Spring break: Is it safe to travel?

Last Modified: 3/12/2021

spring break

With families hitting the road in the coming weeks for spring break and some much-needed relaxation, it has many wondering if it’s safe to travel amid the current pandemic. To answer all our vacation questions, we asked Eric Shoemaker, DO, PPG – Family Medicine, to share his thoughts, tips and tricks to stay safe and healthy when venturing out this spring.

Are there any safety precautions you would recommend for those traveling by airplane?

Hopefully, we are poised to have a better spring break this year than last year, as we have gained so much knowledge about prevention and risk reduction over these past 12 months. While many agree traveling by car is likely the safer option in terms of COVID-19, but if you travel by plane, there are many steps you can take to reduce your risk, including:

  • Masks: Though airlines are taking great strides to reduce COVID-19 transmission, wearing your mask for the duration of the flight and around the airport is of the utmost importance. Also, make sure the mask fits snuggly over your nose and under your chin.
  • Hands: Good hand hygiene is always a must; any time you touch a shared space, including overhead compartments, handles, railings, and even the back of the headrests as you enter/exit the plane, you should wash or sanitize your hands. Proper hand hygiene also means rubbing your hands together until the sanitizer is dry or scrubbing with soap and water for a full 20 seconds.
  • Wipes: Always wipe down your tray tables and armrests because you don’t know who sat there before you. When in doubt, assume the person sitting next to you has COVID-19 and respond accordingly. 
What safety tips can you share for those traveling by car?

While traveling by car is generally considered less risky, you still need to take precautions to protect yourself and your loved ones from COVID-19. As previously mentioned, always wear your mask when in a public place, both indoors and outdoors. Whether you’re pumping gas, touching a door handle or eating, please wash your hands. Hand hygiene is one of the best ways to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and other germs. If the rest area or gas station seems busy and you can wait, take 5 minutes to enjoy the scenery or beautiful weather to let some people leave before entering.

Which activities are going to be the safest options during spring break this year?

Outdoor activities are preferred this spring break. If you can be outdoors, stay outdoors. Hiking, biking and swimming are all great ways to enjoy your time. If the trail, pool or beach seems too busy, find another place to adventure with fewer people.

If you are enjoying your spring break indoors at water parks, museums, movie theaters or other inside venues, always wear a mask. If you are dining in, wear your mask even when seated. In my family, if you aren’t eating or drinking, then your mask is on.

Is it safe to visit crowded theme parks and restaurants during spring break?

On vacation, everyone enjoys eating out and going to crowded places, like theme parks and restaurants. While COVID is getting better in many places, there is still a significant risk associated with busy venues. Instead, I recommend taking the time to explore the great outdoors or embark on a staycation with your family, finding new things to do at home or around town for this spring break.

If you can sit outside at a restaurant, do it. For myself and my family, we still choose not to eat inside. So, if you have the luxury of being someplace warm, take advantage and grab a seat outside, but please wear your mask unless you are eating or drinking. Remember, if you are going somewhere crowded or indoors, please don’t take unnecessary risks.

What if a loved one is showing signs or symptoms of COVID-19 while on vacation?

If a family member starts to show signs or symptoms of COVID-19, I recommend getting them evaluated at a walk-in clinic as soon as possible. As the adage goes, “knowledge is power.” If we can diagnose COVID-19 early, then we know how to respond appropriately. If they are acutely ill, seek medical attention right away. If exposed to COVID-19, you need to quarantine yourself like you would at home. Reducing the virus's spread is our No. 1 goal, so if you can cut your trip short, do it. It may not be fun, but it is the right thing to do to keep you and others safe.

What is the most important thing families should keep in mind while traveling during spring break?

The most important thing to keep in mind when traveling is to listen to your gut. COVID-19 has transformed how we live, work and travel. If your instinct is that a place is too busy or not safe for your family, listen to it and go somewhere else. If you think you may have been exposed, please seek medical attention, or reach out to your primary care provider.

Finally, with reasonable precautions, maintaining social distancing, and keeping good hygiene, everyone can have a safe and enjoyable spring break. 

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