Updated: Mar 21, 2022
Learn how to stay safe and healthy when traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic. Use these seven steps as your guide!
1. Get Vaccinated
The most effective precautionary measure that we all can take to stay safe against COVID-19 is to get vaccinated. All 3 of the approved COVID vaccines in the United States, including Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson, are highly effective and remain effective against the COVID-19 delta variant.
As a health care professional, I completed my COVID-19 vaccine series in January 2021 and am already planning for when to get my booster vaccine. Remember that to achieve the claimed effectiveness of the vaccines, you must sit for TWO doses of Pfizer and Moderna. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one dose.
Learn more about the COVID-19 vaccines on the CDC website. The website also provides useful information on how and where to obtain the vaccine for FREE.
2. Research COVID-19 entry requirements for your country of arrival
Each country that you travel to will have specific requirements for what you need to obtain to enter the country. Remember that these requirements also change based on your country of origin. Some countries that are open to US travelers will require you to be fully vaccinated. Others will require a negative COVID test a certain number of days before your flight. The COVID tests that are required may also be different (rapid antigen vs. PCR). Some countries will also have specific travel apps or websites for you to upload your testing and vaccination documents. So be sure to check the US embassy website for that specific country to figure out the requirements for your trip well in advance.
Nothing is worse than getting to the airport, or worse, getting to your destination country, and realizing you don't have the required COVID-19 documentation to get through customs. Do your homework, and do this early.
3. Obtain Travel Insurance
Now more than ever, travel insurance is increasingly important. Since the start of the pandemic, Arias and I have always purchased a travel insurance policy that covers us both when we travel to any international destination. Travel insurance can be extremely helpful in cases of trip cancellation, delays for any reason, rental car damages, or emergency medical care. Some countries such as Costa Rica even REQUIRE travelers to obtain travel insurance that will cover COVID-19 related medical expenses and up to $2000.00 in lodging expenses in the event that you do contract COVID while overseas.
We've purchased insurance plans from SquareMouth and Trawick International. We've also used the World Nomads website to search for insurance plans. There, you can enter your destination, ages of travelers, some of your planned activities, and the total cost of your trip. Based on this information, they will search for insurance plans that may meet your travel needs.
Here's a summary of benefits from an insurance policy we purchased for travel to Mexico:
4. Get tested before, during, and after your trip
Many countries will have COVID-19 testing requirements for entry into their countries. Others will not have requirements. Almost universally, however, the US will require you to obtain a negative COVID test within 3 days of your flight back to the US. Be sure to research the specific test that you need. There are a variety of COVID tests available, including the rapid antigen test and the PCR tests. Rapid antigen test results usually come back faster, but double check to make sure that this test is accepted by the country you are flying to.
As a good rule of thumb, its helpful to get a test within 3 days of your departure flight, within 3 days of your flight back to your country of origin, and another test within 7 days of your arrival back to your country of origin. This may seem a bit tedious, since COVID-19 tests are definitely not the most comfortable tests in the world, but it certainly helps keep you and others around you safe.
5. Wear N-95s on Your Flight
As a health care professional, I am fortunate to be able to obtain N95 masks when I need them. With the rise of the delta variant and breakthrough cases, even among vaccinated individuals, N95s have been a huge benefit on flights, especially now that airlines have gotten rid of policies to leave the middle seat open. If you can't obtain N95s, try wearing two surgical masks instead of one.
For extra protection, you can also wear face shields. We typically don't wear face shields on flights, but it really depends on your comfort level. but Below I have provided links to some of the face masks and face shields that I have purchased in the past.
6. Mask up Indoors
This is self explanatory, but once you arrive to your destination, be sure to wear a mask in any indoor spaces where there are others outside of your travel group. This includes hotel lobbies, buses, other ground transportation like Uber or taxis, shopping centers, and any other indoor enclosed space.
7. Choose excursions that have 10 or less people
When you're looking for things to do in your travel destination, look for activities that you can do outside. And if there are activities that require you to be in enclosed spaces with others, try to seek out options with 10 or less people. For example, if there is a tour that mentions the tour bus has a capacity of 50 people, maybe opt for a smaller tour. This may be a bit more expensive, but limiting your contact with members outside of your household will help to curb spread of the virus.
8. Secure accommodations that mention their COVID-19 precautions and policies
Many hotels and larger resorts will mention that they have new COVID-19 cleanliness policies or will outline their strategies for how to curb the spread of COVID-19. AirBnb, for example, also has a COVID 19 resources page that documents how the organization has worked to address the spread of COVID-19 in properties that are posted to their site. Stay in accommodations that have this sort of messaging. Avoid those that don't. The cleaning protocols and policies may not be in place.