NEWS ANALYSIS

Verywell's Interactive Map Can Help You Plan Your Holiday Travel

COVID Holiday travel

Verywell / Jessica Olah

Key Takeaways:

  • Americans are planning to travel this holiday season.
  • Use our interactive map to check local COVID-19 case numbers, vaccination rates, mask mandates, and other key data points by state.
  • There are other factors like masking and boosters you should take into consideration before you travel.

This year marks our second holiday season amidst a global pandemic. Navigating high COVID-19 cases and tough conversations about vaccines among families may be giving some people pause in traveling for the holidays. 

In Verywell Health's latest vaccine sentiment survey, we asked survey respondents in early November about their plans this year. Most Americans—62%—are planning to visit with friends or family outside of their household during the upcoming holidays.

And almost a third (30%) are planning to travel away from home. But not everyone is throwing caution to the wind—29% are at least somewhat concerned that COVID will impact their travel plans.

Respondents pointed to a few important factors they're when deciding whether or not to travel this holiday season, including:

  • Vaccination status of who they are visiting (47%)
  • The number of COVID-19 cases at their destination (47%)
  • The vaccination rates at their destination (41%)

To help decide whether you should make the trip, we’ve mapped out COVID cases and vaccination rate data by state. This map also contains information on state mask mandates, vaccine mandates, and emergency declarations. 

What Is an Emergency Declaration?

An emergency declaration is a procedural and policy decision at a local, state, or federal level that lets jurisdiction access resources in response to an emergency or disaster. This might impact things like COVID-19 testing sites or investment in public health campaigns to encourage vaccination.

When looking at the data and deciding if travel is worth the risk, there are also a few additional factors to consider.

The map auto-updates every day when new data is published for both the vaccination rate and COVID-19 case data as well as state policies. To build the map, we used COVID case rate and vaccination rate data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID Data Tracker. Additional information about state policies was sourced from Kaiser Family Foundation.

Looking at Local Case Numbers

The CDC has travel risk rankings for the entire world, from one (least risky) to four (avoid travel). They currently classify the entire United States as a level four risk: COVID-19 cases are very high.

For level four countries, the CDC states, you should “avoid travel to these destinations. If you must travel to these destinations, make sure you are fully vaccinated before travel.” Before embarking on domestic travel, specifically, the CDC recommends that everyone get fully vaccinated.

But asking everyone to stay put during the holidays is no longer feasible. People are going to travel—especially if they held off last year as they waited for the vaccine. 

In most of the U.S., cases have been dropping, but they’re still much higher than they were one year ago. Pay attention to local case numbers in the areas you’re planning on traveling to, but also in the areas you’re traveling through—that rest stop may also act as a COVID hub. 

What Should You Look For on the Map?

When using our map, take a look at whether cases are higher or lower in the state you're considering traveling to compared to where you currently are. You should keep an eye on vaccination rates, too. For example, if the state you're considering travel to has lower COVID-19 case counts and high vaccination rates it may be a safe destination.

If you're in an area with high or substantial community transmission the CDC recommends you wear a mask—even if you're fully vaccinated. Currently, the entire U.S. is classified under high or substantial community transmission.

It's especially important to wear masks in crowded areas—outdoors or indoors—and any spots you may be in close contact with others. Check the states’ mask mandates and other guidelines and make sure you’re sticking to them.

How to Prepare if You’re Traveling

Unless unavoidable, your family should only travel if you’re all fully vaccinated—two full weeks after a single-dose vaccine or the second dose of a two-shot vaccine.

Before You Go

If you’re eligible, get a booster shot, which should provide extra protection against breakthrough infections, especially if you're high risk or visiting someone who is.

Who Is Eligible for a Booster?

Among adults 18 and older, the CDC now recommends a single booster dose to be administered at least six months after completion of the primary Pfizer or Moderna series or two months after a Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

To be safe when visiting family, especially if they are high risk or unvaccinated, consider getting a COVID test before traveling. The CDC doesn’t recommend testing for vaccinated travelers, but those who are unvaccinated (like children under 5) should have negative test results taken no more than three days before traveling.

While You're There

Take as many precautions as possible when you’re in airports or other places where large numbers of people congregate. Federal law requires mask-wearing in all transportation (planes, trains, buses, rideshares, etc.) and transportation hubs in the U.S., including airports and transit stations. Wear a mask, stay far from others as possible (especially if they’re unmasked), and wash or sanitize hands often.

When traveling, you might consider wearing a KN95 mask as opposed to a cloth mask because they work better. Or double up on masks.

When You Return

When you come back from holiday, vaccinated travelers need to monitor for any COVID symptoms. These include changes to sensations of smell or taste, fever, a persistent cough, chills, loss of appetite, and muscle aches. Isolate yourself and get tested if you feel sick. 

Unvaccinated travelers should quarantine for seven days after traveling and get a COVID test taken three to five days after any leg of travel. Without a test, unvaccinated travelers should quarantine for 10 days.

Traveling With Unvaccinated Children

Now that the Pfizer vaccine is available for children over 5, you should aim to get your kids at least partially vaccinated before traveling. Keep in mind that the Pfizer vaccine is part of a two-dose series, which means both shots need to be spaced 21 days apart.

For kids under 5, though, travel is riskier—not only could they get infected, but they could spread COVID to older, at-risk, or unvaccinated family members. Unvaccinated children over 2 should wear masks whenever they’re in public or near others they don’t live with.

The safest way to travel with unvaccinated children is on short road trips with limited stops. If flying is the only option, choose flights with the fewest layovers. Try to stick to outdoor activities. You should avoid dining indoors, too.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Federal Emergency Management Agency. How a Disaster Gets Declared. Updated September, 2021.

  2. Centers for Disease Control. COVID-19 Travel Recommendations by Destination

  3. Centers for Disease Control. Domestic Travel During COVID-19.Updated Oct. 4, 2021

  4. Centers for Disease Control. Safer Travel Tips for Families with Unvaccinated Children Updated Sept. 1, 2021