Tips for Thanksgiving Travel & Keeping Seniors Safe

COVID-19 cases have been increasing across the US for the past few weeks and are, as of this posting, at an all-time high. Thanksgiving is less two weeks away, and, for many, this is the most important family holiday of the year -- one that many don't intend to skip. To that end, many of us will travel to and gather with people who are most vulnerable to the virus, namely seniors. We want to offer information and some advice to help you keep them safe during this time of year.


national covid case count
We recognize that Americans have been combating the virus for eight months, and there are no signs it will let up in the near future. We are all worn out by it. We want to live our lives again. That said, please remember that weariness is not a good excuse to act irresponsibly. Our seniors have been strong for us, making tough choices in multiple wars and countless times of personal and national struggle. Let’s honor our elders by keeping them safe. Staying home and not traveling or gathering remains the safest way to protect yourself and vulnerable populations, like elderly parents, from COVID-19. 


Covid-19 triggers a wide range of symptoms -- from no signs to severe illness, which sometimes requires hospitalization and intubation. Presently, there is no surefire way to predict who will become severely ill, who will only have a mild case, and who won't show any symptoms. If you spend time with family and friends, there are certain ways to protect yourself and others from becoming infected with COVID-19:

  • Social distance and minimize close contact with others
  • Wear a face mask
  • Wash your hands
  • Avoid large gatherings
Avoid poorly ventilated spaces 


We know that some gatherings are unavoidable. If you plan to travel and gather with a senior for Thanksgiving, there are ways to minimize the risk of COVID transmission. We recommend closely following these steps before visiting friends and family:

  • Self-isolate at least eight (8) days before leaving to travel or before gathering at home. This means that you should wear a mask, avoid public gatherings, and practice safe social distancing. Many tend to travel on the Tuesday or Wednesday before Thanksgiving. If you plan to do the same, self-isolation should start on November 15-16.
  • Pre-travel testing. Get a COVID-19 test 2-3 days before traveling. If you have the option, a PCR (nasal swab) test is the most accurate. Rapid tests are faster but can produce false results, generally missing around 20 percent of positive patients. Get tested by Friday, November 20 for Tuesday travel.
  • If you test positive, please don’t travel. You can’t know if you will transmit the virus, and it is impossible to know how this sickness will manifest in a loved one. You certainly don’t want to transmit COVID-19 to your family and older loved ones. Remember: One Thanksgiving spent apart can yield 10 Thanksgivings in the future.
  • After testing negative, wear a face mask during travel and wash/sanitize hands frequently.
  • At your Thanksgiving destination, keep gatherings small, avoid close contact with others, wash your hands often, and wear a mask.
  • If you develop symptoms, self-isolate, get retested, and alert all others you’ve come in contact with.

It is important to pay attention to COVID-19 case trends. Virus cases change frequently, so keep an eye on outbreaks when they happen. There is an abundance of national COVID-19 case data online. We recommend checking these websites to see how cases are trending ahead of your travel date. While these numbers won't tell you where cases are increasing within a state, they are a good guide for general trends. If you plan to travel out of state, or if you are having people from out of state to visit you, use this link to better understand your risk of transmission.

Remember that, even with these precautions, there is still a risk of transmission. COVID-19 is a novel virus, which means we don’t yet know how easily it can spread in certain settings. When in doubt, your safest option is to stay home. We have a variety of resources available to help make your home holiday easier. 


In some cases, travel may be out of your control. Each state has its own travel restrictions, as do many counties and municipalities. In some cases, your state may restrict or ban non-essential travel altogether. Check with the state and county – both your own and the one to which you are traveling – before travel. This will make sure you are aware of the rules and restrictions you must follow.