How to vacation safely this summer during the coronavirus

Keep these nine straightforward rules in mind if you're planning a getaway.

Katie Teague Writer II
Katie is a writer covering all things how-to at CNET, with a focus on Social Security and notable events. When she's not writing, she enjoys playing in golf scrambles, practicing yoga and spending time on the lake.
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Katie Teague
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Be safe while vacationing during the pandemic.

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The continuing surge of COVID-19 around the world has thrown a wet blanket on summertime dreams of nature retreats, beach vacations and global getaways. The coronavirus certainly feels like a big obstacle to planning a vacation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that travel increases your chances of getting or spreading coronavirus, so the safest itinerary to protect yourself and vulnerable people would be to stay at home. If you still plan to travel  at some point this summer by air or road, however, learn how to minimize your contact with people outside your household and be aware of the risks

Riskier vacation options vs. less risky

Some locations and activities may put you at a higher risk for contracting the coronavirus

Least risky

  • Camping in the backcountry with your family.
  • Renting a vacation home through Airbnb or Vrbo for your family or inner circle.
  • Eating outside at a restaurant.

Medium risk

High risk

  • Visiting a theme park.
  • Attending an outdoor concert.
  • Going to an indoor bar.
  • Flying to another country.
  • Flying to another country that isn't on lockdown and has no quarantine measures for travelers.
Watch this: Masks, wipes and air filters: Flying in the age of coronavirus

1. Check out local restrictions

Before you make plans to visit another state, it's important to know the local laws so you're aware of what's open. This can also help prepare you for what's expected of you, like wearing face masks inside all stores and restaurants.

2. Be wary of travel to known coronavirus hotspots

The coronavirus is highly contagious and can take weeks for symptoms to develop, if they do at all. That means there's a good chance that areas known to have high levels of confirmed COVID-19 cases may also have a greater number of people going about their daily lives who could be unknowingly infected. 

Be aware of COVID hotspots, like parts of Florida, Texas, Georgia and California, where cases are on the rise. If you're visiting family in the state, it's safest to stay outside of crowded areas and skip the sightseeing. When possible, choose less-traveled destinations.


Don't forget to pack the face masks.

Anna Munoz/CNET

3. Consider getting a coronavirus test

You may want to get tested for coronavirus before you go on your vacation -- you could be an asymptomatic carrier -- and when you get back. If someone is visiting you for their vacation, you can ask them to take a COVID-19 test before they arrive.

4. Be extra cautious when you fly

Air travel is considered one of the riskier situations for spreading the coronavirus. Even if airports are relatively uncrowded, not every airline spaces passengers throughout the plane. You may not be able to social-distance, and longer flights potentially expose you to more recirculated air -- it's still unclear if the coronavirus is airborne, but the World Health Organization has recently admitted that it's possible.

If you must fly, take all precautions, including wearing a face mask except while eating or drinking water, thoroughly washing your hands and keeping your distance from others as much as possible. Note that if you rent a car, you should call ahead of time to ask how the vehicles are disinfected between renters.


If you feel at all sick, don't travel. You could risk exposing others, and worsening your symptoms far from home.

Sarah Tew/CNET

5. Stay away from crowded areas

While beaches may be your usual go-to when planning a trip, they may not be the safest option if other people have flocked to the area. They're often crowded, making it improbable not to pass crowds in the parking lots or while finding a spot on the sand. While the water itself isn't thought to spread the coronavirus, shouting to others in your group and singing along with music are known to spray respiratory droplets, which is how the coronavirus spreads.

The same goes for crowded farmers markets and high-traffic downtown shopping areas, especially if they're indoors. You should also avoid bars where people are typically crowded together waiting for drinks or on the dance floor, if those businesses are open. Instead, look for areas that are out of the way and have fewer people, and get your drinks and food to go.

Even if you wear a mask and social-distance, you can't control the actions of those around you who choose not to. 

Watch this: Make your own gadgets to protect you from coronavirus

6. Don't travel with anyone who's sick in any way

If you have a relative that you're planning to travel with and they become infected or develop coronavirus symptoms -- some of which resemble a cold or the flu -- leave them at home. Also, if you've been in contact with that person since they've become infected, you need to get a coronavirus test before you leave for your destination to ensure you're not sick and potentially spreading the virus to high-risk groups.

7. Bring a face mask or two

At this point, most businesses you go to will require you to wear a face mask before entering. This means local shops, grocery stores and even restaurants while you're waiting for your food. Pack several face masks for your kids and yourself so that you have plenty for the duration of your trip. If you're going somewhere that's hot, look for a cotton-blend mask, which can be cooler and more comfortable.

Face masks can help prevent the spread of coronavirus if worn correctly. Make sure the one you're wearing is covering your nose and chin and doesn't create gaps. Masks that use thicker material and designs with more layers might trap larger particles you accidentally eject through talking, coughing or sneezing, but they may also be warmer to wear.

25 face mask styles we love that you can buy or make

See all photos

8. Minimize contact with people not in your immediate group

When vacationing, it's best to stick with only the people in your household. The more people you come into contact with, the higher your chances are of contracting the virus. If you know you'll be going somewhere that has a large number of people, like a major city, wear a mask whenever you leave your accommodations, even to ride an elevator or ride in a taxi cab. 

Also, follow all social-distancing markings on the ground to keep a distance from others. Wash your hands often and bring hand sanitizer to areas where a hand-washing station isn't provided.

9. Ask to dine outside

If you know you'll be frequenting restaurants while on your trip, call ahead to make sure they have outdoor seating. Eating outside is considered much less risky than eating inside because airflow disperses the coronavirus rather than allowing it to collect in a single spot. Remember that even though you're outside, you should still wear a mask until your food arrives, especially since you'll be in constant contact with your server, who is in turn in constant contact with other members of the public. 

For more information on COVID-19, read up on why we're still in the first wave and what happens next. Also, remember that people who are asymptomatic can spread coronavirus. Here's how long it takes to get coronavirus test results back

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.