As COVID-19 seems to pop up in a new spot every day, many fear the coronavirus will derail their travel plans.

Should they pull the plug on a vacation and settle for a staycation?

Give it careful consideration, says Rosemary Olivero, MD, section chief of pediatric infectious disease at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

You can take a trip—but, if you do choose to travel, take precautions and stay close to home.

“Traveling for spring break is a really exciting time,” she said. “Everybody loves to do it—to get out of the cold weather and experience some sun and some fun.”

“But this year, with all the health alerts going on about the coronavirus, it’s a great opportunity to think about where you’re going and how to keep yourself and your family as healthy as possible.”

Travel within the U.S. generally offers the health advantage of good sanitation practices. And you are not likely to encounter many mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria.

But even a flight to Florida, a popular spring break destination, has health concerns.

“You’re going to be sitting very close to other people,” she said. “A lot of viruses are transmitted by sitting within 6 feet of another person. And that’s exactly what you do on an airplane.”

Especially at this time of year, with cold and flu and possibly COVID-19 viruses in circulation, she advises taking steps to minimize your risks.

Regular hand-washing “is absolutely a must” when traveling this time of year, she said.

“Not only can you get sick from people coughing and sneezing close to you, but often times, the things they cough and sneeze actually land on your body and you touch it with your hands,” she said. “And if you put your hands on your eyes or nose or mouth, you can then infect yourself.”

Hand-washing can be very effective in helping you avoid those germs. Use soap and water and take 20 seconds to lather them up for a thorough wash. Hand sanitizer also is effective, she added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not advise healthy people to wear a face mask to protect against respiratory diseases.

“Face masks should be used by people who show symptoms of COVID-19 to help prevent the spread of the disease to others,” the CDC says.

“The use of face masks is also crucial for health workers and people who are taking care of someone in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).”

Consider buying travel insurance, Dr. Olivero added. Or pay for the higher cost flights that allow you to reschedule. That can provide a safety net in case you need to change your plans.

And keep an eye on the news about your destination. Because of COVID-19, concerts, conferences, sporting events and other large gatherings have been canceled or postponed. Many museums and big attractions such as Disney and Universal Studios have temporarily closed. Restaurants may also be closed.

A travel ban on European visitors flying into the U.S. will likely affect airline availability and schedules. And with borders closing around the world, it’s best to stay close to home.

Travelers also can check the advisories posted online by the CDC.

Additionally, the State Department recently warned travelers—particularly the elderly and those with chronic health conditions—to not take cruises amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“Every day, things are changing about whether or not it’s safe to travel somewhere,” she said.

At this point, the CDC has issued an Alert Level 3 for China, South Korea, Iran and Europe because of COVID-19, recommending that people avoid nonessential travel to those countries.

It has issued an Alert Level 2 for essentially the rest of the world, where travel is not recommended for older adults and those with chronic medical conditions.

Here are other tips if you must travel:

  • Boost your immune system pre-travel: Get plenty of rest, eat right and stick to an exercise routine.
  • Make sure you and your kids are up to date on vaccinations.
  • Pack enough prescription medications for your trip in your carry-on luggage.
  • Take a medical kit that includes: Band-Aids, antibiotic ointment, aspirin or Tylenol, aloe gel for sunburn, cough drops, cold/flu over-the-counter medication, antacids for upset stomach, Pepto-Bismol tablets for diarrhea.
  • Even while enjoying vacation treats, make sure to eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, lean protein and whole grains—to minimize the risk of digestive upset.
  • If you’re traveling by plane, train or bus, wipe your seat, seat belt, tray table, arm rests thoroughly with sanitizing wipes, and use sanitizer on your hands. Avoid the magazines or other cards in the seat back pockets. Avoid touching your face.
  • Stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  • Avoid bug bites with insect repellents and by covering up during peak mosquito hours at sunrise and sunset.
  • Practice sun safety in warmer climates: Wear a hat, protect your eyes with wraparound sunglasses that provide 100% UV ray protection, and for sunscreen, use one with a SPF double what you’d normally use at home.