As the coronavirus continues to surge across the country and around globe, the logistics of planning for the upcoming Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year season requires extra attention to detail and frequent monitoring of ever-changing travel regulations. While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that we avoid unnecessary travel, many of us be visiting family and friends or enjoying a much-needed vacation during the holiday season. If you are planning a trip, use this holiday travel checklist to help you get to and from your destination safely.
Expect crowded airports…
Health authorities maintain that the risk of disease transmission on airplanes is relatively low, which has resulted in more people feeling comfortable taking to the skies. Although you might not experience the large crowds typically seen during the holidays, airports will be bustling during traditionally busy travel days. According to Priceline, the most popular departure date for Christmas travel this year will be Wednesday, December 23, with the bulk of travelers returning on December 27 and December 28.
…and full flights.
Holiday travelers should also expect planes to be more crowded. Most airlines are offering bargains and eliminating change fees as enticements. And with many planes grounded and flights canceled due to government COVID restrictions, airlines will have fewer seats to fill. Southwest Airlines, which has held middle seats open during the pandemic, recently announced it would make all seats available for flights beginning Dec. 1. Among the four largest carriers in the United States, including American, Southwest, and United, only Delta Air Lines has committed to leaving its middle seats open through the holidays.
Consider COIVD-19 testing.
Airlines and airports are increasingly offering ways to get tested for the coronavirus ahead of a trip to assure you and others that you are not spreading the virus. Airlines like United, JetBlue, and American are offering testing at the airport or at nearby drive-through sites for passengers heading to certain destinations.
Hawaii, New York, Washington, D.C., and some Caribbean countries have started allowing people who test negative to skip mandatory 14-day quarantines. Check to see if your destination has a list of tests that it will accept. Of course, if you test positive for the virus, stay home and isolate.
Be prepared to quarantine.
Government policies in many destinations require visitors or returning residents to quarantine – regardless of which mode of travel they choose. The CDC recommends checking state and local health websites for current restrictions. Or check out online travel agency Kayak’s state-by-state summary of the latest U.S. travel restrictions and related safety regulations.
Don’t wait until the last minute.
Travel interest for the winter holidays is still well below normal, but this does not mean you can spontaneously book a trip to a tropical beach or hit the slopes over Christmas or New Year’s. Availability at popular destinations will be far more limited as demand (and prices) rise. If you spot a deal on a flight or a hotel, jump on it. Some experts suggest booking hotel stays with points and flights with miles to make it easier to collect a refund if circumstances change.
Hitting the road is a safe choice.
Road trips and regional travel remain one of the most popular and safest choices for getting away. American Automobile Association (AAA) said visits to its trip-mapping service TripTik have doubled since the spring, and their free website allows users to enter their destination and get routing options. It also links to a U.S. map showing state, county, and citywide restrictions on things like mask-wearing, gathering sizes, dining limits, and quarantine requirements. Whether you drive or opt to have one of the area’s reputable limousine services do the driving for you, enjoy a safe and happy holiday season!