US citizens still aren’t welcome in many destinations because of the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States. Those who are looking for a vacation are left wondering when restrictions will be lifted and when they’ll be allowed to travel freely again.
Not all the news is depressing, though! The reality is that Americans can still travel, even internationally. The details can be hazy and confusing, so we’re going to help clear things up by answering your questions:
- Can I travel within the United States?
- What’s the safest way to travel within the United States?
- When can I travel to visit family or friends?
- When can I travel internationally again?
- Should I travel internationally right now?
- When can I travel by plane again?
- When can I take a cruise?
- Do car rental companies have flexible cancellation policies?
- What cancellation policies do hotels have?
Take a closer look at which countries are open for tourism. Head to Skyscanner’s global map to find out the latest status.
Can I travel within the United States?
The answer is “yes, but…” Individual states aren’t being so strict as to deny entry to US citizens and residents in the airport or at state lines. However, each state has its own restrictions. For example, many states are requiring a 14-day self-quarantine for travelers and returning residents from specified high-risk states and countries.
International flights are also not being redirected through the 15 select airports anymore. Some states are allowing people to avoid that mandate by showing proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test such as Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Others are requiring to fill out travel forms and complete a 14-day quarantine regardless if you have a negative COVID-19 test or not.
Just be aware that many businesses across the country remain closed, maintain shorter working hours, or have specific entry guidelines, such as wearing a mask and social distancing. Tourist attractions may be closed too. To avoid disappointment when you arrive, check online beforehand for the latest details and guidelines from your intended destination.
What’s the safest way to travel within the United States?
During a pandemic, any mode of travel will carry some amount of risk. It’s difficult to completely avoid encountering other people during your trip. But the less interaction you can have with others, the better.
Opt for destinations that are closer to home and uncrowded so you don’t have to sit on a train, bus, or airplane for as long. If you can, drive your own car on your trip.
You may also consider camping, renting a vacation home, or traveling via RV instead of staying in a hotel. Although many hotels are taking extra precautions, shared spaces like the lobby, elevator, and hallways still carry risk.
When can I travel to visit family or friends?
After months in isolation, many folks are ready to see the people they love the most. While you should research and adhere to local, state, and international guidelines on traveling, precautions for visiting family or friends is similar to other types of travel.
Before you plan your travels home for the holidays, evaluate the risks to yourself and your loved ones. It’s important to have an open conversation with your family and friends to make sure you’re on the same page about the expectations for your visit. For example, if you normally stay in your childhood room, consider booking a hotel. If you usually get picked up from the airport, consider renting your own car to get around for the duration of the trip. If you’d like the option to change or cancel your flight, opt to purchase flexible tickets.
You can also consider taking a COVID-19 test upon arrival. While it’s a great option, just be aware that it’s not 100 percent failproof and there have been accounts of false-negatives. The risk of spreading COVID-19 is still present, so when possible, try to socially distance, meet outdoors, and wear masks while interacting with those who don’t live in your home.
When can I travel internationally again?
Now. Yes, you can travel internationally now! While these countries might not be as easy to enter as they were pre-pandemic, there are still some great options! As of November 25, 15 countries are open with low restrictions for Americans, while 108 countries are maintaining closed borders to American citizens and residents, including many Caribbean, European, and Asian nations.
If you’re itching for an international getaway, here are a few of the countries that have low restrictions for American visitors as of November 25:
- Dominican Republic
- Costa Rica
Be sure to check the latest government guidelines for your intended destination. It’s important to note that as of early October, Europe has had a second wave of COVID-19 cases and many countries like France, Spain, and Italy have introduced lockdown restrictions.
Although it might be a little more challenging to organize an international trip, it’s not impossible. We’ve created a guide for planning a multi-country holiday with advice on visas, travel restrictions, and how to reduce your risk.
Should I travel internationally right now?
On August 6, 2020, the State Department lifted its Global Level 4 Health Advisory, which had been in effect for nearly five months. This didn’t restrict travel but advised citizens not to go abroad for non-essential purposes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, the State Department is issuing country-specific guidelines as it previously had.
The question of whether you should travel internationally is mostly up to your individual circumstances and whether your intended destination is allowing or restricting American citizens. Start by checking the State Department’s website for its advice so you can make an informed decision.
When can I travel by plane again?
Although the travel industry is hurting, airplane travel is still operating. Most airlines are disinfecting cabins between flights and are equipped with HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters that block 99.7% of microbes in the air. Many airlines are also only booking fewer passengers so that the middle seat is not occupied, such as Hawaiian Airlines (ends Dec. 15, 2020), Alaska Airlines (Jan. 6, 2021), and Delta Airlines (March 2021). Southwest Airlines will start selling middle seat tickets starting December 1st. Face masks are required on planes and in most airports.
Additionally, most airlines are being very flexible with their change and cancellation policies. Delta, American, Frontier, and United are among the airlines waiving change fees for existing and new tickets booked by a certain date. In fact, on August 31 United announced that they’re permanently waiving change fees for most Economy and premium cabin tickets (for flights within the US) until the end of the year.
The specifics differ by airline, so be sure to check the policy before you book a ticket so you understand what options you have if you need to postpone or cancel your travel plans.
Remember, even if you don’t feel comfortable travel now, you can always plan now and travel later!
When can I take a cruise?
There have been several outbreaks on cruise ships, so as of July 16, 2020, the CDC has recommended putting off travel on cruise ships due to the high infection risk to the crew and passengers onboard. Many large cruise ship companies had temporarily ceased voyages on their own accord. Issued on November 4, the Conditional Sailing Order for Cruise Ships is in effect until November 1, 2021 or until the CDC changes the public health order. With the Conditional Sailing Order, cruise ships will need to complete a series of steps to be able to function again, including testing the crew for COVID-19, meeting safety standards, and modifying entertainment.
Read more: 11 Warm Places to Visit in January
Do car rental companies have flexible cancellation policies?
Since there are fewer restrictions for traveling between states than internationally, a staycation road trip may be a great option! Car rental companies have also implemented flexible policies for customers. Avis, for example, is allowing renters to alter an existing reservation without incurring any change fees. Enterprise extended its no-fee cancellation policy to include prepaid rentals booked directly with the company.
Third-party booking sites have their own change and cancellation policies that are separate from the rental car companies they connect travelers to. Orbitz, for example, offers free cancellation on most cars if customers decide to change or cancel their rental reservation. Note that most pre-paid rental bookings are non-refundable.
What cancellation policies do hotels have?
Many places have also started to reduce restrictions on hotels. Hotels have instituted thorough cleaning procedures and flexible change and cancellation policies. However, it’s important to note both the date you made the reservation and the dates of your upcoming stay. Both will play a key role in what your options are.
For example, Marriott International’s worldwide hotel policy, is to honor the policy that was in place for existing reservations with a future arrival date. A separate policy is applied to travelers who make a new Marriott reservation on or after July 6 with an arrival date by December 30. These bookings can be changed or canceled without charge up to 24 hours prior to the scheduled arrival date.
All non-refundable or pre-paid reservations at IHG hotel will be subject to the terms and conditions of the rate booked. They can also be canceled without a penalty up to 24 hours beforehand until December 31, 2020. Be sure to check the latest company policy before you book to understand what your options are.
Keep in mind, too, that third-party websites maintain change and cancellation policies that are different than the many hotel brands they facilitate bookings with. If you plan to use one of these sites to make a reservation, check whether its policy is more favorable to your circumstances than if you booked directly with the hotel.
Read more: 11 best beach hotels in the US
Frequently Asked Questions
The CDC recommends that travelers returning from particular countries such as China, Iran, and Brazil stay home and monitor their health for 14 days. Some state and local governments require a 14-day quarantine for those returning from high-risk areas. Check the CDC’s site for more details.
The US government recommends a 14-day quarantine.
Experts advise that non-essential travel should be avoided. However, there are no mandates in place restricting US citizens from traveling domestically and to some foreign countries. If you choose to travel, follow CDC travel guidelines to help reduce your risk of exposure.
This page was last updated on November 25, 2020. To our knowledge, the information on this page was correct at the time of publication. However, given the nature of the COVID-19 crisis, information will vary by location and change at short notice and over time.