Traveling increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, even if you are vaccinated. – CDC

We get it: the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every part of our lives, especially how we travel. It’s changed the everyday bus ride to west-campus to how we moved into our res halls and apartments this semester. As college students, it’s nearly impossible to avoid traveling or using public transportation.

During the pandemic, the safest way for someone to travel is by private transport. However, that’s not the most accessible option and many rely on other forms of travel. Whether that’s driving, flying, or ridingeach method of transportation has varying risks.

Before You Go 

There’s a lot of precautions to keep in mind prior to traveling. Before any big trip or move, you should lay low two weeks before you go to avoid bringing any germs into your new environment 

If you are vaccinated or soon to be vaccinated, you should wait at least two weeks after your second dose of Pfizer or Moderna or your one-dose of Janssen to travel. This is because it takes some time for your body to build up protection after you are vaccinated.  

Before traveling, investigate your current location and destinations COVID-19 case numbersSome communities have travel bans or restrictions in place. If you are planning on flying, airlines may also have special requests such as getting a negative COVID-19 test prior to traveling.

If you are going somewhere in the United States use the CDC’s Travel Planner to look at guidelines and restrictions for your destination. If you are traveling outside of the United States, monitor the CDC’s Travel Health Notices for risk level assessment updates for destinations around the world.  

If you are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, it is recommended to get tested 1-3 days prior to travel. Once you return from your travels, it is recommended to get tested 3-5 days after you return, and self-quarantine for a full 7 days. If you are currently not experiencing symptoms or have been in close contact, you will need to seek out asymptomatic testing options if you are not fully vaccinated.

During any point of your journey, remember to stay home when appropriate. If you are sick or have recently had close contact with a confirmed case, please stay home and avoid using public transport. Trains and airlines may be able to offer you a waiver, call to see what’s possible. 

Vaccinated individuals exposed to COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they:  

    • You still need to follow normal quarantine guidelines after receiving your first dose of Pfizer or Moderna
  • Are asymptomatic

Health care workers who meet the above criteria do not have to quarantine from community or work settings unless they develop symptoms in the 14 days after exposure. If a HCW develops any signs or symptoms during those 14 days they should seek testing and isolate.  

If you are around or exposed to someone with COVID-19 you do not need to quarantine, isolate, or get tested unless you develop symptoms. 

When Carpooling (or Driving Privately) 

For the everyday driving it’s strongly encouraged to drive alone or with other members of your household. 

As a college student, there will be several occasions where you may be traveling with others. It might be to get coffee with your bestie or to drive a friend home for break.  

You may also find yourself in the situation where you may be needing to relocate for isolation or quarantine. If you are traveling with someone who has COVID-19, take extra safety precautions.  

  • Limit the number of people in your vehicle. If you are moving to or from campus, you will want to limit your moving crew to 1-2 additional people.  
  • Disinfect frequently touched surface areas such as your seat, seat belt and door handles before the ride begins. 
  • Handle all your personal belongings yourself. Keep COVID care items nearby such as your mask, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. 
  • Practice good hand hygiene by washing or sanitizing hands frequently throughout the trip. 
  • Keep windows open or keep the air on in the vehicle when possible. Never use the air recirculation mode if applicable 
  • Practice proper respiratory etiquette by wearing a face mask for the entire ride. Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve (not your hands) when sneezing or coughing–sanitizing hands immediately after. 
  • Physically distance yourself from others in the vehicle the best as you can. If there’s only two people in the vehicle, it’s best to have the passenger sit in the backseat-diagonally behind the driver. 
  • Stay in the vehicle until you have reached your final destinationTry your best to make it home without any stops. Bring water, food and other beverages with you to help limit stops on longer rides. 
  • Disinfect your car with an aerosol disinfectant spray once you have reached your destination.  

When Ridesharing or Riding the Bus

Ridesharing or riding a bus has increased risks due to the increased amounts of human traffic that use these services.

If you’re using a rideshare service such as Uber or Lyft, ask the driver for the name of the reserved passenger before entering the vehicle. Verify that it is the correct car and license plate with the app.

  • Keep at least six feet (or two meters) from people who are not in your household. Follow signage guidelines at the bus stop and on the rideshare application. 
  • Practice proper respiratory etiquette by wearing a face covering for the entirety of the ride. Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve (not your hands) when sneezing or coughing–sanitizing hands immediately after. 
  • Practice good hand hygiene by washing or sanitizing hands frequently throughout the trip. 
  • If possible, wipe down your seat, seatbelt, door handles, and other frequently touched surfaces before the ride begins. 
  • Handle all your personal belongings yourself. Keep COVID care items nearby such as your mask and hand sanitizer. 
  • Physically distance yourself from others in the vehicle the best as you canIf there’s only two people in the vehicle, it’s best to have the passenger sit in the backseat-diagonally behind the driver.  
  • Keep windows open or the air on in the vehicle when possible. 
  • Avoid contact with those exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 around you, distance yourself as much as possible. 
  • If you think your safety is being compromised in any way, you can ask your rideshare driver to stop the car and order another ride or hop off the bus at the next stop and get on another bus. 

When Riding a Plane (Or Train)

Traveling is currently only recommended for essential purposes. For some students, traveling by plane is the only option for them to see their families who live hundreds of miles away.

Air and train travel poses a higher risk compared to other forms of transportation due to being enclosed spaces for extended periods of time and spending time in lines and terminals which bring you into close contact with frequently touched surfaces. Keep these tips in mind before hopping on your next flight.

  • If possible, reserve seats for your household next to each other. 
  • Keep at least six feet (or two meters) from people who are not in your household. Follow signage guidelines in the train station and airport. 
  • Practice proper respiratory etiquette by wearing a face covering for the entirety of the ride. Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve (not your hands) when sneezing or coughing–sanitizing hands immediately after. 
  • Practice good hand hygiene by washing or sanitizing hands frequently throughout the trip and in high traffic areas such as checking in, going through baggage, and waiting for your flight or train. 
  • Handle all your personal belongings yourself. Keep COVID care items nearby such as your mask, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and any pre-packaged food or beverages. 
  • Use saline nasal spray before and after the flight. Because the air on the plane is dry and dries out your mucus membranes, your resistance to infection is reduced. Keeping these membranes moist with saline spray may help. 
  • Wipe down armrests and your tray table with sanitary wipes. Also, avoid touching the handle of the bathroom doors if possible. 
  • Keep air vents above your seat open during your flight to improve ventilation, ideally pointing them away from your face. 
  • If possible, stay seated and don’t get up until your flight is over. 

Upon Your Arrival

If you are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated, no matter your destination, quarantine for 14 days. If you develop symptoms of COVID-19 from a trip, self-isolate, and call the Ask-A-Nurse Message Line to know what to do next. 

If you test positive to COVID-19 during any point of the year (including summer and winter breaks) please self-report 

We understand that not traveling may be difficult during these uncertain times.  

That’s why, if traveling is absolutely necessary for you, it’s important to keep the above information in mind to protect yourself and those around you even if you are vaccinated. 

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Ashley Bader

Ashley is graduating in 2021 with a major in Public Health: Epidemiology and a minor in Statistics. Her interests include listening to music and spending time with her friends, family, and pets.

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