Safer COVID-19 Travel Practices

Updated: April 19, 2022

These practices below are recommended for COVID safety while members of the Yale community travel domestically and internationally to meetings and conferences, as well as for research. All domestic or international travel must comply with Yale’s COVID Travel Policy and the International Travel Policy for Yale College Students.  Carefully review the above policies for permissions and requirements for university-sponsored travel.

International travel by members of the Yale community is supported by International SOS, which provides medical, security, and travel assistance services.

In addition to the below guidance, the CDC provides good safer travel tips for transportation, accommodations, and food.


Planning Your Trip/Contingency Plans

When possible, choose destinations with low community case rates and high vaccination rates. Find out if testing is required and how a test can be obtained if you become symptomatic at your destination or en route, or if proof of testing will be required for return travel.

Choose meetings and conferences that require attendees to be vaccinated. Symptomatic individuals should be told not to attend, masking and other COVID safety rules should be explicit, and information about the venue’s ventilation should be available.

Prior to departure check the COVID status at your destination and abide by the recommendations of the State DepartmentCDC, and the destination. COVID conditions can change rapidly, so it is important to check the conditions at your destination just prior to departure. Be prepared to change your plans or cancel your trip if conditions significantly worsen at your destination.

Have a plan if you or a trip member must quarantine (if exposed or symptomatic) or isolate (as a result of positive test). Countries and airlines have different rules for quarantine, isolation, and when a negative test can be used to board a return flight. This can require staying at your destination additional days to weeks. International SOS does not pay for such rooms. International travelers also need to plan for the contingencies of return flight pre-testing within the required window and flight cancellations, which seem to be more common than pre-pandemic. Every airport has different testing capabilities and procedures. As an alternative, consider departure-acceptable commercial testing services that can be done in your hotel room. This needs to be obtained prior to departing the U.S.

For international travel, complete Yale’s self-assessment. This will walk you through the other issues to consider when planning your trip.


Be Sure to Pack

  • A good supply of masks—very good quality ASTM masks are available from YPPS. Click on “PPE SUPPLY REPLENISHMENT” (VPN required).
  • Hand sanitizer—small, easily packable hand sanitizers are widely available.

Consider bringing wipes to clean surfaces. Some travel advisors suggest bringing a few home rapid antigen tests and perhaps a home pulse oximeter. Alternatively, testing is readily available in international airports and home rapid antigen tests are available at many pharmacies, including those in foreign countries.


COVID Safety Basics

No matter where you go, please consider the following:

  • Keep your distance. Proximity to others, especially in public spaces, increases your risk of infection. Avoid crowds.
  • Wear a mask as much as possible when in the presence of others, especially indoors.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands often, especially when traveling through crowded public spaces, such as airports or conference centers.
  • Eating and drinking in the proximity of others is a known means of COVID transmission, both indoors and outdoors.
  • Singing, loud speech, dancing, or other high-exertion exercise greatly increase the risk of transmission to individuals both indoors and outdoors.
  • Be aware of the ventilation limitations of indoor spaces.
  • Be smart about socializing. Employ the risk reduction practices described on this page. Transmission risks often increase when alcohol is served, as people may forgo masking and distancing practices, and conversations typically become louder.
  • REMEMBER: Less is better. Lower your risk by spending less time indoors and less time with others. Smaller groups are generally less risky than larger crowds.

Your Companions and Contacts

While the Yale community’s vaccination rate is high, leaving campus entails the risk of interactions with people with unknown vaccination status. Your best traveling companions are vaccinated people with whom you spent time prior to departure. Traveling in a tight-knit cohort can minimize exposure to others and simplifies decisions about dining and sharing accommodations. At large conferences, forming a small, vaccinated cohort can have the same benefits.

When interacting with others, consider that they may not be vaccinated. When in the presence of others with unknown vaccination status keep your distance, consider wearing a mask, and minimize the duration. Stay away from people who appear to be symptomatic, even if the symptoms are mild.

Choose your activities and contacts carefully. When arranging to meet people, specify or request that they be vaccinated. (This avoids asking for the vaccination status of individuals.)

In most locales, minors and younger people have the lowest vaccination rates. Younger people are also likely to frequent crowded places, meaning that the least vaccinated individuals can make an outsized contribution to community transmission. Avoid contact with minors to protect both them and you.


Indoors and Outdoors

Being outdoors is always safer than indoors. Private homes almost always have inadequate ventilation. Indoor spaces should either have operable windows or mechanical ventilation. Spaces heated by radiators or floorboard heaters are not mechanically ventilated. Many fancoil units along the wall (i.e., a radiator with a fan) are not mechanically ventilated. An operable window can provide very good ventilation. In cold weather, cracking windows will supply fresh air without significantly affecting room temperature. Venues with high ceilings and large, spacious rooms are likely to have better ventilation. Ask the venue manager to increase air circulation, especially for weekend and after-hour meetings when some systems are on automatic setback.

When indoor ventilation quality or the vaccination status of others is unknown, take breaks and lunch times outside. Leave rooms that feel stuffy. Take a break from long sessions when you sense stale air developing.


In Transit, at Terminals, in Airports

Follow all posted masking requirements. While no longer required by federal law, masking in transit hubs, both indoors and outdoors, is a best practice. Try to distance as much as possible. Seek less crowded waiting areas.


Food and Meals

Eating and drinking in the proximity of others is risky. See Safer Yale Practices for more. 


Eating at a Restaurant

At a restaurant, keep your group as small as possible—and require your group members be vaccinated and not symptomatic. Avoid objects touched by others, such as self-serve buffets. Do not share utensils, plates, or cups. A table outdoors is the safest place to eat. If you are eating indoors:

  • Choose a restaurant with high ceilings and spacious rooms. These spaces are likely to have better ventilation. The room should not feel stuffy.
  • Ask for a table away from others and away from large boisterous groups. A private room is preferred.
  • If there is a fan or a blower, do not sit downstream with people between you and the supplied air.
  • Wear a mask when not eating.
  • Minimize your time there. The best dessert is an after-dinner walk outside.

Wash your hands before and after eating. Transmission risks may increase when alcohol is served, as people tend to forgo masking and distancing practices, and conversations become louder.


Accommodations

Due to the duration of sleeping and typical unknown/poor hotel room ventilation, single room accommodations are preferred. To save costs, cohabitation may be allowed for a traveling cohort that spends the day together. Do not stay in bunk houses and hostels. In hotels, minimize your time or avoid common areas. In your room, open operable windows. Even a small crack in cold weather will be beneficial.


Attending Meetings and Gatherings

See the above guidance for planning, indoor venues, and food and meals.

  • Avoid crowds. Avoid/leave crowded venues that do not allow distancing.
  • Follow CDC’s guidance for indoor masking, based on COVID-19 community levels in the area.
  • See the above advice for ventilation considerations of indoor venues.
  • Use hand sanitizer before and after eating and after touching doorknobs, switches, handles, handrails or elevator buttons.

Participating in Other Activities

Additional precautions may be prudent for activities involving indoor aerosolization, athletics or music.


Hosting Meetings and Events

Additional precautions may be prudent for longer meetings/events, activities involving large crowds, and aerosolization, music and practices. For alumni and development meetings, please refer to Best Practices for Off-Campus Alumni and Donor Events for guidance.

The following are best practices for events/meetings:

  • Get a private room if at all possible. Use of a private residence is not recommended.
  • Meeting participants should have up-to-date vaccination.
  • Tell invitees to not attend if symptomatic.
  • Consider an outdoor event, if possible. Tents should have no more than two sides.
  • For indoor events, follow our “Indoor” advice, above. Only use venues with mechanical ventilation and supplied fresh air. If windows are available, please open them. Spaces with high ceilings and large, spacious rooms are likely to have better ventilation. The room should not feel stuffy.
  • For events over 3 hours, a best practice is to add a 15-30 minute break, to empty the room and allow an exchange of fresh air.
  • Seek other ways to improve the ventilation. Periodically open nearby doors to the outside. Ask venue managers to increase air circulation.
  • If individuals who are not part of the Yale community are invited, they should be up to date with their vaccination.
  • Follow CDC’s guidance for indoor masking, based on COVID-19 community levels in the area. Provide hand sanitizer and masks for people who arrive without one.
  • If food or drink is served, follow the Safer Yale Practices guidelines.
  • Designate people to manage the event: control entry, prevent crowding, and remind people to wear masks.

Mild Symptoms (and Not-so-Mild Symptoms)

Be aware of your health. COVID symptoms may be mild and can appear even if you have been vaccinated. Mildly symptomatic people can infect others. Mild symptoms can progress to more serious disease. If you are symptomatic:

  • Contact your healthcare provider.
  • Get tested.
  • Quarantine yourself from contact with others until your test results are received.

A traveler who becomes ill with COVID and requires treatment or hospitalization will need to be treated in that locale. Contact your healthcare provider for guidance. (International SOS cannot guarantee it will be possible to evacuate an overseas COVID positive individual to the U.S. for treatment.) Check with International SOS during your trip planning phase to understand the local health system capacity and capability for treating COVID patients.


Travelers Returning to Campus

Please follow the Yale COVID Travel Policy when returning to campus.


Additional Resources