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Experts give tips on traveling safely this summer

How to travel safely this summer
How to travel safely this summer 05:58

In our week-long series, "Spring Into Summer," we are looking at what to expect when you make your summer travel plans.


The CDC has lifted mask mandates just in time for the summer vacation season. "CBS This Morning" asked experts about what we should expect to find as we venture out, and how to do so safely.

Flying

Air travel is heating up; the TSA screened 1.8 million passengers yesterday, the most since the pandemic began. But Americans don't want to trek too far, with top destinations including Hawaii, the Caribbean and Mexico. 

Masks are still required for fully-vaccinated passengers on planes. Why is that? 

"It's basically to protect people who are either unvaccinated or vaccinated but for some reason they didn't get an adequate immune response to the vaccine — for example, somebody who's immunocompromised," said CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook. "In that scenario, if you're inside of a plane and people aren't wearing masks, if somebody doesn't wear a mask and they're infected, they pose a danger to other people." 

"CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King asked about the safety of ventilation on an airplane. "I think many people — by people, I mean me! — many people need reassurance about the ventilation on planes. It's still very scary to me." 

"You should be reassured," LaPook said. "I did a deep dive on this, and ventilation on planes is excellent. About half of the air comes from the outside; it's combined with recirculated air. It all goes through HEPA filters that get rid of viruses, other organisms. It comes from the ceiling down and near the floor, it comes out of vents. If you want a little bit of a trick, you open up the air vent above you; have it flow right on you to help disperse air. 

"The air is completely exchanged about every three minutes, which is better than in some medical settings," he noted.

"First thing I do is turn off the vent because the sound bothers me, this air blowing down on me is annoying," said King.

"Turn on the vents!" LaPook replied.

Overhead fresh-air vents and no smoking sign in the economy-class cabin of a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 enroute flight-number SQ317 LHR-SIN
Air vents can help to protect you from infection.  Aviation-images.com/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

With airlines ending their policies of blocking middle seats on wide body jets, CBS News travel editor Peter Greenberg said, "right now they're filling every seat on every available plane." 

"CBS This Morning" co-host Anthony Mason asked, "How crowded are the airlines expecting it's going to be this summer? Are we close to getting back to pre-pandemic levels?"

"Every airplane is now unparked, they're in the skies," Greenberg said. "The airlines have added 170 new routes in the United States alone. In many cases, they're all outdoor destinations, close to state and national parks. The one example I'll give you is Bozeman, Montana. They just added 200,000 seats to that airport. It's the fastest-growing airport in the United States. Now, do they have 200,000 rooms in Bozeman? They don't! So, it may be inexpensive to get there, [but] watch your wallet as to how expensive it's going to be to be there." 

Driving

When asked about trends in rental cars, Greenberg said, "It's bad. I just got an estimate for a rental car today in Florida, it's $441 a day. And that doesn't include the drop-off charges, the mileage caps, and God forbid, you have them refuel the car, could be as much as $11 a gallon.

"What you need do is rent a car midweek. Do not rent it at the airport. You'll be able to return it there with no drop-off charge. But for trips of under 500 miles, do yourself a favor, it's BYOC: Bring Your Own Car."

Travel restriction updates

Mason asked Greenberg, "Every state has different restrictions at this point on COVID. So, what should you keep in mind as you're traveling?" 

"First, you can always go to the CDC's own website to see what each state is doing," he replied. "But the reality, Anthony, is that very few states have the resources or the staff to enforce those guidelines, let alone monitor them. We're morphing into an honor system where individual personal responsibility and situational awareness is key. 

"So, I'm less concerned about flying to a destination right now than I am about the behavior of the people in that destination."

Guest co-host Drew Barrymore asked, "Where would you suggest that people go to look for global travel [guidelines], as far as what each country, continent, state, is really requiring, or doesn't have open yet — where do you go to know?" 

"What you look for, of course, is their own websites from their own consulates," Greenberg replied. "They'll give you state-of-the-art, cutting-edge information. But keep in mind it changes almost hourly. Greece opened yesterday; Italy's opening today; France may be opening later this week. And the same thing applies in the rest of the 48 continental United States."

What to pack

King asked LaPook, "What's the one thing, the most important thing people should bring when they travel?" 

"Best thing to bring is the knowledge that you've been vaccinated," he replied. "And on top of that, your common sense, okay? Figure out what the risk is in certain areas. 

"The potential Achilles heel of the CDC guidelines is, you're in an indoor setting, the ventilation's not great, it's crowded, and there are some people there who are not wearing masks. Now, if that person is not wearing a mask, potentially they could be infected, not vaccinated, and a potential danger to infect other people. So, in that setting – I think especially if you're immunocompromised, if you're at increased risk – you should either try to stay away from those settings, or get the best possible masks you can. And I think it's not unreasonable in that setting if you have to be indoors to wear an N95 or something equivalent to that." 

See also: 

Spring into summer: Top travel tips 02:32
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