The holidays are coming up quickly, but the coronavirus pandemic has cast a shadow over normally planned holiday traditions. It can be easy to feel trapped by quarantine protocols, but you can still safely enjoy the holidays with friends and family by following a few guidelines.

Understand Who You’re Visiting, and Their Protocols

Before traveling, or hosting family for the holidays, it’s important to consider the people you’ll be visiting with. After putting together your list of family and friends, contact each person to get more information about the  behaviors and quarantine protocols they’ve established during the pandemic. Whether it’s by email or phone, use this time to ask each person about the protocols they’ve put into place over the pandemic. You can use these questions to guide the conversation and help get a better understanding of someone’s exposure risk.

Some questions to ask:

  • Are you eating inside of restaurants?
  • Are you going into establishments (grocery stores, banks, restaurants) with a mask on?
  • Are you hosting or attending large get-togethers without masks?
  •  Have you been exposed to a person who has tested positive for covid-19?
  • Have you tested positive for covid-19?

These aren’t all of the questions you should ask, but they will give you an approximate understanding of how safe it is to be around each person on your holiday list.

Outline Behaviors that Meet Your Covid-19 Standards

There are certain behaviors and covid-19 protocols that make an individual – and their immediate network – feel safer. Before traveling to visit family for the holidays, communicate your covid-19 protocol requirements to the group. Be very careful and thorough about outlining which behaviors you’re comfortable with, and what you personally require to feel safe while you’re with family.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I comfortable being in a confined space with these people for extended periods of time? With a mask?
  • Am I comfortable with hugging or being in close contact with this group?
  • Am I comfortable eating food close to these people?

In addition to these guidelines, it’s wise to think about your sleeping arrangements – are you staying at a family member’s house, or are you booking a hotel room? Boarding arrangements present their own set of exposure-related challenges that need to be considered before visiting other people.

Try to Take Your Traditions Outdoors

In a lot of families, holidays come with their own associated rituals and traditions. Some families eat Thanksgiving dinner every year at a certain cousin’s house, while others have to gather around a certain table to enjoy the family meal. Whatever traditions accompany your holiday celebrations, consider moving them outside this year. For holiday meals, that means eating outside and maintaining a healthy social distance.

Avoid Planes, Get on the Road

If you’re celebrating the holidays away from home, then you must have a plan for safely traveling to your destination. To start, taking a road trip is much safer than travelling by air. Gathering with a large group of strangers in a tightly packed area is not safe. If you decide to take a road trip, pack a cooler full of food so that you can minimize your stops along the way. Furthermore, try to pick out smaller gas stations and rest areas for your breaks to avoid large crowds. Always wear your mask when leaving your vehicle and interacting with people along your journey and sanitize your hands after entering public spaces like a gas station or bathroom.

Consider a Pre-Visit Quarantine

If you’re planning on staying with family outside of your normal social bubble during the holiday season, then ask the people you plan to gather with if everyone can truly quarantine before the visit. If possible, everyone should work from home and reduce their trips outside of the home as much as possible for 7-10 days leading into the visit. If everyone adheres to a true quarantine and displays no symptoms of the coronavirus, then it is much safer to be in close proximity for extended periods of time.

Don’t Forget to Pack Your Covid-19 Essentials

As with any trip during the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important to pack and use the essential tools that will keep you safe. Pack multiple masks and filters for everyday use, more than enough hand sanitizer for the entire trip, and consider adding alcohol-based disinfectant wipes to wipe down any public surface before using them. Be sure to wash or sanitize your hands after touching shared surfaces and maintain a distance of at least 6 feet when visiting your family members. By protecting yourself and your family members – you can have a huge impact on protecting your community from covid-19.