As the Omicron variant has quickly become the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States, new requirements are popping up in order to help slow the spread of the virus.

On the mainland, you can freely travel between states but many cities are adding requirements to provide proof of vaccination to access indoor establishments like restaurants, gyms, sports venues and theaters. 

Off the mainland —  in places like Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or the US Virgin Islands — you'll need to do a little more preparation to travel.  Most still require proof of vaccination and/or proof of a negative COVID-19 test. In most cases, travelers need to upload proof of vaccination or testing to receive a QR code. 

If you're one of the 109 million people Insurer AAA estimates will travel at least 50 miles by air or car between December 23 and January 2,  here's what you should know before you travel this holiday season. 

People hiking - happy hiker couple on Hawaii
Before you depart for your trip, check COVID-19 entry requirements. Wailuku, Maui, Hawaii, USA. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Places requiring COVID-19 tests or proof of vaccination for travel

Some destinations are still requiring some sort of pre-arrival screening. Here are the ones that are still in place:

Guam: Those arriving in Guam must complete a pre-arrival form with the Guam Health Department. Those who are fully vaccinated are exempt from quarantine as are those who can show proof of recovery from the virus in the three months before arrival. Unvaccinated travelers who can show proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test collected no more than 72 hours or a rapid antigen test taken no more than 24 hours before arrival are also exempt from quarantine. 

Hawaii:  Hawaii requires all arriving passengers to register with the state’s Safe Travels website.  From there, those who can show proof of full vaccination are exempt from quarantine and testing requirements.

Unvaccinated travelers who upload proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 72 hours before departure for the final leg of their trip are also exempt from quarantine. Those who do not show proof of vaccination or a negative test face a mandatory quarantine of 10 days upon arrival. 

Los Angeles, California: The city of Los Angeles requires all passengers 16 years and older arriving at Los Angeles International Airport, Van Nuys Airport, or Union Station to fill out a form acknowledging the traveler has read and understand the CDC guidelines for travel. 

READ MORE: L.A. requires everyone 12 years and older to be vaccinated to enter venues across the city

Puerto Rico: All travelers over the age of 2 arriving in Puerto Rico must fill out the online Travel Safe form. Those who are not fully vaccinated must also show proof of a negative COVID-19 test administered no more than 72 hours before arrival. Unvaccinated travelers who arrive without performing the pre-arrival test can face a fine of up to $300 unless they show proof of a negative test performed within 48 hours of arrival. 

US Virgin Islands: Those headed to the US Virgin Islands from the mainland US who are over the age of 5 need to register on the US Virgin Islands online portal and upload proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 5 days before arriving. This can be a PCR or rapid antigen test. 

Places requiring vaccination for entry into events, restaurants

Even though you may not face travel restrictions, some places are instituting requirements to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter some establishments like restaurants or large events. Make sure to bring proof of vaccination like your CDC card along with you when you travel.

Some of the places within the US requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test include:

Boston: Starting January 15, 2022, Boston will require people age 12 and older to show proof of at least one dose of the vaccination regimen to enter some indoor establishments. According to the city, those will include:

  • Indoor dining, including bars and nightclubs
  • Indoor fitness
  • Indoor entertainment

The city will require people 12 and older to show proof of full vaccination starting February 15, 2022. Children age 5-11 will need to show proof of one dose starting March 1, 2022 and full vaccination on May 1, 2022.

Acceptable proof of vaccination includes: 

  • a CDC vaccination card
  • a digital image of your CDC card 
  • an image of any official immunization record, or
  • a City of Boston app or any other COVID vaccine verification app.

California: California reimplemented its statewide indoor mask mandate to get ahead of the next wave of COVID-19 cases. In addition, Los Angeles and San Francisco require proof of vaccination from those 12 and older to enter restaurants, bars, cafes, theaters, museums, sports and entertainment venues, beauty salons, and all indoor City buildings. 

Chicago: Starting January 3, 2022, the city of Chicago will require anyone 5 years of age or older to show proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 to dine indoors, visit gyms, or enter entertainment venues where food or drink are served.

That proof of vaccination will entail showing one of the following:

  • a CDC vaccination card 
  • an official immunization record from the jurisdiction, state, or country where the vaccine was administered
  • a digital or physical photo of such a card or record, reflecting the person’s name, vaccine brand, and date administered.

Las Vegas, Nevada: The state of Nevada does not have any travel restrictions or requirements. However, you may find some individual venues like Allegiant Stadium or festivals may require proof of a negative COVID-19 test for entry. 

New Orleans: The city of New Orleans requires anyone 12 years of age and older to show proof of at least one dose of an approved COVID vaccine or negative PCR test administered within the past 72 hours to enter:

  • Indoor dining (restaurants, bars, breweries, microbreweries, and distilleries)
  • Indoor fitness paces like gyms and indoor group fitness centers, classes I
  • Indoor sports 
  • Indoor sports complexes, stadiums & arenas
  • Concert & music halls
  • Event spaces such as hotel ballrooms, event venues & reception halls
  • Pool halls, bowling alleys, indoor play centers, arcades, skating rinks, indoor playgrounds & arcades
  • Adult live performance venues
  • Casinos, racetracks & video poker establishments
  • Indoor amusement facilities
  • And large outdoor events with more than 500 people if the total attendance is more than 50% of the outdoor venue's capacity 

New York: On December 13, 2021, New York state started requiring masks to be worn in all indoor places unless the business or venue has a vaccine mandate.  New York City has already required proof of vaccination at restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters, cinemas, and stadiums. That includes if you plan to travel to New York for the New Year’s Eve countdown in Times Square. 

Digital International Certificate of Covid-19 Vaccination on Smart Phone
New York City requires proof of vaccination to enter restaurants, gyms, bars, theaters and stadiums. © Onfokus/Getty Images

Philadelphia Starting January 3, the city of Philadelphia will require proof of vaccination to enter any establishment that serves onsite food and drinks.  According to the city's website, that includes:

  • Indoor restaurant spaces 
  • Cafes within larger spaces (like museums) 
  • Bars 
  • Sports venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption 
  • Movie theaters 
  • Bowling alleys 
  • Other entertainment venues that serve food or drink for onsite consumption 
  • Conventions (if food is being served) 
  • Catering halls 
  • Casinos where food and drink is allowed on the floor 
  • Food court seating areas should be cordoned off and have someone checking vaccine status on entry to the seating area 

As the city implements this, until January 17 it will allow people who are not fully vaccinated to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 24 hours prior. 

According to the city, the mandate does not apply to K-12 and early childcare settings, hospitals, congregate care facilities,  residential or healthcare facilities, grocery stores or convenience stores. It also does not apply in general to the Philadelphia International Airport, only specifically sit-down restaurants and bars in the airport. 

Washington, D.C. Starting January 15, 2022, visitors 12 and older to certain indoor establishments will need to provide proof of at least one dose of a vaccination regimen. By February 15, 2022, those 12 and older will need to provide proof of full vaccination.

Those places include:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Nightclubs 
  • Indoor exercise and recreation establishments
  • Indoor events and meetings

Washington State Washington State statewide requires proof of vaccination or a negative test administered within the past 72 hours for anyone 12 or older who is attending a large event. A large event is described as an indoor event with more than 1,000 attendees and an outdoor event with more than 10,000 attendees. 

Meanwhile, in King County, which encompasses the city of Seattle, you'll need proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to enter:

  • Restaurants and bars for indoor dining
  • Indoor professional and collegiate sports
  • Performing arts and live music venues
  • Movie theaters
  • Gyms
  • Conferences and conventions
  • Outdoor events with more than 500 people in attendance like professional and collegiate sports and at entertainment events like concerts.

For more information on COVID-19 and travel, check out Lonely Planet's Health Hub.

You may also like:
What to do if you get COVID-19 while traveling
How to choose travel insurance that covers COVID-19
What is a vaccine passport and do I need one to travel?

This article was first published Nov 23, 2021 and updated Dec 22, 2021.

Explore related stories

Airport Information Boards

Air Travel

All COVID-19 testing suspended for anyone entering the US

Jun 10, 2022 • 2 min read