5 Ways to Reduce Your Coronavirus Risk if You're Traveling This Holiday Season

Pick up new memories, not a new virus.

woman traveling airport covid
Photo: Getty / Klaus Vedfelt

We'll cut to the chase: Your safest and best bet if you want to lower your risk for acquiring or spreading the coronavirus this holiday season? Stay home and celebrate with your household IRL and everyone else virtually, suggests Dr. Anthony Fauci.

But if you've decided that the conditions are safe enough where you live and at your destination and are set on hitting the road, there are certain precautionary steps you can take to stay safer. Below, we've summarized the top tips from the CDC's latest guidance about travel, holidays and public transportation.

5 Ways to Reduce Your Coronavirus Risk During Holiday Travel

1. Stop as infrequently as possible when traveling by car and limit layovers when flying, if possible.

The more stops you make, the more potential exposure you'll have. The main worry doesn't come from those who know they are sick, but from the 20 percent or so of cases (according to the latest research) that are asymptomatic. These individuals could be unaware that they are infected and going about their daily tasks as usual, transferring viral particles through respiratory droplets along the way.

The same holds true for flying. Airplane air is cleaner than operating room air, per new research from the Department of Defense, and relatively few superspreader events have occurred on plane trips in America (although some have been reported on long-haul international flights). This fairly clean bill of health in the air is likely due to mask mandates and safety procedure changes, such as boarding front to back and limiting in-cabin service. Still, the fewer stops, terminal changes and flights you are exposed to, the better.

2. Rent a home or cabin instead of staying at a hotel or hostel.

Rather than sharing space and ventilation systems with those outside of your household, try to rent an Airbnb, vacation rental or cabin along the way or at your destination if you're sleeping away from home. The fewer communal areas and additional close human contact, the better.

3. Snag takeout or pack your own food instead of dining inside at a restaurant.

Since dining (or any activity) outside appears to be about 19 times less likely to lead to virus transmission compared to the same activities indoors, stick to patio dining, order takeout or pack healthy snacks and meals if you're planning to travel by car.

4. Wash your hands frequently and carry hand sanitizer.

When you have access to a sink, use soap and water to suds up and scrub your hands for 20 seconds or more, the CDC says. If that's unavailable, stick to a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol to prevent spreading germs from your hands to your face—or to other people. (ICYMI, here are 5 signs your hand sanitizer isn't really effective).

5. Wear a mask when using public transportation.

The latest public health guidance related to "community exposure" explains that being within 6 feet of someone for just 15 minutes (or more) who has symptoms or is diagnosed with the coronavirus in the next 2 days means that you've been exposed. Considering most bus, train, ferry, subway and plane rides—and even Uber or Lyft trips—take longer than that, the CDC just released a reminder that all who are physically able and over age 2 should wear a face covering over both their mouth and nose to reduce the spread of germs. These should also be worn any time you're in terminals or waiting areas.

The situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change; it's possible that information or data has changed since publication. While EatingWell is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations by using the CDC, WHO and their local public health department as resources.

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