How to plan a vacation trip if your kids aren’t completely relaxed

The recent approval of COVID-19 vaccines for children means families have had to act quickly to get their offspring fully vaccinated before the holidays. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recipients are considered fully immunized two weeks after their second dose of Pfizer vaccine – the only vaccine currently available for children under 12.

A Kaiser Family Foundation survey in October found that 27% of parents of children aged 5 to 11 plan to have their children immunized immediately. Meanwhile, 33% of parents said they would “wait and see” and 30% said they definitely would not get their children vaccinated.

If your child won’t be fully immunized in time for the holidays – or if you have children too young to get the vaccine – you may be hesitant to book flights or hotels this season. Should you plan a vacation trip if your kids aren’t quite clear yet? Here are some considerations when planning your vacation trip with unvaccinated children.

Questions to consider before booking your vacation trip

Planning a trip with unvaccinated family members is all about managing the risk. Before you book your family vacation trip, think about your answers to these questions:

Does anyone you plan to spend the vacation with have an underlying health problem?

According to the CDC, having an underlying health problem is a red flag for a potentially bad outcome for children and adults who catch COVID-19. If a family member you are traveling with suffers from an illness that puts them at increased risk, you might be better off not traveling while on vacation this year.

If you are visiting relatives or friends for the holidays, consider their health as well. Although the people you travel with are healthy, if you (or your children who are not fully immunized) contract COVID-19 while traveling, you can put others at risk for this virus; anyone who is immunocompromised can get very sick.

Where are you traveling?

Some parts of the country have been hit harder than others by COVID-19. Choosing a destination that has fewer active cases and stronger preventative measures can lower your overall risk.

Is there a mask warrant in the state you’re traveling to? And do locals and tourists follow the mask rules? Our family has often felt safer traveling abroad than in the United States due to strict mask mandates, frequent temperature checks, and access to hand sanitizer each. once we walk into a hotel or restaurant – not to mention the COVID testing requirements that many countries impose before you can board your plane.

You hope no one gets sick while traveling, but destinations that have intensive care beds offer more options for care if someone does get sick. And have a travel insurance policy that covers treatment of COVID is a must in today’s travel environment.

If you visit a destination outside of the country and catch COVID-19, you will need to self-isolate for 10 days before you can return to the United States. Some hotels offer free quarantine stays if you fall with COVID during your stay, but many don’t. In this case, you will be forced to pay these additional costs out of pocket.

Lee Huffman and his daughter Scarlett return from the Bahamas. Photo by Lee Huffman

How are you travelling?

The method you use to travel has a direct effect on your potential exposure to COVID. Road trips in your own vehicle tend to be the least risky because you can minimize contact with other people. In comparison, when you travel by plane or train, you are in a confined space with other travelers for hours. Plus, you’ll often wait in the common areas before departure and touch things (like armrests and sinks) that may not be as clean as you would like.

While flying to a distant destination sounds appealing, many travelers are content with road trips in order to gain more control over the experience.

What activities have you planned?

When planning your activities for a family vacation in the COVID age (yes, we’re still there), select options that have a lower risk of exposure. Outdoor activities, where you have plenty of space and minimal interaction with others, reduce your chances of catching not only COVID, but other illnesses as well. Queuing for amusement park rides and sitting in a theater is usually a higher risk than hiking, skiing, and other activities in nature.

Last winter my kids and I took a road trip to Bowling Green, Ky. To visit Mammoth Cave National Park and other local attractions. Although we visited the cave with a group, we were able to keep our distance from other visitors.

Timothy and Scarlett at the entrance to Mammoth Cave National Park. Photo by Lee Huffman

Tips for keeping your family safe while on vacation

The CDC recommends that people delay their trip until they are fully immunized. If you decide to travel on vacation with children under the age of 5 or children who will not yet be fully immunized, follow these tips to reduce the risk of catching or spreading COVID:

  • COVID test before AND after your trip. The CDC’s guidelines for unvaccinated travelers recommend getting a viral test one to three days before your trip, even if you don’t feel sick; asymptomatic people can still pass COVID-19 to others. Take another viral test three to five days after you return from your trip and quarantine yourself for a full seven days; it may take a few days for symptoms to appear after exposure.
  • Bring extra masks and hand sanitizer. When traveling with children, masks regularly break or get lost. Keep extra masks in your carry-on baggage to prepare for the inevitable. Having hand sanitizer in your bag makes it easier to stay germ-free between hand washes.
  • Have a backup plan. Situations can change drastically between your reservation date and your departure date. Stay informed and be ready to move to another destination like Plan B (or even Plan C) if your preferred destination becomes a COVID transmission hotspot.
  • Use airport lounges between flights. If you are traveling by plane, use the benefits of your credit card to access a lounge. Airport lounges have limited crowds and generally allow travelers to spread out. This extra space allows for social distancing, with the added benefit of food, drink, Wi-Fi and more.
  • Get the flu shot. Even though some children are not eligible for the COVID vaccine, the flu vaccine is widely available to people of all ages. Getting the flu shot will reduce your chances of getting sick. The healthier your body, the better it can fight off other infections.

Should you plan a family vacation if your children are not yet fully immunized?

Many families will be traveling this holiday season. Traveling with children who are not fully immunized is a personal choice. Although nothing is 100% effective, there are steps you can take to minimize your chances of catching or spreading the virus. Get tested before you travel and when you return, and stay flexible with your travel plans. You may want to consider purchasing travel insurance to cover medical expenses and transportation home if you or your children become ill during your trip.

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Lee Huffman writes for NerdWallet. Email: [email protected]

The article How to Plan a Vacation Trip If Your Kids Aren’t Completely Defeated originally appeared on NerdWallet.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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