What You Need to Know About Summer Travel During COVID-19

two young girls on the back of a car


Key Takeaways

  • Americans are making plans for summer vacation, and people are wondering what they can do and where they can go.
  • Coronavirus cases have surged in many states and new travel restrictions have been put in place.
  • The CDC recommends minimizing out of state travel whenever possible and being extra vigilant about maintaining social distancing, mask-wearing, and handwashing protocols.

As beaches, restaurants, and more begin to shut down again amid spiking coronavirus numbers, you may be wondering if you should still take that family vacation—especially if you are scheduled to go to an area where coronavirus numbers seem to be increasing.

For the most part, experts still caution against traveling too far from home, unless absolutely necessary. But there are ways it can be done if need be.

What the CDC Says About Travel

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel guidelines have not changed much since the beginning of the summer, despite the fact that beaches along the east coast and in Florida have been experiencing increasing numbers of coronavirus cases since re-opening. In fact, the CDC still maintains that travel within the United States increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19.

Coronavirus numbers are hitting record highs in areas like Florida and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Even Texas and Arizona are experiencing surges in reported cases since states across the country began relaxing stay-at-home orders and people began traveling more.

In response, Texas Governor Greg Abbott shut down bars and scaled back restaurants to 50% capacity on June 26, 2020. He also shut down river rafting trips and banned events with 100 or more people.

Meanwhile, Florida set a record for nearly 10,000 new COVID cases in a single day. Restaurants near Smyrna Beach are shutting down voluntarily due to rising coronavirus numbers. The same thing is happening in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, which had more than 2,500 open COVID cases as of June 26.

CDC Travel Recommendations

Because travel increases your chances of getting and spreading COVID-19, the CDC still maintains that the best way to keep yourself and others safe is to stay home. If you plan to travel anyway, the CDC suggests that before you leave that you check the health department in the area where you will be going to determine what types of restrictions are in place.

Keep in mind too, that many local, state, and national parks have been temporarily closed due to COVID-19. So, if you were planning to see some traditional parklands, most of those have been closed until further notice.

The CDC also advises that you pack plenty of hand sanitizer as well as your own food and water, in case restaurants and other similar facilities are closed or unavailable.

The CDC also advises wearing a face mask in public, maintaining six feet of distance in public areas, and bringing all medications with you—both prescription and over-the-counter. It even offer suggestions on how to safely clean the place where you'll be staying.

Finally, the CDC recommends that you use contactless check-in whenever possible and that you take the stairs instead of the elevator at your hotel. If you do have to ride an elevator, wait until your family can ride alone.

Once in the room, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. You might also consider wiping down all the high-touch surfaces with appropriate cleaning supplies. Minimize the use of areas where you will come in contact with other people, like lounges, patios, game rooms, pools and hot tubs, and other public spaces.

How to Travel Safely This Summer

If you cannot reschedule your vacation, are ineligible for a refund, or you just need to get away for a few days simply for your family's mental health, there are ways to get away from home and still limit your exposure.

Plan Ahead

Clearly, this summer, road trips are going to look different. Not only are there fewer cars on the road, but your driving plans may be interrupted by checkpoints at state lines, quarantine orders, cashless tolls, closed welcome centers and rest areas, and fewer options for hotels and restaurants.

If you're traveling by air, consider having wipes handy for cleaning your seat area. You will be required to wear a mask in the airport and throughout the flight.

Plus, things are changing quickly across the U.S. So you should plan to check multiple sources to see what you can expect at your destination and along the way. Check the CDC website for a link to each state's health department; the National Governor's Association has a page dedicated to state COVID-19 emergency orders.

The Department of Homeland Security has extended the closure of the United States' borders between Mexico and Canada to non-essential travel until July 21, 2020. This closure was extended beyond the original date of June 22.

As for checkpoints at state borders, you can access the American Automobile Association's (AAA) interactive map to see where checkpoints are located as well as determine if there are any specific travel restrictions in city, state, or county you're visiting.

You're also likely to see that state-mandated restrictions vary widely from state to state. For instance, in Hawaii, all out-of-state visitors are required to self-quarantine for 14 days until at least July 31. Violators of the order will be subjected to a $5,000 fine.

And in Florida, visitors from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are subject to a two-week quarantine. In Alaska, visitors can bypass the 14-day quarantine if they can show proof of a negative COVID-19 test five days before their arrival.

Consider a Vacation Spot Close to Home

Because there are so many unknowns with regard to travel from state to state, many experts recommend that you chose a vacation spot close to home. Not only will this alleviate a lot of stress about the unknowns, but it also is a safer option in case you do get sick. You will be close enough to home that you can return if you want or need to.

Likewise, vacationing near your home allows you to explore areas that you might have neglected prior to the pandemic because you were always looking to get out of the state during your vacation. You may discover some new favorite family spots that right in your backyard.

Rent an RV

Most experts would agree that the safest family vacation right now is a trip that involves mother nature and is close to home, especially because the virus doesn't have as many options to spread when you're outside. As a result, some people are opting for a home on wheels, better known as an RV.

According to a report published by the RV Industry Association, van-style campers have shown nearly a 35% increase in sales as more people are realizing that camping may be the route to go in the midst of a pandemic. And even though numbers for other styles of campers are down for the month of May, there are indications that sales are increasing.

Rent a Home With a Private Pool

If you are planning a vacation and have not already secured your vacation spot, you might want to consider renting a house with a private pool instead of a hotel. This way, the only people swimming in the pool will be you and your family.

Additionally, with a home, you also can prepare most of your own meals and won't need to venture out unless you want to order takeout or pick up groceries. Another benefit of renting a house is that you can control how many people you are around and limit your exposure. In a hotel or condo, you will be in regular contact with other vacationers in the hallways, elevators, and other common areas.

Avoid Cruise Ships

Although the CDC typically reserves its travel health notices for other countries and international destinations and not vessels like cruise ships, it has issued a Level 3 Travel Warning for cruise ships because of the increased risk of transmission of COVID-19.

According to the CDC, vacations aboard cruise ships and river cruises is discouraged at this point due to the tight quarters on the ship and how easily the coronavirus spreads on these vessels.

Postpone Trips Abroad

If you were planning to travel abroad this summer, you probably want to postpone your trip. In fact, many countries are prohibiting visitors from the United States to enter their countries. And even if you did happen to get through customs, you are likely to face a two-week quarantine once you're there.

What's more, under the U.S. State Department's Global Level 4 Health Advisory, Americans are encouraged to avoid all non-essential international travel due to COVID-19 unless they intend to stay abroad for an extended period of time. The State department also stresses that while it will make every effort to help Americans get home who are stuck abroad, this may become increasingly more difficult.

What This Means For You

Vacations are supposed to be fun. The best way to accomplish that is to plan ahead for the safest trip or staycation possible. This will mean being aware of the restrictions and guidelines at your destination, spending most of your time away from public areas, bringing your own food and drinks or ordering takeout, and practicing safety measures like wearing a mask and social distancing.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

Was this page helpful?
4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Considerations for travelers--coronavirus in the US.

  2. American Automobile Association. COVID-19 travel restrictions.

  3. RV Industry Association. RV shipments in May 2020.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 and cruise ship travel.

Additional Reading