Holiday Travel and Safety: 5 Things We Know


Testing is one way families and friends might consider merging their bubbles for the holidays. But using them, like everything else travel-related these days, takes planning, including ensuring members of merging bubbles are following the same precautions leading up to the trip.

“You have to lower your risk, then test,” said Dr. Emily Landon, an associate professor of medicine and an infectious disease expert at the University of Chicago, who advises families to quarantine for up to 14 days before testing. “The tests are most sensitive five to eight days after exposure. And they’re not perfect. The faster they are, generally speaking, the least likely they are to be accurate.”

Molecular tests, also known as PCR tests, are considered most accurate and usually require at least a day or two to get the results, versus antigen tests, which are quick but less accurate.

Meeting at a neutral site, like a vacation home rental will decrease the chances of encountering other strangers while preserving your own bubble or your newly enlarged one. HomeToGo, a vacation rental search engine, said rental home bookings between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day are up 70 percent nationally compared to last year.

Bringing your own food to last during your stay is another way to minimize contact with strangers. Where possible, experts recommend dining outdoors, or even dividing up an outdoor patio into areas assigned to each family bubble. The C.D.C.’s recommendations for holiday gatherings include keeping them small, socially distant, short and outside or well-ventilated.

When it comes to lodging, hotels are considered a safer option than staying at the home of a friend or relative. In addition to enhanced cleaning, hotels are relatively deserted. Across the country, average hotel occupancy is about half, with rates just shy of $100 a night, according to the hotel analysts STR, Inc.

From strict statewide policies in New York and Connecticut to local restrictions in Chicago, many destinations require visitors or returning residents to quarantine. The C.D.C. recommends checking state, territorial, tribal and local health websites for current restrictions.



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