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How you can plan a staycation in the US right now

We know that travel is especially difficult right now. But alongside the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates, we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content so that when the world opens its doors again, you'll be ready.

World travel may be limited because of coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean adventure is off the table. 2020 has been a year for changing travel trends, with one among them on the rise: the staycation.

What is a staycation, and what are the guidelines for planning one while in the COVID-era? As always, Skyscanner is here to share the information you need in order to book safe, savvy travel. In this article, we’ll walk you through some of the rules for booking a staycation in the U.S., as well as some great ideas on where to take your time off.

What are the staycation rules in the USA?

The United States coronavirus response has been a patchwork process from state-to-state. Some states have maintained strict restrictions on traveling, quarantining at your destination, and the amenities available once you get there. Others have allowed for looser rules within state borders. With an unspecific phased approach to opening and closing businesses, most states have a localized approach.

What Arizona considers “Phase 2” may differ from what Vermont does. Check with local authorities to see what falls under their current phase as a way to determine the viability of a staycation destination. While each phase delivers different accessibility, we’ve listed some of the more common rules to consider when planning a staycation.

Plan a proper staycation by being aware of the rules around your destination

Quarantine

Some states require visitors to quarantine for a period of 7 to 14 days after arriving. The quarantine period can depend on your state of origin, or it could be based solely on the safety precautions of the state you’re visiting. In some circumstances, a COVID-19 test can opt-out visitors from isolation.

Additionally, some states require quarantining for all individuals that visit or re-enter from another high-risk state. These requirements are constantly changing, so be sure to check our coronavirus travel advice page (updated daily) and the destination’s official state website before booking travel. Planning a staycation in a states where you’re unable to leave your hotel room for several weeks might not be the best use of your time and money.

As of November 13, the states noted below require all visitors to quarantine or take a test if they’re coming from high COVID-19 case states:

  • Alaska
  • Connecticut
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois (Chicago only)
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • New Hampshire
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont

Open and closed venues

A staycation is a great way to visit some places near your home that make the United States a unique country. However, arriving at your destination to find that the restaurant you dreamed of visiting is fully booked at 25% capacity or the museum you wished to wander is closed, can be a drag on your staycation. Being aware of these rules can keep service industry staff safe, while also giving you the trip you desire.

Regulations on dining, museums, cinemas, bowling alleys, retail, and other recreational activities vary from state-to-state. In addition, states with more severe rates of the virus may even have limitations on parks, campsites, and outdoor venues as well. Fortunately, few (if any) states have closed hotels, although most have required a change in operations like mask mandates and distancing capacities.

Hours of operation

Another regulation to be aware of when booking your staycation is whether or not there are curfews for your destination. A curfew or change in the operating hours of business and entertainment shouldn’t impact your staycation. Though, it will help you stay within the guidelines of a state’s specific visitation rules.

Staycation museum
The Broad Museum Building in Los Angeles, California

Public transit

The COVID-19 response has differed from state-to-state in America. Given this, you might expect that public transit, ride-sharing operations, and other transportation services have had varied responses as well. For better or worse, this isn’t the case.

In the majority of the country, ride-shares like Lyft and Uber have implemented mask requirements while keeping service uninterrupted. Similarly, public transportation has continued to run, while limiting rider numbers. Most local authorities recommend traveling by car instead. If you don’t want to use your own car, you can also rent a private car due to the many safety precautions implemented by rental car companies.

How to plan your staycation

Thinking about regulations may not be fun, but it is a necessary part of figuring out places to visit near you. Planning a smart, safe staycation in the times of coronavirus starts with being in-the-know on the rules around town.

One skill to have when you’re developing a staycation plan is knowing where to find updates on the specific rules of your destination. A good place to start is with Skyscanner’s daily updated coronavirus travel page. In addition to this info hub, a quick Google search can bring you to the government website of whatever state you’re visiting. From there, visitation rules will be clear and current.

Once informed, you’ll be able to start scheduling the fun parts of your trip. Being aware of dining capacities in a given area can help you decided whether the restaurant you’re aiming for warrants (or requires) a reservation. Are local shops open for the retail therapy you need? Is the hotel where you’re staying blocking rooms after each guest? Each are an important question to planning a staycation.

In the event that the rules in your staycation spot change, it’s important to know how you can change your plans with them. For example, what do you do if your hotel booking is canceled? If you’re booking your flights through Skyscanner’s award-winning app, you’ll also have the option to purchase “Flexible Tickets” that can help you adjust flight plans should things shift.

Staycation inspiration and ideas

A staycation trip allows you the relaxation and benefits of traveling, without having to leave the country. In the U.S., there are so many different options for enjoying your time off. From outdoor trips to urban adventures to foodie feasts–these are some of our recommendations for an inspiring staycation.

Camping and national parks

Based on the rules we mentioned, one of the safest staycation ideas you can put into action is to visit a national park. With 61 sites across the country, there is a park for any destination you’re dreaming of. Some regions of America like Utah, Florida, Texas, and Wyoming have multiple parks within driving distance from each other.

Taking a camping trip is a COVID-safe bet: there’s no better place to socially distance than the great outdoors. What’s better, is that with the National Parks Pass, you can take your staycation fee-free. As always, make sure to check with the National Park Service website for openings, closures, and operation updates.

Joshua tree out a car window
Journey through Joshua Tree or another American national park

Museum tours

Visiting museums may seem like an activity that was canceled with COVID-19, however, it’s one of the many adventures that has adapted with the times. Take the Smithsonian museums in Washington D.C., for example. By implementing a timed-pass policy, the nation’s largest system of museums has been able to stay open and keep visitors safe at the same time.

In addition to touring a Smithsonian, a staycation in America’s capital offers other historic opportunities. The Jefferson, Lincoln, and World War II monuments are open to the public 24/7 (along with a ton of others). These beautiful memorials are outdoors, making socially distant ventures an easier bet. Hotels in D.C. have remained open as well.

Washington DC rules and staycation idea
The Lincoln Memorial is a social-distant staycation adventure

Foodie destinations

Although COVID-19 has been a strain on the restaurant industry, the best way to help is through continuing to dine with local establishments that need business now more than ever. In many places, restaurants have a limited capacity to keep diners distant. Outdoor dining has been a big focus as well. Also, shifting to carry-out and take-away models have kept businesses pushing forward while guest numbers are down.

In cities known for food, like New Orleans, restaurants are the lifeblood of the local economy. A staycation in NOLA can center on eating local cuisines in a mindful way. The Crescent City has an abundance of outdoor dining opportunities under the warm bayou skies. Plus, massive green spaces like City Park, or Audubon Park are a great place to take your po’boys and have a picnic without the crowd.

New Orleans staycation idea
French Quarter food shops are open for your staycation visits

Taking a smart staycation

A staycation might be the break you need from dealing with the year that was 2020. However, going from a vacation idea to booking a smart staycation based on the rules is important if you want to enjoy yourself while also being safe. Remember that the rules and regulations are always changing when it comes to COVID-19. Check out all available government information before planning your trip to make sure that you’re in-the-know of visiting your desired location.

Discover where you can go

Making plans to get back out there after learning about the staycation rules and getting a few ideas? Find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.

Staycation rules depend on your destination

FAQs

Is it safe to fly during COVID-19?

Advice from the CDC suggests that flying during COVID-19 is one of the safer forms of public travel, thanks to the way that planes circulate air with HEPA filers. Most airlines have taken significant precautions to keep travelers safe during this time including increasing the amount of disinfection taking place.

Can I take a staycation now?

The answer to this question depends on where you’re headed. The United States coronavirus response varies from state-to-state. Fortunately, with proper precautions in place a majority of destinations have hotels and business open and ready for visitors.

How do I find places to visit near me?

Settling on a good staycation destination can be difficult, Skyscanner is here to help. We recommend perusing our Travel Tips and News site for inspiration on where you can visit. Once you’ve got one in mind, make sure to check local regulations before booking your trip.

Want to read more?

This article was updated on November 13th, 2020. To our knowledge, the information on this page was correct at the time of publication. Before booking your staycation, please check the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention for the latest COVID-19 rules, restrictions, and updates in the United States.