Travel advisor and health official provide 2021 holiday travel guidance


BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – With 7,354 reported COVID-19 deaths in Alabama this year, the state has now surpassed the total number of COVID-related deaths in the state for all of 2020 by 166.

This data comes as more Alabamians are preparing for end-of-the-year travel.

Health officials said they are still concerned about our high transmission levels of COVID. This year they’re giving much of the same advice as this time last year if you plan to head to the airport.

In addition to the mandated mask and bringing sanitizer – now, there is an option for a vaccine that we didn’t have last year. Health officials say now is the time to get your vaccine for the highest protection, just in time for Thanksgiving.

“It seems like we are heading in the right direction, it’s just a matter of knowing how long that’s going to last,” State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris said. “I hope that we have enough people vaccinated or maybe enough people with natural immunity that we’re going to be protected for a while, but I really don’t know for sure.”  

Right now, the countdown is on to get the best rate for a holiday flight.

“If it feels good to your wallet right now and you can live with it, I’d say book it,” Travel Designers Birmingham owner John Martin said.

According to Martin, the pandemic has caused airlines to eliminate ticket change fees. It’s great for a last-minute trip change, but not every time.

“There’s no change fee so if you paid $300 for your ticket and then you want to go six weeks later and the ticket is now $500, you pay the fare difference,” Martin said.

Martin said anywhere between four and eight weeks before travel is the best time to book a flight to find a better fare.

The state said now is the best time to get your highest protection against COVID-19 with a vaccine.

“If you expect to have a normal, safe Thanksgiving, you need to go today,” Harris said. “You need to go get vaccinated right now because it’s going to take you five to seven weeks to be fully protected.”

Because right now we are just over seven weeks away from Thanksgiving.

“Don’t be afraid to take a road trip,” Martin said. “There are some wonderful resorts close by within a couple of hours’ driving that don’t require flights.”

Dr. Harris said for holiday gatherings, it’s best to limit the size, close contact and wear masks if you’re uncertain of someone’s vaccine status.

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