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Even if you’re not planning on traveling to a destination that requires you to quarantine, here’s when health experts say you should consider it.

Depending on where you travel, you may be required to quarantine for a short while after you arrive at your destination. Luis Velasco/Stocksy

Now that more people are becoming fully vaccinated against COVID-19, experts are reporting that the airline industry is beginning to recover, especially when it comes to leisure travel.

In fact, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported on Oct. 30 that nearly 2.5 times more people had passed through security checkpoints than this same time last year.

With this resurgence in travel, however, many people are concerned about how to do so safely. This includes questions about whether they should quarantine before or after travel.

Healthline spoke with health and travel experts for advice on when travelers should consider quarantining, for how long, and the most effective ways to do it.

Here’s what they suggest.

Who should quarantine?

Dr. Greg Schrank, assistant professor of medicine specializing in infectious diseases at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, said that before travel you should carefully research what the testing and quarantine requirements are for both the airline on which you’ll be flying and the location to which you are traveling.

This particularly applies to international travel, since there are many destinations where mandatory quarantine periods and testing are still in effect, he said.

According to Fin McCarthy, editorial director at Lonely Planet, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the best place to research quarantine requirements at your destination.

She suggests looking into the CDC’s latest advice before finalizing your booking.

“Be aware with COVID figure fluctuations, travel advice can and does change regularly. Some countries may require you to self-isolate or restrict movement on arrival,” McCarthy said.

For example, travelers currently cannot enter Japan and New Zealand, but that’s subject to change at any time.

“Also, I would add that quarantine usually depends on your vaccination status,” McCarthy said.

According to CDC guidance, people who are fully vaccinated or who have recovered from COVID-19 within the last 3 months do not need to quarantine after travel, even if they’ve come in contact with someone who had COVID-19 during the last 14 days.

This guidance may vary, however, if you work in healthcare, according to Schrank.

He further explained that the CDC defines fully vaccinated as 2 weeks after having had the second dose of a two-dose series (vaccines like Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna), or 2 weeks after a single-dose vaccine (vaccines like the Johnson & Johnson vaccine).

If you are not fully vaccinated, the CDC recommends taking a test 1 to 3 days before travel.

During travel, you should follow precautions such as wearing a mask, physical distancing, and using hand sanitizer or washing your hands frequently, Schrank said.

Upon return from your trip, it’s recommended that you take another test within 3 to 5 days and self-quarantine for 7 days. You should do the full 7 days, even if you test negative.

People who don’t get tested should quarantine for 10 days.

In addition, you should avoid people who are at high risk of serious illness from COVID-19 for 14 days, regardless of whether you were tested.

“Outside of specific requirements that are enforced by a country, the decision of an individual to quarantine should be based on whether they develop any COVID-19 symptoms,” Schrank said.

He said some hallmark symptoms of COVID-19 include:

  • fever
  • cough
  • sore throat
  • difficulty breathing
  • changes in taste or smell

The CDC states you should not travel if you were exposed to COVID-19, are sick, have tested positive for COVID-19, or are waiting for your COVID-19 test results.

How do you go about quarantining?

Schrank said that quarantining involves staying at home and closely monitoring your symptoms.

If you live with other people, try to distance yourself from them as much as possible, especially if anyone in your home is not vaccinated or at high risk of COVID-19 complications.

If you are traveling with children who have not been vaccinated, Schrank said he does not advise keeping them home from school or other activities before you travel.

The coronavirus incubation period can be up to 14 days, he explained. You would need to keep them out of school for that length of time to truly quarantine them.

In addition, if you are traveling by air or bus, they could potentially be exposed there before your arrival at your destination.

“I would recommend adherence to masking at school and close monitoring of your child’s symptoms prior to travel,” Schrank said.

“In addition to symptom monitoring and masking, a COVID-19 test — either a PCR or rapid antigen test — obtained prior to travel can provide an additional degree of reassurance that an unvaccinated child is not infected with COVID-19 at the time of travel,” Schrank concluded.

As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, Healthline and Lonely Planet have partnered to bring you the latest news and advice for safe travel in a complicated moment. We’re combining forces in a way that highlights Healthline’s trusted, medically verified advice and Lonely Planet’s long history of expert travel recommendations.

We understand that you’re worried about your health and safety away from home, and the safety of the communities that you’re visiting around the world. As regulations and requirements for travel shift, we’re here to help you navigate this complex and often confusing landscape. Whether you’re driving to a natural wonder in your state or flying around the globe, we can help you protect yourself and others.

Check back often to learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones on your next journey.

 



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