Can you believe that 2020 is almost over? If you’re planning an end-of-year trip for the holidays, there are some travel restrictions to know about. Much of the world is inaccessible for leisure travel, but it’s still possible to leave home and sightsee. Only essential travel reasons may be exempt from various travel restrictions.
New York has some of the strictest travel restrictions in the contiguous U.S. 48 states. Most travelers, including New York residents out-of-state for at least 24 hours, will need to quarantine for 14 days or take two qualifying diagnostic tests.
Specifically, “travelers entering New York State from a noncontiguous state, U.S. territory or CDC level 2 or level 3 country,” will need to provide proof of a valid negative diagnostic test upon arrival to the Empire State. This test must be taken within three days before arriving in New York.
The traveler must then quarantine for the first three days and take a second test on the fourth day. The follow-up test must have a negative result to waive the rest of the 14-day quarantine.
If you don’t have a qualifying negative test result before arriving in New York, you will need to quarantine for the full 14 days.
Travelers and residents from bordering states like New Jersey and Connecticut can be exempt from these quarantine and testing rules. However, travelers that only leave New York for less than 24 hours will need to complete the traveler health form and take a diagnostic test four days after returning.
New Jersey strongly encourages a 14-day self-quarantine for those entering from any state or territory outside the immediate region. While a self-quarantine is optional, compliance is expected.
You do not have to quarantine if you arrive from New York, Connecticut, Delaware and Pennsylvania.
Most travelers and returning residents will need to self-quarantine when entering Connecticut. Travelers will need to complete a traveler health form or face a potential $500 fine.
You will need to self-quarantine when you arrive from a state under these conditions:
- Arrive from a state other than New York, New Jersey or Rhode Island
- Positive case rate higher than 10 per 100,000 residents
- Higher than a 10% positivity rate over a 7-day rolling average
- A country with a CDC Level 3 travel health notice
The list of impacted states updates on Tuesdays. As of December 1, 2020, Hawaii is the only noncontiguous state or territory that waives the self-quarantine.
It’s possible to waive the quarantine with qualifying negative diagnostic tests. The first test can be taken up to 72 hours before arriving in Connecticut or after arriving. The negative test results will need to be emailed or faxed to the Commissioner of Public Health.
Pennsylvania strengthened its travel restrictions on November 25, 2020. Travelers and returning residents over age 11 must quarantine for 14 days or show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
These restrictions do not apply to residents only leaving the Commonwealth for less than 24 hours. Traveling to Pennsylvania for essential reasons like work, medical treatment and court orders are exempt as well.
The New England states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine have wide-reaching regional travel restrictions. Each state has different restrictions, but travel is typically unrestricted when coming from a bordering state.
Massachusetts and Vermont have the strictest travel restrictions of the New England states. For instance, Vermont requires a 14-day self-quarantine for all incoming visitors, even when coming from a border state. Effective November 14, 2020, travelers cannot gather with Vermonters and can only mingle with others in their travel party.
Massachusetts is slightly more lenient. You won’t have to self-quarantine or get a negative test result if you come from a “lower-risk state.” As of November 25, 2020, Hawaii is the only state meeting the threshold.
Essential travel is exempt from these travel restrictions.
The City of Chicago requires a 14-day quarantine or valid negative test results when arriving from most states. The necessary action depends on the average daily case counts per 100,000 residents versus the Chicago infection rate.
A “red” travel advisory states means the state has a higher case rate than Chicago. Visitors must quarantine and cannot waive the quarantine through testing.
An “orange” advisory requires a 14-day quarantine or a pre-arrival negative test result. The case count for these affected states is between 15.0 per 100,000 and Chicago’s average rate.
A “yellow” advisory doesn’t require a quarantine or testing as these states have low infection rates.
While Chicago has travel restrictions, there are no statewide restrictions for Illinois.
Hawaii continues to have a 14-day mandatory self-quarantine for all incoming residents and visitors. The pre-travel testing program waives the quarantine with a negative test result. The Island of Kauai is temporarily opting out of the pre-testing program starting December 2, 2020, due to a lack of sufficient intensive care beds.
If going to the southwest to escape the cold, New Mexico has the strictest travel restrictions for the western United States. All incoming travelers and residents will need to quarantine for 14 days. It’s not possible to waive the quarantine by taking a negative COVID-19 test.
Travelers from “lower risk states” can waive the mandatory quarantine. Currently, Hawaii is the only state exempt from New Mexico’s travel restrictions.
Oregon is one state in the Pacific Northwest with some travel restrictions. The state strongly encourages a 14-day self-quarantine for all incoming visitors and residents. Much of the state is currently in a “statewide freeze” to discourage tourism and reduce the “rapid spread of COVID-19 across Oregon.”
Canada remains inaccessible by air and land for non-essential travel reasons. The U.S. land border crossing likely won’t reopen until 2021 at the earliest.
The Mexico land border with the United States remains closed until at least late December. You can fly into Mexico for non-essential travel reasons. Beach destinations like Cancun, Cabo San Lucas and Puerto Vallarta are open without a mandatory quarantine or testing.
Many of the Caribbean Islands are open for a tropical getaway. Unlike Mexico, many islands require a pre-travel negative COVID-19 test result. The restrictions can frequently change as the local health situation changes.
Some of the most islands to consider visiting first for tourism include:
- U.S. Virgin Islands
- Dominican Republic
- Saint Kitts and Nevis
- Saint Lucia
In addition to a valid pre-travel test, you may have to apply for a travel visa. Several islands require buying a government-approved travel insurance policy if you need medical attention for coronavirus symptoms during your stay.
Some Latin American countries are open for non-essential travel. Expect to take a pre-travel test to enter. The social distancing and gathering restrictions are different for each country.
Tourists can have an easier time traveling to these countries:
- Costa Rica
Much of South America has strict border closures except for essential travel.
Much of the world is unreachable for United States travelers outside of the Americas. For instance, Americans can travel to some of the Balkan states in Europe, but most of western and central Europe is closed unless you have dual citizenship.
One faraway destination that continues to be international travel-friendly is the Maldives. Travelers will need to take a pre-travel COVID-19 test within 96 hours before arriving. Travelers may split their stay between different inter-island resorts, but a follow-up COVID test may be necessary. Day visits to other resorts are permissible and don’t require additional testing.
While case counts are increasing and states are limiting gathering sizes, many states do not have statewide travel restrictions like in the spring of 2020. However, international travel remains very difficult. Whether you travel abroad or stay nearby, stay safe and check the local guidelines often.