How will relaxed COVID guidelines affect your next trip?

How will relaxed COVID guidelines affect your next trip?

How will relaxed COVID guidelines affect your next trip?

About two and a half years into the pandemic, you may be wearing masks less often and traveling more often than you did last year. Most countries have lifted the restrictions that prevented international travel.

In an August letter, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the pandemic has moved into “another phase,” indicating a lower severity of the disease. The CDC also recently released relaxed guidelines that could have a big impact on how people think about the health risks associated with travel.

“There is generally less risk of serious illness from COVID-19 because of the resources we have available to reduce symptoms, such as vaccinations, medications and boosters,” said Dr. Janice Johnston, chief medical officer and co-founder of Redirect Health, a health company that offers an alternative to insurance.

So does that mean you can go back to traveling like you used to, without worrying about COVID-19? Only you can judge your risk tolerance and it probably depends on your pre-existing conditions and the nature of the trip.

What the CDC guidelines say now

The CDC updated its guidelines regarding COVID-19 in August. Among the biggest changes:

  • Elimination of quarantine after exposure: The CDC no longer recommends that you self-quarantine if you have been exposed to someone who tests positive for COVID-19, even if you have not been vaccinated.
  • Reduce isolation periods: If you test positive, the CDC says it’s safe for you to end isolation after five days (even if you still test positive), as long as you’ve been fever-free for at least 24 hours and your symptoms improve. Mask use is still recommended until day 10.

Reduced isolation periods – in addition to recommendations to end quarantine for people who have been exposed to COVID-19 – make it less likely that you will have to cancel a planned trip just because your colleague fell ill the day before departure.

It also reduces the likelihood that you will have to cancel a trip if you get COVID-19 a couple of weeks before you travel.

How to think about international travel

In June, the CDC lifted the requirement that travelers show a negative covid-19 test or documentation of recovery from covid-19 to board any US-bound flight from a foreign country.

That said, all non-immigrant, non-US citizen air travelers must still be fully vaccinated – with proof – before boarding a flight to the US

Sure, there is still some risk of being exposed to COVID-19 abroad. However, if you test positive in a foreign country, reducing the 10-day isolation period to five also reduces the additional time you may need to spend in isolation abroad.

While you shouldn’t hop on a plane if you have symptoms or know you’re positive, you don’t need to take a COVID test just to board. Previous testing requirements were complicated and expensive. Some travelers reported paying $1,000 for COVID-19 tests so their families could travel internationally. Travelers who tested positive while abroad documented the stress of finding accommodation and rebooking flights at the last minute.

Accept that everything can change – and have a plan if it does

If the past couple of years have taught us anything, it’s that flexibility is king. Some cities have encouraged people to mask up again. The borders have reopened, but they could close again if another pandemic made it necessary. The state of the COVID-19 pandemic today may be different by the time the trip rolls around – and rules and recommendations may also be different.

Given the ongoing uncertainty surrounding travel, it may be wise to purchase travel insurance. Policies usually cover illness and injury, so if you test positive for covid-19 and can no longer travel (or need to extend a trip you’re already on to isolate), the insurance company can cover these costs. And you may not even need to pay for travel insurance. Many premium travel credit cards include travel insurance as a benefit for travel paid for on that card.

And while you can take steps to reduce personal risk, travel may not be for everyone.

“People should not be afraid to return to pre-pandemic travel practices, although masks can always be used in crowded spaces, and those who are significantly immunocompromised should consult with their doctors before traveling,” says Dr. Joseph Kerby Gray, an emergency medicine physician living in Chattanooga, Tennessee. “The vast majority of people are safe to travel as they were during pre-pandemic times, especially if they are vaccinated.”

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Sally French writes for NerdWallet. Email: sfrench@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @SAFmedia.

The article How will relaxed COVID guidelines affect your next trip? originally appeared on NerdWallet.

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