Hey ya’ll! The past few weeks have provided encouraging news about domestic travel (woohoo!). The CDC continues to update safety protocols as they learn more about the efficacy of vaccines and the number of people fully vaccinated rises. Last Friday, April 2nd, they updated their guidelines to say that Americans that have had the vaccine can resume domestic travel at low risk, but they also recommended the continued use of masks and social distancing.
There are still a lot of concerns with international travel. The U.S. requires a negative test before returning to the U.S. Some countries have quarantine rules and of course, rules are changing everywhere all the time. Further, most countries do not have as many people vaccinated so while you may feel safe at a tropical resort, and many of the guests may be vaccinated, that may not be the case for everyone including the local employees. Just ask many of the folks still quarantining in Mexico post-Spring Break who showed up non-vaccinated and either brought or contracted COVID.
My unsolicited advice? Unless you are traveling with a full party of vaccinated travelers or are traveling with masks domestically and comfortable with the risk, stay close to home. Below are FAQs for US Domestic travel only.
Who can travel safely?
All fully vaccinated persons can travel with low risk. A fully vaccinated person is defined as two weeks after your second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines or two weeks after your first dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
This is exciting news, but can families with unvaccinated kids safely travel domestically?
That was not addressed directly. In fact, it was hard to find any recent articles that gave any information about traveling with kids. Most articles that mentioned traveling with kids were at least six months old which is a lifetime in the pandemic world. The short of it, those that are unvaccinated – including kids – have a higher chance of getting COVID in places with poor ventilation, limited distances between people and where people may remove masks (e.g., on planes while drinking or eating or in a restaurant). If you do decide that the benefit outweighs the risk, you and your family can help prevent the spread of the disease by washing hands often, staying as far apart from people outside of your party as possible and wearing masks.
What do I need to bring with me? Do I need to bring proof of vaccination?
For now, your ticket, government-issued ID and a mask is all that is required. It won’t hurt to travel with your COVID vaccination card. It is, however, a document that is easily duplicated and so it may not be accepted as proof. Right now, there is no domestic or universal method to authenticate vaccination records. Several airlines domestically are testing the IATA Travel Pass Initiative app but nothing has been officially selected.
If you decide to bring your vaccination card, I don’t recommend laminating it as that will prevent booster shots from being added to your record but there are plastic card holders that would protect it yet still enable you to remove it if necessary.
Is a plane more or less dangerous than an indoor restaurant?
This is one of the questions that I had and was eager to find a good answer. The short answer is "maybe/probably." As long as the airplane is circulating air and keeping things sanitized and passengers are wearing masks and washing or sanitizing their hands, it may be safer than a restaurant.
Where is it safe to go?
Obviously, no place is 100% safe, and there are varying degrees of safety. With that said, you can find out current numbers here. I don’t think it’s any surprise that holidays and beach destinations have caused more people to congregate in areas where they may not be able to practice social distancing. Again, use your judgment.
How do we get more information about quarantine rules for my state and my destination?
State rules are changing frequently. This article was the most up-to-date that I found and is periodically updated.
Will I need to get tested?
Fully vaccinated people do not need to get tested before or after domestic travel per CDC guidelines. Doublecheck state requirements before you book travel to be certain that local requirements are not different.
What are the airlines doing to protect passengers?
Major airlines have been using HEPA filters since the 1990s so as long as the air is circulating at the gate and while in-flight, air filtration should be OK. Airlines are doing their best to clean between flights and are also trying to enforce masks. It also seems like passengers are largely self-policing which is both good and terrifying at the same time.
While airlines were previously allowing passengers to change flights without change fees, that is starting to change, mostly by ticket class. If you purchase a ticket in the lowest economy bracket, you may have to pay change fees if you opt to change your flight. Always understand what you are purchasing before you purchase!
Last week's news is very encouraging. My family is not quite comfortable flying because our kids are not inoculated but information continues to morph as more data comes in. So far, that is all going in a positive direction. For now, we are sticking to road trips but that may change if the news continues to move in a positive direction. My best advice is to listen to the scientists and listen to your gut. The experts and your heart are the best guide for you and your family.
Happy travels (today or in the future!),