Guidance on safer holiday travel during the pandemic

Everyone should stay close to home to avoid COVID-19. If you must travel or host travelers, plan ahead.

The best way to not get yourself or your loved ones sick is to stay home. Organize virtual get-togethers if you can.

But seeing friends and family can be important for your mental well-being, especially during the holidays. If you must travel, you can reduce your risk for getting or spreading COVID-19. 

Think about the risk of traveling

When you are around others, you increase your risk of getting COVID-19 and passing it on to your loved ones. The more people, the greater the risk. Consider how important it is to gather in-person this year.

Right now, the entire country is experiencing a major surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Know how widespread COVID-19 is in the area you are planning to visit. The more cases at your destination, the more likely you are to get infected during travel. You can then spread the virus to others when you return.  See the CDC’s map of the number of cases in the last 7 days by state.

Consider the risk to yourself, the people you live with, and the people you will see. Older adults and people with certain health conditions are at a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19. The safest way to see them is to talk on the phone or online.

Reconsider your trip if you are traveling with someone who cannot wear a face covering consistently. This includes children under 2. They should not be wearing  face masks since they might suffocate.

If you feel sick, stay home and do not travel. You can get tested for COVID-19 at various locations in SF. Wait for a negative result before you leave.

Plan for COVID-19 safety if you must travel

Find out where you can get tested for COVID-19 at your destination. 

Always wear a face covering and stay 6 feet away from people you don’t live with. This may include relatives.

Limit the number of people you interact with. If you are traveling to see family, avoid meeting neighbors or friends 2 weeks before you leave

Do not share vehicles with people you don’t live with. If you must share a vehicle:

  • Try to ride with the same people every time
  • Open windows 
  • Maximize air coming in from outside
  • Have everyone wear a face covering

Avoid indoor activities. Outdoor activities are much safer.

If you’re outside, you should still stay 6 feet apart and wear face coverings if you’re around people you don’t live with. 

Meeting people outdoors is much safer than indoors. The virus can build up inside, with more people talking and breathing.

If you must visit people indoors, you must always wear a face covering. It is safer to keep your face covering on as much as possible.

Make sure you’re in a room with open windows or good ventilation.

After you return to the Bay Area

Quarantine for 14 days

You should stay home and quarantine if, on your trip, you spent time within 6 feet of people you do not live with, especially indoors. Such activities put you at higher risk of getting COVID-19, especially if face coverings were not worn. 

This includes traveling on:

  • Planes
  • Trains
  • Public transportation
  • Any other shared vehicles

You do not need to quarantine if you normally commute to and from the Bay Area for work or school.

See if you develop new symptoms

Get tested for COVID-19 if:

  • You have a fever over 100.4° Fahrenheit or 38.0° Celsius
  • You’re shivering a lot
  • You have a cough
  • It’s hard to breathe
  • You feel tired or sore
  • You can’t smell or taste anything
  • Your throat hurts
  • Your head hurts
  • You have a runny or stuffy nose
  • You have diarrhea, feel sick to your stomach, or are throwing up

Children under 18 do not need to get tested if they have a stuffy nose, soreness, or feel tired.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you must follow isolation instructions.

If you test negative but still feel sick, stay home until it’s been 10 days since you felt sick.

If someone you met tests positive for COVID-19

You must quarantine for 14 days if you spent more than 15 minutes within 6 feet of that person over the course of a day.

Hosting loved ones traveling from outside the Bay Area

For everyone’s safety, avoid inviting guests who are coming from an area with higher rates of COVID-19 cases. See the CDC’s map of the number of cases in the last 7 days by state.

If you live with older adults and people with certain health conditions, consider a virtual get-together instead. They are most in danger if they get COVID-19.

Remind your guests to:

  • Stay home and not visit if they feel sick
  • Wear face coverings, especially when they are traveling and when they meet with you

Consider quarantining for 14 days if you spent time within 6 feet of people who don’t live with you.

Plan a safer gathering

Meet outdoors if possible. Have safer outdoor gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.

If you plan an indoor gathering, open windows and doors. You can get an air purifier, or make one. Tape a 20” by 20” air filter to the intake side of a 20-inch box fan, where air goes in. For more tips, see ventilation requirements for SF businesses.

Try not to share food, drinks, or utensils. Each person should have their own, if possible.

Avoid sharing toys, bats, balls, or objects passed back and forth. Bring disinfecting wipes to sanitize anything that might be shared.

Avoid singing, chanting, or shouting.

See hygiene and cleaning tips about staying healthy during the pandemic.

Last updated November 19, 2020