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What to know about Thanksgiving travel this year — and where to go

You might need to quarantine if you’re visiting one of the many states recommending it for out-of-state travelers.

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Father holding cooked turkey for Thanksgiving dinner outside.

Thanksgiving is a wonderful excuse to gather around the table with friends and family, reflecting on all you have to be grateful for while eating tasty food. This year, though, getting together may be different due to the ongoing pandemic. Whether you’re Zooming from separate rooms or meeting up in the great outdoors, here’s our guide — including travel tips and whether you’ll need to quarantine — to whet your Thanksgiving travel palate.

  • Thanksgiving is Thursday, November 26.

Thanksgiving travel during COVID-19

With infection rates rapidly spiking nationwide, expect stronger travel restrictions over Thanksgiving. The CDC strongly advises postponing travel and staying close to home to avoid getting or spreading COVID-19.

If you plan to travel for Thanksgiving, monitor and understand the risk assessment levels for your destination when planning your trip, before departure and on arrival. Follow safety measures that include wearing a mask in public settings, maintaining social distancing and washing your hands. If you are diagnosed, have symptoms of or are waiting for test results for COVID-19 — or are otherwise at risk of illness — do not host, attend gatherings or travel for 14 days.

Travel restrictions vary by state and are updated frequently, so confirm restrictions when planning your trip, before departing for your destination and on arrival.

Will I need to quarantine?

You might if you’re visiting the more than 15 states requiring or recommending quarantine for out-of-state travelers. Use our table to learn what your state requires.

State Travel restrictions More info
Alaska Travelers are required to: -Arrive with proof of a negative COVID-19 test and submit a self-isolation plan and travel declaration online. OR -Buy a $250 COVID-19 test upon arrival and quarantine until results are available. More info
California Travelers are being asked to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival and avoid non-essential travel. More info
Connecticut Travelers coming from a state with a positivity rate of 10% or higher must quarantine for two weeks, unless they can provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival or any time after arrival. People coming from New York, New Jersey or Rhode Island are exempt. More info
Hawaii Travelers must self-quarantine for two weeks — unless they can show proof of a negative NAAT test taken within 72 hours before take-off, with results verified by a CLIA-certified lab. More info
Illinois There are no statewide restrictions, but people traveling to Chicago may be asked to self-quarantine if they are coming from a high-risk state. Check the Illinois state website to see whether that applies to you. More info
Kansas It's mostly open, but there are restrictions for specific travelers, such as people who've been to Andorra on or after October 21. Check the Kansas state website to learn more. More info
Kentucky Travelers coming from a state with a positivity rate of 15% or more are requred to quarantine for two weeks. Check Kentucky's website to see whether or not this applies to you. More info
Maine Travelers must sign a form stating that they've tested negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours before arrival. They can also take a test upon arrival, though quarantine is required until results are confirmed. Otherwise, travelors must quarantine for two weeks. Residents of New Hampshire and Vermont are exempt from restrictions. More info
Massachusetts Travelers must show proof of a negative COVID-19 test that was administered 72 hours before arrival. Otherwise, you'll need to quarantine for two weeks. People coming from California, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Washington state and Washington, DC are exempt from restrictions. More info
New Hampshire Travelers coming from out of state are being asked to quarantine for two weeks. People coming from Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut or Rhode Island are exempt. More info
New Jersey Travelers coming from a state with a positivity rate of 10% or higher are being asked to quarantine for two weeks, unless they're spending less than 24 hours in New Jersey. Check its website to see whether this applies to you. More info
New Mexico Out-of-state travelers must quarantine for 14 days or the length of their stay in New Mexico — whichever is shorter. People coming from Hawaii, Maine or Vermont are exempt. More info
New York There is a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers that've been out-of-state for more than 24 hours — unless you complete each of these steps: -Test negative for COVID-19 within three days prior to departing for New York -Quarantine for three days upon arrival -Take another COVID-19 test on day four, with a negative result People coming from Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts and Connecticut are exempt. More info
Ohio Travelers coming from a state with positive testing rates of 15% or more are required to quarantine for two weeks. Check its website to see whether this applies to you. More info
Rhode Island Travelers coming from a state with positive testing rates of 5% or more are required to quarantine for 14 days — though this can be skipped if you provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test that was taken within 72 hours prior to arrival. More info
Vermont There's a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival for out-of-state travelers. You can take a test on day seven and end the quarantine early if the results are negative. More info
Washington, DC Travelers coming from a state with more than 10 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people must: -Take a test within 72 hours prior to departing for DC. If the test is positive, don't travel. -Abstain from traveling if a close contact tests positive for COVID-19. -Get tested within three to five days of arrival if visiting for more than three days. People coming from Virginia and Maryland are exempt. More info
Washington A 14-day quarantine is recommended for interstate and international travelers. Nonessential travel is discouraged. More info

Thanksgiving travel tips

Take precautions if you decide to travel home or elsewhere for Thanksgiving this year.

  • Choose an airline that takes safety precautions. If you’re flying over the holidays, pick an airline that advertises its policies to protect customers. For example, Delta keeps middle seats empty, and Southwest offers flexible change and cancellation policies.
  • Prepare for the airport. Follow CDC guidelines and wear a mask while in public spaces. If possible, get an N95 mask and wear gloves for extra protection. Maintain social distancing guidelines, keeping 6 feet apart whenever possible.
  • Plan your trip home from the airport. Avoid public transportation and instead consider renting a car, using a rideshare like Uber or Lyft or asking a family member from your household to pick you up.
  • Quarantine if necessary. Many states require visitors to quarantine for 14 days on arrival. To stay safe from family, designate a space in the house where you block off from family members for at least 2 to 5 days — the minimum time it can take for COVID-19 to incubate. And wear a mask indoors.

Thanksgiving travel ideas

If you need a change of scenery for Thanksgiving without gathering in a crowded home, here are some of our best ideas.

  • Rent an Airbnb cabin. From Florida to Oregon and states in between, you’ll find hundreds of cozy, secluded cabins for rent on Airbnb — many for less than $100 a night. Pick up groceries on your way to the cabin, then hunker down for a few days of undisturbed R&R.
  • Stay in a vacation home with a pool. Turkey, pie and a private swimming pool? Talk about being thankful! Vrbo offers a filter for private pools and hot tubs, so you can quickly target your search.
  • Score an amazing package. Check out Travelzoo for major discounts on vacation packages, whether you’re headed to Palm Springs or the Caribbean. A few days off from work is the perfect time to visit an exotic new place, soak in the sun and sleep in.
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Where to go

So you’re looking for a location that’s got lots of nature-centric activities and plenty of open space. Here’s where you should go:

  • Boise, Idaho. This outdoorsy city has everything you could want for a Thanksgiving vacation, including dozens of hikes in the nearby Sawtooth Wilderness, an incredible downtown food scene with lots of patio space and a river running though it all for long walks in the crisp outdoors.
  • Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains and near the entrance to a National Park, you’ll fall in love with Gatlinburg’s distilleries, hiking trails and southern charm.
  • Lake George, New York. A serene escape in the Adirondack Mountains makes heaven seem like a place on earth. It has hundreds of miles of trails for secluded, quiet hiking.
  • Palm Springs, California. Dry heat and resorts galore make up the “playground of the stars,” along with hiking and biking trails in Coachella Valley, a 30-minute drive away.

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