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Traveling during coronavirus? Here’s what you need to know
The scoop on restrictions in the US and abroad.
Updated . What changed?
As cases fall in some areas of the country and around the world, restrictions on travel in the US and abroad are lifting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance on who should quarantine, limiting its recommendations to people exposed to COVID-19, and providers around the company are welcoming people who’ve booked a post-quarantine getaway.
Still, you should adhere to social distancing wherever you go, and many foreign countries aren’t yet allowing American tourists.
Travel restrictions within the US
On January 21, 2021, President Biden issued an executive order requiring face masks in airports, bus and rail stations, as well as while on passenger aircraft, public transportation, passenger railroads and buses operating on scheduled fixed-routes.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a follow-up order requiring masks on conveyances and at stations, ports or similar transportation hubs. The CDC has dropped its 14-day quarantine requirement for travelers within the US. However, it does recommend anyone who has been exposed to someone with COVID-19 should quarantine for two weeks and to be on guard against symptoms of COVID-19. You should also keep six feet away from others, wear a mask and wash your hands often.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) will enforce both face mask orders from President Biden and the CDC until May 11, 2021. Failure to wear a mask can result in civil penalties, and passengers may be denied entry, boarding or continued transport.
Additionally, each state has its own policies in pace to help slow the spread of COVID-19. For example, New York requires people traveling to the state to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival. Simply put, you need to read up on the restrictions in your destination and home state before setting out.
- Good to know: Quarantine requirements don’t usually apply if you’re only driving through a state.
That said, traveling within the US right now — whether you’re planning an old-fashioned road trip, renting an RV or flying — while adhering to social distancing and safety measures can be arranged. If you don’t feel comfortable staying at a hotel, you could opt for a vacation rental instead, which offers privacy and a much-needed change of scenery.
|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|
International travel restrictions
While the US is no longer banning flights in and out of Europe, many countries around the world are prohibiting US travelers from entering — including the EU. The best way to understand the current international travel restrictions in place is to reference the US State Department’s travel advisories page, which can also direct you to each country’s official COVID-19 travel policies. Some countries that are open to US tourists right now include Aruba, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Mexico.
- Tip: You may experience delays or longer wait times when crossing international borders, due to increased COVID-19 screening measures. So it’s a good idea to build extra time into your itinerary when you enter or leave the country.
How to cancel or postpone your travel plans
Most travel companies have relaxed their terms and conditions in light of the coronavirus outbreak. Many airlines have canceled flights and waived change fees. Likewise, most tour and cruise lines are allowing passengers to postpone their travels. Exact policies vary, so you’ll need to research the updates issued by each provider to cancel or reschedule your plans.
Does travel insurance cover the coronavirus?
It depends on the details of your policy. However, regular travel insurance doesn’t typically cover coronavirus, since it’s considered to be a pandemic. On the other hand, if you purchased CFAR insurance, your chances of receiving a refund are higher.
Still, each travel insurance company has its own policies. So be sure to understand exactly what those are before making any decisions.
If you do travel, take care of your health while away
If you find yourself in a position where you must travel, consider packing a coronavirus travel kit. This should include masks and essentials like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes — plus convenient extras like a reusable straw and spare underwear. Be sure to disinfect all surfaces that you come into contact with, and avoid person-to-person exposure, like shaking hands, as much as possible.
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Ways to cope if you have to cancel your travel plans
Canceling long-awaited travel plans is a bummer no matter the situation. Here are some ideas to help keep your spirits high at home:
- Be a tourist in your own backyard. While the White House has advised against dining in restaurants and bars, many still offer takeout. And in cities like New York, establishments can even deliver alcoholic drinks. Not only can this add a little flavor to your quarantine days, it also helps support local businesses suffering from sudden closures.
- Stream TV shows about travel. Watching somebody else explore other countries may not be as satisfying as taking the journey yourself, but it can help scratch the travel itch and keep you inspired until you can visit on your own two feet. Start off with Salt Fat Acid Heat (Netflix), which follows chef Samin Nostrat through Japan, Italy, Mexico and California. Then check out Eat the World with Emeril Lagasse (Amazon Prime) — the Havana episode offers insight into a country that’s been restricted for US travelers since early 2019.
- Stay close to loved ones over video chat. If you were planning on traveling to visit friends or family, it may help to schedule regular video chat sessions with them instead. While this can’t replace the pleasure of being with each other, it can help create a support network until you’re able to see each other face-to-face.
Depending on your situation, it may be best to postpone travel arrangements. If you want to get a vacay on the calendar but don’t want to part with your money until it’s a done deal, you could browse hotels, airlines and cruises that let you book now and pay later.
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