Share on Facebook

A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

11 Rules the CDC Wants You to Follow Before Traveling Again

Sure, we're all itching to get out of the house and go someplace new. But the question is: how to do it safely?

1 / 12
travel covid coronavrisu picture alliance/Contributor/Getty Images

Is it safe?

As the world begins to open up after months of shelter-in-place due to the novel coronavirus, many folks are wondering if any sort of summer vacation can be salvaged. It’s a fraught question: Countries, states, and municipalities differ wildly in their approaches to coronavirus protocols and as a result, some places are seeing such rapid upticks in their number of COVID-19 cases that the governors of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey recently announced new travel restrictions on those coming from hotspots like Arizona, Florida, and Texas. Overall the United States saw a 25 percent increase in cases the week ending June 21, Reuters reports. Is it safe to travel? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a set of guidelines, but keep in mind, safety refers not only to you and your family but to people in the community you’re thinking about visiting. And before you ask if it’s safe to go, research whether or not it’s even physically possible; the New York Times reports that the EU, for example, is still weighing whether or not it will allow Americans in once it reopens its borders. Here are 10 ways you can still get away this summer.

2 / 12
Man washing his hands to avoid diseases like coronavirus Man with a face mask washes his hands in a public bathroomRealPeopleGroup/Getty Images

First things first

Before you think about going anywhere, remember that the basic guidelines for safety and hygiene remain the same no matter where you are: maintain social distance—at least 6 feet apart from anyone not in your group, wear a mask when social distancing isn’t possible, and wash your hands with soap and water often—proper hand washing alone can prevent these 15 diseases. Now you’re ready to research your intended destination: is it even open to travelers? Is it seeing a spike in coronavirus cases? If it is, don’t go there.

3 / 12
Checking the temperatureBoris Zhitkov/Getty Images

When not to travel

In addition to common-sense reasons to stay away from a potential vacation spot, the CDC is clear that if you are feeling unwell, you should stay home. Is someone else in your party sick? They should stay home. Are you or a member of your group high-risk for serious illness from COVID-19? Stay home. Do you live with a person who’s high-risk, even if they won’t be traveling with you? Stay home. Are there a lot of cases in your hometown, upping the risk of you infecting others? Stay home.

4 / 12
Business woman traveling with trainSBDIGIT/Getty Images

Staying close to home

There’s a beach nearby; you just have to take public transportation to get there. How safe is this option? The risk for illness via train or bus is less due to the coronavirus being transmitted on surfaces like poles and seats, the New York Times reports. Rather, it has to do with crowding, poor ventilation, and riders not wearing masks. To decrease risk, travel at a less-crowded time of day, wait for a less-crowded bus or train, wear a mask, attempt to keep distanced, use hand sanitizer, and wash your hands as soon as you get to your destination. If you need to hold on to a pole for balance or safety, place a disinfectant wipe between it and your hand. Avoid making any of these common 11 mistakes with your mask.

5 / 12
Man wearing surgical gloves and mask at gas stationSteve Smith/Getty Images

Road tripping

Sure, your car is something of a safety bubble: no outside interlopers, no need to touch poles or seats, or turnstiles. But here, the danger comes when you inevitably have to stop for gas, to use the restroom, or to pick up food. And the longer you’re on the road, the more those dangers compound. AARP recommends plotting your route well in advance, to make sure essential services are open. Then, using gloves to pump gas (toss in the trash immediately after), packing your own snacks, meals, and water; and, in restrooms, taking care not to touch faucets and doors with bare hands, rather use a paper towel or disinfecting wipe. Also consider paying for things with credit cards rather than cash, to cut down on hand-to-hand interactions. These are 13 everyday habits that could and should change after coronavirus.

6 / 12
rv camperThomas Winz/Getty Images


While you won’t likely have to stop as often for food or bathroom breaks on an RV trip, you’ll still need to get gas and stay overnight at an RV park. And of course, all that can put you and your traveling partners in contact with people who put you at risk for COVID-19, or who may be at risk from you. Just like you would when you’re traveling by car, you’ll want to plan your route ahead of time, including making a reservation at an RV park, bring as many supplies as possible, including food and cleaning supplies so you can take fewer trips into town, wear gloves when you pump gas or hook up utility lines, and wash your hands. Renting an RV? Make sure the one you pick has its own shower and toilet so you don’t have to use the campground’s communal ones. You’ll still want to follow these 12 unspoken etiquette rules of RV camping.

7 / 12
flying travel coronavirus covidEduard Goricev/EyeEm/Getty Images


This is the big question for people looking forward to traveling far from home—or even cutting travel time to closer locales. As the CDC points out, the trouble starts in the airport: in security lines and elsewhere in terminals, in multiple publicly-used bathrooms and other spaces, and in close quarters on the plane itself, sometimes over a lengthy time period. Let’s be clear: Non-essential travel is still advised against in the United States. But if you absolutely must fly, avoid often dirty tray tables, up your hand sanitizer usage, keep your mask on and the in-seat air vent flowing, and book a window seat, which is farther away from the busy aisle, reports Business Insider. In addition, be prepared to not see these 12 things in airports for the time being.

8 / 12
Business travelmartin-dm/Getty Images

Booking a hotel

Like airports, hotels are used by lots and lots of people and provide ample opportunities for infection. Again, keep your mask on in public areas. Business Insider recommends that you also consider cleaning your hotel room yourself—especially high-touch areas like sink faucets and remotes—if you see signs that it may not have been well-cleaned before your arrival. And consider ordering room service rather than chancing the in-hotel restaurant. Unlikely to be a risk: swimming in a chlorinated pool, although the chairs and other surfaces on the pool deck should be avoided—just a dip and you’re done. Here’s how professional cleaners can tell if a room is really clean.

9 / 12
rent a vacation house covid19 Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Renting a home

Lots of people have been renting vacation houses during the pandemic. Rentals offer a few advantages to hotels in that they often have contactless check-in and, if you’re staying in a house, you won’t have the same public spaces like the lobby, that you would at a hotel. In addition, home rental sites, including Airbnb, have put cleaning protocols in place to ensure guests’ safety—you can always clean the home yourself when you arrive to be on the safe side. Rental houses that have been unoccupied for a while are also generally safer, USA Today reports. Find out more about the merits of a hotel vs. Airbnb.

10 / 12
campingEast Road/Ascent Xmedia/Getty Images


Yes, it’s great to be outside in the open air, and experts agree that’s where we have the least risk of contracting or passing on the coronavirus. Again, it’s the common areas that pose the greatest risk: bathrooms and showers, campground stores, that patch of beach beside the lake, picnic areas. Do your best to stay away from people—isn’t that why you’re camping in the first place? Bring all your own supplies. Remember too, there’s risk in getting there, which is why you should pick a camping facility as close to home as possible—preferably within your own county. Find the best campsite in your state.

11 / 12
travel abroadViorel Kurnosov/EyeEm/Getty Images

Traveling abroad

Can you even travel to another country right now? While many Caribbean countries are open for visitors, you’ll still want to check a country’s guidelines before you entertain the idea. Points to consider: Are they allowing Americans in? Are businesses operational? Would it even be worth the effort if you could, in fact, get there? The world has changed with the novel coronavirus since most of us first heard of it months ago. But the World Health Organization’s recommendations for travel haven’t been updated since late February; it continues not to advise travel bans—the reasons are complicated—but all the recommendations we’ve cited above still stand. In the meantime, check out these coronavirus hotel deals you can take advantage of now for travel later.

12 / 12
coronavirus covid19 masks d3sign/Getty Images

Going out and about

We don’t take a vacation to lock ourselves away in a hotel room, a rental house, or a tent and stay there; we eat at restaurants, go sight-seeing, maybe do a little shopping. At home or away, you should be limiting the amount of contact you have with other people as much as possible, says the Mayo Clinic. When you’re on the road, you’ll want to bring your own food (at least some of it); make sure you have enough medication, toiletries, sunblock, etc. to last your whole time away; and wear a face mask when you’re out in public. These are the 11 things you should own if you travel in the next six months.

Lela Nargi
Lela Nargi is a veteran journalist covering science, sustainability, climate, and agriculture for Readers Digest, Washington Post, Sierra, NPR, The Counter, JSTOR Daily, and many other outlets. She also writes about science for kids. You can follow her on Twitter @LelaNargi.

Newsletter Unit

CMU Unit

Subscribe & SAVE Save Up To 84%!