Travel Post-COVID: Oh, The Places You’ll (Reasonably and Safely) Go!

After more than a year spent quarantining in our homes, people are starting to open their minds (if not their doors) to exploring the world again.

So, what does travel look like in the days of waning COVID restrictions? It’s riddled with new anxieties, new health considerations and a considerable amount of risk-benefit analyses.

But armed with an inoculation and the right information, travelers can safely pack their bags and begin exploring again.

Fly Right

One thing I tell patients is that the COVID-19 vaccine is so effective, that inoculated travelers really can have a peace of mind when flying domestically. Airlines require proof of inoculation or a negative COVID test before boarding, so travelers can be reasonably secure in their risk of exposure.

Planes themselves pose less risk than people might imagine. Air flow on a plane is circulated rapidly from top to bottom, with minimal flow from front to back or side to side. The cabin’s high efficiency particulate air filtration system is the same found in operating rooms, so COVID-exposure risk remains low.

That said, it is still not a great time for international travel. Between ongoing restrictions and development of COVID-19 variants in other countries, international travelers should proceed with caution.

That leaves the vast, beautiful and infinitely explorable United States. More and more, I am hearing patients, colleagues and friends talk about domestic travel plans. I’ve caught the domestic travel bug myself: As a fan of the American Revolution, I’m finally crossing Philadelphia off my bucket list this summer.

Ways to Cope with Anxiety

Everyone will respond to anxiety differently. I recommend first trying non-medicinal approaches such as mindfulness, meditation and yoga to ease anxiety associated with your upcoming trip.  On occasion a sedative may help, and you should consult with your physician for the optimal care plan.

If you are flying out of John Wayne Airport, you may want to visit the Hoag Fly Well Clinic where travelers will find integrated wellness offerings that may be helpful to try before you board your flight.  These include modern aromatherapy with essential oils from CAMPO and a virtual reality (VR) mindfulness experience. Both are offered alongside onsite urgent care services.  (Hoag also offers rapid COVID tests, for travelers who forgot to pack their negative test results.)

Another sure-fire way to cope with travel anxiety is to check off certain travel “must haves” in advance.  Remember to bring hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, wear a mask and pack a few extras in your carry-on. Understand the restrictions and regulations of the airlines and of your destination. For example, despite the CDC’s easing of pre-travel testing requirements for vaccinated travelers, Hawaii still requires proof of a negative nucleic acid (NAAT) COVID test within 72 hours of departure, even for fully vaccinated passengers.

Hoag offers appointments for COVID vaccines, along with flu vaccines and others. I advise people to get vaccinated at least 2 weeks before traveling anywhere.

There are so many places in the U.S. worth seeing. As travelers prepare their itineraries this year, increased anxiety is understandable, but travelers who are vaccinated and well-prepared can breathe a sigh of relief (into their masks, if they’re in a crowded indoor area). This summer is different than 2020. Planes are taking off, hotels are booking up and people are feeling a little more secure and adventurous.

If you’re among them, I wish you safe and healthy travels. Look for me at the Liberty Bell.


Dr. Wasbin heads the Hoag Medical Group (HMG) Travel Medicine program and is located at the HMG offices in Newport Beach.

 The Hoag Fly Well Clinic is located at John Wayne Airport, post security in Terminal B, across from Gate 10.