Who Can You Safely Travel With This Summer?

Two young women walking together by the ocean in the summer, holding skateboards and wearing face masks.

Giuseppe Manfra / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

  • If you're planning a trip this summer, you'll want to choose your travel companions carefully to keep everyone safe from COVID-19.
  • Get vaccinated before you go, and only travel with other members of your household or people who have also been fully vaccinated.
  • Make sure everyone in your group agrees on COVID safety precautions before you go.

Summer is just around the corner. If you're already planning a "post-COVID vaccine" vacation, knowing who to travel with will be just as important as choosing a destination. Both choices will affect your safety and the safety of those around you.

Here's what you should consider when choosing travel companions for a trip this summer.

First, Get Vaccinated

What's one step you can take right now to protect yourself and everyone that you'll encounter in your travels? Get a COVID-19 vaccine. You should also plan to only travel with people in your household or other fully vaccinated people.

“People who are not fully vaccinated should not be traveling extensively at this time,” Preeti N. Malani, MD, chief health officer at the University of Michigan Division of Infectious Diseases, tells Verywell. “My advice is to get vaccinated prior to any travel this summer.”

According to the latest guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), fully vaccinated individuals may travel within the United States without getting tested before and after their trip, and there is no need to self-quarantine for seven days. However, you still need to take the necessary safety precautions and monitor yourself for any COVID symptoms.

How Many People Can You Travel With?

There’s no set number of people in a group that will make your vacation inherently more safe or dangerous. It mostly comes down to each person's vaccination status and exposure to people from other households.

Preeti N. Malani, MD

The more people you are exposed to, the more you’re gonna need to ask everyone about their vaccination status.

— Preeti N. Malani, MD

“The safest situation is to only travel with your household, the people you are exposed to all the time,” F. Perry Wilson, MD, MSCE, Yale Medicine physician and a researcher at the Yale School of Medicine, tells Verywell. “With each additional household represented in your travel group, the risk goes up. If all members of a household are vaccinated, the groups could be a bit larger, but if not, we'd still recommend that you don't mix more than 2 households together.”

Stick to Traveling With Vaccinated People

If you are fully vaccinated, experts say that traveling with other fully vaccinated people is generally safe. 

“I think traveling with other fully vaccinated people should be relatively low risk,” Wilson says. “Fully-vaccinated people should feel relatively comfortable traveling with other fully vaccinated people, just like we are becoming comfortable having other fully vaccinated people in our homes.”

Even if everyone is fully vaccinated, traveling with a large group could introduce disagreements about decisions, sticking to schedules, and maintaining safety measures.

“When your group gets big, it becomes difficult to travel, but if everyone is fully vaccinated, you can have your group be as large as you want,” Malani says. “But again, the more people you are exposed to, the more you’re gonna need to ask everyone about their vaccination status.”

What This Means For You

If you want to take a trip this summer, get a COVID-19 vaccine before you go. As for choosing vacation companions, experts say the safest plan is to travel with other members of your household or other people who are fully vaccinated. Everyone in your group should also agree about the safety precautions you'll take while you're traveling. If you have any concerns, bring them up before you depart.

Unvaccinated People Should Stay Home

Experts say that if you or a person that you want to travel with is not fully vaccinated, it's safer to stay home this summer.

“Even if you're super careful, travel remains risky for unvaccinated people as long as the prevailing case rates are so high," Wilson says. "For now, the recommendation would still be for unvaccinated people to limit their travel to essential purposes."

Malani agrees, adding that "if you are fully vaccinated, you are protected but you do risk exposure if the rest of your group is unvaccinated, especially if they are not following good safety measures."

The bottom line, according to Malani, is that "an unvaccinated person should get vaccinated" and "traveling without being vaccinated is high-risk and I would not advise it."

What About Family Vacations?

Family vacations, however, pose a tricky problem, since most children are still not eligible for vaccination. "These are younger kids who are traveling with family members, so that would require a little more planning," Malani says.

There are currently no COVID vaccines approved for children and young teenagers, which means that a family vacation might not be in the cards this summer.

“Even though they may be at lower risk of serious COVID-19 infection, unvaccinated kids mingling together without appropriate social distancing can lead to outbreaks,” Wilson says.

Agree on Your Planned Precautions

It’s not enough that your vacation group is fully vaccinated—everyone also needs to agree about taking COVID safety precautions while you travel.

Justin Lessler, PhD

The vaccine is not perfect, so I think doing all the same things that have been recommended throughout the pandemic are still a good idea.

— Justin Lessler, PhD

Justin Lessler, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, tells Verywell that while there's no ideal or "safe" number of people in a group, it's more important that everyone in your group agrees about the activities you will—and won't—do.

“The highest risk activities are those that put you inside with crowds, particularly unmasked crowds,” Lessler says. “I would try to be selective about those.”

Wilson agrees, adding that everyone in your group should be on the same page about taking COVID precautionary measures, like wearing face masks and avoiding crowds.

The CDC’s latest guidelines state that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a face mask outdoors except when they are in crowded settings—but some people in your group might not be comfortable with that. If your group is fully vaccinated, you should discuss the situations where the group will wear masks and the times when you all will feel comfortable removing them.

When deciding on travel activities to include in your itinerary, experts recommend staying outdoors as much as possible. “Outdoor spaces are much safer thanks to the airflow, so camping, hiking, and even outdoor tours are pretty safe,” Wilson says. “I'd still wear a mask on an outdoor tour. Be careful of bars and restaurants, particularly if there are no distancing procedures in place.”

How to Express Your Concerns

After staying home for so long during the pandemic, it's understandable that you'd be excited to take a trip. But safety should remain your top priority. If you feel that your group is getting too big or an unvaccinated person who is not willing to practice safety measures wants to join you on your trip, you need to speak up and set boundaries.

“The most important thing is to set expectations early,” Wilson says. “If you are inviting a given friend, make sure they understand what the expectations are with regard to activities, masking, etc., and, ideally, make sure that they are vaccinated.” 

If you aren't sure how to reject travel plans you're not comfortable with, Wilson recommends a statement like, "We’d love to have you, but the doctors are still cautioning against mixing while traveling—hopefully, next year!

In some cases, being direct and letting the person know exactly why you are uncomfortable including them is the best way to approach the situation. “This is a difficult proposition but, I would say we need to be honest with our friends and family and let them know your concerns," Malani says. "This could be a little bit awkward, but safety comes first. This is also an opportunity to encourage your friends and family to get vaccinated if they have not done so.”

According to Wilson, traveling will expose you to unvaccinated people and there's no real way to avoid it. That's why it's vital that your group is fully vaccinated—you may encounter someone in your travels with an asymptomatic COVID infection, and there's no way to know it.

“The vaccine is not perfect, so doing all the same things that have been recommended throughout the pandemic are still a good idea,” Lessler says. “Wear a mask when indoors and not eating or drinking, or outside in crowds. Wash your hands. Avoid being with lots of people indoors. If cases are low and everyone is vaccinated then these become less important, but when these measures can be followed with minimal inconvenience, it does lower risk at little cost.”

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.

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. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Domestic travel during COVID-19.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Interim public health recommendations for fully vaccinated people.

By Carla Delgado
Carla M. Delgado is a health and culture writer based in the Philippines.