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.

Do I attend a week-long family reunion across the country in late July, where 50-60 people ages 1 to 76 will be staying together in a 20-bedroom house? I’ll be vaccinated, as will many (but not all) of the adults. There are also about 20 kids under 16 who probably won’t be. I haven’t traveled anywhere in over a year, and I’m not sure I’m ready to get on a plane — much less hang out, unmasked, with a large group of people for a week. What would Fauci do? — Allison, Missoula, Mont.

You’re really taking the old adage of “go big or go home” to heart here. With the amount of children involved, I took your question to three pediatric infectious-disease experts, who are the most up to date on all things kids and covid.

Frank Esper, a Cleveland Clinic Children’s pediatric infectious-disease specialist, says while the pandemic is in a much better place thanks to climbing vaccination rates and declining case and death rates in the United States, we should still be taking precautions to protect ourselves and others who are not vaccinated.

“That would still be wearing masks, still trying to socially distance,” he says. “The best part about [summer] is that the weather usually is very, very good and that you could do a lot of things outdoors. Take advantage of that.”

Esper says those traveling in big groups should ask how many people are vaccinated, if anyone in the group is at high risk for severe coronavirus, and is their destination having a lot of virus activity at the time of the trip?

In your specific case, Esper says spending a week in a house with so many people will give you a higher chance of coming into contact with the coronavirus (or any other virus, for that matter). Fortunately because you’re vaccinated, there’s minimal risk to get infected.

“The risk is really to those who are not vaccinated,” Esper says. “People who were vaccinated may asymptomatically be carrying the virus and can transmit to others, but that risk is also low.”

Beyond older people who may not be vaccinated, Esper is also concerned about the unvaccinated children of the group. While kids are more resilient to the infection, they are not immune and may also spread infection to others.

Danielle Zerr, a professor and division chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Washington, also says her primary worry is for the unvaccinated travelers of your group, and the potential emotional toll if a severe infection were to occur as a result of the trip.

“Can you imagine what it would feel like to participate in this kind of event and then have a family member who you care about die or need to be admitted to an intensive care unit?” Zerr says.

She encourages anyone traveling in a group to advocate for others to get vaccinated before the trip, or for unvaccinated travelers to quarantine and test before the trip, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises.

Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Health, told me that your confusion is going to be a common theme this summer. It may be difficult for people to adjust their mind-set to leisure mode after spending so long on high alert.

“A lot of this comes down not to science, but to feelings and to emotions,” he says. “We’ve all been so traumatized for this past year and conditioned to wear masks, social distance, don’t be unmasked indoors, that when we start easing these restrictions, it can feel really weird.”

Blumberg says some people will be ready to jump back into traveling, going to parties and staying in a house with 60 people. Others will not.

If you want to go but worry you’ll be riddled with anxiety throughout the trip, Blumberg recommends easing back into normalcy with less intense experiences in the months before you leave.

“I certainly wouldn’t want to go and be with a huge crowd like that unmasked without trying something else first, taking baby steps,” he says. “Make sure that you’re comfortable going out to dinner with a group of three or four friends … gradually increase so that you’re comfortable being on the plane where it’s going to be a confined space and not everybody is going to be wearing their mask.”

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