How Your Risk of Getting Covid Affects Your Travel Plans

The Centers for Disease Control recently announced that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 can travel safely inside the U.S. However, they also said that they discourage nonessential travel.

Travelers have been anxiously waiting to make reservations and set up their itineraries for family trips and new adventures to domestic and international locales. While experts say it is safer to travel once they’ve been immunized, people should also continue to follow the recommended precautions. As well, some destinations have protocols in place to try and control community transmissions and may place restrictions on guests.


01 What protection do covid vaccines provide?

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Some vaccines are single-dose and others require two doses. With both types, full immunity kicks in two weeks after the final dose. The COVID-19 vaccines lower the risk of infection while also protecting against serious illness or death from COVID-19. New research from the CDC shows that vaccinated individuals may be incapable of transmitting the virus. Some people may get sick, even if they’ve had the vaccine, but won’t likely become seriously ill.


02 What is the difference between mRNA and viral vector vaccines?

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The COVID-19 vaccines are either viral vector or mRNA vaccines. Neither type can cause a COVID-19 infection.

  • Viral vector vaccines, like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, use a modified version of another virus to enter a cell in a person’s body. This produces a harmless spike protein like the one that causes COVID-19. Once the protein shows up on the cell’s surface, the immune system knows it doesn’t belong there and fights it off, like it would an infection.
  • Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are mRNA vaccines, a new type. They teach the cells how to make a protein to trigger an immune response inside the body, which protects it from the real COVID-19 virus.


03 Is it safe to travel after vaccination?

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An individual’s immunity becomes strong enough to protect them from infection two weeks after they receive their injection, whether it is a single or two-step dose. After that, they have the protection needed to more effectively fight off the virus. This, in turn, makes it safer to travel. However, community transmission is still active, so it’s essential to wear masks over the nose and mouth and observe social distancing protocols while traveling on planes, buses, trains, and any other type of public transportation, regardless of your vaccination status. Upon return, however, the CDC says it is not necessary to self-quarantine.


04 If I travel to see family, what precautions should we all take if some aren’t vaccinated?

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The updated CDC guidelines recommend that, once a person is vaccinated, they can visit those who live inside a private setting or home without a mask if the people they are visiting have been immunized against the virus as well. If the people inside the home are not at risk for severe illness and have not had the COVID-19 vaccine, the guidelines say a mask is not necessary.

Those who are not vaccinated should have a negative test one to three days before they travel to see relatives and three to five days after they return, in addition to a seven-day self-quarantine. If they are not tested on their return, they should self-quarantine for at least 10 days.


05 Will proof of vaccination be a requirement to travel?

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Currently, most governments require a negative COVID-19 test before traveling to and entering their country. Showing proof of a COVID-19 vaccination is not an open ticket to travel everywhere — not yet, at least. Eventually, travel experts say the proof of a COVID-19 vaccination may be part of the requirement for entry to some destinations. A few cruise lines have made proof of vaccination mandatory before boarding, but some countries have eased their quarantine and testing restrictions for vaccinated travelers, and others are considering doing so in the future.


06 Will we need a vaccine passport to travel internationally?

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Not yet. Countries, including the U.S., have been assessing whether or not the creation of an international digital vaccine certificate indicating a person’s COVID-19 vaccination status would be practical. There are early versions available, including Common Pass, the International Air Transportation Association’s pass, and the IBM Digital Health Pass, but countries yet to officially adopt them. Many countries are still reviewing and defining their policies to accommodate the growing number of vaccinated travelers.


07 If I’m vaccinated, will I still need to get tested for COVID when I travel?

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In the U.S., the CDC is not requiring a pre- or post-travel test for people traveling to and from destinations within the country. For those traveling internationally, a requirement for pre-travel tests depends on the destination. Most countries haven’t yet set up options for vaccinated travelers to get around entry testing requirements. So, for now, people can expect to undergo the same protocols as those who haven’t had COVID-19 vaccinations.

There are a few exceptions. For instance, as of April 1, 2021, Iceland updated its entry requirements, waiving the negative PCR-test and quarantine for those who have proof of COVID-19 vaccinations.


08 Will vaccinated travelers need to quarantine after traveling?

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According to the recently updated CDC recommendations, individuals who have received the immunization no longer need to quarantine themselves after domestic or international travel. However, many other countries continue to have quarantine requirements in place. It’s crucial to determine the quarantine rules for your destination before booking accommodations.


09 How could international travel with kids work?

traveling children testing COVID precautions Halfpoint / Getty Images

Some countries have waived testing requirements for children, but the age limit varies. Canada requires testing of all children age five and older before they allow entry into the country. The U.S. requires testing of all air passengers who are entering the country and are two years of age or older. Since there are no COVID-19 vaccines yet available for children, parents should determine the risk of infection for their destination before traveling there, and follow safety precautions throughout their travel period.


10 How might the newer coronavirus variants impact travel?

masks covid travel social distancing Ergin Yalcin / Getty Images

The United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa have all identified variants of coronavirus within their borders, and some of these variants spread even more easily than the original COVID-19. This may slow down the easing of travel restrictions in some areas of the world and also lead to a tightening of borders and entry restrictions. The current vaccines may not be as effective against these new variants, but pandemic experts say they will still provide some protection. Effective handwashing techniques, masks, and social distancing are essential during all phases of international and domestic travel, regardless of your vaccination status.


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