Holiday travel is bound to look a little different this year. Some people have avoided travel completely since the COVID-19 pandemic reached full-force in the U.S., while others have braved trips by car or by plane for vacations, business, emergencies, and more. Whichever category you fall into, there’s a good chance you’re considering your plan for the holiday season, especially if you typically travel to see family for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas. Experts already predict holiday travel trends will be different this year, but if you’re determined to travel this November or December, take note of these considerations to ensure the safest trip possible.
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Do your homework
Carefully research the destination you’re planning to visit regularly leading up to your scheduled trip, as different states and cities will have different regulations and be in varying stages of reopening, says Molly Fergus, general manager of travel information website TripSavvy. Keep a close eye on local and state quarantine rules, as they can vary from day to day. “Whatever you do this holiday season, be really flexible and allow yourself breathing room if things were to change,” she says.
Review testing guidelines
If you’re considering traveling internationally, look for a destination that’s requiring COVID-19 testing either before departure or upon arrival, such as Croatia or Iceland, says Sandra McLemore, a Los Angeles-based travel industry expert and TV host.
You should also search for medical health authority reports for your specific destination: If you’re looking at Cabo, for example, look for reports on that one destination (accessible only via air, which makes it secluded and somewhat protected, McLemore says) and not Mexico as a whole.
Communicate with those you’ll be seeing
Think about who you’ll be spending time with and communicate how you’ll each prepare for the trip.
“Have a phone call a few weeks before and ask [each other] what you’ve all been doing and what they’re comfortable with,” Fergus says. For example, you might communicate that you’ve gotten a haircut and hung out with friends outdoors; you should collectively evaluate what safety precautions—such as quarantining for two weeks before traveling—you want to all practice together before meeting up. This is especially important if you’re including older family members, who should always check with a doctor to get his or her recommendations before traveling.
If you’ll be traveling via air, review airlines’ policies closely, as they’re all doing different things when it comes to safety. Some flights will be emptier than others; a good bet is to choose flights later at night or red-eyes for the least-crowded planes, McLemore says. Also check out recent news stories that mention airline carriers to learn how strict they’ve been about mask wearing or if they’ve been at the center of any controversies.
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Get travel insurance
Make sure you read the fine print, as many travel insurance companies now have disclaimers that they won’t cover changes or cancellations due to the pandemic, McLemore says. You may even want to work with a professional travel advisor, who can make sure travel plans are flexible in terms of both schedule changes and refunds. They can also sift through thousands of reviews online, separating “facts from feelings,” McLemore says, giving you a true picture of what to expect on your holiday journey.