Holiday Plans and COVID-19

Updated December 10, 2020

It’s time to make holiday plans — but COVID-19 can make that difficult. Here is some expert advice to help. 

Avoid travel

The safest option is not to travel this year. Put off your holiday travels until next year, when the virus should be under better control.

There may be cases in which this doesn’t seem like an option. College students may need to come home after school ends. Elderly relatives may be isolated, and you may worry about them. Some of us will just be determined to get together with friends and family no matter what. 

If you are determined to travel, be sure to follow all recommended precautions.

  • Wear a mask if you are with anyone outside your household. Carry several so you can keep them clean.
  • Wash hands frequently and thoroughly.
  • Carry hand sanitizer for situations in which you can’t wash your hands.
  • Try not to touch your face.
  • Avoid crowds. Stay 6 feet apart from other travelers. Know your route and travel plans so you won’t be surprised by crowds.
  • Bring what you need with you in order to avoid making stops 

Stick with your bubble

Your COVID-19 bubble includes the people living with you in your household and other people with whom you spend time. These other people should be following the same precautions you follow. Try to keep holiday plans to your COVID-19 bubble.

Let’s say you meet with your brother and his family for dinner every week, and both households wear masks, wash hands, and practice social distancing. You can all gather for Christmas, too. They are members of your COVID-19 bubble.

If Uncle Ron won’t wear a mask and doesn’t limit his contact with other people, he doesn’t belong in your bubble. He should join your holiday table with Zoom, Skype, or Facebook Live. This can lead to uncomfortable conversations. The best plan is to have those conversations soon. Waiting until the day before Christmas to let people know they can’t join you will just make it harder. 

Elderly relatives may also not belong in a COVID-19 bubble with school children. People with conditions that put them at greater risk, such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease, or being a smoker, should join their families virtually. 

Schools are doing their best to keep everyone safe and healthy, but schoolchildren pose more of a risk than kids who have been at home seeing only their families. 

The same is true of some kinds of workplaces. Try to be realistic in determining who can safely gather. Keep numbers down, too. Avoid having more than 10 people inside together.  Click on the interactive graphic below from El Pais to see how the coronavirus is spread through the air

Be creative

This holiday season may be different, but it can still be special. 

Family Zoom game nights can be a lot of fun. Get in a few practice games before the big day(s) so technical glitches don’t derail the fun. Jackbox is one source of virtual games that can be played remotely. There are many more.

Virtual gifts that can be sent as a photo file, PDF, or video can be fun choices for this unusual year. Dropping off a surprise on friends’ and families’ porches is another safe and fun idea. If you’ll need to mail gifts, give yourself plenty of time.

Watch classic holiday movies at the same time and text one another while you do. Have each household send the others a special snack so you can all share that experience as well. 

If you will be alone during the holidays this year, think of ways to make it a happy time anyway. Line up phone calls with friends or family members, plan delicious meals for yourself, and set up some activities that will make the holidays satisfying. Your holidays might be a restful time to read or listen to music, or you might choose to work on projects you’ve been putting off. 

Get outside

Staying indoors with a group for a long period of time, especially if you’ll be laughing, singing, or playing games that cause people to raise their voices, is risky behavior. 

If the weather cooperates, try to spend time outdoors. Northwest Arkansas sometimes has warm days. If it’s cold, bundle up and go for a hike to stay warm. Heat up the fire pit or hang out on a well-ventilated porch. 

Keep indoor gatherings shorter than usual if you can. Clean and disinfect surfaces between times spent together.

Plan ahead

14 days before your holiday gathering, ask everyone who will attend to be vigilant about social distancing, wearing masks, and washing hands. Make this an important part of your holiday plans, and you will have less to worry about.

Clean surfaces in the hosts’ home before visitors arrive, and frequently during visits. 

Avoid hugging and snuggling up together. Next year you can hug twice as much to make up for it. 

You should also review the Holiday Guidelines from the Arkansas Department of Health and the Travel Guidelines from the CDC.