact with more people.
What precautions can I take before my trip to protect myself against COVID-19?
The majority of countries no longer require travelers to be vaccinated. But getting up to date on your COVID-19 vaccines a couple of weeks before your trip is the best way to stay safe. People ages 6 or older now need one bivalent vaccine in order to be up to date, regardless of how many shots they received in the past. People who are ages 65 and older or immunocompromised have the option to get an additional bivalent booster. Younger kids still need to complete their entire primary series, but they will now get their remaining shots with bivalent vaccines.
You can also keep track of COVID-19 in the area you’re visiting and prepare for the chance that you get sick on your trip. Check if your health insurance covers care abroad. Consider travel health insurance if you are at higher risk of falling ill. Bring your health documents and extra medication in case you need to stay for longer than planned. Finally, think through the risks you’re willing to take. Consider that you may have to seek care and isolate abroad if you catch COVID-19 on your travels.
What precautions can I take during my trip to protect myself against COVID-19?
Most airlines no longer require masks. Still, wearing one during your travels can lower the chance that you get infected. Consider wearing a high-quality, well-fitting mask in crowded, indoor areas, such as the plane, train station, or shopping mall. This is especially important if you are high risk or immunocompromised.
Why is it important to get tested before and after a trip?
Getting tested doesn’t directly protect you from getting COVID-19, but it does help reduce transmission and keep those around you safe. Try to take a test before your trip, especially if you have symptoms. This helps ensure that you aren’t bringing COVID-19 with you. It’s also important to get tested after your trip to reduce the risk of transmission once you’re back home. Traveling and gathering put you in contact with more people than usual, which means that your risk of being exposed to viruses can increase.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms, get tested immediately. Even if you don’t have symptoms, get tested five days after traveling or gathering, especially if you were exposed to someone with COVID-19. You can avoid a false negative by taking two rapid tests 48 hours apart if you have symptoms. Take three tests, also 48 hours apart, if you were exposed but have no symptoms.