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Healthy travel advice now that US testing requirements are gone

June 15, 2022
5 min read
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On June 12, the U.S. lifted its COVID-19 testing requirements for inbound air passengers. Airlines, travel bureaus and travelers around the world celebrated this new freedom. This eliminates many travelers' worries about getting stuck abroad, or canceling a trip due to a positive test.

However, the pandemic persists, with COVID-19 cases on the rise in many areas. You may still worry about the health impact of traveling, particularly on airplanes, now that both mask requirements and testing requirements have disappeared. Sure, it's nice to travel without a mask and a test, but if you're stuck in a middle seat on a transatlantic flight for eight hours while your untested and unmasked seatmate has a coughing fit, your anxiety level may rise.

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To help preserve both your physical and mental health while traveling this summer, here are some tips that might make your travels a little safer.

It's OK to still wear a mask

Mask-wearing passengers. (Photo courtesy of Delta Air Lines)

Even if everyone else seems to have discarded their masks, you shouldn't feel pressured to stop wearing one yourself. This is particularly true if you are immunocompromised or otherwise at a higher risk for infection due to underlying conditions. "For the ones who are high risk or have other personal reasons, it is best to wear a properly fitted medical mask such as an N95 or KN95," Dr. Jenny Yu, head of medical affairs at Red Ventures website Healthline Media, advised. TPG reporter Caroline Tanner wrote about her decision to continue wearing a mask due to her health status because "the heightened risk of me catching COVID-19 (or any illness really) does not outweigh the inconvenience of wearing a mask, which I do not find particularly inconvenient to begin with."

While many passengers celebrated the removal of the mask mandate, you should still make your own decisions based on your comfort level. As for unvaccinated children younger than 5 five years old, a mask provides an added level of protection — if you can get them to actually wear one.

Related: Don't forget to pack your mask this summer — certain places still require one

Follow the original COVID-19 safety recommendations

Hand-washing is a good health measure regardless of COVID-19 status. (Photo by Moyo Studio/Getty Images)

Maybe you don't need to spend 10 minutes wiping down your airplane seat with industrial-strength cleaner anymore, but many of the pandemic-related safety precautions are still wise actions to prevent infection (whether it be COVID-19 or any other ailment).

When traveling, be sure to:

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  • Wash your hands regularly.
  • Carry hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes.
  • Avoid touching your mouth, eyes and face after touching common-use items.
  • Avoid crowded indoor areas with limited airflow.
  • Follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's and your medical professional's advice on vaccines and booster shots.

"Continue to avoid high-volume travel days and plan for shorter travels to reduce risks," Yu said. "Boosters are still valuable in protecting against more severe symptoms and antiviral treatments are good for reducing the length of symptoms."

Related: 7 ways older adults can stay healthy traveling

Good news: Airlines' air filtration systems seem to work

Airplanes' filtration systems have been shown to be good at countering COVID-19-prevalent conditions. (Photo by Martin Chavez/Shutterstock)

Several recent studies have shown the efficiency of airline air filtration systems (and similar systems in cruise ships) in reducing the conditions where COVID-19 tends to thrive. A recent University of Colorado study showed that COVID-19 transmission was more frequent in enclosed areas with higher levels of carbon dioxide, while another study showed airline circulation systems keep those levels low. While not exactly proof of COVID-19 safety on a flight (particularly if the guy next to you is coughing on you), the study should reduce some level of passenger worry about flights being a high-danger zone. The bad news is that these airline filtration systems are far less effective (and usually aren't even turned on) while the airplane is parked on the runway.

Bottom line

The U.S. government's decision to end the requirement for pre-entry testing for airline passengers resulted in both relief and worry from health-conscious travelers. However, if you take standard health precautions — such as getting vaccinated with booster shots, wearing a mask, washing your hands and avoiding crowded indoor areas — you should be able to stay in good health this summer. Despite the pressure to ditch your mask forever, "People should weigh their own risks and decide the best route to take," according to Yu.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

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  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees