How to Make Holiday Travel and Celebrations Safe Amid COVID-19
By Michelle Bailey, MD
First of all, families need to discuss risks and benefits of traveling by car or plane. I understand the desire to see your grandparents at Thanksgiving and Christmas. My own Grandma is in an assisted living center and I have had very little contact with her over the past six months. We don’t want our relatives to spend the holidays alone, but we also don’t want to put them in any unnecessary risk. So, do we stay or do we go?? There is no “correct” answer to that question. We want to cherish time with our relatives, especially the elderly ones, but need to be cautious if visiting older or immunocompromised family members.
If you choose not to travel, having a small intimate family holiday will be a nice change from the normal, sometimes stressful, celebration. You can FaceTime or Zoom other family members and still be engaged at mealtime, present opening, cooking favorite recipes, and even coordinate games together. Technology affords us the opportunity to stay close, even when we’re far away.
Ideas for a socially-distanced holiday:
- Cook a family recipe and host a contest on who nailed it the best: presentation, taste, closeness to “how Grandma makes it.”
- Gingerbread house decorating contest.
- Play games: My family was laughing so hard we couldn’t speak when we played the Heads Up! game on our phones last year. Grandma nearly peed herself laughing when her clue was “monkey” and all adults ran around the kitchen acting like crazy animals at the zoo!
- Make a shared album for photos/ videos and upload pictures daily for the rest of the family to see and enjoy.
- Purchase themed family pajamas and put on a fashion show.
- Holiday light or tree decorating contest.
- Scavenger hunt/treasure map.
If you choose to travel, I recommend smaller groups visiting older or immune compromised family members. This is not the best year for a 50 person family reunion. Stay in the largest home available and spread out. Wear a mask for close contact inside and when cooking. Wash hands more frequently. Weather permitting, eat and socialize outside. Who wouldn’t love making s’mores in a fire pit?!
Ideas for safe traveling during the holidays:
- When driving: many fast food restaurants do not allow customers inside for potty stops, so be mindful to stop at rest stops or gas stations. Wear your mask inside, wash your hands very well, and have hand sanitizer in the car. Pack snacks and drinks and limit unnecessary pit stops.
- If travelling by plane: pick the first flight of the day when the plane is the “cleanest.” Pack plenty of snacks so you don’t need to purchase in the airport; I advise fruit & veggie squeeze packs, trail mix, crackers, cereal bars, practically enough to be a mini meal if needed. Use antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer often. Keep your mask on the entire time you are in the airport and on the plane.
In this unprecedented year, holidays may look different. Decide on what will work best for your family this season and be safe no matter what you choose.
I’m a board-certified pediatrician, passionate about ensuring the well-being of patients ranging from newborn through late teens.
I attended medical school at the University of Oklahoma (Boomer!), and completed my pediatric residency in Houston.
Since the completion of residency I’ve worked in outpatient clinics and enjoy not only caring for my young patients, but becoming a part of every family by building long-lasting, trusting relationships. While I treat common and not-so-common childhood infections and diseases, I especially have a passion for asthma and allergies, nutrition, and ADHD along with other learning disorders.
I’m married and we have a rescue dog named Jack. When not at work, I enjoy attending cultural events and traveling. To make an appointment with Dr. Bailey, click here or call 682-303-1000.