Where can Americans travel to right now? We answer this question, plus others on booking vacations for next year, COVID-19 tests, and more in this month’s edition of our travel advice column.
Q. “Where can Americans travel right now?” – KM
A. Currently, Americans are able to travel to over 60 countries and territories worldwide. This list changes daily and often comes with some restrictions (for example, pre-trip COVID-19 testing requirements or even rules on where travelers can go/what they can do in their destination). For the most accurate, up-to-date information, check the official government website for the country you are considering visiting.
Q. “Which are safer, hotels or Airbnbs?” – IK
A. There are pros and cons for hotels and vacation rentals. Hotels will generally have a more standardized, higher-grade cleaning process than a vacation rental (where it might be the homeowner doing the cleaning themselves). However, with a hotel, you’ll have the added risk of more shared spaces (like elevators and lobbies) and other guests to contend with, that you wouldn’t in a vacation rental. For the safest option, Dr. Sarah Raskin, an assistant professor at the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs at Virginia Commonwealth University, recommends motel-style lodging where you have exterior doors and hallways to rooms. This setup “may offer the best of both worlds, with regard to centralizing cleaning regulation, limiting exposure to other guests, and with the additional comfort of independent HVAC units.”
Q. “Is now the time to book a cheap vacation for next year?” – RS
A. Dreaming of that first post-pandemic vacation is one of the things helping people get through these tough times, and having something to look forward to could be a huge morale booster. Plus, you can snag some amazing deals on flights, hotels, and vacation packages. So we say yes, but with three big caveats:
- Carefully read the cancellation policy before you book anything. None of us know what 2021 is going to look like, and if you have to cancel that long-awaited vacation for any reason (new travel restrictions, loss of a job, illness, etc.) you want to be sure you can get your money back.
- Consider getting travel insurance. Even if you’ve never bothered with it before, “these uncertain times” are a good reason to take out a policy, especially if you’re booking an expensive trip. Make sure you read the policy’s fine print to check that it covers coronavirus-related cancellations.
- Pay with a credit card. The last year has been extremely tough on the travel industry, and there’s the possibility that your airline or hotel might go out of business before you travel. If you’ve booked on a credit card, you should be able to dispute the charge and get your money back.
Q. “How can I find a COVID testing place that will get me results in 72 hours in time to travel?” – SS
A. Testing availability and result times vary widely by area, and it can be an expensive gamble to take if your trip hinges on getting the results in time. If you’re flying, many airports and airlines are starting to offer COVID testing to passengers, which is the best way to get your results in time. If you’re driving, some states now offer same-day testing to visitors.
Q. “Which airlines are the most COVID safe? Any middle seat airlines to avoid?” – KM
A. As of right now, four U.S. airlines are still blocking middle seats, but that’s about to change. The four airlines that are currently blocking middle seats are:
- Alaska Airlines (through January 6, 2021)
- Delta Airlines (through January 6, 2021)
- Hawaiian Airlines (no end date)
- Southwest (limiting booking capacity through November 30)
Q. “How can I be a good tourist if I travel?” – IK
A. WEAR A MASK. We can’t emphasize enough that this is the best way to be a “good tourist” and protect other people. In addition to wearing a mask, you should also consider if it’s even ethical for you to go. If you’re traveling from a place with a high rate of coronavirus infections to a destination where the virus infection rates are low, you risk bringing it into the community. If you do travel, be sure to follow all local guidelines around mask-wearing, social distancing, and quarantining. Tip well, and be kind and patient—remember that many travel industry workers have been out of work for months and are struggling right now.
Q. “What should I pack and wear for flights during the pandemic? Should I bring my own blanket, wear gloves, a face shield, etc.?” – AC
A. Wear the best mask you own from the moment you leave your house until you arrive in your own room at your destination. A face shield or goggles can add an extra layer of protection and help prevent infection via the eyes (however, you cannot wear a face shield in lieu of a mask on a flight, only in addition to a regular mask). Gloves aren’t very effective, as most people will still touch their faces while wearing gloves (and the gloves don’t magically offer protection if you’ve touched a dirty surface).
Q. “Can I still fly with my pet?” KM
A. You can still fly with your pet, but it’s harder than normal during the pandemic. Many airlines are not currently allowing pets to travel in the cargo hold, and are limiting the number of animals allowed in the cabin (even more than usual). Check with the airline before you book your ticket to see what the current rules are.
Q. “Where can I get access to all the states’ requirements for COVID travel?” – KT
A. If you want to view all of the states’ travel requirements at a glance, CNN travel has a continually updated list. Always check your resident state’s travel advisory (generally found on your state government’s website) as well as the site for the state you’re traveling to for the most accurate information.
Q. “Are national parks open?” – TK
A. Almost all national parks are currently open (and it’s wildfires, not coronavirus responsible for shutting down places like Rocky Mountain National Park. Just know that although the parks may be open, amenities such as indoor restrooms, visitor centers, and campgrounds may be closed. Check the National Parks Service website for the park you wish to visit to plan ahead.