This was my first trip this year. Alaska’s vastness and natural sense of social distance made her the obvious choice to travel during the COWID-19 pandemic.
Plus, it’s great. The journey to the final frontier turned out to be a great way to stay home, and yet I feel like I’ve stepped into another world surrounded by epic scenery.
While Alaska is no different for American travelers, the state had its own travel needs during the pandemic. With few infections, it’s a great place to visit.
However, guidelines and recommendations should be followed to make this possible. As elsewhere, these rules and restrictions are constantly changing, and it is important to check the latest information before considering a trip.
I recently took a 10 day trip to Alaska following the latest protocols for safe travel in the 49th…. and this is what it looked like.
Winter in Alaska (Photo: Lauren Breedlove)
Before you leave
Although travel advisories have changed in recent weeks, it is still strongly advised to follow the guidelines to ensure the utmost safety and health of residents and visitors. I left at the very end of February, a few days after the mandate change, and followed all the recommended protocols. Although I was already aware of the requirements, I received a reminder email from my airline with the options for appropriate testing and quarantine plans.
First, I did the Covid molecular-based test (not fast) 72 hours before I arrived in Alaska. I quickly and easily found a place to drive in upstate New York. For a list of all the test sites in the US, this site is an excellent resource. Specifically, this must be done 72 hours before your last departure to the state. So, since I had two connections for my trip, I was tested when my third flight left from Denver to Anchorage.
Although I had no symptoms, waiting for the official results a few days ago while I was packing for a trip was nerve-wracking. I heaved a sigh of relief when they came back negative and uploaded them to the Alaska travel portal as proof and provided my quarantine plan if needed. You don’t have to print it out, but I saved the PDF of the test results on my phone as a backup.
If I don’t have the results back in time, you can provide proof of the upcoming test and have a self-quarantine plan (like the one I filled out on the travel portal). Self quarantine is the responsibility of the traveler, travel insurance is recommended.
You can also take the test for free when you arrive at the Alaska airport. To be safe during the flight, it is definitely advisable to get tested before the trip as well.
When I checked in at the airport, the desk asked me to confirm my Covid test and also confirm that I had entered the correct information in the travel portal. I did both, so it was a matter of going to the gate as usual. The guesthouse was different… in the best way. Instead of a group where the men line up, they come a handful of rows at a time, back to back, as they should. I hope it’s something that sticks.
My route took me from Albany to Anchorage with two short stops. For the first time since starting the Covid trip, a long twelve and a half hour day, I was a little worried about flying with two nervous masks. For the most part, with regular reminders from airline staff, people have been complying with the mask rules, but there are still a few that are not being followed. It should be noted that scarves or a shirt pulled over the nose are not suitable masks. The airline I flew with offered free masks if you didn’t have one.
When I got to Anchorage, I was definitely ready to take the mask….. and eat. After going through a few lines, we went to a check-in area before heading to the baggage carousel. We were asked to show the greetings I had entered into the portal before we left, including the negative Covid 19 test results and the self-isolation plan. It went pretty fast and then we were on our way.
As the mandate is currently advisory in nature, there is no obligation to provide this evidence, but it is strongly recommended. If you do not have the test results at the time of boarding, you will be advised to remain in quarantine and/or the test will be offered at the airport.
It is also suggested that you take a second test if you are in Alaska for more than 5 days. The Alaska government information website announced that travelers who indicate on the Alaska travel portal that they will be in Alaska for five days or more will receive a voucher to take an additional second test five to 14 days after arrival. The voucher entitles the holder to a free follow-up examination at the airport on the test sites.
In some places (for example trains and some restaurants) you will need to maintain a social distance and wear a mask.
I took an Alaska Railroad winter train from Anchorage to Fairbanks, and masks were mandatory except if you were actively eating and drinking. The train was also 50% full, with empty rows in front and reserved seats behind each row.
Plus, a road trip is a great way to get away from it all while exploring the great state of Alaska.
Depending on where you are traveling in Alaska, you should be aware of local restrictions and follow the rules in that area. As always: Stay home if you don’t feel well. The most flexible policy allows you to postpone the trip if necessary.
On these pages you can find a lot of current information:
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