A lot has changed for the better since last summer in regards to COVID-19. We now have multiple vaccines available, making a return to things like travel possible. However, that doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods just yet. 

“The SARS-CoV-2 virus is still very active in many communities around the world,” warns STChealth’s Chief Epidemiologist, Dr. Kyle Freese, PhD, MPH. “Cases are increasing across Europe, Africa and Asia, which is of particular concern because with increased cases comes more viral replication, which can lead to new variants.”

One such variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus you may have heard of in the news lately is the Delta variant, which originally surfaced in India but has since spread globally. So what’s the best tool against variants such as the Delta variant? Vaccination, but of course! 

“Though the vaccines currently available in the U.S. are effective against the currently circulating variants like the Delta variant, vaccine uptake across the world is neither consistent nor equitable,” explains Dr. Freese. “Not only are the immediate effects preventable, the long-term consequences of continued spread will be felt around the globe…particularly if and when new variants emerge that can evade current vaccines.”

“Nevertheless,” he adds, “many people will be traveling over the summer, both domestically and internationally. To stay safe, the most powerful tool we have at our disposal is vaccination. Being fully vaccinated against SARS-CoV-2 protects you as well as those around you and can help us all get back to the things we enjoy without the constant threat of COVID-19 hanging over us. Practicing sensible prevention (e.g. hand washing and staying home when you are sick), avoiding prolonged time in crowded, indoor spaces, and wearing facemasks when on planes and busses can also help minimize the spread of infectious disease.”

Thanks to available vaccines and COVID-19 prevention strategies like the ones Dr. Freese mentioned, it is possible to minimize the risk of catching and spreading SARS-CoV-2 when traveling. But, even if you are vaccinated, it’s still important to protect yourself and others by adhering to local COVID-19 guidelines and being a smart, hygienic and safe traveler. Here, we dive into how to stay safe and COVID-19 free during your summer travels. 

#1. Don’t travel if you’re unvaccinated. 

Being fully vaccinated against COVID-19 is the best way to not catch or spread the illness. Fortunately in the U.S. it’s easy—and free—to protect yourself by getting any one of the available COVID-19 vaccines. If for some reason you’re not vaccinated yet, it’s really not worth the risk of traveling and possibly becoming infected by one of the COVID-19 virus variants—such as the highly contagious Delta variant. 

#2. Follow all local COVID-19 guidelines & rules.

Even if you are vaccinated, it’s important to adhere to all local COVID-19 rules and guidelines—even if they differ from the ones in your city, state or country. Since outbreak status can vary from place to place, these rules are there for a reason. It’s also not possible to know where everyone else you encounter has been—and consequently, what variants of COVID-19 they may have been around. Not sure exactly what those rules are? Check before traveling to your target destination. 

#3. Avoid non-essential travel to high-risk areas.

Since areas with active COVID-19 outbreaks and/or that are deemed “high-risk” can change, make sure to keep up with the news of wherever you are planning to travel to before booking your trip. For a full list of travel health notices, check out the CDC’s Travel Health Notices page, which is updated regularly.

#4. Avoid cruise ships.

The CDC recommends avoiding cruise ship travel altogether if you’re not fully vaccinated against COVID-19. If you are fully vaccinated, you should still proceed cruise ship travel with caution. For more information about the CDC’s official stance regarding cruise ship travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, check out this link

#5.  Make sure you know what the COVID-19 testing requirements are.

No matter where you travel to—or how you get there—there will likely be COVID-19 testing requirements. Since these specific requirements can vary depending on the location and mode of transportation, it’s important to research any COVID-19 testing requirements before leaving for your destination. We recommend checking out the CDC’s web pages on COVID-19 testing when traveling

#6. Follow travel recommendations for fully vaccinated people.

As a rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid non-essential travel until you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19. And even after you’ve been fully vaccinated, most airports and major transportation centers still require masks. It’s also a good idea to continue wearing masks on planes, buses and other forms of public transportation such as the subway. We recommend bringing travel sized hand sanitizer with you wherever you go, in case soap and water are not available. Check out these resources for domestic travel and international travel guidelines to follow during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

#7. Have proof of your COVID-19 vaccination status.Since many places are increasingly requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination status, it’s important to have a record of your COVID-19 immunization on hand. MyIR Mobile is an easy way to access and present your immunization records—including proof of COVID-19 immunization status. Not only is MyIR Mobile free, but it’s accessible 24/7 from any device, anywhere. Visit myirmobile.com to register for access to your immunization records before your next trip!