The persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic means it’s not a great time to travel anywhere, even within your own community. But sometimes travel is absolutely necessary, so, if you must venture out, do it safely.
To that end, this article compiles guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help you stay safe while traveling amid COVID-19.
Consider the Risks Before Traveling
Travel increases your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19. The CDC recommends that you delay travel and stay home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.
However, if you must travel, here are some important questions to ask yourself and your loved ones beforehand:
- Are you, someone in your household or someone you will be visiting at increased risk for getting very sick from COVID-19?
- If you get infected, you can spread the virus to loved ones during travel and when you return, even if you don’t have symptoms. If your household includes one or more individuals at increased risk for severe illness, all family members should act as if they, themselves are at increased risk. Learn how to protect yourself and others.
- Are hospitals in your community or your destination overwhelmed with patients who have COVID-19?
- Does your home or destination have requirements or restrictions for travelers? To find out, check state, territorial and local department websites.
- During the 14 days before your travel, have you or those you are visiting had close contact with people they don’t live with? The following activities can put you at higher risk for COVID-19:
- Going to a large social gathering like a wedding, funeral or party
- Attending a mass gathering like a sporting event, concert or parade
- Being in crowded places like restaurants, bars, gyms or theaters
- Taking public transportation like planes, trains or buses, or being in transportation hubs like airports
- Traveling on a cruise ship or riverboat
- Do your plans include traveling by bus, train or air, which might make staying 6 feet apart difficult?
- Are you traveling with people who don’t live with you?
If the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” you should delay your travel.
Take Caution If You Must Travel
If you must travel, take these steps to protect yourself and others from COVID-19:
- If you are eligible, get fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Wait two weeks after getting your second vaccine dose to travel—it takes time for your body to build protection after vaccination.
- Get tested with a viral test one to three days before you travel. Keep a copy of your test results with you during travel in case you are asked for them. Do NOT travel if you test positive.
- Check travel restrictions before you go.
- Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public settings. Masks are required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
- Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about two arms’ lengths) from anyone who did not travel with you. It’s important to do this everywhere—both indoors and outdoors.
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol).
- Bring extra supplies, such as masks and hand sanitizer.
- Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Do NOT travel if you were exposed to COVID-19, you are sick or you test positive for COVID-19. Learn when it is safe for you to travel. Don’t travel with someone who is sick.
Get Tested Before and After Travel
If you are traveling, get tested with a viral test one to three days before your trip. Make sure you have the results of your negative test before you travel. Keep a copy of your results with you during travel, as you might be asked for them. Do not travel if you test positive. Immediately isolate yourself, and follow public health recommendations.
Get tested again with a viral test three to five days after your trip, and stay home and self-quarantine for a full seven days after travel, even if your test is negative. If you don’t get tested, stay home and self-quarantine for 10 days after travel.
You may have been exposed to COVID-19 on your travels. Regardless of where you traveled or what you did during your trip, take these actions to protect others from getting COVID-19 after travel:
- Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about two arms’ lengths) from anyone who did not travel with you. It’s important to do this everywhere—both indoors and outdoors. Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public settings. Masks are required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
- If there are people in the household who did not travel with you, wear a mask and ask everyone in the household to wear masks in shared spaces inside your home for 14 days after travel.
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Avoid being around people who are at increased risk for severe illness.
- Watch your health and look for symptoms of COVID-19.
Check Travel Restrictions
State, local and territorial governments may have travel restrictions in place, including testing requirements, stay-at-home orders and quarantine requirements upon arrival. For up-to-date information and travel guidance, check the state or territorial, and local health department where you are, along your route and where you are going. Prepare to be flexible during your trip as restrictions and policies may change during your travel. Follow all state, local and territorial travel restrictions.
If traveling by air, check whether your airline requires any health information, testing or other documents. Local policies at your destination may require you to be tested for COVID-19. If you test positive on arrival, you may be required to isolate for a period of time.
All air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before boarding a flight to the United States. See these Frequently Asked Questions for more information.
Learn About Different Types of Travel
Travel increases your chances of spreading and getting COVID-19. Delay travel and stay home if you can. If you must travel, consider which activities you will be doing and their risk.
The type of transportation you use, type of accommodation you stay in and the activities you do during travel can increase your risk of getting and spreading COVID-19. Your chances of getting or spreading COVID-19 while traveling also depend on whether you and those around you take steps to protect yourselves and others—by wearing masks, avoiding crowds and staying 6 feet from anyone who is not traveling with you (social distancing). Masks are required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
Airports, bus and train stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the coronavirus in the air and on surfaces. These are also places where it can be hard to social distance. In general, the longer you are around a person with COVID-19, the more likely you are to get infected.
Air travel requires spending time in security lines and airport terminals, which can bring you in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces. Most viruses and other germs do not spread easily on flights because of how air is circulated and filtered on airplanes. However, social distancing is difficult on crowded flights, and sitting within 6 feet of others, sometimes for hours, may increase your risk of getting COVID-19. How you get to and from the airport, such as with public transportation and ridesharing, can also increase your chances of being exposed to the coronavirus.
Bus or Train
Traveling on buses and trains for any length of time can involve being in crowded terminals and sitting or standing within 6 feet of others, which may increase your risk of getting COVID-19. If you choose to travel by bus or train, learn what you can do to protect yourself on public transportation.
Making stops along the way for gas, food or bathroom breaks can put you and your traveling companions in close contact with other people and frequently touched surfaces.
You may have to stop less often for food or bathroom breaks, but RV travel usually means staying at RV parks overnight and getting gas and supplies at other public places. These stops may put you and those with you in the RV in close contact with others. Learn more about how to protect yourself from COVID-19 on different types of transportation.
Know the Risks of Staying With Family or Friends
If you, someone you live with or anyone you plan to visit is at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, delay travel and stay home. If you must travel, stay in a separate accommodation like a hotel, guest house or short-stay rental. Here are other tips to keep in mind:
- Wear masks while in shared spaces inside the house. Masks may be removed for eating, drinking and sleeping, but individuals from different households should stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about two arms’ lengths) away from each other at all times.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially upon arrival.
- Improve ventilation by opening windows and doors, or by placing central air and heating on continuous circulation.
- Spend time together outdoors. Take a walk or sit outdoors at least 6 feet apart for interpersonal interactions.
- Avoid singing or shouting, especially indoors.
Be prepared. Know what you will do if you, a family member or friend becomes sick during the visit. Make plans for isolation, medical care, basic care and quarantining exposed people.
Protect Yourself During Travel
Below are some tips to avoid getting and spreading COVID-19 in common travel situations:
- Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public. Masks are required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
- Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet/2 meters (about two arms’ lengths) from anyone who is not traveling with you.
At Bathrooms and Rest Stops
- Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after using the bathroom and after you have been in a public place.
- If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
When Getting Gas
- Use disinfecting wipes on handles and buttons at the gas pumps before you touch them.
- After fueling, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. When you get to your destination, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
At Hotels and Other Accommodations
- See CDC advice for traveling overnight.
At Food Stops
- The safest option is to bring your own food. If you don’t bring your own food, use drive-thru, delivery, takeout and curbside pickup options.