Navigating holidays during COVID-19

Nov 23, 2020


For many of us, the holiday season is a much-anticipated time to rest, savor family meals and enjoy each other’s company. In past years, holiday travel has been as simple as jumping in the car or boarding a plane. As we navigate the last few months of 2020 amidst a persisting pandemic, you may be wondering how you can safely celebrate the holidays with your loved ones.

Travel guidelines and staying safe

Each type of travel will come with its own varying degree of risk, but being in close proximity to other travelers does increase your chances of getting or spreading COVID-19. If possible, road tripping may be your best option, but be aware that making stops for food, gas or bathroom breaks will increase your risk.

Be sure to also check local and state guidelines and travel advisories before you head out, since many states are implementing travel restrictions and urging people to stay home this holiday season.

If you are planning to travel out of your local area for the holidays, follow these Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations for staying safe:

  • Always wear a face covering on public transportation or in public spaces, such as on airplanes, trains, subways, taxis, in gas stations and inside airports or train stations.
  • Keep an eye on the case rates in both your home city and your travel destination. The more cases in either location, the higher your risk of catching or spreading the virus.
  • Research your destination’s requirements and restrictions for travel. Many states have differing guidelines and may require you to quarantine for up to 14 days after arrival.
  • Avoid close contact and stay at least six feet apart from anyone not in your household.
  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly. Carry hand sanitizer with you that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Even when you take every precaution, it’s important to know when you should cancel a trip. If you start to feel sick or if you have been around someone who is sick, reconsider your plans. Older adults and people with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable to coronavirus complications, so it’s important to do your part to especially limit exposure to these individuals.

Celebrating from afar

What happens when do you have to cancel your travel this year? While it’s natural to feel some grief or disappointment over not getting to participate in all your usual traditions, there are opportunities to still make the season special.

Although many of us may be experiencing “Zoom fatigue,” video chat is still one of the best options for virtually connecting with friends and family. Instead of simply hopping online and chatting, organize a virtual holiday party with your loved ones. You can open gifts together, eat holiday treats or even watch a favorite movie at the same time.

This is also a great year for sending snail mail or family Christmas cards. If you’ve opted not to see Grandma or Grandpa this year, they will likely appreciate a handwritten note. Many communities are also holding outdoor holiday events this year, such as socially-distanced parades or holiday markets. You can also hop in the car with your family, play a holiday music station and explore local neighborhood decorations. This year may look different than normal, but there are still ways you can get in the seasonal spirit.

Giving the gift of heath

This year has presented most of us with significant challenges. But research has shown that the way you view difficult circumstances can have a striking impact on your overall health—both mentally and physically. If you choose to focus on how you can make unpleasant moments productive and positive, you could improve your cardiovascular health, increase your resistance to catching a cold and lower your risk of depression.

All of this is crucial during a year when we’re all thinking about health more than ever. This year, approach the holidays with as much optimism as you can and focus on giving each other the gift of heath. Hopefully next year will find us all gathering with loved ones for our treasured traditions.