The four questions to ask before traveling anywhere this winter

Nearly empty LAX terminal
LAX was fairly quiet on April 15, 2020, when we were in the first couple months of the pandemic. Although public health officials urge people to postpone nonessential trips, millions will be traveling this holiday season.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

The upside of gathering your extended family for the holidays this year is clear: You’ll have the comfort of uniting after a troubling year. Many families are making those travel plans now.

But the downside is clear too. You might infect one or more of your kin. Or they might infect you. The U.S. death count has passed 240,000 and that list is dominated by the cohort of grandparents and great-grandparents. Moreover, there’s no way to know how the infection and death numbers will change in coming weeks.

Local, state and national public health experts urge people to postpone nonessential trips, saying that the closer you stay to your neighborhood, the safer you’ll be. On Nov. 13, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a travel advisory urging Californians not to travel out of state for the holiday.

The advisory recommends that those who do leave the state should quarantine when they return, and that those entering California from elsewhere should self-quarantine for 14 days.


Then on Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control updated its advice to include a firm warning against traveling for Thanksgiving.

“The longer that we wait, the better the scientists and doctors can figure out what’s going on with this virus and how to treat it,” said John DiScala, who runs the travel advice website and hasn’t flown since February.

But legions of airlines, hotels and Airbnb operations are open for business and eager for customers. Transportation Security Administration statistics show that the number of people passing through airport security nationwide, which dipped below 100,000 per day for much of April, climbed back over 1 million on Oct. 18 and now hovers above 600,000 on even the slowest weekdays.

A guide to traveling during the holidays, things to do if you’re staying local (if you’re in or near Southern California) and the absolute best gifts to get everyone on your list.

Questions to ask yourself

Health officials and travel authorities say there are other holiday travel issues to consider:

  • How necessary does this trip feel to you and your relatives?
  • How old is everyone involved and how healthy?
  • Will your journey require a negative COVID-19 test beforehand? Even if health officials don’t require it, will a negative test make you or your hosts feel better?
  • If you have guests coming to Southern California, do you want them to quarantine for 14 days? Or do you want to ask them to test negative? Though many venues offer free testing, prices for some tests can reach $250. Are you comfortable asking them to share contact information in case tracing is necessary?

The high-population states of California, Texas and Florida have had far more COVID-19 cases than anywhere else in the U.S., and L.A. County has had more cases than any other California county.

How to travel this holiday season by plane, train and car, and how to safely stay in a hotel or a rental. If you’re staying local, we have ideas for how to spend the time.

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