The global pandemic known as COVID-19 has kept most people from traveling over the past year. Travel, especially by plane or other public transportation, can greatly increase your chance of getting and spreading the virus.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that you avoid traveling all together during this time to protect yourself and others.
However, with spring break around the corner, many families are weighing their travel options. Is it safe to travel with the family if you drive instead of fly? Should you take a COVID-19 test before and after you travel, even if you don’t have symptoms?
What about those who have been vaccinated? These are some of the most commonly asked questions we receive at CareNow®, so we’re sharing everything you should consider before traveling with your family this spring break.
Check Travel Restrictions
Before you even think about traveling, you must take a look at the restrictions for the location you’re considering. Some state, local and territorial governments require that you get tested or quarantine before traveling. To make sure you have the most up-to-date information, it’s best to check the CDC’s online travel planner where you can search by location.
Know Your Travel Risk
No matter what the restrictions are at the location you’re wanting to travel to, you should be aware of the risk for you and your family. Any kind of travel puts you at a heightened risk of getting COVID-19. Your risk is directly impacted by the length of your trip and the number of stops along the way, as well as the precautions you take while traveling.
It is highly recommended that you wear a mask that fully covers your nose and mouth any time you are in public settings. If you are traveling on a plane, bus, train or another form of public transportation, it will be required that anyone over two years of age wear a mask.
When possible, keep a distance of at least six feet from anyone not in your direct travel party. This can be difficult, especially in a crowded airport or train station, but it’s important that you try. You should also wash your hands regularly and carry hand sanitizer with you at all times.
Properly Prepare for Your Transportation
The type of transportation you take when traveling will also affect your risk of getting COVID-19. Airports and bus stations are very common places for you to be exposed to the virus, specifically through surfaces and respiratory droplets. Even if you’re driving when you travel, rest stops can pose a great risk as well.
If you choose to travel by plane, you will have to spend time in both security lines and airport terminals. It can be very difficult for you to avoid close contact in these types of situations. You are also likely to come in contact with surfaces that are frequently touched. When on the plane, do your best to keep your distance from other passengers. If possible, choose a seat without anyone next to it or try to sit next to someone else in your travel party to avoid exposure to additional people.
For bus and train travel, you will likely be forced to sit or stand in close contact with other people for an extended period of time. Avoid touching surfaces as much as you can. This includes kiosks, ticket machines, handrails and benches. If you can, book your tickets for non-peak hours so it’s likely that fewer people will be traveling.
Many people think car travel is the safest way to go, and in most cases, it is. However, you put yourself at risk by stopping for gas, food or bathroom breaks along the way. This exposes you to frequently touched surfaces as well as close contact to other people.
Avoid stopping as much as possible by bringing your own food and drinks and making sure you have a full tank of gas before leaving (you should still be cautious at any gas station, no matter the location).
Testing Before and After Your Trip
If you decide to travel this spring break, it’s a good idea to get tested with a viral test one to three days before your trip—whether it’s required or not. You should have your negative test results before you travel and keep them with you when you go in case you’re asked to show them. If you test positive, do not travel; instead, isolate yourself, following the CDC’s public health recommendations.
It’s just as important to get tested before your trip as it is to get tested when you return (ideally within three to five days of your trip). You should self-quarantine for a full seven days after you get home, even if your test does come back negative. If you do not take a viral test, you should plan to self-quarantine for a full 10 days to be safe as you may have been exposed to the virus on your travels. If you have already been vaccinated, please follow the latest CDC guidelines on testing.
Where to Get a COVID-19 Test
If you need to take a COVID-19 test before or after your spring break travel, consider visiting your local CareNow®. We offer different types of COVID-19 testing including PCR and Rapid tests. Depending on your needs and when you are traveling, the providers can guide you on the right test. If you have insurance, you should check with your plan to see how much your test will cost. For self-paying patients, the cost is $250. Make sure to have your driver’s license and insurance card (if applicable) when you come to get tested.
If you’ve never had a COVID-19 test before, you may be wondering what to expect. When a member of our staff comes to collect your samples, he or she will be dressed in protective attire (a mask and a face shield). Most samples are taken from the nose; however, in certain cases, the sample may need to be taken from the back of the throat (similar to a strep test). Your test will only take a few seconds. Get more information on our COVID-19 testing process here.
Before you visit your local CareNow® for a rapid test, check out the Web Check-In® feature on our website. This allows you to check-in before your appointment so you don’t have to sit in the lobby while you wait.