Is traveling out of state right now a good idea? Here’s what to consider
As Labor Day looms, where can you go to mark the unofficial end of summer? Can you visit a state that has reopened? Or one that’s still reopening? How do you find out about local regulations?
Welcome to a three-day weekend, coronavirus-style. The only consistency among U.S. states is the lack of consistency about rules and regulations.
Here’s a guide to some of Californians’ favorite destinations in response to this question: Can I travel for a holiday weekend?
In many cases, you can but sometimes with caveats. The real question may be whether you should.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says this in its travel guidelines: “Travel increases your chance of getting and spreading COVID-19. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.”
Assuming you decide to hit the road — car travel is the most popular vacation mode this year, AAA reports — check the list at the end of this article for information on resources.
Also, assume you’ll need a face mask. In some places, the requirements varies by municipality or county.
Now, on to some of your favorite holiday destinations. Can you go to ...
Thinking of a nice cool place? Alaska may come to mind; Juneau is promising temps in the high 50s the next couple of weeks.
The requirements for visiting Alaska are stringent. You must have a COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours before arrival. If you don’t have one, you’ll pay $250 for a test and must quarantine at your expense until results are back.
If you’re a vacationer, these regulations may not be worth it because the season is usually over by Labor Day. You can dream about next summer.
It also offers you a place to check mask-wearing rules (required, for instance, in Flagstaff, Winslow and much of greater Phoenix but not in Holbrook, Wickenburg and Gila Bend).
One caution about the Grand Canyon State: You need to love weather that’s hotter than ours. Temps for this weekend are forecast in the triple digits, topping out at 113 on Thursday and cooling to the 104-to-107-degree range in Phoenix (very similar to Gila Bend’s forecast) and about 4 degrees cooler in Wickenburg this week and for Labor Day weekend. In frosty Flagstaff, expect highs in the 80s the rest of this week, according to Weather.com.
Hawaii? Maybe after Oct. 1
You can go to Hawaii, but you’ll have to quarantine for 14 days in a hotel or motel (no Airbnb or rental for you). You’ll be exchanging the four walls of your home for the four walls of a hotel room.
You may not travel to other islands during that two-week period. Beaches are closed, as are state parks.
The most recent orders call for these rules until Sept. 30, but the order has been extended several times.
Don’t even think about flying and sneaking around; the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported that two Chicago women were arrested on Maui on Aug. 18 after posting social media pictures of themselves in Lahaina. (Duh. You don’t think authorities are looking at social media?)
You may be fined up to $5,000 and sentenced to a year in jail. Again, Hawaii is a great place to be, but jail for a year? That’s a steep price for paradise.
California? Yes, with asterisks
Argh, California. If it’s not one thing, it’s another and sometimes both. The “both” now is wildfires, mostly in Northern California, and COVID.
You can follow the wildfire coverage here.
What’s open varies, so take a look at the state’s County Monitoring List. If you see your destination, know that you won’t find open bars (unless it’s a dine-in restaurant), and dine-in restaurants may operate only outdoors. “Personal care service” (nail salons, massage and, remarkably, tattoo parlors) are not open and neither are hair salons, barbershops and malls.
San Diego, California’s perpetual golden child, is off the list and now on track to reopen more fully next week, the San Diego Union Tribune reported Aug. 20. Officials said the city and county would reopen cautiously. Legoland theme park was closed as of Friday (although the hotel is open), but the San Diego Zoo is open and operating at reduced capacity.
To see what’s open around the L.A. area, check out the L.A. Times Guide.
Nevada? Yes, mostly
Vegas, baby? It’s open for business after a shutdown this spring that took the wind out of its sails and sales. The city creaked back to life in June after Gov. Steve Sisolak blessed the reopening of the business that built the city.
To see what’s open, check the L.A. Times’ weekly update, including news of the reopening of the Mirage.
If you want to quench your thirst, you’ll need to find some place other than a bar. Bars reopened at the end of June and closed again in late July. Nevada’s COVID-19 gatekeepers decided Aug. 20 to keep bars closed for a couple more weeks, the Reno Gazette Journal reported that day, which brings us to the cusp of Labor Day weekend.
It’s hard to wear a face mask when you’re drinking, but you won’t be. You will need to wear a face covering in public spaces, the governor has mandated.
Oregon? Yes, with asterisks
Oregon is in a phased reopening plan. To find out which counties are open, follow this link. Portland, for instance, is in Multnomah County, which was “approved for Phase 1 and on the ‘watch list,’” as of Tuesday. A place is on the watch list “when COVID-19 is spreading quickly and public health officials cannot trace that spread to specific sources — creating a potentially dangerous dynamic.” Most counties are in Phase 2, although some remain on the watch list.
Washington? Yes, with asterisks
Like Oregon, Washington has a phased reopening plan. To see a county-by-county list, click here. To see what the phases mean, click here and scroll to Page 11. Phase 1 asks that people stay home; in Phases 2 and 3, people are encouraged but not required to do so. (Seattle is in King County, which is in Phase 2.) Phase 4 means normal activity can be resumed “with distancing.” As of Friday, no county was in Phase 4.
Canada? Not now
The U.S. and Canada on Aug. 14 extended the ban on nonessential travel through Sept. 21. You must prove your trip is essential, have no signs of coronavirus and quarantine for 14 days.
Essential travel includes: “work, study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care, safety and security. “
Mexico? Not now
“Do not travel to Mexico due to COVID-19,” the U.S. Embassy and Consulates page says in an Aug. 6 travel advisory. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested avoiding nonessential travel to all of Mexico, calling the risk “high.” The State Department also cites crime as an issue, suggesting states you should skip and states that are on the “reconsider travel” list, including Jalisco, home to Puerto Vallarta.
Sources of information
For foreign destinations:
State Department’s country-specific COVID pages. Filter by country.
For U.S. destinations: The Kaiser Family Foundation has a website that provides a state-by-state look at COVID issues as they affect travelers.
State tourism offices for domestic destinations
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