Spending the Holidays in a Pandemic: How to Weigh the COVID-19 Risks

Spending the Holidays in a Pandemic: How to Weigh the COVID-19 Risks

By now, we’re all pandemic-weary. I’m tired of washing my hands and disinfecting my entire existence every time I touch something outside of my house, and I’m extra tired of not seeing the people I love.

As science has learned more about how COVID-19 operates, some of the guidelines have changed and recommendations have shifted to be a bit more lenient. Understandably, this has created some confusion, and I know it has increased the worry and anxiety for a lot of people about what you should or shouldn’t do.

With the holidays coming up and no real end to this thing in sight, I thought this would be a good time to weigh the COVID risks and sort out the facts from the fearmongering and misinformation floating around regarding coronavirus.

While the CDC does still officially advise us all to limit our contact with others as much as possible, they’ve also issued advice and recommendations for people who do plan to travel or participate in holiday celebrations.

So, let’s talk COVID risk during the holidays.

The CDC has issued advice and recommendations for people who do plan to travel or participate in holiday celebrations. So, let’s talk risk.


Holiday Gatherings

The COVID risk levels can vary pretty wildly for holiday gatherings because there are so many factors to consider. But it IS possible to have a relatively low-risk holiday celebration if you follow some common sense COVID precautions.

– Remember that outdoors is better than indoors.

– If you’re indoors, shoot for gatherings that are short and small.

– Limit any self-serve refreshments as much as possible.

Additionally, decide ahead of time what preventive measures you want to enforce. Will guests wear masks? Will you have a handwashing or sanitizing station? Will you allow guests from out of town? (It’s usually safer to keep it local, but use your judgment!)

mental health during the holidays

Clearly outlining your expectations for guest behavior ahead of time will take a lot of strain off of you and help to keep everyone safe.

If you want more tips on how to plan or attend a gathering safely, you can check out this CDC guide.



Holiday travel is definitely more risky than a virtual celebration, but there are ways to limit your COVID risk during the trip and during your stay in a hotel.

Before you book your trip, do a careful check of active cases in the area. If there are high numbers or cases have suddenly increased, it’s best to postpone your trip until later.

holidays covid risks

Be sure to research the transportation and lodgings you plan to use. Not all companies are following the same standards of safety and sanitization, so looking ahead of time will ensure that you stay as safe as possible.

If you have the option, many people have found that paying a little extra for better tickets helps them stay safer during the travel portion of their trips. Business class plane seats, private sleeper cars on trains, and RV rentals are a bit more expensive, but they’re potentially safer alternatives to being crowded into a packed plane, bus, or train.

Regardless of how you’re traveling or where you’re staying, it’s incredibly important to have sanitizing supplies and face coverings on hand for anytime you must be in close contact with others. Be sure to bring enough masks so that you can have a fresh one for each day of your trip, and remember to cover your face before you step out of your hotel room since the hallways and stairwells are public and enclosed.

Personally, I think it’s helpful to keep a travel bag on hand that includes rubbing alcohol, disposable towels, disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant spray in case you’d prefer to do an additional sanitization sweep through whatever room you’re staying in.


Sending Mail

This is one thing that you can feel very safe in doing. As far as all of the research has shown, COVID-19 can’t really live on surfaces for very long. Since it’s primarily spread through droplets, sending snail mail and packages is one of the lowest-risk things you can do during the holidays!


Activities to Avoid

There are some things that just aren’t worth the risk. Even if you take all the precautions you can, there’s still no truly safe way to do certain things right now. All of these things are generally high-risk and should be avoided if you can:

      • Large gatherings (parties, parades, weddings, funerals, holiday church services— even outdoor ones!)
      • Concerts and sporting events
      • Cruises
      • Saunas, hot tubs, and fitness centers
      • Using crowded public transit or elevators


A Few Extra Tips

1. Get a flu shot! Even if you don’t normally get one, a flu shot is a simple thing that can help you stay healthy. A weakened immune system puts you at a much higher risk for COVID, especially if you plan to travel or see loved ones!

2. Consider bringing as many single-use items with you as possible if you travel. Leave your nice toiletries at home and grab some travel-sized ones that you can toss at the end of your trip (this is a great time to use up skin care and makeup samples, too!). If I travel, I’m also planning to buy a cheap pair of flip-flops or slippers that I can wear in my hotel room and then toss when I leave.

3. Keep your used masks and dirty clothes bagged separately from anything unworn to minimize contamination.

4. Don’t be timid about your safety! Be proactive about asking questions of party hosts, hotel clerks, and transportation employees. You don’t have to be rude or pushy, but you have a right to be informed about the precautions being taken to lower the risk of spreading the virus.

holidays covid risks

5. Make sure to bring a stash of prepackaged snacks and drinks if you’re traveling just in case there aren’t as many safe dining options as you expect.


Have a Safe and Fun Holiday

There’s no single “right” way to celebrate during a pandemic. Staying home is always the safest option, but it’s not the only option. There are ways to keep your COVID risk levels low, even if you’re traveling or visiting loved ones that aren’t in your “quarantine pod.”

Remember that the most important safety measure is common sense. As long as you understand the potential risks that accompany your holiday plans and take precautions, you don’t have to feel guilty or like you’re “not doing your part” by canceling your holiday celebrations!

Do you have more questions? Maybe some safety tips I didn’t mention? Drop them in the comments and let’s chat!



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