9 Travel Tips During COVID-19

  • Woman wearing mask on airplane
    How to Make Traveling Safer During COVID-19
    The COVID-19 pandemic is not over, but an increasing number of people are booking domestic and international travel. Part of the increase is due to more people becoming vaccinated against the disease, and part is so-called pandemic fatigue.

    Whether by plane, train, car or RV, your travel preparations go beyond activities like packing extra face coverings. Now, you have to research the most recent COVID-19 travel bans and COVID-19 testing requirements—before, during and after your trip. Being fully vaccinated loosens restrictions quite a bit. For safer domestic and international travel during COVID-19, follow these nine tips.
  • senior man wearing face mask and holding covid-19 vaccination record card with thumbs up sign
    1. Get the COVID-19 vaccine if you're eligible.
    Three COVID-19 vaccines are authorized for use in the United States. People as young as 12 are eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. With the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, fully vaccinated people are up to 90% less likely to get infected with the coronavirus, so public health officials say it is low risk for fully vaccinated people to travel by plane, train or bus. The Janssen COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson is about 76% effective in preventing COVID-19.

    Travel is riskier for unvaccinated folks because the infection rate is still high and an increasing percentage of infections are due to more dangerous strains of the virus, or "variants of concern." The vaccines can prevent serious illness caused by the variants, but they may not offer full protection against infection.
  • Phoenix Skyline Sunset
    2. Check COVID-19 travel restrictions at your destination.
    Research your destination’s rules to reduce travel frustration. There are travel restrictions and recommendations both within and outside the United States. Some areas within individual states ask visitors to self-quarantine for 10 days upon arrival at their lodging. However, vaccinated individuals do not have to quarantine, according to CDC guidance. If you’re traveling internationally, check COVID restrictions, as some countries are banning all travelers for the time being. For the United States, fully vaccinated people do not need COVID testing before travel if their destination does not require it.
  • nurse holds a swab for the coronavirus / covid19 test
    3. Prepare to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
    Beginning January 26, 2021, all air passengers arriving in the United States must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or recovery from COVID-19 (with a doctor's note). The order applies to people 2 years and older, including U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and people visiting from other countries. Combined with requirements at your destination, you could be required to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test or COVID-19 recovery upon your arrival in a foreign country and upon your return to the U.S. A growing travel industry trend is resorts offering COVID-19 testing as an amenity for their guests—and some resorts require it.

    Fully vaccinated people must still show proof of a negative COVID-19 test before boarding an international flight bound for the United States.
  • Woman with face mask traveling in train during Covid-19 outbreak
    4. Wear a face mask in public spaces.
    If you plan to use public transportation, such as planes or trains, be sure to wear a face covering at all times, even if you're fully vaccinated. Face masks serve to reduce the number of viral particles being transmitted from person to person. Pack plenty of face coverings, and keep at least one additional face mask close at hand in case the one you’re wearing becomes soiled or lost somehow. Use care when touching your mask and always wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.
  • Two young women wearing protective face mask stand in line with social distancing during waiting train in subway due to Coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak
    5. Maintain a healthy distance from other people.
    You may have heard the mantra to “stay 6 feet away” from other people in public spaces, such as airport terminals, but remember that 6 feet is the minimum distance to keep away. You can’t go wrong by putting as much physical space between yourself and others as possible during the COVID-19 pandemic. Physical distancing may be impossible inside airplanes or trains, but do your best to keep several paces away from other people as much as possible during your travels.
  • Close up of woman's hands packing suitcase on bed
    6. Pack thoroughly.
    If you’re traveling cross-country by train or plane, be sure to pack adequate quantities of every essential item: medicine, masks, hand sanitizer, a few days’ worth of non-perishable food, etc. At your destination, you can keep yourself safer if you avoid unnecessary local travel, such as to pick up medications you forgot to pack. Don’t forget over-the-counter drugs and supplements you regularly take. Make a list in advance of every essential item that needs to go into your suitcase, and make sure they all get in. For travel abroad, find out where to buy food or dine at your destination.
  • Emergency sign outside a hospital
    7. Find out where you can obtain medical care and COVID-19 testing.
    What should you do if you get sick at your destination? This was important before the pandemic, but it's even more important now. Be sure to research the answer to this question in advance of your travel. Find out from your health insurance company how and where to obtain medical care at your destination, should you need it. Over 65? Remember, Medicare does not cover international medical care.

    Research local COVID-19 testing locations and requirements before you travel. Some locales offer testing to anyone, upon request, while others require people to be symptomatic to obtain testing. By studying up on these details in advance, you can smooth the process to receiving healthcare in the event you require it.
  • Man wearing surgical gloves and mask refueling car at gas station
    8. Map out restaurants, restrooms, and fueling stops.
    If you’re traveling by car, take some time before you depart to map out places to get food, go to the bathroom, and refuel. You should not rely on the notion that every restaurant or gas station will be open, as many remain closed or have limited hours during the pandemic. Call ahead before you hit the road to make sure you’ll be able to pick up food and refuel your vehicle along the way. You also might consider packing a cooler filled with healthful foods from your local grocery store—a safer option than handling fast-food bags along your route.
  • Businesswoman with protective face mask at a hotel reception
    8. Research lodging options.
    Many hotels are operating at reduced capacity. Especially if you’re traveling by car, be sure to make reservations at places where you want to overnight along your route and at your destination. Find out what sorts of COVID-19 restrictions the hotel has in place, such as wearing face masks in public areas or requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccine passport.
9 Travel Tips During COVID-19 | Travel Restrictions

About The Author

As “the nurse who knows content,” Elizabeth Hanes, RN, works with national and regional healthcare systems, brands, agencies and publishers to produce all types of consumer-facing content. Formerly a perioperative and cosmetic surgery nurse, Elizabeth today uses her nursing knowledge to inform her writing on a wide variety of medical, health and wellness topics.
  1. Considerations for Travelers – Coronavirus in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-in-the-us.html
  2. COVID-19 Traveler Information. The U.S. Department of State. https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/traveladvisories/ea/covid-19-information.html
  3. Travel Planner. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/travelers/travel-planner/index.html
  4. Hand Sanitizers. U.S. Transportation Security Administration. https://www.tsa.gov/travel/security-screening/whatcanibring/items/hand-sanitizers
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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jul 1
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.