The central theses:
- Americans plan to travel this holiday season.
- Use our interactive map to check local COVID-19 case numbers, vaccination rates, mask requirements, and other key data points by state.
- There are other factors such as masking and boosters that you should consider before you travel.
This year marks our second Christmas season amid a global pandemic. Navigating high COVID-19 cases and tough conversations about vaccines between families can give some people a break from travel for the holidays.
In Verywell Health’s latest vaccine sentiment survey, we asked respondents in early November about their plans for this year. Most Americans – 62% – plan on visiting friends or family outside of their household in the coming holidays.
And almost a third (30%) plan to travel away from home. But not all tossing caution to the wind – 29% are at least somewhat concerned that COVID will affect their travel plans.
Respondents pointed out some key factors to consider when deciding whether or not to travel during this holiday season, including:
- Vaccination status of visitors (47%)
- The number of COVID-19 cases at the destination (47%)
- The vaccination rates at the destination (41%)
To help decide whether or not you should travel, we’ve sorted COVID cases and data on vaccination rates by state. This card also contains information on government mask requirements, vaccination requirements, and emergency statements.
What is an emergency statement?
A declaration of emergency is a procedural and political decision at the local, state, or federal level that allows the jurisdiction to access resources in response to an emergency or disaster. This could impact things like COVID-19 test sites or investing in health campaigns to promote vaccination.
When looking at the data and deciding whether travel is worth the risk, there are also a few additional factors to consider.
The map is automatically updated every day as new data is released on both vaccination rates and COVID-19 case data, as well as government policies. To create the map, we used data on COVID case rates and vaccination rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID Data Tracker. Additional information on government policy was obtained from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Look at local case numbers
The CDC has travel risk rankings for the entire world, from one (lowest risk) to four (avoid travel). They currently rate the entire United States as a risk level four: COVID-19 cases are very high.
For level four countries, according to the CDC, you should “avoid traveling to these destinations. If you need to travel to these destinations, make sure you are fully vaccinated before you travel. ”Particularly before going on domestic travel, the CDC recommends that everyone get a full vaccination.
But asking everyone to stay on vacation is no longer feasible. People will travel – especially if they waited for the vaccine last year.
In most of the US, cases have gone down, but they are still much higher than they were a year ago. Pay attention to the local case numbers in the areas you plan to travel to, but also in the areas you are traveling through – this rest stop can also act as a COVID hub.
What should you look for on the map?
Using our map, see if the cases in the state you plan to travel to are higher or lower compared to your current location. You should also keep an eye on vaccination rates. For example, if the state you are planning to travel to has lower COVID-19 case numbers and high vaccination rates, this can be a safe destination.
If you are in an area with high or significant community transmission, the CDC recommends wearing a mask – even if you are fully vaccinated. Currently, the entire United States is classified as high or significant community transfer.
It is especially important to wear masks in crowded areas – outdoors or indoors – and anywhere you will be in close contact with others. Review state mask requirements and other guidelines and make sure you adhere to them.
How to Prepare for Travel
Unless inevitable, your family should only travel if you are all fully vaccinated – two full weeks after a single-dose vaccine or the second dose of a two-shot vaccine.
Before you go
If you are eligible, you will receive one Booster vaccinationthat should provide extra protection from breakthrough infections, especially if you are at high risk or are visiting someone who is.
Who is entitled to a booster?
For adults 18 years and older, the CDC now recommends giving a single booster dose at least six months after completing the Pfizer or Moderna primary series or two months after a Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
To be safe when visiting family, especially if they are at high risk or not vaccinated, you should get a COVID test before you travel. The CDC does not recommend testing for vaccinated travelers, but those who are not vaccinated (such as children under 5 years of age) should receive negative test results no later than three days prior to travel.
While you are there
Take as many precautions as you can when you are in airports or other places where there are crowds of people. Federal law requires masks to be worn on all modes of transport (planes, trains, buses, ridesharing, etc.) and at transportation hubs in the United States, including airports and transit stations. Wear a mask, stay away from others as much as possible (especially if they are not masked), and wash or disinfect your hands frequently.
When you return
When you come back from vacation, vaccinated travelers will have to pay attention to eventual Covid symptoms. These include changes in taste or smell, fever, persistent cough, chills, loss of appetite and muscle pain. Isolate and get tested if you feel sick.
Unvaccinated travelers should quarantine themselves for seven days after the trip and have a COVID test three to five days after each leg of the trip. Without a test, unvaccinated travelers should be quarantined for 10 days.
Traveling with unvaccinated children
With the Pfizer vaccine now available to children over 5 years of age, it is recommended that you have your children at least partially vaccinated before you travel. Remember, the Pfizer vaccine is part of a two-dose series, which means that both vaccinations must be 21 days apart.
However, traveling is riskier for children under the age of 5 – not only could they become infected, but they could also transmit COVID to elderly, vulnerable, or unvaccinated family members. Unvaccinated children over the age of 2 should wear masks when in public or around other people they do not live with.
The safest way to travel with unvaccinated children is through short road trips with limited stops. If flying is the only option, choose flights with the fewest stopovers. Try to stick with outdoor activities. Eating indoors should also be avoided.
The information in this article is current as of the date indicated, which means more recent information may be available by the time you read this. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit our Coronavirus news page.