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You asked: Is spring break travel safe this year?

As we brave a weary winter, our By The Way Concierge advice column examines the risks of spring break travel

(Cynthia Kittler for The Washington Post)

Traveling has always come with complications, but the coronavirus pandemic has made it more challenging than ever. Our By The Way Concierge column will take your travel dilemmas to the experts to help you navigate the new normal. Want to see your question answered? Submit it here.

Team By The Way has been thinking about spring break a lot lately, so we wanted to ask the By The Way Concierge ourselves: Is there a safe option this year? Warm-weather destinations like Hawaii, Mexico and Florida are tempting, but even with strict testing requirements in some places, it still seems risky. Are there any safe options for our readers?

Last year, our spring break travel advice focused on avoiding crowded airports and destinations, but not for the reason we’re offering that same advice this year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spring break travel recommendation is simple and clear: Stay home to keep yourself and others safe.

“CDC recommends that people not travel at this time, and delay spring break travel until 2022,” a CDC spokesperson told us in an email, explaining that covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths are still high across the United States, not to mention traveling may spread worrisome new coronavirus variants faster.

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Even for those who are vaccinated, it is important to avoid travel to decrease the chance of spreading COVID-19 to others,” the CDC spokesperson said.

Nonetheless, we know that people are planning spring break travel. Mark Crossey, U.S. travel expert for Skyscanner, says the rollout of vaccinations in the United States has inspired confidence, which he expects to translate to leisure travel around the vacation period. Epidemiologists acknowledge we can’t rely on so-called abstinence-only pandemic advice alone, so they encourage travelers to take precautions to reduce their coronavirus risks.

I called Jaime C. Slaughter-Acey, a social epidemiologist at the University of Minnesota, to ask her how she would advise friends and family who want to take spring break trips this year. While she encourages people to think about sacrificing vacations for the greater good, she recognizes the mental health benefits of traveling — particularly during winter, when there’s a higher prevalence of seasonal depression.

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“If you just absolutely feel that you need to travel for a vacation, try to pick a vacation spot … where the activities require less interaction with other people,” Slaughter-Acey says.

Last week, we detailed how different spring break trips can present different levels of risk. The trips with the highest interactions with others — like traveling to party at crowded beaches — were the most dangerous, whereas those with the least interactions — camping, renting a beach house with members of your household — could be done more safely.

As you make your plans, consider all the layered ways you can reduce your coronavirus risks. Those can include mapping out safe rest stops and packing your own food if you’re taking a road trip; skipping indoor dining for restaurant pickup, or ensuring your travel companions have followed steps to merge pods safely.

Thinking about escaping to Mexico for the winter? Think again, CDC says.

Slaughter-Acey recommends spring break travelers drive to their vacation instead of flying, where they’ll inevitably be around more strangers. For those planning to fly, Slaughter-Acey recommends self-quarantining and getting a coronavirus test before and after flying, even though testing isn’t perfect.

While there are currently no testing requirements for domestic travelers (although that could change soon), those considering a beach destination abroad should read up on the new inbound testing requirements for travelers returning to the United States. Plan for the worst, and have a game plan in case you test positive abroad or become very sick abroad. You may want to get travel insurance to protect yourself from those possibilities.

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One way of navigating all of the pandemic-related travel complications, whether you’re going to a cabin in Denver or a resort in Cancún, is by using the app TripIt.

Users can access its covid-19 guidance to find information including the infection level of the destination, quarantine recommendations and requirements, what regional policies are in place, testing and masking requirements, and entry and exit rules. The app can also show users where to find hospitals and pharmacies

Have a travel dilemma for By The Way Concierge? Submit it here.

More on travel during the pandemic:

Tips: Advice column | Coronavirus testing | Sanitizing your hotel | Updating documents

Flying: Pandemic packing | Airport protocol | Staying healthy on planes | Fly or drive? | Layovers

Road trips: Tips | Rental cars | Best snacks | Long-haul trains | Rest stops | Cross-country driving