Travel or Cancel? Holiday Plans in Flux

It’s the holiday season and after many missed gatherings during the height of the pandemic, people are excited to travel again.  Although most older adults have by now had the opportunity to receive two, or possibly three doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, the Omicron variant is throwing a wrench in the plans for holiday travel.   

While scientists are working diligently to learn all they can about this new variant first identified in South Africa, these are early days and much is still unknown.  Researchers suggest that Omicron may be more transmissible than other forms of the coronavirus but early data indicates that a large percentage of people hospitalized with the variant are unvaccinated. 

The question of whether or not to cancel travel plans lies with the individual and their ability to be flexible if testing or quarantine requirements suddenly change.  An unexpected lengthy hotel stay to meet new quarantine regulations can be costly and delays can affect other plans and obligations.  

According to a recent New York Times post, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises against international travel until a person is fully vaccinated.  Adults over the age of 60 or who have underlying health conditions such as heart disease, cancer or diabetes should postpone travel to areas with high numbers of COVID cases.  The CDC also strongly urges booster shots for those who are eligible and carrying a supply of rapid at-home antigen tests. 

If you decide to travel this season, wearing a mask is also important.  An N95 or KN95 mask, rather than a cloth or homemade mask is preferred by health experts.  Keep in mind that with shorter windows for testing, as the United States recently initiated for all incoming travelers, travel may become more complex.   Cancelled flights, transmission risks, and changing regulations all need to be weighed against the benefits of traveling to visit family or for necessary work. 

To learn more about country-specific COVID-19 travel information, visit the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs.  For more travel-related information and additional border measures in Canada, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada here