Travelling with your family during COVID-19
Tips and advice for protecting your family when you’re away from home.
Travelling is a part of life for families across the globe – be it for necessity or recreation. But the COVID-19 pandemic is not over, and travel continues to be risky and complicated in many parts of the world. If you and your loved ones need to travel, here are some tips to consider to help you do so more safely.
Is it okay to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic?
All travel comes with some risk of getting or spreading COVID-19. Before you travel, check if COVID-19 is spreading in your local area and in any of the places you are going. Do not travel if you or your family are sick, have any symptoms of COVID-19 or have been around someone with COVID-19 in the past 14 days. Unvaccinated family members who are at higher risk for severe illness (older family members, those with underlying medical conditions) should consider postponing all travel until they are fully vaccinated. Also consider postponing for the time being any visits to unvaccinated family members or friends who are more likely to get very ill from COVID-19.
Is it safe to travel after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine?
Travel, like any activity that involves coming into contact with other people from different households, is not risk-free even after full vaccination against COVID-19. The good news is that having the required number of doses and giving time for the vaccines to take effect significantly reduces your risk of becoming seriously ill and spreading the virus to others.
For two-dose COVID-19 vaccines, the protection provided is only partial after the first dose, and time is needed – typically 2 weeks – after the second dose before you are considered to be fully protected. For a one-dose vaccine, maximum protection against COVID-19 begins a few weeks after receiving your shot.
It is important to remember that that no vaccine provides 100 per cent protection against COVID-19, so check local guidance at your destination and the COVID-19 transmission and vaccination rates to inform the level of precautions you should take.
I’ve recovered from COVID-19. Do I still need to get vaccinated before traveling?
It is recommended that people who have previously been infected by COVID-19 are still vaccinated, whether travelling or not. The majority of people who are infected produce some antibodies and immune cells that can fight off infection, but the immune response varies significantly and it is unclear how long this protection lasts. In people who were only mildly ill, the immune protection that can prevent a second infection may decline within a few months.
Remember, getting vaccinated isn’t just about protecting yourself – you’re protecting those around you, too.
How should we prepare to travel together as a family?
If you do choose to travel, check for any travel restrictions, stay-at-home orders, quarantining and testing requirements in your local area, and all places you’re planning to visit (check websites of Ministries of Health, Ministries of Foreign Affairs and local health authorities). Keep in mind, these policies may change with little advance notice and your travel plans may be disrupted. Also carefully check the travel requirements of your airline carrier.
If you or your family are exposed to a person infected with COVID-19 during your trip, you may be isolated or quarantined and your return may be delayed. Some healthcare systems are overwhelmed and there may be limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas if you or your family become ill or are injured during the trip. It’s worth reviewing your health or travel insurance to check COVID-19 related coverage and any limitations.
Check ahead what options are available at your destination for transport, food and accommodation. Remember that some businesses and services may be fully or partially disrupted in affected areas, including public transport, shops and restaurants, as well as popular tourist attractions – so check for the latest information on changes to services and procedures.
Additional considerations include:
- Before travelling, make sure you and your family are up to date with your routine vaccinations as recommended by your local health authorities, such as the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine, the seasonal flu vaccine, but also any other vaccines required at your destination such as the yellow fever vaccine.
- Make sure any family members taking medications bring enough to last for the entire trip.
- Try to avoid travel where physical distancing may be difficult for prolonged periods. Plan to avoid travelling at peak times and take routes that are less congested wherever possible.
- If using public transport, follow any local recommended precautions (here are some key ones). Try to limit your contact with frequently touched surfaces and wash or sanitize your hands frequently. Keep a row of seats between yourself and other travellers where possible.
- If travelling in a private vehicle, try to keep stops to a minimum by bringing sufficient food and drinks.
- During your trip, plan to avoid visiting crowded spaces, poorly ventilated enclosed spaces, as well as any social or mass gatherings such as concerts, events and parties.
- Plan to bring your own food and drinks where possible.
What should we do if we plan to spend the night away from home?
If you plan to stay at a hotel or other accommodation, check in advance what prevention measures they have in place:
- Are staff wearing masks at work and practicing physical distancing?
- Are extra precautions in place, such as plexiglass barriers at check-in, modified layouts or barriers to allow for physical distancing between all staff, guests and visitors in the lobby, elevators and common areas?
- Is there an appropriate ventilation system in place?
- Is the hotel implementing updated policies for cleaning and disinfection?
When you arrive, disinfect any high touch surfaces in your room, including keys, doorknobs, remote controls, etc. If possible, open windows to help ventilate the room on your arrival. Consider requesting no cleaning or other room services to minimize the number of people outside your family in the room during your stay.
What safety precautions should we take while travelling?
While travelling, all parents and caregivers should take standard precautions for themselves and their children:
- Avoid crowded places, confined and enclosed spaces with poor ventilation
- Try to keep a physical distance of at least 1 metre from people in public
- Wear masks when in public places where COVID-19 is widespread and physical distancing is not possible
> Read more on mask tips for families
- Wash your hands frequently using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
> Read more on handwashing
- Avoid touching your face (eyes, nose, mouth)
- Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces like phones, keys, doorknobs, light switches etc
> Read more on COVID-19 cleaning tips
- If you decide to eat outside, consider the safest dining options. Eating outdoors or ordering take-out has less risk than eating indoors. Don’t forget to wash or sanitize your hands before eating.
> Read more on staying safe outdoors
- Seek medical care early if you or your child has a fever, cough, difficulty breathing or other symptoms of COVID-19
What should we do when we return home?
After you return home, follow recommendations or requirements from your national or local authorities, and continue to follow all the key precautions – including watching for any symptoms of COVID-19 and seeking medical advice if they develop.
This article was originally published on 10 September 2020. It was last updated on 24 August 2021.