With the pandemic raging on and most of the country facing an upcoming second wave and second lockdown this winter, rules about traveling across the United States have only gotten murkier this year. Which means, we're still left wondering "Can I travel in the USA and—most importantly—should I?"
We’ve tried to break it down here, with detailed options as far as flights, rental cars, Airbnb and hotel stays, train services and more—and consulted guidelines from the CDC on whether you should safely take advantage of any of those options this holiday season. As always, be sure to adhere to six-feet social distancing, wearing a mask and/or gloves, washing your hands regularly and cleaning surfaces properly if you plan to check out the best places in the USA and research the travel restrictions of your destination in advance.
This probably goes without saying but, no, we are not medical professionals, merely wanderlusts who have researched what we all can do safely, to the best of our knowledge. Take care of yourselves out there.
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 the states you’re in and traveling to are faring with cases, 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 from COVID-19.” 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 travel to Mexico or Canada?
Technically no. Travel restrictions between the U.S., Canada and Mexico have consistenly been extended all year long. Non-essential travel between the North American countries is currently prohibited. (Yes, that means your winter getaway to Cancun.) Only those working in essential services and citizens/residents returning home will be allowed to cross the border. Read more about it here.
Can I travel to the Caribbean?
Techincally yes. The islands that make up the Caribbean have been in various stages of reopening since June, with many countries open to tourists who are willing to be tested before departure. Here's what each island requires from visitors who are thinking of hoping on a flight this year.
Can I travel to Europe?
Technically yes. Though Americans were banned for most of the year, some countries are open to U.S. traveleres such as Croatia and Ireland (with mandatory quarantines and negative tests). Make sure to research your destination.
Can I book an Airbnb?
Big time. The company announced an optional protocol earlier this year which includes a 40-page manual on proper cleaning practices and at least 24 hours between rentals.
Should I book an Airbnb?
Perhaps. It’s worth noting that the guidelines listed above are optional, not mandatory, and are flagged on specific rentals. 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.
Photograph: Matthew Placek / The Rockaway Hotel
Can I stay in a hotel?
Yup, as many are indeed open. Iinitiatives 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.
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.
Ubers, Lyfts, etc.
Can I use Uber, Lyft or other ride-hailing apps?
Absolutely. 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.
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.
Photograph: Courtesy Amtrak
Trains and busses
Can I take a train or bus?
Yes, depending on where you’re coming from and going. Companies, like Amtrak (which also hosts bus services), are requiring passengers and employees to wear face masks onboard and on platforms. (Read: If you don’t have a face mask, you’re not allowed to come onboard.)
Should I take a train or bus?
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.
Can I take a cruise?
No, cruise lines have not resumed operations.
Should I take a cruise?