It’s no secret that the current coronavirus pandemic is changing our travel habits. Instead of scheduling a world tour, you might be looking for a relaxing travel destination in the U.S. There are several top contenders, but the most popular place to visit in 2020 is Florida.
Why Is Florida The Top U.S. Travel Destination?
You might be scratching your head as to why Florida is the top travel destination. After all, the state has been in the news multiple times during the pandemic as being a hotspot. As Florida sits in the southeast corner of the continental U.S., it’s not the easiest state to drive to. But there are several major airports you can fly into.
However, Florida’s geography is working to its advantage this season. Florida and the Gulf Coast have some of the highest tourism numbers in the United States. Travelers enjoy the warm weather as it’s easier to be outdoors and social distance.
An October 15, 2020 report from the U.S. Travel Association estimates that Florida had $1.244 billion in weekly travel spending for the week ending October 10, 2020.
Only California had more weekly travel spending at $1.754 billion from the U.S. Travel Association report. Texas ranks third with $1.001 billion. The mountainous states such as South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah are seeing positive gains as well.
As California is at an earlier reopening phase, fewer tourist landmarks are open compared to Florida. The ongoing California wildfires are also making it difficult to visit national parks and other tourist destinations that are open.
While Florida is a top travel destination, tourism numbers for 2020 are sharply lower versus 2019. In the 2nd quarter of 2020 (April-June), only 12.8 million visitors came. That’s a 60% drop from 2019. The numbers for the 3rd quarter of 2020 are not public yet.
This sharp decline isn’t good news for the tourism and restaurant industry. From a tourist’s perspective, it can be easier to find social distancing-friendly lodging elsewhere and you won’t have to fight dense crowds.
Why People Are Traveling To Florida In 2020
There are several reasons why Florida, a popular pre-pandemic tourist destination, continues to be a popular place to go.
Phase 3 Reopening Guidelines
Florida is operating at Phase 3 of its Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step reopening plan, effective September 25, 2020. This is the highest phase and while life isn’t back to normal, businesses might be operating at fuller capacity than most states.
Local mask mandates are in effect, restaurants may choose to only operate at 50% capacity, and you can expect social distancing protocols at public venues. As travelers favor vacation rentals to hotels in 2020 for optimal privacy, Florida’s government strongly encourages hosts to use strict cleaning guidelines to reduce the risk of surface transmission for coronavirus.
Whether you live nearby or need to fly to Florida, the travel restrictions are flexible. You shouldn’t travel if you’re displaying symptoms or need to quarantine as you came into close contact with an infected person.
However, Florida isn’t requiring a negative PCR test or a mandatory quarantine upon arrival from any incoming state. The previous self-quarantine for visitors from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut is no longer active.
Most beaches across Florida are open. There are some exceptions and you might also encounter shorter hours. You might consider visiting a Gulf Coast beach like Clearwater or Pensacola. The Atlantic beach getaways of Amelia Island, Daytona Beach or Port St. Lucie are open as well.
Key West is open to tourists as well if you want to visit the southernmost point in the United States. Before heading to the beach, check for the latest visitor guidelines so you know which activities are permissible.
The Orlando area is another perennial tourist destination as tourists come for the theme parks. Florida’s various theme parks began reopening in July at reduced capacity and all guests above age two will need to wear a face covering. Also, advance reservations are necessary to enter the park as walk-up ticket sales are unavailable.
Walt Disney World received the most press coverage. You will need to book your reservation online using the Disney Park Pass reservation system as the park is operating at approximately 25% capacity. Despite the reduced attendance, Disney World visitors report long wait times for rides and hoping the FastPass+ perk returns soon.
If going to Disney, the Taste of Epcot Food and Wine Festival is active from now through November 22, 2020. The Epcot International Festival of the Arts runs from January 8, 2021, through February 22, 2021. You might time your visit to enjoy a limited-time event.
Disney Springs, Universal Orlando and Legoland Florida are also open with safety measures in place.
Florida’s state parks system is open and follows local safety guidelines. In most instances, overnight camping is available with advance reservations. Some campgrounds are closed due to hurricane damage or have reduced capacity to encourage social distancing. Walk-in overnight camping is impermissible.
Other Top U.S. Travel Destinations
Going to Florida isn’t an option for some if you prefer to stay closer to home or don’t care for a tropical climate. There are a few other popular destinations to visit too. Many people are flocking to outdoor attractions this year to unwind while avoiding people.
Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park was one of the first national parks to reopen in early 2020. As winter approaches, many lodging and dining services are closing for the season. But you can still visit landmarks for day use. You might visit the Wyoming portion of Yellowstone to cover the most ground.
Other nearby parks to consider as well include Grand Teton National Park. Colorado’s Estes National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are worth a visit too.
For a mid-west adventure, consider Branson, Missouri in the Ozarks. Dinner shows and the Silver Dollar City theme park are operating at reduced capacity. Like the Florida attractions, advance reservations are necessary. You can also explore outdoor activities including the Dogwood Canyon Nature Park.
West coasters are starting to get more regional travel options. Las Vegas has been partially reopened since June but tourism is down which means you might find good hotel deals. Some lounge acts and entertainment shows are going as well.
Life can become more active as the MGM Resorts live shows return on November 6, 2020. Performances will include David Copperfield and Carrot Top. Audience sizes are limited to 250 people or 50% capacity, whichever is smaller.
The idyllic tropical getaway of Hawaii is open to tourism starting October 15, 2020. A mandatory 14-day self-quarantine is in effect for all incoming tourists and residents. You can waive the quarantine with a valid negative PCR test from within three days before you depart the mainland.
Florida is the top U.S. travel destination for many travelers. As winter approaches, you can come and escape the cold winter back home. There are also lovely beaches and exciting theme parks that many states don’t offer.