NEWS

COVID 'Revenge Travel' Is Not Risk-Free

plane on beach
Revenge travel is picking up right now.

Key Takeaways

  • As COVID-19 restrictions ease, the term "revenge travel" has come up to describe the way people feel about finally planning trips again after missing out on so many during the pandemic.
  • If you're feeling more comfortable about traveling now than you did a year or two ago, know that taking a trip is not completely without COVID risk.
  • Experts say that getting vaccinated and packing certain essentials can help lower your risk of getting COVID while you travel.

The COVID-19 pandemic put travel plans on hold. Many destinations have had restrictions in place for quarantining and vaccination, making it difficult for travelers (and even residents) to explore.

Now that COVID vaccines are widely available, mask mandates and other pandemic measures have been lifted in most areas—including federal transportation services. Many people are starting to feel more comfortable about leaving home than they have in years—they might even feel a strong need to.

"Revenge travel" is a buzzword that's been used to describe people who are making up for the lost time during the pandemic by traveling as much as possible now that COVID is shifting to "endemic mode" in some parts of the world.

That said, COVID hasn't gone away. If you're ready to start traveling again, you'll need to keep that in mind—not just for your safety and the safety of others, but to avoid mishaps when you're planning a trip. Depending on your destination, there will still be certain pandemic-related protocols to follow as you travel.

Here’s what experts want you to know about planning and taking a safe post-COVID trip.

Is It Safe to Take Multiple Trips?

Many people who are feeling the pull of post-COVID "revenge travel" aren’t just going to one destination—they’re heading to several.

While travel increases your risk of contracting COVID-19, “you don’t have to travel to get COVID-19,” Amesh A. Adalja, MD, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told Verywell. “It’s ubiquitous and you can catch it at your corner bar."

Just as you can take precautions in your daily life at home, there are few things you can do to lower your risk of getting COVID while you travel, Thomas Russo, MD, a professor and the chief of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo, told Verywell.

“If you have flexibility, you ideally want to travel to places that have a low incidence of disease at this time,” said Russo. “Infections are going up andd own in different places, and not all locations are equally safe for your risk of catching COVID.”

Getting vaccinated is also a crucial pre-trip step. “If you’re not up to date either with your primary immunization or your boosters, you’ll want to get those shots before you travel,” said Russo.

Amesh A. Adalja, MD

Depending on how much one is trying to avoid COVID, think about using masks and rapid testing judiciously.

— Amesh A. Adalja, MD

While the vaccines are “imperfect” at protecting you from catching COVID, Russo said that “you’ll still have optimal protection against infection and serious disease" if you're up-to-date on your shots.

Russo also suggested packing “a number of well-fitting, high-quality masks” and even "bringing some home tests with you" so you can keep an eye on your COVID status as you travel.

If I'm Traveling to Different Cities, Do I Need to Quarantine in Between? 

According to Russo, you don't necessarily need to quarantine between the different legs of your journey, unless it’s mandated by local authorities. Still, Russo recommends monitoring yourself for symptoms of COVID as you travel.

Thomas Russo, MD

If you’re not up to date either with your primary immunization or your boosters, you’ll want to get those shots before you travel.

— Thomas Russo, MD

“Traveling is going to increase your risk of COVID-19,” said Russo, adding that if you’re traveling with a partner or friend, it’s important that you’re in agreement about COVID safety. “If one person is really careful and the other is cavalier, you’re both going to get infected if one of you gets sick."

Russo said that it's also important to do your best to avoid higher-risk situations, like indoor settings where people aren’t wearing masks. “You will have an increased risk there. The only way to minimize that and still dine out is to do outdoor dining."

If you travel to an area with high levels of COVID cases, Russo recommends wearing a mask. “Going from city to city doesn’t necessarily change your risk, but you want to keep an eye on your symptoms," he said.

What You Need Before You Go

Each country has different rules about COVID testing and requirements to enter their borders, so you'll need to do your research before your journey starts.

“With travel, it is important to be aware of local testing requirements,” said Adalja. “Depending on how much one is trying to avoid COVID, think about using masks and rapid testing judiciously.”

Russo added that it's a good idea to have your vaccination card on you—or at least a copy that’s laminated or even a digital photo of it, as "you want documentation of your vaccination status" while you're traveling.

Amesh A. Adalja, MD

The U.S. policy is so nonsensical that if one flies from Toronto to the U.S., a test is required—but not if one drives across the border.

— Amesh A. Adalja, MD

That said, you may encounter some confusion. The U.S. currently requires people to have a negative COVID test before entering the country, but Adalja said it “does not make sense given the prevalence of COVID in the U.S."

Adalja pointed out that “the U.S. policy is so nonsensical that if one flies from Toronto to the U.S., a test is required—but not if one drives across the border.”

Even if you follow the rules and do your best to protect yourself, you still might catch COVID if you take a trip.

Russo recommends having a contingency plan for what you’ll do if you happen to test positive for COVID while abroad.

“If you have to be back at work and you haven’t built in extra time, just know that you may need to hang out at your destination for extra days before you test negative," he said.

What This Means For You

As enticing as COVID "revenge travel" might be, it's not without risks. There are steps you can take to keep yourself and your fellow travelers safe, including getting vaccinated and boosted, masking up in public spaces, and not taking a trip to an area with a high number of COVID cases.

When you're planning a trip, make sure you know what the COVID rules and regulations are at your destination and upon returning home—including testing requirements.

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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2 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. Felter C. When will COVID-19 become endemic? Council on Foreign Relations. Published online April 28, 2022.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 travel recommendations.