Tourists take off for the winter holidays


Graphic by Chloe Choi

Throughout the holiday season, travel rates have progressed as a result of the distribution of vaccines, relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions and regulations, and the reopening of international borders.

As the winter season approaches, millions of Americans are making plans to travel both domestically and abroad. Although travel rates have not yet returned to pre-pandemic heights, the progressions in vaccination rates and sanitation measures that have been made over the course of the year has allowed mass travel to become a possibility in the near future.

During the winter of 2020, families were confined to the safety of their homes during the brunt of the second wave of COVID-19 in the US. Larry Yu, a hospitality management professor at George Washington University, said, “after more than a year of isolation or being limited to local activities, people showed this pent-up demand for travel.”

This growth in travel can be attributed to the added safety measure of the distribution of vaccines, the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions and regulations, and the reopening of international borders. 

“People really miss their families, and at this point, people feel like they’re safe enough and there isn’t that initial stress because a lot of people are vaccinated,” said junior Lucy Boyce. 

According to Travel and Leisure, 55% of Americans plan to travel this winter, a 5% increase from last year. Most plan to travel within the country, with plans to visit popular destinations such as New York City, Orlando, and Las Vegas. For those who desire to travel abroad, Paris, London, and Rome are the fastest-growing tourist destinations for American travelers. 

There are still several risks that could pose safety concerns to travel, such as the onset of the contagious delta and omicron variants and the continually high rates of infection. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  advises people traveling both domestically and internationally to become fully vaccinated and understand the COVID-19 situation at the destination they plan to visit before leaving. Travelers who are sick, have been exposed to the virus, tested positive for the virus (even if vaccinated), or are waiting for results of a COVID test are recommended to delay vacation plans until they are fully recovered or test negative. Many travelers spend the holiday seasons with family, and the health risks to older relatives are a pressing factor.

“Of course, there is always added worry when traveling in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. You never know if anyone is sick or if they are vaccinated,” said senior Camila Sotomayor. “I also worry that people aren’t going to keep their masks on, especially in the plane. Being in such a confined space, I think it is really important for everyone to take the correct measures to keep everyone safe.” 

Some travelers have taken these risks into account, adjusting their travel plans and taking safety measures to protect themselves from contracting the virus. According to NPR,  more families have decided to book private vacation homes over hotels, and are traveling to outdoor or natural environments, like national parks, which have seen an unprecedented growth in visitors in the past few months. 

Boyce is planning to travel to Massachusetts during winter break, and during her trip, she will take safety measures against COVID-19. “We always wear masks whenever we leave the car and try not to make as many stops as possible just to minimize it,” she said. “I think we’re going to get COVID tests before we see my grandma.”

Sotomayor is flying to the Dominican Republic next week for vacation, and is another student who is planning to employ several safety measures during the length of her trip. 

“In the airport, my family is planning to double mask and use face shields,” said Sotomayor. “We will also have hand sanitizer at our disposal and be sure to wash our hands as frequently as possible.” 

Safety remains a concern for many as the number of COVID cases continue to rise. But for others, the gradual return to domestic and international travel could reflect a steady return to normalcy.