• COVID-19

    COVID-19 and the holidays: Traveling and gathering during the pandemic

ST. JAMES, Minn. — Thanksgiving is traditionally a busy travel holiday in the U.S. but with the COVID-19 surge there's more to consider this year. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has even recommended against all travel.

"Instead of traveling and gathering, talk to your family and friends about creative ways to celebrate virtually," says Paige Gernes, physician assistant, Mayo Clinic Health System in St. James. "If you do choose to travel, it's so important to plan ahead, be vigilant and exercise caution. Always wear your mask when around other people, stay six feet away from fellow travelers whenever you can, and practice good hand hygiene."

Here are tips to consider before hitting the road this year:

Do your research

Before traveling, check the websites of the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) for health advisories and self-quarantine requirements. Also consider checking the U.S. Transportation Security Administration's website and your airline's website for additional guidance.

Seriously consider the risks

There are risks associated with different types of travel. There might be a risk of getting the COVID-19 virus on a crowded flight if other travelers on board are infected. On a bus or train, sitting or standing within 6 feet (2 meters) of others for a prolonged period can put you at risk of getting or spreading the COVID-19 virus. Traveling by car or recreational vehicle often involves stops that could put you in close contact with infected people.

Plan for hotels

If you're planning on booking a hotel room, check the hotel's website to learn about precautions being taken and if amenities, such as the gym or restaurant, will be open. Bring cleaning supplies with you. When you get to your room, disinfect all high-touch surfaces, such as light switches, sink faucet handles, door knobs and the remote control. Wash plates, cups or silverware (other than pre-wrapped plastic) before using. Also, confirm the hotel's cancellation policy before making a booking.

Be careful in restaurants

Before you eat at a restaurant on the road, check the restaurant's safety practices. Are the employees wearing cloth face coverings, regularly disinfecting high-touch surfaces and practicing social distancing? Is there good ventilation? Are tables set far enough apart from each other to allow for social distancing? Is the menu digital or disposable?

Ideally, the restaurant won't offer salad bars, buffets and drink-filling stations that require people to use common utensils or dispensers. If you need to wait in line for service, maintain a distance of at least 6 feet (2 meters) from others. If possible, use touchless payment.


The best way to protect yourself from the COVID-19 virus is to avoid exposure. But if you must travel, wear a cloth face covering. Keep a distance of about 6 feet (2 meters) from others, especially if you have a higher risk of serious illness. Avoid close contact with anyone who is sick or has symptoms.

Also, practice good hygiene. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze and then wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. And avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Learn more about: Tracking and trending COVID-19

Mayo Clinic tracking and tracing COVID-19 map 11/17/2020

Mayo Clinic Health System consists of clinics, hospitals and other health care facilities that serve the health care needs of people in communities in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based providers, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive the highest-quality health care close to home.

Information in this post was accurate at the time of its posting. Due to the fluid nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, scientific understanding, along with guidelines and recommendations, may have changed since the original publication date.  

For more information and all your COVID-19 coverage, go to the Mayo Clinic News Network and mayoclinic.org.