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U.S. COVID Travel Restrictions

If you are considering traveling within the United States, or have been abroad and are considering returning to the U.S.A., there are some important U.S. COVID travel restrictions to be aware of.

US Covid Travel Restrictions

U.S. Travel Restrictions For Overseas Travelers Coming To The United States

Starting in January 2021, the U.S. Department of State advises travelers heading to the United States to be aware of Centers For Disease Control requirements. Those requirements include the following:

  • All air passengers entering the United States must have a negative COVID-19 test, taken within three calendar days of departure or proof of recovery from the virus within the last 90 days​.
  • Airlines must confirm the negative test result or proof of COVID-19 recovery for all passengers two years of age and over.
  • Airlines must deny boarding of passengers who fail to provide documentation of a negative test/COVID-19 recovery.

U.S. Travel Restrictions For Traveling Within The United States

The Centers for Disease Control strongly recommend delaying travel until you have been fully vaccinated, but there is no domestic restriction from traveling within the USA other than your personal safety concerns.

Conditions on the ground are subject to change depending on location; should a COVID-19 outbreak affect a certain area, new or renewed travel rules may apply.

It should be noted that the requirements to wear masks and socially distance may apply differently based on your destination and what was enforced yesterday may have different rules of engagement for today.

A mask requirement is not necessarily a limitation on travel, though people who choose not to think about the wellbeing of others by refusing to wear masks or socially distance may FEEL they are subject to a travel restriction.

In some locations, being reasonable and choosing a mask means being able to travel, while refusing one means you personally have opted out rather than being “banned” from doing so. It’s up to you, but those who operate your travel options have federal and local guidelines to follow and cannot make exceptions to those rules except as provided by the regulations.

CDC Travel Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People

Fully vaccinated Americans who choose to travel should take note of the following CDC guidelines–these come in the form of suggestions/recommendations in one area and mandatory compliance requirements in others. When traveling:

  • You MUST wear a mask while indoors at airports, bus stations, train stations, etc.
  • You MUST wear a mask while riding on planes, trains, and buses.
  • You are NOT required to wear a mask in outdoor waiting areas or in outdoors travel situations such as an uncovered boat or an open-air top deck on a bus where applicable.
  • You are ENCOURAGED to self-isolate after travel if you develop symptoms
  • You MUST obey any state or local requirements for masks, vaccinations, testing, etc.

CDC Recommendations for People Who Are Not Fully Vaccinated

If you are not fully vaccinated the Centers for Disease Control have requirements and recommendations that include the following:

  • The CDC advises travelers to get a viral COVID-19 test no later than one day before travel.
  • The CDC states unvaccinated travelers MUST wear a mask while riding on planes, trains, and buses.
  • Unvaccinated travelers are ENCOURAGED to self-isolate after travel if you develop symptoms.
  • Unvaccinated travelers MUST obey any state or local requirements for masks, vaccinations, testing, etc.
  • After traveling, get tested with a COVID-19 viral test no later than five days after the trip.
  • Self-quarantine for a full 7 days after travel even if you test negative.
  • Follow all state and local recommendations or requirements.

Travel Restrictions Change: Check Often

Some areas may experience increasing or decreasing issues with COVID, and travel guidance is subject to change based on these alterations.

For example, at the time of this writing, a plan to loosen travel considerations from certain European countries made headlines as a possibility but at press time no final determinations had been made.

You should check with a variety of sources for travel requirements in and outside the country. You can start at the official site for the Centers For Disease Control, the U.S Department of State, and other government official sites that provide the latest guidance on safe travels during the pandemic.

You can also check with your travel provider–an airline, train station, or bus station should also provide localized updates on what to expect at travel time to and from the station or airport.

Things To Remember About Traveling During A Public Health Emergency

You may experience long indoor lines at security checkpoints in the airport, or in boarding lounges in bus stations and train stations. If you are concerned about social distancing when traveling, you may wish to make reservations for off-peak hours or consider an alternative.

Some travel choices are safer than others. A non-stop flight or ride is better for social distancing and avoiding exposure than one with multiple layovers. A shorter journey is safer than a longer one, and traveling with fully vaccinated companions is highly recommended.

Once you arrive at your destination, sharing accommodations is discouraged unless all are fully vaccinated. The most isolated you are from the general public when staying at a hotel or Air b-n-b, the better.

You will also read CDC advice about dining out when you must travel–carry out and delivery are safer (especially for the unvaccinated) than eating in a restaurant, food court, etc. If you must dine in at a public place, make sure you avoid cramped facilities or those without adequate ventilation. Outdoor dining is safer in general, but if you must be indoors choose carefully.

Much of this advice also applies to outdoor recreation facilities. If you travel with fully vaccinated people and are fully vaccinated yourself, you stand a better chance of having a safe excursion than those who must share facilities and sleeping spaces with people who are not vaccinated or fully vaccinated.

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