There’s excitement in the air this holiday season as travelers take to the skies to celebrate with their loved ones after being grounded for so long. With the latest changes and travel restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be difficult to keep up with all of them.

In this blog, we summarize the latest guidelines, important information and helpful tips to make your travel experience is a seamless one. And for any overzealous packers out there, we’ve even included important tips, so you and your carry-ons won’t get flagged at TSA. Here is what you need to know.

Staying safe in the air

If this is the first time you’ll be traveling since the beginning of the pandemic, you should be aware of how things are looking and operating differently these days. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have updated their travel guidelines for domestic and international travel so that you can prepare to travel efficiently and safely. Here are some of the key things you need to know to protect yourself from COVID-19 while traveling:

  • Get vaccinated—If you are eligible to receive the vaccine, it is highly recommended that you do so. If you are not fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends wearing a mask in indoor public places in areas of substantial or high transmission and maintain physical distance when traveling. (Note: People are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series—such as the Pfizer and Moderna—or two weeks after receiving a single-dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.)
  • Get COVID-19 tested—Changes prompted by Omicron now require all international air passengers, regardless of vaccination status, to have a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than one day before travel to the United States. You must show your negative result to the airline before you board your flight.
  • Wear a mask or face covering—Federal law requires all travelers to wear a mask or face covering throughout their travel experience, except when eating or drinking. Most carriers have a “zero tolerance” policy for failure to comply with the mask mandate.
  • Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer frequently—Your hands can never be too clean. When in doubt, sanitize.

Be prepared

The holidays are notorious for being a hectic time to travel—which is only heightened by the pandemic. Airline experts agree that being prepared is the best thing you can do to make your journey as smooth as possible. Here are some great tips and suggestions to keep in mind before traveling:

  • Download the airline’s app—Using your airline’s app puts everything you need at your fingertips and will keep you informed on up-to-the-minute changes. From accessing your boarding pass to receiving notifications on flight status, you’ll be happy you took the time to carry out this easy step.
  • Book early—With millions of passengers expected to fly this holiday season, it’s best to book your flight early. This will not only ensure that you get a good seat, but you’ll also be able to secure the best fare possible.
  • Book directly with the airline—No one can foresee a cancellation, but in the event your flight is cancelled, or you need to make any changes, booking with your airline directly can make this process easier. If you book through a third party, like Expedia, Travelocity or Priceline, you will incur additional fees for changes.
  • Familiarize yourself with any travel requirements or restrictions at your destination—Some destinations—including international ones—may have specific restrictions or COVID-19 requirements, such a negative COVID-19 test before entering or leaving. Knowing and preparing for these ahead of time will save you unforeseen hassles and disruptions during your trip.
  • Arrive early—If you’re looking to reduce any stress at the start of your trip, this is perhaps the best advice you can get. The airlines suggest you arrive two hours ahead for domestic flights and three hours ahead for international flights. Once you’re there, you can sit back and relax, enjoy a beverage or a light meal, and maybe even do some duty-free shopping until it’s time to board.
  • Pack your patience—No one wants their flight to be delayed or cancelled, but it can happen. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s best take a deep breath and show kindness to yourself and those around you.

Packing tips

If you’re planning on packing gifts, there’s important information you should know regarding what should get packed and where—your carry-on or luggage. During this time of year, some enthusiastic travelers pack homemade goodies such as cakes, pies, jams and even gravy for their loved ones! Here are some tips to make sure you pack things in the right place, so that you make it through the TSA line without any hassles—or spills.

  • Carry-on bag—It’s safe to say you can pack baked goods such as cakes, pies, breads and other treats in your carry-on bag. Don’t be surprised, however, if your bag is flagged for them anyway. TSA agents must do their jobs and may ask you to open your bag to be sure that what you’re bringing is safe. As always, liquids are a big “don’t” unless they are the approved 3.4-ounce size. The exception to this rule is that now the CDC allows travelers to pack one 12-ounce bottle of sanitizer in their carry-on bags.
  • Checked luggage—Aside from your personal belongings, which include clothes, shoes and the alike, any liquid—including jams, jellies and chutneys and yes, gravy—should be packed in your checked luggage. If it can leak or spill, that’s a good indicator that you should pack it away. To protect your clothes, it’s recommended to place those items in a sealed plastic bag in the event of a spill.

Little extras that go a long way

It’s best to be overprepared, especially during these times. Here are some things you should consider packing to make your trip even safer and more enjoyable:

  • Extra snacks and small meals
  • Extra masks
  • Disinfecting wipes to clean your seat/tray table
  • Hand sanitizer

Celebrating safely

Gathering with family and friends this holiday season is an exciting time, but it’s important to do it safely. Here are some suggestions to ensure everyone is comfortable around each other.

  • Discuss everyone’s vaccination status ahead of time and have an open and honest conversation about expectations for celebrating together.
  • Do NOT attend or host a gathering if you are sick, have symptoms of COVID-19 or have been exposed to the virus.
  • Indoor gatherings should be well-ventilated by either opening windows or using fans.
  • Sharing serving dishes or utensils should be kept to a minimum—or avoided.
  • Clean, clean and continue to clean common surfaces and wash your hands frequently.

We hope you found our blog on safe holiday travel helpful.

From all of us at Vaughn College, we wish you a happy and safe holiday season.