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What to consider if you decide to travel during the pandemic

Heading out for a summer vacation is still possible, but there’s a lot to know before you go

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FILE - Seating is empty at a gate at Salt Lake City International Airport on Thursday, April 30, 2020.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

If you love experiencing new places, the past several months have been hard. Most of us canceled our spring break plans and plenty of trips scheduled for the summer. It’s hard to know from day to day what each destination’s regulations are as they try to keep COVID-19 under control.

But no doubt you’ve seen friends posting from international locales. How are they doing it? One of my Instagram friends recently honeymooned on a Caribbean island, and I was green with envy looking at her photos. They had the island nearly all to themselves. But if you’re considering heading to another country right now, be aware that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends staying home for 14 days after you return. During those two weeks, they say to monitor your temperature and breathing and to avoid public transportation. They say you also should not go to work or school. However, a tropical vacation with a postvacation quarantine still may be worth it for some folks, especially if they’re working from home anyway.

Travel website Kayak has a great graphic showing which countries have restrictions. A massive 92 countries are completely closed, 79 are partially closed, 14 are opening soon and 35 countries have no restrictions at all. The website also has policies for airlines and hotels available. It’s super helpful to see at a glance whether your favorite hotel chain allows last-minute cancellations or whether your go-to airline will give refunds or only allows rescheduling.

If you’re planning to jump on a plane, note that the Transportation Security Administration is now allowing one liquid in carry-on bags to be up to 12 ounces instead of the normal 3.4 ounces. That’s right, hand sanitizer. Agents may screen it separately, but it’s nice to know it won’t get thrown away. The TSA also has information online on how many of its employees at each airport have tested positive for COVID-19. John F. Kennedy International in New York has had the most with 117 and not one airport has had zero positive cases.

Traveling within the United States is very tricky, whether by plane or car. Each state has its own restrictions on airports, restaurants, hotels and mask requirements. If you plan to travel to a specific state, or even pass through a state, be sure to check with its health department to get details. 

The mask mandate alone could cause you problems. While some states may not have a mask requirement, cities within the state could. Disregarding the requirement could mean fines in some places. The Cleveland, Ohio, city council decided each violation of its mask mandate would result in a $25 fine for individuals. But in West Hollywood, California, the sheriff has said his deputies will issue citations and the first offense will cost you $300. Better to be safe than sorry and always have a mask (or two) on hand when traveling.

New York, New Jersey and Connecticut require visitors from 33 states to either produce a negative COVID-19 test or self-quarantine for two weeks when they arrive. This also applies to people who travel to those states and want to come back to the tri-state area. Those arriving via airplane must fill out a form explaining the rules. People who don’t submit a form could be fined $2,000 and be placed in mandatory quarantine.

The city of Chicago has a similar restriction for travelers visiting or returning to the city from 17 states. The city has placed restrictions on people going to and from “states experiencing a surge in new COVID-19 cases.”

Florida requires travelers flying from that tri-state area of New York, New Jersey or Connecticut to quarantine for 14 days. Kentucky requires visitors from nine states to quarantine upon arrival and New Mexico requires all travelers entering the state by vehicle or air to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Alaska and Hawaii have even more in-depth requirements to follow if you plan to travel there.

And remember, depending on your destination, some companies are requiring employees to stay home for 14 days after traveling. Check with your employer before you pack your bags.

You’ll definitely need to do some research before satisfying your wanderlust these days. Whether all that work will be worth it is up to you.