Is it safe to travel yet?

Ron Williams wants to if it’s safe to travel yet.

At 72, he’s in a high-risk group that makes him especially vulnerable to a covid-19 infection. But even if he weren’t, what kind of trip would it be?

“My wife and I like hanging out at the pool and visiting museums and shopping,” says Williams, a retired bank manager who lives in Ocala, Fla. “All of these activities are severely restricted or fraught with risk.”

He adds, “I’m not sure when we’ll travel again.”

Williams’s question is all too common. And it’s not the first time I’ve tried to answer it. This is the time of year when many Americans begin to think about holiday trips, spring break and maybe even next summer’s vacation. (For those of you who skipped this summer’s vacation, you have probably already started planning.)

Here’s how to know if it’s safe to travel yet

Bill McIntyre, a spokesman for Global Rescue, a medical and security response service for travelers, says internal surveys of the organization’s members indicate a readiness to get back on the road. “Most travelers already have plans to go somewhere domestically by year’s end, and a majority say they’ll travel internationally sometime in 2021,” McIntyre says.

Talk to medical experts, and they will tell you to stay close to home. Manisha Juthani, an infectious-disease specialist at Yale University School of Medicine, says a person who wants to take one to two weeks off should make it a staycation or road trip, at least for now. “I personally do not recommend traveling far from home,” she says.

Juthani says the highly infectious nature of the novel coronavirus is to blame for her travel advisory. Outbreaks continue across the country, in part because people are traveling. One sign that it is safer to travel is if the test positivity rate at your destination is around 1 percent.

“If we can drive rates down everywhere in the country to around 1 percent, maybe we could travel with very low risk of bringing the virus elsewhere,” she says. “That’s the only way we will be able to travel again safely before a vaccine is available.”

Is it safe to travel yet? For some, it is

Of course, many Americans are already traveling, albeit cautiously.

“One of the trends we have already seen is increased travel by car and a real increase in people traveling in recreational vehicles with their families,” says Dale Bratzler, the University of Oklahoma’s chief covid-19 officer.

But what about flying? “Airline travel is most certainly safer now than it was at the start of the pandemic,” Bratzler says. “However, transmission of the infection has clearly been documented during flights. If you are traveling by plane, you need to make sure you wear a mask from the time you arrive at the airport until you leave the airport at your destination.”

Despite these and other best practices for staying safe in transit, many travelers are unwilling to risk it until we reach one — or all — of the major benchmarks for travel safety:

When governments lift their warnings

Global Rescue’s members say that nations lifting the bans on travel, particularly the limits on traveling to Europe, will be a green light for venturing abroad. But experts point out that travel bans can easily be reinstated if the coronavirus resurges.

When a covid-19 vaccine is available

“Eventually, there will be a vaccine for covid-19, and it will provide public health with a valuable asset in the fight against this disease,” says K.C. Rondello, a clinical associate professor at Adelphi University’s College of Nursing and Public Health. Having that vaccine will be a sign for many travelers that they can travel freely again.

When the pandemic ends.

One day, the coronavirus pandemic will be over. A declaration from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization would be the ultimate green light for future travel.

How do you know if it’s safe to travel?

So when should you feel safe traveling? That depends on who you are. An older traveler in a higher-risk group might feel reluctant to leave home without a coronavirus vaccine. But younger travelers like Gregg Jaden, a photographer based in Manhattan Beach, Calif., are ready to go now. He says he has almost died twice, once in a car accident and once with emergency neck surgery, and feels as if he is living on borrowed time. He is planning to visit Canada and Turkey soon.

“I don’t want to waste any of my life worrying about something that may — or may not — affect me,” he says. “I’m not trying to be insensitive to anyone with health challenges, but this is the reality of life. If I have a chance to live, I want to live while I still can.”

If nothing else, the travel industry hopes you will start planning your next vacation soon. In September, it launched an initiative called Let’s Go There to encourage Americans to begin booking their next trip.

When it comes to feeling safe when you travel, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. It depends on your age and the state of your health, where you are planning to visit, and your risk tolerance, according to experts. You also have to keep a sense of perspective about the dangers of travel.

“I don’t think it was ever completely safe to travel to begin with,” says Ryan Jones, owner of Here We Go Travel, a travel agency in Greensboro, N.C. “But if you never let go, you will never go far.”

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Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can’t. He’s the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes weekly columns for King Features Syndicate, USA Today, and the Washington Post. If you have a consumer problem you can’t solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter.

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Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Global Rescue

Global Rescue is the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services. Founded in 2004, Global Rescue has exclusive relationships with the Johns Hopkins Emergency Medicine Division of Special Operations and Elite Medical Group. Global Rescue provides best-in-class services that identify, monitor and respond to client medical and security crises. Learn more about Global Rescue.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Seven Corners

Seven Corners has helped customers all over the world with travel difficulties, big and small. As one of the few remaining privately owned travel insurance companies, Seven Corners provides insurance plans and 24/7 travel assistance services to more than a million people each year. Because we’re privately held, we can focus on the customer without the constraints that larger companies have. Visit Seven Corners to learn more.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Sodexo North America

Sodexo North America Sodexo North America is part of a global, Fortune 500 company with a presence in 80 countries. Sodexo is a leading provider of integrated food, facilities management and other services that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life for millions of customers in corporate, education, healthcare, senior living, sports and leisure, government and other environments daily. Learn more at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelex Insurance Services

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Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Chubb

Chubb is the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurance company, and recognized as the premier provider of insurance for successful individuals and families in the U.S. and selected international markets, offering coverage for high-value automobile, homeowners, recreational marine/aviation, valuables and umbrella liability coverage. As an underwriting company, Chubb assesses, assumes and manages risk with insight and discipline, and combines the precision of craftsmanship with decades of experience to conceive, craft and deliver the best insurance coverage and services to individuals, families and business of all size.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Fareportal

Fareportal’s portfolio of brands, which include  CheapOair and  OneTravel, are dedicated to helping customers enjoy their trip. Whether you want to call, click, or use one of our travel apps, one thing is clear: We make it easy to take it easy.

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Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Mediacom Communications

The nation’s fifth-largest cable operator, serving the smaller cities and towns in the Midwest and Southern regions of the United States. We are a high-performance broadband, entertainment, and communications company that brings the power of modern technology and quality customer experience to life inside the connected home by combining ultra-fast gigabit speeds with personalized local and over-the-top entertainment choices that fit your lifestyle. Details at

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Arch RoamRight

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Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by VisitorsCoverage

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Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by MedjetAssist

Medjet is the premier global air-medical transport, travel security and crisis response membership program for travelers. With a MedjetAssist membership, if you become hospitalized more than 150 miles from home, we will get you from that unfamiliar hospital all the way home to the hospital you trust. All you ever pay is your membership fee. MedjetHorizon members add 24/7 personal security and crisis response benefits. readers enjoy discounted rates. Travel safer with  MedjetAssist.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Southwest Airlines

The mission of Southwest Airlines is dedication to the highest quality of Customer Service delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride, and Company Spirit. We are committed to provide our Employees a stable work environment with equal opportunity for learning and personal growth.

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Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travel Leaders Group

Travel Leaders Group is transforming travel through its progressive approach toward each unique travel experience. Travel Leaders Group assists millions of travelers through its leisure, business and network travel operations under a variety of diversified divisions and brands including All Aboard Travel, Andrew Harper Travel, Colletts Travel, Corporate Travel Services, CruCon Cruise Outlet, Cruise Specialists, Nexion, Protravel International,, Travel Leaders Corporate, Travel Leaders Network and Tzell Travel Group, and its merger with ALTOUR. With more than 7,000 agency locations and 52,000 travel advisors, Travel Leaders Group ranks as one of the industry’s largest retail travel agency companies.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Travelers United

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Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by Generali Global Assistance

Generali Global Assistance has been a leading provider of travel insurance and other assistance services for more than 25 years. We offer a full suite of innovative, vertically integrated travel insurance and emergency services. Generali Global Assistance is part of The Europ Assistance (EA) Group, who pioneered the travel assistance industry in 1963 and continues to be the leader in providing real-time assistance anywhere in the world, delivering on our motto – You Live, We Care.

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