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How to travel safely and (mostly) stress-free this holiday season

This holiday season, people are on the move, eager to travel to see friends and family and make this year look more like 2019 than our pandemic holiday season last year.

Travel sites are seeing spikes in traffic and bookings, and AAA predicts that more than 53 million people will travel over the holidays, the biggest one-year increase since 2005. That also means crowded airports, standstill traffic and frustrating delays.

Yet, unlike 2019, we’re still coping with a lingering pandemic, with new variants on the way, and that’s making traveling a bit harder and more stressful. Thankfully, we’ve got you covered with some helpful tips to make your trip safer and maybe even help reduce our anxiety a little bit on the way.

Continue to take pandemic precautions 

First things first: Masks, social distancing and hand hygiene continue to play an important role to keep you and those around you safe and healthy

Masks covering your mouth and nose continue to be required on public transportation, like planes, busses and subways, for most people and circumstances, regardless of vaccination status — so be sure to pack extra for your trip. The Centers for Disease Control have a number of recommendations and suggestions for what kinds of masks you should buy and how they should properly fit. Consider wearing high quality masks like N95, KN95 and KF94 when you’re in crowded indoor areas where you do not know others’ vaccination statuses.

And speaking of vaccines, the CDC recommends that unvaccinated people should delay travel until they are fully vaccinated, not to travel if they are sick or have been exposed to COVID-19, and if not vaccinated, to get tested before and after traveling. 

If you are traveling internationally, you must check whether or not the country you enter requires proof of vaccination or a negative test. Right now, we are not aware of any location that requires a booster shot (but if you are able to get one, it’s a very good idea.)

Store your vaccine record on your phone

Depending on where you are traveling, you may need to show proof of vaccination during your travels, at a port of entry, or to enter a food or entertainment establishment. The easiest way to prove your status is by showing the physical copy of your vaccination record, but there’s a chance you could lose or damage that precious card during your travels.

There are a lot of alternatives to carrying the paper record with you, and most of those involve — you guessed it — your smartphone. You can take a photo of the card or use an app or smartphone wallet that stores your digital vaccine record. We highlighted a few ways in a recent post on how to store your vaccine record on your smartphone.

Be honest with yourself, family and friends

We all have different levels of risk tolerance when it comes to the pandemic, and it’s important to communicate those to the loved ones you’re visiting long before you begin your travel, to avoid last minute stress and confusion and ensure everyone is comfortable and feels safe.

Questions that you can ask yourself and your loved ones include: 

  • Should everyone be vaccinated and/or tested prior to your gatherings? 
  • Will anyone quarantine before the visit?
  • Will people feel comfortable indoors without masks?
  • Will anyone who is too young to be immunized or immunocompromised be present? If so, how will you ensure their safety?
  • What are the parameters of the gathering, like how many people will be present, how long will it be indoors, and will everyone agree to the rules you set?

The CDC published some guidance on safer ways to celebrate the holidays, which includes some suggestions on avoiding large crowds, moving large gatherings outdoors, if possible, and other considerations.

Reduce travel stress and anxiety

Traveling during normal times was already stressful — and it’s much more so today — so taking a moment to reduce your anxiety can really help make a difference. When things get a little overwhelming, it might be time to step back, take a break and manage our own stress and anxiety levels. 

Check out this list we recently curated suggesting some apps to help you manage stress and anxiety.