How to plan a safe and fun long-weekend trip

If you’re ready to start traveling again but still a little stressed about the whole prospect, taking a long weekend could be the ideal way to ease back in. With the vaccine rollout well underway and restrictions loosening, 3 or 4 nights can be just the break you need.

That said, remember COVID isn’t over yet – in fact, depending on where you’re traveling, the highly-contagious Delta variant could be of concern

We’ve asked health experts for their advice for travelers preparing to embark on their first getaways of the pandemic.

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Does your destination still have any COVID restrictions? Find out

If this is your first weekend away, there is some research you must do before hitting the road or heading to the airport.

“It is important to check what the guidelines are at your destination regarding whether quarantining will be necessary, whether masks are required, and if there are COVID tests required before or during travel,” says Dr. Alaina Brinley Rajagopal, a emergency medicine physician and virologist based in Southern California.

You can find this information on the websites for the American Automobile Association (AAA). Other good resources include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the airport or the state and county health departments where you’ll be traveling. 

Don’t discount the Delta variant

The Delta variant, considered to be the most serious COVID mutation, now accounts for 14.5% of the new cases in California, prompting Los Angeles County to advise everyone to resume wearing masks – even fully-vaccinated people. 

“Fortunately, it looks like the vaccines provide good protection against this variant,” Rajagopal says. “If you are vaccinated, you should be able to travel according to destination guidelines and still be protected.”

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However, if you are not vaccinated, you are at risk for this disease – even if you’ve had COVID before, she warns.

“This variant appears to spread more easily and might make you sicker than previous variants so if you aren’t vaccinated and intend to travel, I would strongly urge you to get fully vaccinated prior to travel,” Rajagopal adds.

The World Health Organization is also urging the return of masks. Hower, as of Tuesday, the CDC had not indicated any changes to its May policy update, which said fully-vaccinated people no longer need to mask indoors.

Mitigating the risk:  WHO recommends masks even for fully vaccinated people amid Delta variant

Pack a mask – even if you’re vaxxed

If you are not vaccinated, nothing has changed, says Dr. Alaina Brinley Rajagopal.  “It is critical that you continue to wear a mask, social distance and avoid large gatherings.”

Other health advice from Rajagopal:

Figure out when you’ll be fully vaxxed. “Try not to travel before your vaccine is fully effective,” she says, noting that regardless of brand, your vaccine will not be fully effective until about 2 weeks after your final dose. So plan your travel dates accordingly. 

Not vaccinated? Wear your mask, avoid groups. If you are not vaccinated, nothing has changed, she says.  “It is critical that you continue to wear a mask, social distance and avoid large gatherings,” she states.

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