Hi, I’m Dr. Jenny Yu, Healthline’s Medical Expert and Lonely Planet Travel Health Expert. Welcome to my weekly column, where I share stories and insights, experiences and opportunities, and perspectives on how you can take the "well" traveled path in your journeys.

The United States is getting ready for a busy holiday season. Many of us heaved a big sigh of relief with the news that the borders of many countries are opening up for travelers. We often forget the implications of these imposed restrictions on families. There are grandparents who have not met their new grandchildren, children separated from their parents, friends and loved ones who have not met or hugged one another for 20+ months.

We all have first-hand experience with these restrictions and the long-lasting effects are as yet unknown. However, with the opening of many borders, people will travel to connect and reconnect. While we have some protection with vaccination for reducing the risk of disease and transmission, rates of infection and case numbers continue to persist in certain parts of the world. Just this week, the CDC has placed three more European countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary and Iceland) in the highest category of warning given the increased rates in those regions. 

Healthline: CDC Says Rapid Tests, Vaccines, and Masks Can Help You Stay Safe During the Holidays This Year

Before embarking on your trip, it’s crucial to take time to review your plan for safeguarding those who are traveling and the loved ones you are visiting. Air travel’s risks are reduced with a properly fitting mask. Clean hands reduce the overall spread of germs. Other aspects of planning may include researching insurance coverage for care abroad.

How to be informed ahead of your trip

Whatever it may be, a checklist that includes the rates of infection of your destination, your and your loved ones’ risk tolerance, and a backup plan are all ways to avoid disappointment. Do have a worst-case scenario plan in case someone in your group, or someone you’re visiting, tests positive for COVID.

Quarantine-Free Trans Tasman Travel Bubble Between Australia and New Zealand Begins
Many families are set to meet for the first time in 20 months this holiday season © Jenny Evans/Getty Images

If nothing else, we have learned to adapt during this pandemic. These lessons may help us as we navigate through travel during this busy holiday season. Plans can still remain unpredictable, last-minute adjustment will be necessary, and we will need to practice our patience.  

But I go back to how I started this column – many have patiently waited to be with family and friends safely, separated by great distances. The journey taken to reunite with family or loved ones is unlike any other, as the destination is both physical and spiritual. The time and distance that has separated us will hopefully all melt away with that first embrace. 

For more information on COVID-19 and travel, check out Lonely Planet's Health Hub.

You might also like: 
Healthline's Dr Jenny Yu: On returning to travel
Healthline's Dr. Jenny Yu: What it means to travel "well" in a pandemic
How will Europe's new COVID-19 restrictions affect your travel plans?

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