After two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, many families are eager to travel and get out of town for a spring break vacation. The good news is the omicron surge has been fading and more parents and kids are vaccinated – making travel safer. But, as we’ve learned during the pandemic, COVID-19 is unpredictable. If families plan to travel, what steps can they take to balance staying safe and still having fun, relaxing and recharging?
We talked with Dr. Gigi Chawla, vice president and chief of general pediatrics at Children’s Minnesota, to get some tips.
Watch Dr. Chawla talk travel safety on WCCO:
Vaccinated and boosted
“The most important step families can take to stay safe when they travel is being vaccinated and boosted, if eligible,” said Dr. Chawla.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says fully vaccinated people can travel safely, with a few precautions. Also, you’ll want to make sure those whom you plan on visiting have received their COVID-19 vaccine.
The CDC still advises against travel for anyone unvaccinated. This includes children under age 5 who are not yet eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Each vacation will carry a different level of risk. Dr. Chawla says the key things to consider are the number of close contacts you’ll likely have during the trip and level of COVID-19 where you’re going. The CDC recently launched a new COVID-19 Community Level tool to help people decide what prevention steps, like masking, they should take. Levels can be low, medium or high.
Locations with high levels of COVID-19 means higher risk of someone in your family being exposed. If levels are high at your destination, wear a mask and try to avoid crowded indoor spaces. Dr. Chawla reminded families that outdoor activities are safer than indoor ones.
Test and check
If there are family members who are not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines, or they are too young to get vaccinated, have them get tested no more than three days before departure. The CDC advises against traveling if the following situations:
- You or a family member are sick with COVID-19, even if you’re vaccinated.
- A family member tests positive.
- You or a family member are waiting for results of a COVID-19 test.
- A family member has close contact with someone with COVID-19 in the days leading up to the trip.
After the trip, plan for everyone in the family to get tested again and isolate if COVID-19 symptoms develop.
Flying and masks
The good news is flights are pretty safe because of the air exchange inside planes and as long as people wear masks. The CDC’s recently updated COVID-19 Community Levels recommendations do not change the requirement to wear masks on public transportation, including planes, buses and trains.
“Before the flight, help your child practice wearing their mask for as long as the duration of the flight,” said Dr. Chawla.
When packing, be sure to pack extra masks, at least two per child, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. For added safety, remember to pack your routine kits for injury or illness – like a first aid kit, aloe for sunburns, and medications.
Finally, Dr. Gigi said, “Enjoy your vacation fully! We all deserve that after two years of the pandemic.”