Stay Safe at Home

Returning home after being away at college can be tough at any time, and COVID-19 has brought a new set of concerns when leaving campus.

How can you travel home and enjoy time with loved ones safely? 

Day of Travel

  • Reduce the number of stops on the trip. Take a direct flight if possible, and if driving, pack food/snacks for the car trip home.
  • Delay travel if sick or exposed. Anyone feeling ill, recently diagnosed with COVID-19 (within 10 days), or exposed to someone with COVID-19 (within 14 days) should self-isolate and delay travel. Students should follow guidance from their health care provider regarding when recommended isolation/quarantine periods are complete and travel can be resumed.
  • Take safety precautions during travel, especially if using public transportation. Wear a face covering at all times and consider also wearing a face shield. Stay at least 6 feet away from other people; if not possible on public transportation, sit as far away from other passengers as possible. Carry and use hand sanitizer (with at least 60% alcohol) frequently.
  • Use a disinfecting/sanitizing wipe to clean any touchable surfaces in the vehicle in which you are traveling. This includes planes, trains, and other forms of transportation.
  • Re-check for any requirements or restrictions at your travel destination.
  • The least risky option is private transportation by yourself or your family members. If in a car with others outside the household, wear a mask and sit in the back seat if someone else is driving. If weather conditions permit, open the windows.


Arrival at Home

  • The most cautious approach upon arrival home is to quarantine for the first 14 days after arrival. This is especially important if there are vulnerable, higher risk individuals living in the home and/or there is high prevalence on the campus or in the local community surrounding the campus prior to leaving for home. Quarantining in the home includes:
    • Eating meals in a private space or outdoors with family at least 6 ft apart.
    • Using separate serving ware, utensils, glasses, and plates.
    • Using a separate bathroom from other family members. If not possible, disinfect the bathroom after each use.
    • Avoiding physical contact including hugging, kissing, and shaking hands.
    • Wearing a mask and maintain a distance of at least 6 ft when in the presence of others.
    • Restricting movement within and outside the home.
  • If quarantine is not possible, stay physically distant from family household members, wear a face covering, and avoid close contact, including hugging and shaking hands, for the first 14 days home.
  • Consider placing HEPA filter units in the home and opening windows to increase air circulation.


Lastly we know that in “normal” years, reintegrating into your home can be challenging as you have grown and changed while at college. This year will be no different, so as you work to set new boundaries, here are some tips to have productive conversations without hurt feelings.

Be clear about your limits

It can feel uncomfortable to ask a lot of specific questions about an event. Instead, you can simply explain what you would feel safe doing. For example, “I’d love to come, but I want to be sure I’ll feel safe. If everyone will be outside, wearing masks and spread out, I’ll be there for an hour or so.”

Gather your thoughts

With so many factors to consider right now, it can be hard to respond in the moment. It’s ok to take time to think. To buy yourself a little time to consider, try something like: “Thank you for the invite! It’s tempting. Let me get back to you tomorrow with what would work for me.”

Offer alternatives

Ask if there is another way to connect with the person who invites you to a gathering. Acknowledge you really want to see them but want to keep everyone safe. Gatherings over video or socially-distanced and outdoors are both good alternatives to gathering indoors.

There are restrictions on gatherings

Restrictions on gatherings vary by location, so check your city and county restrictions for guidance. If you get an invitation that doesn’t follow the current restrictions, please say no. Respecting the current restrictions is a way to do your part to help yourself, your friends and family and your community.

Be clear

Saying no effectively starts with just that – saying no. A simple, direct no, is the best way to make yourself understood and closes the door for negotiations. Your “no” is enough. If you get pushed for more reasons or are accused of being too cautious, you aren’t obligated to reply.

Be honest

Excuses are tempting, but they can easily backfire when your convenient excuse is met with an equally convenient solution. Honesty is usually the best policy: “I wish we could get together, but I don’t want to do anything to risk you or my family/myself getting sick.”

On the flipside - Respecting Boundaries

Hearing “no” from family and friends can be hard – especially in a time as difficult as this.

It’s easy to be frustrated with other people’s boundaries and respond in ways that make people feel guilty for their decisions. Before you respond to someone who has said “no” to your invitation, remember:

They feel bad too

No one is enjoying being away from the people they care about, and turning down invitations is difficult for everyone. If someone tells you they aren’t comfortable gathering right now, it’s important to understand they are making a decision they feel is important to protect they and their loved ones’ health.

Show you care

Other’s decisions to skip gatherings right now aren’t about not wanting to see you. Even if you don’t agree, try to let them know you understand and look forward to seeing them in the future.

Offer alternatives

Saying “no” to a group gathering doesn’t mean they are saying no to everything. Ask if there is another way to see each other that would be more comfortable for them, and listen without pushing them to change their point of view.

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