This holiday season is sure to be different from any holiday season before it, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to find ways to enjoy your favorite traditions. While the CDC discourages large gatherings and big family events, you can still gather your family virtually or in smaller groups to help reduce your risk for infection.

While experts agree that those with higher risks for infection and complication should avoid contact with others who may be exposed, you may still want to shop and send gifts to loved ones, or gather with one or two isolated family members for masked, distanced meals.

Navigating this holiday season safely will take extra planning and care, but with a focus on prevention and protecting your health, you can still find ways to make the most of it.

Holiday Shopping
Whenever possible, try to do the majority of your purchasing online or over the phone with curbside pickup. If you must visit a store, be sure to visit at low traffic times, and try to shop as early in the season as possible. Make sure that masks are enforced in the shops you visit, and be sure to wear yours properly, covering both your mouth and nose. Maintain 6 feet of distance from other shoppers at all times, and try to make your indoor shopping trips brief.

If you choose to travel this holiday season, be sure to bring extra masks, hand sanitizing wipes and disinfectant with you as you go. When in public or around other travelers, wear your mask at all times, and be sure to maintain 6 feet of distance between yourself and others. Traveling by car is significantly lower risk than traveling by airline. If you’re able to drive to your destination, be sure to use extra safety precautions at gas stations, during rest stops and at restaurants, along your drive. If you choose to travel by plane, call the airline in advance to request a seating assignment with no passenger directly beside you. Try to travel early, before the holiday rush, and be extra mindful of maintaining as much space and distance from others as possible.

Overnight Guests
Whether you plan to be or have an overnight guest in your home, it will be imperative that you communicate with your hosts and/or guests to determine expectations and plans ahead of time. If you’re hosting, consider setting aside a room as an “isolation room” should you or your guests develop symptoms. You may want to request that your guests isolate for a period of time before traveling to your home to help mitigate their risk for infection.

Holiday Meals
For many families, sharing a traditional holiday meal is important. Try to keep your gathering as small as possible, to allow for space and limited exposure. If you must eat indoors, try to keep windows open and ventilation maximized, require that masks be worn at all times except while eating and drinking and keep surfaces wiped down and sanitized regularly. Consider using single-use silverware and dishes and be sure to wear masks during food preparation and meal serving. Avoid buffet-style meals or self-serve options, and be sure to wash and disinfect all food preparation and guest areas both before and after your gathering has begun. If you or your family members are high risk, it is best to avoid gathering in person and to choose a virtual holiday meal option.