By Eileen Ogintz

Tribune Content Agency

What about the kids?

It was welcome news when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its travel guidance: Those fully vaccinated can travel at low risk to themselves two weeks after receiving their last dose. The CDC reports that a growing body of evidence suggests that those who are fully vaccinated are less likely to transmit COVID-19 to others.

Those traveling within the U.S. don’t need COVID-19 testing or post-travel self-quarantine as long as they continue to wear masks, avoid crowds, social distance and wash hands frequently.

It’s OK to finally visit – and hug – the grandkids, if you are fully vaccinated, and you can even visit with those who aren’t yet vaccinated from a single household without masks or social distancing, as long as they are at low risk.

Hot Springs National Park
Hot Springs National Park

Teens – and their parents – will be glad that in a growing number of states, from Washington state to Colorado to Connecticut, those 16 and older are now eligible for the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine. (Check your state Department of Health or the New York Times, which tracks state eligibility based on age.

“…The benefits of relaxing some measures such as testing and self-quarantine requirements for travelers, post-exposure quarantine requirements and reducing social isolation may outweigh the residual risk of fully vaccinated people becoming ill with COVID-19 or transmitting the virus to other,” the CDC said.

If you plan to travel overseas, you will likely need to show a negative COVID-19 test as required by the destination as well as a negative COVID-19 test before boarding a flight back to the U.S., the CDC said. (Many resorts, including Sandals and Beaches in the Caribbean, are offering tests free to departing guests.)

But here’s the rub: Kids under 16 won’t be vaccinated until later in the year, though teens 12 to 15 hopefully will be able to get vaccines before the next school year. Pfizer-BioNtech has just announced that in a trial with adolescents, the vaccine was 100 percent effective and the company plans to ask the FDA and other regulators around the world for emergency use authorization. Trials with younger kids are ongoing.

Does this mean that if you have younger kids or grandkids, you can’t vacation together this summer? Not necessarily, public health experts say – as long as you travel smart.

LEGOLAND California
LEGOLAND California

“I get it 100 percent we want to get back to normalcy,” said Dr. Gary Kirkilas, an Arizona pediatrician and spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics, “but we’re not there yet.”

As of April 1, nearly 3.5 million children have tested positive for COVID-19, the American Academy of Pediatrics reports.

Mitigate the risk by traveling by car, he suggests, camping (my latest book, The Kid’s Guide to Camping, a partnership with KOA will be out next month), or staying in a rental house. (AirBnB will debut mom-centric rental tips in time for Mother’s Day.)

Consider less visited state or national parks. Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, for example, turns 100 this year and BOASTS 47 natural thermal springs; You can soak, drink spring water and, of course, hike, though some areas may currently be closed. The park typically gets 1.4 million visitors a year—as compared to nearly 4 million at Yellowstone National Park. (Some parks, including Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, have instituted a timed entry (available starting May 1 through During National Park Week, starting April 17, there will be digital as well as special in-park experiences that can help your planning.

Reason for the bear jam - Bear 399 and her four cubs
Bear 399 and her four cubs in June 2020 – Teton National Park

If you aren’t a camper but want to enjoy the outdoors, consider a cabin resort like the family-owned Kishauwau’s Starved Rock Area Cabins – 17 cabins on 65 acres located 10 minutes from Starved Rock State Park, the largest in Illinois. On Cape Cod in Massachusetts, you can opt for the new AutoCamp Cape Cod with custom-designed airstreams and “glamping” tents. The 16 Yogi Bear-themed Jellystone Parks, meanwhile, are adding new water slides, lazy rivers, floating trampolines and more.

Theme parks have initiated strict health and safety protocols, including mask-wearing, reduced capacity (you will need advance reservations), hand-washing stations and more. (Orlando is open: California parks are beginning to reopen, including LEGOLAND California on April 15, and for Californians, Universal Studios Hollywood on April 16, and Disneyland at the end of the month.

One plus: Because of reduced capacity, you likely won’t experience typical summer crowds.

Avoid flights when possible and international trips. The CDC still advises against all non-essential travel i.e., traveling for vacation, Dr. Kirkilas said. “The reason for this is that while it is true that the vaccines are very effective, they are not 100 percent effective, and unfortunately we have new virus variants that often spread via travel.”

“The virus can still spread among those who haven’t vaccinated, including children,” said Dr. Mercedes Carnethon, an epidemiologist and vice chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Boardwalk filling up at Old Faithful in Yellowstone NP
Boardwalk filling up at Old Faithful in Yellowstone NP summer 2020

For that reason, Dr. Carnethon said she wouldn’t recommend flying with young children yet. “There isn’t a large enough portion of the population vaccinated and contraction rates are going up. It’s not a risk worth taking based on my calculations. … The risk of younger children becoming severely ill is small but is it a risk worth taking?”

Mitigate the risk even more by seeing what the community spread is like where you want to go, especially as some states have relaxed restrictions, potentially leading to more cases. “You definitely want low community spread and base your decisions on that,” Dr. Kirkilas suggested. (Visit the state health department for the location you intend to visit; For overseas, the CDC’s travel website tracks community spread in foreign countries.)

“This summer is going to be tricky,” acknowledges Dr. Kirkilas, himself the father of young kids. “For a family it is what is their acceptable risk factor. … What is acceptable to each family is their decision, but the last thing people want to hear.”

©2021 Eileen Ogintz. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.