Travel to California in May
April 4, 2021 2:41 PM   Subscribe

I am considering traveling to California in May to the San Francisco area. The current plan is to fly in and rent a car to drive up the coast. I seem to have read somewhere (though I can't find it now) that California was requiring a 10 day quarantine for persons arriving at the airport. I would not want to travel there if this is the case. I have been fully vaccinated and would, of course, be masked and observe all the usual precautions. What are the current restrictions? Is this trip even feasible?
posted by statusquoante to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
Best answer: Here are the rules:

Fully vaccinated travelers:
* are less likely to get and spread COVID-19, and can travel safely within the United States and California
* should follow CDC travel guidance, and are not required to test or quarantine before or after travel unless they have symptoms concerning for COVID-19 disease.

posted by Toddles at 2:48 PM on April 4, 2021 [7 favorites]

Note that apparently, rental cars are very expensive right now.

"When COVID started, the rental car companies basically went into survival mode. They had to sell off large portions of their fleet just to survive. [...] Now, the companies can't buy cars fast enough to keep up with demand." Global shortages of chips needed to produce automobiles is one additional factor.
posted by blob at 3:27 PM on April 4, 2021 [2 favorites]


If "up the coast" means (the wonderfully scenic) HWY 1, make sure to check its status before you start driving. Part of it fell into the ocean this winter and is still under repair. There's a five-mile stretch closed to traffic in the Big Sur area. Repairs are expected to be completed sometime this summer, so you'll probably have to account for the closure if you are planning on taking that road.
posted by secret about box at 5:26 PM on April 4, 2021 [8 favorites]

I don't know what to say on current restrictions, because odds are are at least somewhat good that the restrictions may have changed one way or the other by May. Whether or not they're easier or harder, however, god, WHO KNOWS ANY MORE. Right now counties are lowering their tier rankings so it's presumably getting a bit better, but who knows if that'll last since today's a holiday and everything gets worse oh, 2 weeks after a holiday. Plus variants. So I wouldn't put down any commitments financially until oh, right before a trip if I were you. I don't think anyone can guess right now if driving the state will be easier or harder in another month.

I will note that if you want to cruise along the coast, each county may have differing restrictions depending on their color at the time. Looks like "up the coast" from San Francisco is red tier in general. And I dunno on restroom finding since I hear a lot are locked down these days.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:42 PM on April 4, 2021 [1 favorite]

I had to travel to California last fall due to a family emergency and I'm here to tell you that all quarantining rules are based on the honor system. There is literally no enforcement. Nobody is paying any attention to what people do. Do with that information what you will.
posted by jeremias at 4:34 AM on April 5, 2021

I'm here to tell you that all quarantining rules are based on the honor system.

I flew into LAX for work last week. Zero attempt at any enforcement at all, so being as you are fully vaccinated I'd not worry at all. The lack of restrooms may be an issue but the state is pretty much travelable. Can confirm that Rental cars are FORKING expensive right now.
posted by Brockles at 5:17 AM on April 5, 2021

I'll go beyond saying that there's no enforcement, and mention that I have flown into California twice in the past 2 months (post-vaccination) and was not even aware that this is (or might be?) a rule until I saw this Ask... It was not mentioned or communicated in any way I saw.
posted by primethyme at 5:58 AM on April 5, 2021

Re: rental cars, a couple of weeks ago I went through Orbitz to rent a car in Oakland and got what I thought was a good price—a little less than $300 total to rent a 2021 Jeep Wrangler for a week with unlimited miles. So try Orbitz?
posted by jesourie at 8:04 AM on April 5, 2021

Yeah, those rules are just lip service, California's entire policy for protecting us is "dollars are immortal", so don't worry about getting into any trouble. Your trip is totally feasible.

A good idea, though? You'll want to watch the news on variants as your trip approaches, both in your location and in ours. We don't really know yet if these vaccines are going to hold or what vaccination rate is even going to be here, so I would encourage you to mask and distance around strangers and avoid contact at all whenever you can.

I am resigned to another surge beginning in two weeks (easter) and then sustaining (spring breaks week after week, Disneyland reopening, the weather getting nice) indefinitely, and seeing hospitals max out again by June. I assume (vaccinated rich) people would have to be dying on the sidewalks en masse for California to enact any serious closures that would really disrupt your vacation, but you should also consider the possibility of a car accident, and the course of your proposed road trip would be through some of the least-hospital-dense territory in the state, and the possibility that in a serious surge your home state might impose restrictions even on vaccinated travelers returning home from hotspots.

Most Californians between 16-50 will not have access to a first vaccination for another 10 days, which means it will be June 1 before the state even approaches what I hope is over 50% of the population vaccinated. We are a hot spot in waiting.

If the important part of this trip is going to SF, I would suggest you plan to fly straight there and home from there again, just to limit your exposure to distinct communities where any one of them could be spiking their own variant.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:25 AM on April 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

"Do I need to self-quarantine when I arrive in California?
Traveling into California for tourism or recreation is strongly discouraged.

If you do travel into California, you should self-quarantine for 10 days after you arrive, or 7 days if you have a negative COVID-19 test result. You should limit your interactions to people in your household. If you are traveling into California for essential purposes, you should still self-quarantine and ensure you do not mix with others outside of those necessary to conduct your essential work."

As others have said above, there are no teeth to this rule, but California's Public Health department is telling you that you are not wanted here for your recreational purposes during this ongoing pandemic. It's between you and your ethical beliefs on what you do with that information.

I realize this is stricter guidance than the advice above from the CDPH site. I would err on the side of conservative guidelines rather than liberal ones.
posted by Jaclyn at 8:19 PM on April 5, 2021 [1 favorite]

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