Traveling is now becoming a safer option for most Americans as more and more people are getting vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a physician travel expert.

However, this does not mean people who are fully vaccinated can travel carefree; they still need to wear masks, maintain social distance, and follow other guidelines.

In a recent media briefing, Dr. Henry Wu, Senior Physician at the Emory University School of Medicine, said, “I often get asked ‘If the vaccine is so effective, why should a vaccinated person still wear masks and distance in a public space?’”

“Of course you should always follow any local rules on masking and requirements on aircraft, but the real question is: Is there added protection from COVID with masking if you’re already vaccinated? The answer is yes,” explained Dr. Wu, who is also the director of the Emory TravelWell Center.

He went on to say that “you still do not want to take the small risk of getting infected or spreading infection to somebody who is at high risk for severe illness” because no vaccine offers 100% foolproof protection.

Dr. Wu, who is also an associate professor at Emory University School of Medicine, said, “Trip planning should include research on COVID-19 requirements at your destination and for the return trip home. It is a bit of a maze out there. My best advice is if you are traveling, do your research in advance. You don’t want to get caught off guard, sent home unexpectedly, or put in quarantine unexpectedly.”

You could put yourself at risk if you are visiting a nation with a high number of COVID-19 cases.

Dr. Wu explained that do not focus only on the flight portion of the trip you are traveling by airplane, according to Medscape Medical News.

He said, “Airplanes are ‘quite a safe environment’ with air exchange and filtration systems, but all too much attention is really put on the flight when really travelers should think about the entire trip…and how they are interacting with folks along the way.”

“Cruise ships are a unique form of travel and come with some unique considerations,” he added. Cruise ships have experienced outbreaks of the new coronavirus as well as other viruses.

Dr. Wu said, “The industry is working hard to make things a lot safer. Some have announced that they are requiring all staff and passengers to be vaccinated.”

About unnecessary travel, Dr. Wu said that it is safer to stay home rather than traveling, adding, “Travel is a little more risky than it was pre-pandemic…but having the vaccine certainly makes it safer.”

He added vaccination is “proving highly effective and safe and it’s becoming more available to Americans every day. I’m vaccinated but I’m still keeping my guard up.” The article was originally published on Medscape Medical News.