Can you travel safely for spring break? Dr. John Torres answers your questions

We’ve finally made it to spring and with more people getting vaccinated each day, many are turning their attention to travel after a year of staying put. Whether you’re fantasizing about spring break or planning your summer vacation, there will likely still be travel restrictions in place even as some states continue to reopen.

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President Biden’s administration announced that the goal is for all Americans to be eligible for the vaccine by May and hinted that restrictions may ease up around that time. CNBC reported that this may include travel across the Mexican and Canadian borders and inbound travel from the U.K., Europe and Brazil.

From international travel rules to “vaccination passports,” NBC’s senior medical correspondent Dr. John Torres has the answers to some common travel questions such as what to expect when flying, whether it’s safe for kids to travel and whether you can travel internationally.

What you need to know before booking your next trip

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How can I safely plan a spring break trip?

If you have visions of spending the week in Cancún or the Caribbean, the bad news is that travel is still not recommended due to COVID-19.

“The CDC recommends: no non-essential travel. They’re recommending against taking vacations by going somewhere else,” Torres said on Weekend TODAY. “But at the same time, if you do go somewhere, you want to choose your destination wisely. Look at the cases there, look at the outbreaks that might be happening there and where you’re coming from. Also, look at the quarantine requirements going back and forth, if there’s something you’re going to need to do or testing.”

Torres added, “Simply consider a staycation. That’s still probably the best thing to do until we start getting more things under control and more people vaccinated.”



a group of people walking on a beach: Spring Break in Clearwater Beach (Octavio Jones / Reuters)


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Spring Break in Clearwater Beach (Octavio Jones / Reuters)

Will vaccine passports be available soon?

Currently, all air passengers coming to the United States, including U.S. citizens, are required to have a negative COVID-19 test result or documentation of recovery from COVID-19 before they board a flight to the United States.

A vaccine passport is a way to streamline that information but don’t expect to be able to get one in the U.S. just yet.

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“There are 3 entities working on vaccine passports — the IATA Travel Pass, the CommonPass and the IBM Digital Health Pass,” explained Torres.

“The IBM Digital Health Pass say right now, they have mechanisms in place and they’re actually testing in New York state but as far as countrywide, there’s no mechanism to get that information from the CDC or other entities to them,” he continued. “Right now, we have these vaccine passport cards … and the concern is they’re very forgeable so they don’t want you to use those. They need somebody like the CDC giving them information.

“Talking to the CDC last week, they’re saying they don’t have those mechanisms in place yet but they’re looking at how to do that and when to do it but they couldn’t give me a timeline. … It’s still unknown.”

Since children will likely be the last ones to get vaccinated, when will it be safe for them to fly again?

“So 16 and above can get their vaccines but below that age, they’re doing studies on them. The current thinking is that for children 12-16, by the summertime, fall time of this year 2021, they’ll be able to get vaccinated,” Torres said.

“But for those under 12, especially those under the age of 5, we’re looking at probably early 2022, maybe late 2021, those studies are still ongoing.”

Until then, the best thing to do is to practice social distancing and continue masking up.

Moderna begins Covid vaccine trial in children

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How will international travel work?

Travelers can expect international rules to vary by country. “It’s going to depend completely which countries you go to,” explained Dr. Torres.

“Be prepared to quarantine … but also be prepared that these things could change at a moment’s notice. So you want to make sure that if you do plan a vacation, if you’re getting hotels, if you’re getting airline tickets, that you get these things refundable.”

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