What to know about traveling this summer amid the pandemic

By ANGELINE JANE BERNABE and SARAH MESSER, ABC News

(NEW YORK) — With summer just three months away and people eager to start booking travel, one cruise line is offering a way for people to do so amid the pandemic.

Royal Caribbean said this week its newest ship is set to hit the seas in May from Israel — and all passengers must be vaccinated.

The news and interest in safely planning summer travel as first reported by the Washington Post, comes as President Joe Biden announced on Tuesday that the U.S. will have enough vaccine supply for every adult by the end of May.

According to Hayley Berg, the head of air intelligence at Hopper, a travel booking app, there’s been an increase in demand for summer travel.

“We’re seeing a huge surge in demand specifically for spring and summer travel in the last two weeks alone,” Berg told ABC News’ Good Morning America. “We’ve seen more than 100% increase in searches.”

But is traveling this summer safe? Several infectious disease experts who spoke with GMA are optimistic about it on the condition that cases continue to come down and everyone who is traveling is vaccinated.

Dr. Natalie Dean, a biostatistician specializing in infectious diseases with the University of Florida, said she’s planning on traveling with her husband and two young children this year. While her kids won’t be vaccinated, she plans on taking precautions. Children can spread the disease, but severe cases are less common among young children and only 2% of child COVID-19 cases result in hospitalization, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“These vaccines are highly effective against the disease, particularly severe disease,” said Dean. “And so that really changes the math about what we’re willing to do.”

Like Dean, Dr. David Rubin, the director of PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said he’s feeling hopeful about traveling to see family this summer.

“My mother has fully received her vaccinations and feels safer,” said Rubin. “And with declining transmission, that opportunity is open not just for my family, but for many families out there as we encourage our loved ones to get the vaccination.”

Of the six experts who spoke with Good Morning America, all of them agreed that being vaccinated is the main factor for safe travel. And they all said they would feel safe traveling by plane while vaccinated and wearing a mask.

If you do plan on traveling this summer, they also suggested looking for direct flights to limit how much time you spend traveling in and out of airports.

Book early

Across the country, travel experts say that Americans are gearing up for the summer ahead by already making plans. The most popular plan of them all amid the pandemic? Camping.

According to Gary Garth, contributing outdoor columnist for USA Today, more than 50 million Americans are expected to hit the road and pop a tent or park their RV this summer. And according to Pitchup.com, an outdoor site reservation service, bookings for 2021 are up 39% compared to the same time in 2020.

“One of the reasons why I think camping is so popular, it’s a very safe activity,” Garth told GMA. “Particularly, if you’re in a developed campground, a state park campground or national park.”

While it may not be on top of peoples’ minds, it’s important to make camping reservations ahead of time. And reservations typically go fast.

For example, with Memorial Day just two months away, campsites like the Great Smokies Cades Cove Campground, a popular campsite in Townsend, Tennessee, has only 12 spots out of over 150 left for the weekend.

“If you’re hoping for a Memorial Day weekend spot, you may already be out of luck,” said Heather Greenwood Davis, contributing editor at National Geographic. “While national parks have always been a really popular option this year, you may need to get a little more creative.”

“We’re looking at a summer that’s going to be hard to get a site and is going to demand some action on your part if you actually want to make sure you secure one,” Davis added.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are still advising Americans not to travel. It’s unclear if that will change by summer with more Americans vaccinated, but experts say even with vaccinations, it’s critical that people watch the numbers and keep doing the simple things like wearing masks, washing hands and doing activities outside if possible.

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