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Summer travel tips during COVID-19

Written By: Kim Kham, UT Physicians | Updated: June 2, 2021
Summer Travel

Summer travels plans include protection from COVID-19.

Summer marks the arrival of peak travel season in the United States. If you are planning a vacation, here are some steps you can take to help protect yourself, your family, and others from COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides guidelines for fully vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers. Charles Ericsson, MD, an infectious disease and travel medicine specialist with UT Physicians, shares his expertise on what that means for you.

Photo by Dwight C. Andrews/The University of Texas Medical School at Houston Office of Communications
Charles D. Ericsson, MD

Please note that the CDC still requires masks on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation in the United States.

If you are fully vaccinated, the CDC says you can resume activities you did before the pandemic, without masks, or social distancing, except where required by federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations, including local business and workplace guidance.

“To be considered as fully vaccinated, it has to be two weeks after your second dose of a two-dose vaccine, such as Pfizer or Moderna,” said Ericsson, professor and Dr. and Mrs. Carl V. Vartian Professor in Infectious Diseases in the Department of Internal Medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “The two-week timeframe is the same for a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson.”

If you are not fully vaccinated, the CDC provides more extensive travel recommendations to protect you and others from COVID-19.

  • Before traveling
    • Get tested one to three days before your trip
  • While traveling
    • Wear a mask that covers your nose and mouth
    • Avoid crowds
    • Stay 6 feet away from anyone who is unmasked and not traveling with you
    • Wash your hands often with alcohol-based sanitizers
  • After traveling
    • Get tested three to five days after returning home
      • If you test positive, self-isolate to protect others from getting infected
    • Stay home and self-quarantine for seven full days
      • Self-quarantine for 10 days if you don’t get tested
    • Self-monitor and get tested if you develop COVID-19 symptoms

Traveling with unvaccinated children

If you are traveling with children who are unable to get vaccinated at this time, the CDC recommends that you follow recommendations for unvaccinated people and take precautions.

Essential items to pack

In addition to clothing and medicine, travelers should pack extra facemasks, tissues, alcohol-based sanitizers, disinfectant wipes, and a thermometer.

Avoid high-touch surfaces

People at higher risk for illness should avoid coming into contact with high-touch areas, such as elevator buttons, doorknobs, hotel phones, etc. Be sure to practice proper hand hygiene and washing before touching your face or food.

“It’s important to monitor your health daily and watch for signs and symptoms of COVID-19,” said Ericsson. “It can appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus.”

Check travel restrictions

Not all destinations are the same when it comes to travel restrictions. Be sure to check your state or city’s local guidelines so you can remain prepared.

Key information for cruise ship travelers

The CDC has provided guidance to all cruise lines before a ship can resume operations. A major requirement is that nearly all crew and passengers must be fully vaccinated before sailing. The virus can spread more easily between people in close quarters. Be sure to learn more about your cruise’s requirements before taking your next trip.

“Anyone considering this type of travel should speak with their health care provider,” said Ericsson.

For more information on domestic travel during COVID-19, visit the CDC information page.

As the clinical practice of McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston, UT Physicians has locations across the Greater Houston area to serve the community. To schedule an appointment, call 888-4UT-DOCS.