Photo of a dark suitcase with a medical face mask resting on top, used to explain COVID-19 and summer vacation

COVID-19 and your summer vacation

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Who couldn’t use a vacation right now? How about a scenic road trip to a national park or the mountains to escape the heat? What about jumping on a plane for a quick, socially distanced trip to the beach?

You won’t be surprised to hear infectious disease doctors say staying home is the safest option for you and your family. Shantala Samart, MD, infectious disease physician on the medical staff at Methodist Mansfield Medical Center, is no exception. “There’s really no safe place I can recommend for people to travel to this summer given the community spread of COVID-19 in so many vacation destinations,” Dr. Samart says.

But if you insist on traveling this summer, Dr. Samart lays out the risk of traveling right now and a few things you may want to add to your travel checklist.

Man and woman sitting in the trunk of their van at a campgrounds

The road trip

  • Be sure to pack masks and alcohol-based hand sanitizer in an easily accessible spot so that you can use them during the trip as necessary.
  • Plan to make as few stops as possible along the way.
  • When you need to get gas, use a disinfectant wipe on handles and/or buttons before you touch them. After fueling, use hand sanitizer.
  • Pack your own food. “Bring non-perishable food in case restaurants are closed,” Dr. Samart says. Grocery stores may also be limited, so do your food shopping in advance. If you choose to pick up a meal on the road, opt for restaurants that offer drive-thru or curbside service.

Purple and yellow suitcases in airport terminal 

Hopping on a plane

  • Just like the road trippers, start by bringing your masks and alcohol-based hand sanitizer (travel size so it makes it thru screening).
  • Be vigilant long before you get on the plane. Airport terminals can be crowded, and you are likely to find yourself standing in line. “Expect to have increased interaction with people,” says Dr. Samart. “The airport can be a tough space to social distance, and you will be exposed to a lot of highly touched surfaces.”
  • As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out, most viruses actually don’t spread easily on flights because of how air circulates and is filtered on airplanes. The real challenge with flying is staying socially distant. “You run the risk of being seated right next to another person, maybe for several hours,” Dr. Samart says.
  • Most airlines are requiring it anyway, but, of course, wear your mask the entire time you are on the airplane.

Two adults and two children walking on the beach together during the golden hour 

You have arrived!

Whether you’re staying in a hotel or camping in a tent, Dr. Samart says to be prepared with your own cleaning supplies. At your destinations, viruses may be hiding in the same places they do in your home so make sure to clean these germ hotspots.

Take a few minutes to see what kind of COVID-19 restrictions are in place at your summer vacation destination. Many counties and states have different rules designed to help slow the spread.

No matter where you are or what you have planned, remember to wear a face covering, keep a distance of at least 6 feet from others, and avoid contact with anyone who is sick.

If you are planning a staycation instead but still need to cool off, learn how to stay safe at the pool with a few COVID-19 precautions