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Holiday Travel 2021: Here’s How to Stay Safe from COVID-19

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There has been a massive increase in travel bookings both domestically and abroad. This is despite concerns over the persistent delta variant of COVID-19 that some experts say may cause additional transmission spikes this winter. 

So is it safe to travel over the holidays this year?

For the vaccinated, holiday travel may be about managing your own risk. If you’re planning to travel abroad, that can mean testing. For the unvaccinated, that can mean additional restrictions that make it difficult to travel overseas at all and increase your risk if traveling domestically.

If you’ve already made plans, there are ways to be safer about travel this holiday season. Read on for what to expect and how to be prepared for travel during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

Holiday Travel: What to Expect

Whether you’re going on a road trip or booking airfare, expect crowds that resemble pre-pandemic levels. Travel demand is high as some are reuniting with loved ones they haven’t seen since the pandemic began.

It’s important to be flexible with your plans. Travel restrictions and recommendations in destinations change, sometimes week by week. Flights may be overbooked as more travelers are booking and canceling plans as those recommendations change. If you are confident in your travel plans and able to book early, do so. You may be shut out of bookings in popular destinations if you wait too long or face exorbitant prices with last-minute travel bookings.

Check out our video below to learn more about COVID testing and travel from LA:

Is It Safe to Fly Right Now?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that travelers delay any air travel until they are fully vaccinated. That said, they also caution that any travel is risky, and the appropriate safety measures should be followed when social distancing is challenging. That means frequent hand washing and masking up, for starters.

That level of risk may be higher for those with underlying health concerns or who live with elderly family members. Transmission rates also vary country by country, even state by state. It’s crucial to make sure you’re aware of any local regulations and restrictions before booking travel. If you’re unvaccinated and looking to travel abroad, you may face quarantine requirements that make it nearly impossible to visit a destination.

People getting off an airplane wearing masks

Holiday Travel Tips

There are ways to travel more safely and reduce your risk of exposure to COVID-19 and transmission to loved ones. Follow these holiday travel tips for safer travel:

Travel Prepared

Even if you’re staying at a full-service hotel at your final destination, leave room in your luggage for the tools that have kept you safe up until this point. That includes hand sanitizer for when you don’t have access to soap and water, several masks and your own packed snacks and water. 

Pack sanitizer wipes to wipe down surfaces, as well. While a link between COVID and surface transmission hasn’t been proven, you’re also traveling during peak cold and flu season. Whether you’re dealing with the cold vs. flu vs. COVID, you likely don’t want to catch anything and pass it on to others at your destination.

Person packing face masks and hand sanitizer in their luggage

Mask Up

Wearing a mask is an easy, simple safety precaution that is mandated on most airlines, trains and buses. If you’re traveling somewhere with high transmission rates, the CDC still recommends masking as your next best defense after vaccination. 

Father and daughter wearing masks

Drive Instead of Flying

There haven’t been a large number of COVID cases linked back to transmission inside an airplane. Still, air travel by its very nature exposes travelers to more opportunities for close contact with others. Driving is a more controlled environment.  

Train travel falls somewhere in between. There is more flexibility in some train cars when you can move to less populated areas of the train, but some longer journeys come with assigned seats. The less interaction with others, the better in this ongoing global pandemic.

Family in a car on a road trip

Consider Outdoor Destinations

Beach and ski destinations are leading the charge of most popular travel bookings at the moment. Spending time outdoors has always been a safer proposition than large indoor gatherings. If you’re able, propose meeting family and friends somewhere you can all spend more time outside. 

If you’re worried about high-risk individuals, it may be safer holding off on that large family gathering, spending time with your immediate family instead this holiday season.

Analyze Your Risk

COVID-19 remains a threat no matter what safety precautions you’re taking. Making sure you’re fully vaccinated, and visiting family and friends who are also fully vaccinated is an important step to reducing that risk.

Ask yourself these additional questions if you’re on the fence about holiday travel:

  • Do I have any underlying health conditions?
  • Do I care for anyone who may be immunocompromised?
  • What are the transmission rates where I’m going? Coronavirus in Los Angeles rates have remained steady since the most recent peak in August, but the same may not be true for your final destination.
  • Have I looked into travel guidelines at my final destination? Even though the CDC has determined non-essential travel is safe for vaccinated individuals, other destinations may have a different risk threshold. Do your research before booking. 
  • Should I test before/after travel? Whether you need a COVID test for travel may depend on travel guidelines for your final destination and your level of risk. If you’re vaccinated and not showing any signs of illness, experts say you don’t need a test.

If you’d feel better getting a test, COVID testing in Los Angeles is easier than ever. At Reliant Urgent Care, what to expect from a COVID test in Los Angeles is efficient, reliable results, and three different tests depending on your needs. Our COVID-19 RT-PCR tests are the test of choice for travelers seeking flight clearance, with results available in 24-36 hours. 

Family eating Christmas dinner together

Are There Travel Restrictions in Los Angeles?

There are no current travel restrictions in the state of California. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recommends that travelers are fully vaccinated before traveling. While boosters are not necessary at this time to be considered fully vaccinated, the health department strongly recommends scheduling a booster shot as soon as possible now that adults are eligible.

Woman wearing a mask and social distancing at the airport

Reliant Can Help You Travel Safely

For those traveling to visit family and friends considered high risk, it is a good idea to get a COVID test before spending time with those individuals to reduce their risk of exposure. Reliant has several convenient locations for safe, efficient COVID testing, including COVID testing at LAX for travelers. 

If you need COVID testing in LA or want to talk to one of our healthcare providers, contact any of our urgent care locations in Los Angeles. If you’re experiencing any symptoms, we offer telemed services to advise you on the next steps.