It’s been one heck of a year, friends. And given the events of the last few months, it’s no wonder that many of us are eager to reunite with family and friends this holiday season or even just get away for a few days for a change of scene. While the CDC says that staying home is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the organization also says that there are ways to reduce your chances of getting sick if you do decide to travel. We spoke to Dr. Cassie Majestic, M.D., Emergency Physician and Mucinex Ambassador about how to keep yourself and loved ones safe while traveling this holiday season.

How to Stay Safe While Traveling for the Holidays
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images/Victoria Bellafiore for PureWow

Before You Go, Follow These Three Steps:

Step 1: Check travel restrictions
Depending on where you are coming from and where you are going, there may be certain travel restrictions in place. Some states, for example, are requiring a quarantine period or a COVID test prior to and/or after return from a trip. Double check regulations before you go (because you don’t want to arrive at mom’s house on Christmas eve only to realize that you need to stay away for two weeks).

Step 2: Quarantine before travel
“While COVID tests can be helpful, results may be negative depending on the time from exposure,” cautions Dr. Majestic. That’s why she recommends quarantining for 10 to 14 days prior to travel to ensure exposure is as minimal as possible. 

Step 3: Get your flu shot
The CDC recommends that anyone ages 6 months and older should receive an annual flu vaccine, and they say that it’s especially important to get yours this year. Why? By helping protect yourself and those around you from getting and spreading flu, you can help lower hospital visits. (Be sure to talk to your doctor or other health care professional If you have questions about the flu vaccine.)

Things to Remember While in Transit:

1. Wear a mask
You should always wear a mask in public indoor settings, when using public transportation and when around people who are not in your household. But you already knew this one, right? Remember to wear your mask correctly (i.e., over your mouth and nose) and pack a couple extra ones with you for travel.

2. Practice social distancing
Limiting close face-to-face contact with others is the best way to reduce the spread of COVID-19. To practice social distancing, you should stay at least 6 feet (about two arms’ length) from other people who you don’t live with in both indoor and outdoor spaces, says the CDC. That means avoiding crowded and poorly ventilated indoor areas (i.e., you might want to rethink a visit to Santa’s village this year).

3. Drive smart
If you choose to travel this holiday season, consider doing so by car, with only those in your household. And while you’re on the road, try to limit stops as much as possible (tip: pack plenty of snacks so that you don’t have to make any stops when your tummy starts to rumble).

4. Stay safe at the airport
“Safety in the airport starts with mask wearing and social distancing,” says Dr. Majestic. And while some travelers are choosing to wear a face shield and gloves, she actually doesn’t recommend additional protective equipment, as it might provide a false sense of safety. You should also try to minimize activities that will require removal of your mask. You’ll likely need to remove your mask at some point, of course (for food and water breaks), but try to do so at a distance from others.

5. Practice good hygiene
We know it’s hard but try to avoid touching your mask, eyes, nose and mouth. And remember to wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. “Regular hand washing is key,” says Dr. Majestic. “Hand sanitizer is a must-have travel accessory as well as sanitizing wipes,” she adds.

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