Be Prepared: Tips for Planning for Your Vacation in the Era of COVID Variants4 min read
The stress is real. Just when we thought it was safe to plan that big trip we pushed back over quarantine, in came the Omicron variant, a strain of Covid-19 with increased transmissibility and the ability to evade immunity.
While signs point to the total amount of new cases beginning to fall, Omicron is still very much here—so it’s important to figure out how to travel safely. But how? Social media is full of contradicting tips, and the CDC website reads like an if-then logic puzzle.
Don’t give up! It is possible to vacation responsibly in the era of Omicron. We’ve put together some tips for planning that keep safety in front and center.
[Important note: These recommendations are for people who are already vaccinated, and have received their booster. If you are not vaccinated, the consequences of exposure can be far more severe. If you are not vaccinated, please consult your doctor to advise on a plan for travel.]
Establish Rules for Your Vacation Pod
Remember the era of quarantine pods? Think of the people you’ll be staying with as your new pod, at least for the duration of your trip. A pod only works if everyone agrees to the same rules, so it’s important to make sure you’re on the same page about testing, masking up and the plan for if someone shows symptoms mid-trip.
At least a week before your vacation, consider emailing out a list to the group and having your whole party agree to it … even sign it. That way, you have time to dispute any conditions before you’re all stuck in a few rooms together.
Here’s one simple condition that you can recommend: Ask everyone to take an at-home test right before they leave. This can prevent someone who is positive but asymptomatic from joining your pod and infecting others.
The hard part: If you test positive, the CDC recommends you avoid travel for ten days after the result. In other words, you really shouldn’t go. If you must go, you should at least delay arrival for six days and be masked at all times around the rest of your party.
Plan Outdoor Group Activities
We know. It’s not easy to gather outside when it’s so cold your face hurts. But the fact remains that the more people who are participating in an activity, the more likely spread is possible, but that likelihood goes down if you are outside.
If you are planning a vacation for a large group, consider staying in smaller pods rather than one large house or hotel block, and save your big group activities for the outdoors. These outings could be a chance to step outside your comfort zone. Consider winter sports like sledding, snowshoeing or ice skating. For evening gatherings, fire pits and hot tubs can keep everyone warm, so keep that in mind as you look for a place to stay.
Cook and Dine In
You can’t be masked while you eat. Dining could be a time when the virus is more likely to spread, so it’s important to limit your exposure. Gathering around a dinner table instead of a restaurant table has its perks. It saves money, lets you show off that epic, multi-step recipe you’ve been wanting to try and lends itself to long conversations—there’s no pressure to leave when your meal is done! Plan a schedule where you rotate who is responsible for cooking, so everyone gets a break. And if no one feels like cooking, there’s always takeout.
If you do decide to dine out, plan ahead. Look for a restaurant in the area that offers outdoor seating with fire pits or heaters to keep you warm. Those seats can be limited, so be sure to make a reservation ahead of time.
It’s all about the masks
We know that N95s, when worn properly, are more effective than cloth masks at preventing the transmission of Omicron, so pack lots of them. Make sure everyone in your pod is bringing their own as well, and bring an extra supply in case someone forgets. Everyone should wear their masks for all indoor events when people outside your pod are present.
If you get low on your trip, know that you can reuse N95s—just not more than a handful of times. Make sure you air them out between uses.
We know things seem like they are constantly changing, but that’s exactly why it’s important to go somewhere new or see the people you love. As long as you can be flexible and take the time to plan, your vacation can be a much-needed chance to de-stress and focus on joy.