A COVID-19 warning sign is posted at the beach.
While a getaway sounds delightful, there is still significant risk associated with travel. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Dreaming of sunny days beneath swaying palms or hiking the lush mountains of Hawaii?

You’re not alone.

It’s been a little over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly halted many people’s travel plans.

Now, with spring in the air, there are many of us eager to pack our bags and put some miles between us and the four walls of our homes.

Medical experts understand, yet urge caution.

“No matter what, we have to remember that we are still in a pandemic,” said Rosemary Olivero, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Olivero urges anyone planning to hit the road or jump on a plane to carefully consider the risks associated with travel and to consult recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In its Travelers’ Health Winter Update, the CDC’s article titled “Spring Break Can Wait” said this: “Thinking about a spring break getaway? CDC recommends that you do not travel at this time. Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Delay travel and stay home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.”

The CDC went on to say that if you must travel, take some precautionary steps first. This includes getting fully vaccinated as soon as you’re eligible and seeking a COVID-19 test one to three days before your trip.

If you do decide to travel for spring break or another reason, Dr. Olivero recommends minimizing your risk as much as possible.

This includes wearing a mask properly when in public, avoiding crowds, staying at least 6 feet from anyone who is not traveling with you, washing or sanitizing your hands frequently, and following all state and local travel recommendations during travel.

It’s important, she said, to talk about your trip and plan in ways that you didn’t before COVID-19.

Dr. Olivero’s top 5 tips:

1. Consider where you are going and how you are getting there.

“If you’re traveling for spring break, are you going to a lot of different places and to places with high population density? If you are, then that’s a riskier situation,” she said.

The CDC ranks types of travel based on risk, with the safest being staying at home or taking short trips by car with members of your household.

Longer trips by car or RV with stops along the way is less safe.

Even less safe are trips by car or RV with people outside your household, long-distance train or bus trips, and direct flights.

The least safe choices, the CDC says, are flights with layovers and cruises.

2. Research the local guidelines at your destination.

Dr. Olivero said it’s important for people to remember that mandates and precautions differ from state to state—some might have more stringent guidelines than your state, and others might be more lax.

“That could be wildly different,” she said. “Some states are much more diligent than others.”

Also be aware of any restrictions or recommendations that may be in place with schools or employers for when you return, she said.

3. Be flexible with your plans.

In a pandemic, things change quickly. Build flexibility into your plans so if you need to make a tough decision at the last minute, you can make the safest choice, she said.

If trip insurance or refundable fees are available, use them, Dr. Olivero urged.

And if anyone planning to travel develops symptoms of COVID-19, cancel your plans and stay home.

4. If you’re going to visit someone, set expectations first.

Will you wear masks inside? Will you gather inside or only outside? What activities are you comfortable with? Will you share a hug? Will you limit your activities and exposure for 14 days before you travel and gather? Will you test before meeting?

These are things that must be discussed, and it’s better to do so before you’re in a tough spot.

“I would always recommend having those conversations before you go,” Dr. Olivero said.

5. Decide whether the trip can wait.

Dr. Olivero urged families and individuals to consider whether this is the best year to splurge on a spring break trip, and to not discount local activities that can be done while schools are out of session.

“As warmer weather approaches, there are many safe and fun activities in Michigan.” she said.