Thanksgiving Travel Tips for 2021

Travel Tips for the Busiest Weekend of the Year

It’s Thanksgiving 2021 and there’s a lot to be thankful for. Families kept apart by the COVID-19 pandemic can finally reunite to celebrate the holiday. This year, there will be handshakes and hugs, grandparents will finally get to hold the new grandchildren they’ve only seen on Zoom and guests will be seated shoulder to shoulder around a Thanksgiving feast.


However, travelers should still remain vigilant. Despite the national trend of vaccinations going up and Covid-related deaths decreasing, there’s been a recent uptick in Covid cases. This is expected to worsen over the winter holidays and as international travel to the U.S. resumes. Thanksgiving weekend 2021 is expected to be the busiest travel weekend since 2019, with an estimated 53 million people planning to travel. While there’s certainly reason to celebrate this Thanksgiving, we are still in a pandemic and travelers should exercise caution both during their travels and as they reunite with family and friends. Here’s a rundown of the top travel tips for this much-awaiting Thanksgiving.


If You’re Unvaccinated, Avoid travel

The CDC advises unvaccinated Americans to avoid thanksgiving travel, as their chances of contracting a severe case of Covid is much greater than for those who are vaccinated. Your vaccinated family members could unwittingly transmit their asymptomatic Covid to you. If you do decide to travel, know you’re risks and try to reduce them by taking every available precaution. If you’re traveling internationally to the United States, you are required to be fully vaccinated. Plan travel with flexibility of travel insurance, should you have to change your plans.


Make Sure You’re “Fully” Vaccinated

A person is considered fully vaccinated when it’s been two weeks after their last required vaccine dosage. That means if your vaccine consists of one shot, like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, you’ll have to wait two weeks after that shot is administered, in order to be considered fully vaccinated. If you received Moderna’s or Pfizer’ vaccine, it’s two weeks after your last dose.


If It’s Available, Get Your Covid Vaccine Booster

Older Americans and those with underlying pre-existing conditions are strongly advised to get the Covid booster shot before traveling. This will provide reinforced protection against Covid for the people who need it most.


Be Aware of City-wide and State Covid Restrictions

Currently, there is no federally mandated vaccine requirement for Covid. But certain cities like New York City or San Francisco, require proof of vaccine to enter many public places like bars, theaters and concert venues. Before you head out for the holiday, make sure you’re up to date on the current Covid restriction for your destination.


If you live in an area with a low infection rate, you might be used to less restrictive protocol. However, guidelines differ from state to state. Be sure to adhere to the restrictions enforced by the state you’re visiting. For updated state-by-state COVID-19 advisories check out this interactive map from the New York Times.


Get Tested Before You Travel

Depending on your mode of transportation and where you’re headed, you might be required to produce a negative Covid test result no more than 72 hours before your departure. Even if it’s not a requirement for you and your loved ones, it’s still one of the best things you can do for each other. Rapid tests can give you results in as little as ten minutes while the more reliable PCR tests can take anywhere from a few hours, to a couple business days, depending on the testing facility. When you’re planning your Thanksgiving celebration, plan to get tested before you travel. If you receive a negative result, you have extra peace of mind that you won’t be infecting your family or fellow Thanksgiving travelers. If you test positive, you’ll know that the safest thing you can do is stay home. While it’s a disappointment to have to cancel your trip plans, if you purchase a trip insurance plan with a Cancel For Any Reason option, you can recoup certain financial expenses associated with the cancellation.


Prepare for Cancellations, Delays and Long, Crowded Waits

Thanksgiving 2021 coincides with many countries reopening their borders to international travel, including the U.S. as of November 8, and India, as of November 15. As Thanksgiving travel returns to pre-pandemic levels, you can expect long lines, flight disruptions and other travel delays and even food shortages at airports and train stations. This also means waiting for many hours in close quarters with other travelers. Even if you’re vaccinated, you need to do what you can to protect yourself and your fellow travelers. This includes wearing face masks while you wait, staying six feet apart whenever possible, and limiting your interactions with people outside your group.


If you have young children, it’s especially important to keep them close and ensure that they follow the safety guidelines as best as they can. Make sure you have plenty of snacks and toys to keep them occupied during long waiting periods.


Wear a Mask while Traveling in Public

If you’re taking a plane down south or catching a bus out west, reduce your chances of getting infected or unknowingly passing the infection on to your fellow passengers. According to the CDC, the most effective masks are made of two or more layers and fit snugly while still being breathable. Out of extreme caution, some transit authorities may not allow simple cloth face masks, so make sure your face masks meet the required standards. 


Avoid Touching Your Face or Your Mask

Not touching your mask can be a challenge, especially when it keeps slipping off your nose, or fogging up your glasses. But remember that every time you touch your face, you could be transmitting germs. 


Wash Your Hands Frequently

The Covid virus weakens under soap and water. So wash your hands regularly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (the length of two rounds of the Happy Birthday song!) to avoid contracting and transmitting the virus. 


Launder Clothes and Masks If Possible

Whether you’re hosting visitors or visiting someone else, keep  your belongings clean and isolated from common areas as soon as you get to your destination. 


Don’t Forget the Hand Sanitizer

Pack plenty of bottles of hand sanitizer. While reputable airlines, bus and train services are taking precautions for COVID-19, you’ll still be in close quarters with many different people. You’ll want to use sanitizer any time you come in contact with people and things at high risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus.   


Regardless of Vaccination Status, Take Precautions in Large Groups

Many vaccinated travelers may have a false sense of security as they gather with friends, family and fellow travelers. But breakthrough cases are entirely possible and may even be severe. So everyone, as they wait in line at the airports, bus terminals and train stations, needs to take precautions. This includes wearing masks in large groups whether indoors or outdoors, and maintaining social distancing whenever possible. Keep in mind, maintaining social distance will be tougher this year, with an estimated 53 million people planning to travel for Thanksgiving.


Self-Isolate Before & After Your Travels 

Before traveling for the holidays, limit your public engagements. Avoid large gatherings and practice social distancing.  If you can, stay home a week before and after your travels. This will limit your chances of unwittingly spreading the virus. 


Have a Covid Plan

If you choose to gather with people outside your usual household, you should plan for what to do if you notice a guest experiencing symptoms. This could include things like sectioning off a room in the house for the ill person, or having home testing kits at the ready. 


Improve Ventilation

Whenever possible increase ventilation by opening windows and doors and running central air and heating continuously. 


While wrapping up a challenging year by celebrating with family and friends we haven’t seen in months may be tempting, if you have any concerns about COVID-19 the best thing to do is stay home. But if you do make travel plans, it’s not too late to buy trip insurance for financial protection and more flexibility in these unpredictable times. 


As we strengthen our global efforts to combat the spread of Covid, we can still celebrate Thanksgiving and the upcoming winter holidays. While you travel this Thanksgiving, remember: Keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe is truly something to be thankful for. 

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