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Catalina Island
Photograph: Michael Juliano Catalina Island

Day trips from Los Angeles—here’s what you can and can’t do

Stay safe with the most up-to-date guidance on taking day trips from L.A. right now.

By Michael Juliano and Time Out editors
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Summer in L.A. means day trips and road trips for many Angelenos. Well, at least, usually it does. Circumstances are pretty different this summer, but we hear you if you still have the itch to travel.

Los Angeles is in stage two of California’s reopening roadmap, with some early stage three advancements thrown into the mix. Now that you can go to the beach or dine out at a restaurant, life is starting to look like something sort of close to normal (if you squint and turn the lights down real low). But travel is anything but normal right now, so we thought we’d dive in to what you can and can’t do right now in terms of day trips and other regional travel plans.

One more quick note: We’ll update this guide as regulations and health orders are modified, but these things can change fast, so we recommend checking up on the latest city, county and state guidelines before heading to your destination of choice.

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The current state of day trips from L.A.: You can technically travel, but you should be staying local.

Can I travel outside of Los Angeles?

Yes. Nothing is stopping you from getting in a car, train or plane and crossing city, county or state lines. And though all Californians are still urged to stay home as much as possible, you’re free to leave your house to partake in an increasing number of permitted activities. In addition, neither California nor L.A. have any quarantine requirements for those traveling here.

Should I travel outside of Los Angeles?

No, unfortunately, according to local health officials. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health specifically states that “non-essential travel for vacations or pleasure should be avoided.” That’s even as hotels have been allowed to reopen for leisure travelers. The state says that if you need to travel as part of a job in an industry that’s been permitted to reopen, that’s fine—but otherwise you should avoid traveling long distances. And while visitors arriving in L.A. don’t need to quarantine, public health officials do suggest a two-week isolation period. In any scenario, don’t travel if you or someone else in your household is or has been sick in the last two weeks.

Can I go to the beach?

Yes. Beaches all over the county reopened for active recreation, and county-run beaches are allowing some leisure activities, too. That means you can surf, swim, bike, walk or run, and on county beaches you can sit, sunbathe or picnic. Neighboring counties have also reopened their beaches.

Should I go to the beach?

Go for it. You’ll need to keep six feet away from others, and face coverings are required outside of the water. Just a heads up that parking may be limited or unavailable at some popular beaches.

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Can I visit a state or national park?

Yes, both state and county orders allow for spending time outside in nature. Trails and parks within the county have been open since early with some modifications, like limited capacity at Runyon and required reservations at Eaton Canyon. State parks are moving forward with a gradual reopening process, and most nearby national parks have at least partially reopened.

Should I visit a state or national park?

Yes, but both local and federal agencies caution that you stay local. And here in L.A., you must wear a mask in the trailhead parking lot, as well as on crowded stretches of trails. 

Can I take a train or bus?

Yes. Public transit networks across the region have remained open, but many have modified their schedules. In addition, passengers are required to wear masks in order to board Metro buses and trains; DASH, Commuter Express and Cityride buses; and at LAX.

For longer trips, companies like Amtrak (which also hosts bus services), are operating modified schedules and requiring passengers and employees to wear face masks onboard and on platforms. Also, the Catalina Express continues to operate service to Catalina Island (though you’ll need a mask to board).  

Should I take a train or bus? 

For essential travel within L.A.? If you need to (as part of its office building guidelines, the CDC somewhat controversially recommends traveling solo in a car instead).

For travel outside of L.A.? We’re giving the idea of taking a train a “maybe” that leans more towards “no.” If you do decide to take a train trip, we highly recommend staying away from dining and drinking cars or any areas where fellow passengers congregate. And as far as taking a bus, we’re going to say avoid it for now.

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Can I take a domestic flight?

Yes, you can take flights throughout the United States. Here are the changes many airlines have instituted in their cabins: fogging the plane with disinfectant before boarding, utilizing High-Efficiency Particulate Air filters that recycle air dozens of times per hour, allowing food and drink to be brought onboard en lieu of cart service and mandating that all flight attendants wear masks. (Be sure to check the individual airlines’ policies on their respective sites.) The TSA also recently announced new guidelines inside the airports themselves. As CNBC points out, “travelers will scan their own paper or electronic boarding passes instead of handing them to a TSA office.” What’s more, face masks are mandatory and hand sanitizer stations are available in airports (and you’re allowed to take hand sanitizers on flights). At the moment, there is no federal mandate on performing health screenings on passengers. Want a full rundown of the new TSA policy? Check out our detailed breakdown

Should I take a domestic flight? 

Maybe precariously teetering towards no. It’s worth checking out how both L.A. and the states you’re traveling to are faring with cases at your time of travel, which you can track on the CDC site. The trouble is that once you’re onboard, it’s difficult to stay six feet away from other humans, even with stricter guidelines in place. The CDC also notes that “traveling to visit family may be especially dangerous if you or your loved ones are more likely to get very ill.” If you decide to scrap your plans, here is everything you need to know about getting a refund, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Can I stay in a hotel?

Yes. Under California’s stay-at-home order, hotels were initially to be used only for public health needs and temporary housing solutions. But the state, as well as the countyhas released guidelines for hotels to welcome customers again. And while hotels can accept leisure travelers, the stay-at-home orders still discourage people from anything other than essential travel. Whether or not your local hotel of choice will choose to reopen right away is another question entirely.

For those places that have opened, CNN points out that initiatives such as electrostatic sprayers for cleaning, contactless check-ins and shutterings of communal areas like buffets are in effect at many hotels. Be sure to call the hotel to learn about their cleaning and check-in policies.

Related: the 15 best hotels in America.    

Should I stay in a hotel?

Maybe. According to USA Today, Airbnbs are potentially a safer option, as there are likely less interactions, not to mention less common spaces like lobbies and elevators.   

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Can I book an Airbnb? 

Big time. The company announced an optional protocol, according to USA Today, which includes a 40-page manual on proper cleaning practices and at least 24 hours between rentals. 

Should I book an Airbnb? 

Perhaps. L.A. has released guidelines that include some very strict cleaning procedures. It’s also worth considering bringing your own cleaning supplies and doing a quick clean after check-in—here’s how to do that—and, before booking, seeing how the area you’re planning to stay in (or live in) is doing with cases. Finally, we highly recommend booking  an “entire place,” not a “room,” as the former will demand less human interaction. 

Can I use Uber, Lyft or other ride-hailing apps?

Absolutely (though, again, technically only for essential trips). As we discussed, ride-hailing services are requiring all drivers to wear masks and passengers to sit in the back seat, with windows rolled down. 

Should I use Uber, Lyft or other ride-hailing apps?

At this stage, we’d argue that no, you shouldn’t, as you’ll invariably be within six feet of the driver and near surfaces strangers have likely recently touched. And as far as doing a ride share? Even if the company allows it, just don’t.

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Can I rent a car? 

For sure. As detailed in USA Today, many car-rental companies, including Hertz, Rival Enterprise, Avis Budget and Dollar Thrifty, have instituted new, strict cleaning guidelines for their vehicles. Be sure to consult individual companies about their processes and check those against CDC cleaning recommendations.    

Should I rent a car? 

Maybe. Even if you feel safe after checking out a company’s cleaning guidelines, be sure to keep any and all stops along your journey to the bare minimum. For instance, stock upon all the essentials you’ll need (snacks, etc.) before taking your journey. And as always, see how the area you’re planning to travel to is doing with cases.

Can I take a cruise? 

No, although cruise lines are hoping to resume service as early as this summer

Should I take a cruise? 

Nope.

Looking for more reopening info?

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