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Tips On Safely Traveling During The Pandemic

People talking inside of an airport. (Getty Images)
People talking inside of an airport. (Getty Images)

With a decline in COVID-19 cases and vaccine efforts underway across the U.S., air travel is starting to pick up again after a challenging pandemic year.

But is it safe to travel?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says Americans should avoid travel unless absolutely necessary, even if you’re fully vaccinated.

Traveling is a risk — but people are doing it anyway.

Elizabeth Blount McCormick, president of Uniglobe Travel Designers, is telling her clients to consider multiple factors before packing their bags. Right away, people should consider whether others in their immediate bubble are vaccinated or immunocompromised, she says.

Many resorts, especially in the Caribbean and Mexico, are conducting COVID-19 tests on site and are requiring a negative test before arrival. She says people “feel more at ease” because of strict COVID-19 safety protocols in place.

McCormick’s travel agency reaches out to the resorts to ask about their safety protocols, so they can really provide clients a full picture of what the experience might look like.

Both corporate and leisure vacation clientele has increased recently, she says, and Uniglobe Travel Designers has seen an uptick in families requesting services such as private chefs and cleaning companies.

Most people itching to travel are booking vacations in the Caribbean, Costa Rica and the West Coast of the U.S. European travel is in a slump, she says, since many borders remain closed to tourists. However, Greece is allowing vaccinated travelers into the country starting in May.

Countries like Israel have been giving out vaccine passports — a certification that allows vaccinated people to go to restaurants, gyms, malls or travel. McCormick says COVID-19 passports are a smart policy move.

“For us to heal as a global society, I think we owe to each other to protect ourselves and protect each other,” she says.

For any international travel, “check with the State Department because things are changing on a case-by-case and day-by-day basis,” she says.

In airports, social distancing and mask wearing are still in place. McCormick recommends checking with your airline in advance to determine whether a testing document is required.

Right now, Delta is the only airline that is still blocking off the middle seat. She finds a lot of her clients choose to book with Delta for reassurance that the company isn’t overbooking flights.

To catch a flight when the airport is the least crowded, McCormick advises picking a departure time in the early afternoon.

“Early afternoon is where flights are less crowded and you won’t find that many people at the airport,” she says.

Don’t expect any spectator flight prices anytime soon, she adds.

The CDC is warning against travel, even for fully vaccinated people. But the numbers are clear. People are taking off — whether they should or not.

Marcelle Hutchins produced and edited this interview for broadcast with Todd Mundt. Serena McMahon adapted it for the web.

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.