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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 August 24, the CDC 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. The CDC states that “you and your travel companions pose a risk to your family, friends, and community for 14 days after you were exposed to the virus,” noting that you should keep tabs on your health after returning home, 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.
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 or from 28 states (plus Guam and Puerto Rico) to quarantine for 14 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 offer privacy and a much-needed change of scenery.
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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