A guide to visiting Alaska this summer — even with a quarantine in effect
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Editor’s note: This post has been updated with information on Hyatt’s hotels in Alaska.
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Alaska sounds like the perfect getaway this summer in the age of coronavirus. There’s a ton of space and not a lot of people, there are relatively few cases of coronavirus, and it’s on many people’s bucket lists. Heck, there’s not even any cruise traffic this summer.
Alaska is geographically the largest U.S. state at more than 663 million square miles. It’s also the least-densely-populated state with less than 800,000 people in all that space.
The problem with visiting is that the state has one of the strictest anti-COVID-19 rules in place of any state. Alaska instituted a mandatory 14-day quarantine on anyone coming into Alaska. But that has now changed.
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Alaska visitors are now allowed to skip self-quarantine for 14 days if they show proof of a negative test upon arrival.
Here’s what you need to know:
Back in March, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy imposed a two-week quarantine on anyone arriving from out-of-state to combat the spread of coronavirus. Anyone arriving by air was required to fill out a declaration form at the airport detailing where they plan to quarantine themselves. People who did not follow the order to self-quarantine faced up to a $25,000 fine and more than a year in jail. But that changed on June 6 when the new testing policy was announced.
The new policies are somewhat complicated so read on for a breakdown.
No quarantine with negative COVID-19 test
Alaska will no longer make you quarantine if you get a test within 72 hours of your arrival. All tests must be the PCR (nasal swab) test. Antibody/serology or rapid tests will not be accepted. That’s if you can find a testing site that will deliver results that quickly. As we recently reported, that’s no easy task.
Alaska asks that visitors follow these steps:
- Get a negative COVID-19 PCR test within 72 hours prior to travel
- Get travel/health insurance
- Have a plan for possible quarantine
- Complete a travel declaration form and have it printed or electronically available
- Read the information at this website
Do note that Alaska has a frequently asked questions page here with more details.
Test on arrival
For those who need some more time to get their COVID-19 test before travel, the state has another option to avoid the full 14-day quarantine. Alaska is offering testing upon arrival for those without proof of negative test results less than 72 hours old. Visitors who are tested on arrival must quarantine until the test results are known. If they test positive they must isolate until they are well at their own expense.
If you get tested within five days of departure and provide negative results, you’ll still be asked to take another test upon landing in Alaska. You’ll be required to quarantine until you get the second test results back, but if they’re negative, then you’re free to explore. There have been reports, however, that getting the test results is taking longer than expected – which can lengthen quarantine periods.
Note that children under the age of two are exempt from these requirements. Again, all testing must be the PCR (nasal swab) test. Antibody/serology or rapid tests will not be accepted. If you show up in Alaska without a test, you can get one at the airport (pending availability) or go into a 14-day quarantine.
All visitors and returning residents will also be required to complete a health declaration form.
What is open? where to stay?
Alaska’s governor eased all other restrictions on the state saying, “It’s time to get Alaska back on its feet … It will all be open just like it was prior to the virus.” All businesses including bars, gyms, churches, libraries and museums are allowed to reopen.
Lodging and overnight camping facilities are in the process of reopening.
Anchorage has put forth its own policies, which are largely compatible with the state’s policies overall. A critical distinction that the city has put forth, however, is that travelers must “inform their hotel, rental lodging host, and/or roommates of their quarantine status or whether they are required to minimize in-person interactions” during the 14-day quarantine.
There are a ton of options to stay in Alaska including lots of points properties. Summer Hull wrote a great guide to using points in Alaska here.
I found rates in August at several Hilton properties beginning at $142 a night. You could stay at the Hilton Anchorage for 43,000 Hilton Honors points a night.
I found 11 Marriott properties in Alaska (Anchorage, Fairbanks and Juneau) starting at $147 a night for a long weekend in August. A three-night stay at most of these hotels would cost you a total of 120,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. Springhill Suites Fairbanks would only set you back 90,000 points for a three-night stay.
There are two Hyatt properties in Alaska both in Anchorage. The Hyatt House is going for $161 a night in August. The Hyatt Place starts at $141 per night. Both properties are 12,000 World of Hyatt points per night.
How to get there?
Alaska’s main three airports are Anchorage (ANC), Fairbanks (FAI) and Juneau (JNU).
There are lots of flights even now in the age of coronavirus including from Los Angeles (LAX), Denver (DEN), and Seattle (SEA).
While you can find moderately-priced options via all four carriers, you’ll likely find best availability (and often deals) flying on Alaska Airlines. Alaska Airlines normally flies from:
- Honolulu (HNL)
- Kona (KOA)
- Los Angeles
- Maui (OGG)
- Phoenix (PHX)
- Portland (PDX)
- Seattle (SEA)
From Seattle, Alaska also offers nonstop flights to Fairbanks and Juneau. From these major cities, you can connect onward to more far-flung Alaskan destinations like Nome (OME), Kodiak (ADQ) and Ketchikan (KTN). It’s easy to get around within Alaska using Alaska Airlines miles.
You could fly nonstop to Anchorage from Seattle for less than $300 round-trip this summer. Or you could spend 40,000 Alaska miles and pay $11.20 in taxes.
Or you could try to sample Alaska Airlines’ famous “milk run” with flights via stops at smaller Alaska towns for $451 in the main cabin or $741 in first class. I may try this myself later this summer.
Be sure to consider if you want to travel in these strange times, and book refundable airfare and hotels just in case. The United States hit another daily record for COVID-19 cases on July 2, recording more than 52,000 cases in a single day. Alaska has had 1,224 COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths.
It takes a lot of planning and patience to travel these days. Alaska is likely to be so empty and relatively safe this summer it might be worth all the hoops you need to jump through. I know I’m considering the trip. (Of course, I’m not so far away camped out here in Montana for now.)
And if you missed it, here’s our country-by-country guide to reopenings.
Additional resources for traveling during the coronavirus outbreak:
- How coronavirus is impacting airline award availability
- How coronavirus has left the travel industry reeling
- Airlines scale back inflight offerings due to coronavirus
- How to ward off coronavirus in your hotel room
- Guide to traveling during the coronavirus outbreak
- Extreme measures cruise lines are taking during coronavirus
Additional reporting by Jordyn Fields, Summer Hull, Brian Kim, Carissa Rawson and Stella Shon.
Featured image by Zach Honig/The Points Guy.
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