If you’re planning any holiday travel to visit your family and friends within the next couple of weeks, U.S. health officials are warning that if you are unvaccinated and you’re traveling that you run a very high risk of severe infection, hospitalization, and even death. “Clearly when you travel, there’s always a risk of increased infection,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Chief Medical Advisor to President Biden, on Meet the Press on Dec. 19, 2021. “The difference between a vaccinated and booster person who has an infection and someone who has an infection who’s never been vaccinated… a major difference with regards to the risk of severity.”

Security checkpoint at Denver International Airport (Photo Credit: LukeandKarla.Travel/Shutterstock)

The Omicron has now been detected in 45 states in the U.S., and it comes at a time when travel is also expecting one of the highest passenger surges of the year. According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), 109.5 million will travel this week during the Christmas holiday, including 100.1 by car and 6.4 million by plane. 

If you plan on flying this week, expect airports to be extremely busy so allow ample time to get to the airport and to get through security. According to Hopper, the busiest time at the airport in Atlanta (ATL) is Thursday at 8:30 am, Denver (DEN) on Thursday at 5 pm, Dallas (DFW) on Wednesday at 10 am, Orlando on Thursday at 7 am, and Los Angeles (LAX) on Wednesday at 8 am.

At Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), United Airlines and TSA have rolled out a new pilot program called “LAX Fast Lane” that allows United flyers to make an appointment to go through airport security. It was used to help manage the airport queues during the Thanksgiving holiday. Travelers can book a 15-minute window up to three days prior to their departure for free. It’s a program ideal for passengers who don’t have TSA Precheck or CLEAR.

For holiday travel, make sure you take an antigen test that detects the Omicron variant. (Photo Credit: AzmanL / iStock)
For holiday travel, make sure you take an antigen test that detects the Omicron variant. (Photo Credit: AzmanL / iStock)

Thursday, Dec. 23, is expected to be the busiest travel day for airports leading up to the Christmas holiday. The Monday after New Year’s is expected to be a busy holiday travel day, too!

Health officials recommend people traveling by air wear a double mask or N-95 mask, but all travelers, near and far, should take a rapid antigen test before those fun gatherings with family and friends. However, travelers should know that there has been a shortage at stores for at-home Covid test kits as people also deal with long lines at Covid testing sites around the country. And according to the FDA, some tests are unable to detect the Omicron virus. Tests to avoid include Applied DNA Sciences, Meridian Bioscience, and Tide Laboratories. 

Even if multiple tests are involved for travelers to get where they are going, there doesn’t seem to be an increase to cancel holiday travel plans due to Omicron, according to AAA. As always, we recommend checking the CDC’s website and your travel destination’s Ministry of Health or tourism website to get specific details about travel guidelines as well as U.S. re-entry guidelines. Currently, all U.S. citizens and foreign travelers must have proof of their negative PCR or antigen test results 24 hours prior to their departure to enter the U.S. 

Source: NBC News