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What to expect when travelling to Florida after COVID-19

Posted on November 8, 2021 by Jason Davis
Welcome to Florida sign with palm trees

Known for its theme parks, beaches and tropical weather, Florida has been a long-standing go-to destination Brits just can’t get enough of.

And with the US borders due to reopen from 8 November, after a year and a half of closure, the Sunshine State will be calling for many of us.

So what will travelling to Florida look like in a post-Covid world?

We’ve made a handy guide filled with the latest information, to help you through it.

Can I travel to the US?

Yes, from 8 November, the US will reopen its borders for fully vaccinated travellers from 33 countries (including the UK).

Current guidance from the FCDO also does not advise against travel to the US.

What are the COVID-19 entry requirements?

Entering the US

You’ll need to show proof of vaccination as well as proof of a negative viral test taken up to three days before departure. Anyone aged two years and older will need to take the pre-departure viral test. According to the CDC, a lateral flow test is an acceptable viral test to use. You can’t use the NHS lateral flow tests – these have to be purchased privately.

Your vaccine will also need to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

If you’re not fully vaccinated, you won’t be allowed to enter the US, with limited exclusions applying.

Children under 18 are exempt from the vaccination requirements, and all children aged two and above need to take a pre-departure test up to three days before departure if travelling with a fully vaccinated adult – or within one day of departure if travelling alone.

All travellers are also recommended to take a viral test between day 3 and 5 of arriving in the US.

The standard entry requirements are still in place for the US, which includes details about travel documents, ESTA forms, medicine and travelling with children.

Quarantine requirements

All travellers are recommended to take a viral test (similar to lateral flow tests) within 3 to 5 days of arrival.

There may be additional guidelines to follow depending on the state you are travelling to. It’s useful to keep up to date with the relevant state health department guidelines for more information before and during your trip.

What happens if I test positive for COVID-19 after arriving in the US?

If your post arrival test result is positive, you will have to quarantine in a private area, likely a hotel or private residence. Quarantine times will vary depending on the state you are in, and your travelling companions, if any, may be contacted by local authorities to advise them to isolate as well.

Travelling companions don’t have to isolate if they haven’t been contacted by local authorities. Even if your travelling companions don’t show symptoms, the CDC recommends them to be tested 5 to 7 days after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19.

The CDC travel planner will help to verify local state guidance.

The CDC also outline their guidelines for when it’s safe for you to travel again from the US once your quarantine or isolation ends. You’ll have to follow these guidelines no matter the stage of your trip. This could mean missing your departure back to the UK.

The FCDO recommends preparation for plans to change, in case this happens:

  • Have access to additional money
  • Have the ability to extend your stay for longer than planned if needed
  • Understand what your travel insurance will cover

What will my travel insurance cover if I test positive for COVID-19?

All new single trip and annual travel insurance policies with us include COVID-19 cover at no extra cost.

So, as long as you’ve had your recommended COVID-19 vaccinations and you have a medically approved test showing a positive COVID-19 result, you could be covered for:

  • Emergency medical expenses^
  • Repatriation cover to help you get back home^
  • Additional accommodation and transport, if deemed necessary by our medical officer
  • Additional daily benefit if you are ordered to self-isolate in your holiday accommodation if you have COVID-19
  • Cover for cutting your trip short after hospitalisation or death of a close relative or member of your household from COVID-19

Find out more about our superior-rated COVID-19 cover.*

Family wearing face masks in an airport

Do I need to wear a face mask when travelling?

In the UK:

Airports and airlines are free to set their own face mask policy based on health and safety risk assessments, so guidelines may vary depending on who you’re flying with and where from.

Some airports and airlines may ask you to wear a mask at all times, unless medically exempt, so keep up to date with the relevant guidance online.

Useful to know: Pack a few extra face masks in your hand luggage. Some airlines advise you to change face masks every four hours, which would be handy to know when travelling to Florida – a flight that usually takes around 9 hours from the UK.

In the US:

As a non-US citizen, wearing a mask is required in all public transport including planes, as well as indoors in public transportation hubs such as airports.

Rules can vary on a state and even county level in the US – so when you’re travelling to Florida, it would be useful to check local guidance on a regular basis.

Where can I get COVID-19 tests in the US?

All travellers are recommended to take a viral test between day three and five of arriving in the US.

There are two types of viral tests that can be used in the US according to the CDC – one of those are antigen tests (or lateral flows).

As they’re available to buy privately in the UK, it would make sense to buy them before you travel.

If you need to pick up a viral test in Florida, there are a number of retail outlets you can buy them from, such as CVS pharmacies, Walgreens and Quest Diagnostics. A lateral flow test in the US will cost on average around $20.

Most states also offer COVID-19 testing facilities that are open throughout the week. Baker county in Florida for example, currently offers free drive-thru COVID-19 testing up until 30 December. The full directory of local health departments in Florida can help you to find these test centres.

You may also find the full list of COVID-19 testing sites in Florida helpful to identify which testing locations offer rapid testing for tourists.

You won’t be able to claim the cost of COVID-19 tests with a travel insurance policy.

Worker cleaning car dashboard interior

Have car rentals in Florida changed during COVID-19?

Car rental companies have introduced greater flexibility on rental agreements and more comprehensive cleaning procedures on their cars.

Companies such as Alamo have introduced a detailed 20-plus high-touch point clean on their cars, and ask customers to return their rentals in the same condition they started with them in.

Avis have introduced the Avis Safety Pledge. This pledge also includes a new car cleaning process, minimal contact pick-up and a fast digital check-in.

If your plans change, you can also amend or cancel your booking with Avis for free and get a full refund.

Colourful houses along Panama City Beach

Will accommodation be different in any way?

This will largely vary depending on where you are staying. Different hotels and independent villas will set out their own rules and guidelines to follow. You should check for this guidance by visiting their website or contacting them beforehand.

Generally, the following changes are likely in most places of accommodation:

  • Readily available hand sanitiser in high traffic areas
  • Varying check out/in times to allow for deep cleaning of rooms
  • Room service restrictions (e.g. delivery only to the door)
  • More contactless options (e.g. for payments or check out key drops)
  • Most amenities will be open but with some limitations as a result of social distancing measures (e.g. swimming pool with less furniture)

The Visit Orlando website has a useful section on accommodation, which details a variety of health and safety protocols being used by a range of hotels.

Universal Studios globe sign in Florida

How have theme parks responded to COVID-19?

Most theme parks and resorts have brought in extra measures to help make your day out as COVID friendly and safe as possible. It’s likely you won’t be affected too much by these changes, as they’re designed to have minimal interference with your experience.

Theme park and resort COVID-19 resources

Theme parks and resorts will have their own guidelines and set of resources to read up on before your trip. Here are a few from some of the top theme parks in Florida:

Are face coverings needed anywhere?

Most parks and resorts will ask you to wear face coverings indoors, for attractions and queueing. Wearing a face covering outdoors is recommended in most places, but not widely encouraged.

Social distancing measures in place

Social distancing measures we’re used to seeing in the UK are similar to those in Florida’s theme parks. We may start to see physical distancing measures being relaxed in some areas, but signage, hand sanitising points and screens will be prominent.

To minimise close contact, most theme parks offer timed tickets, which help to avoid the long queues as well.

Universal Orlando in particular has introduced a new Virtual Line™ Experience for their parks. This new feature on their app lets you reserve a pre-selected ride time, so there’s no need to queue for certain attractions.

Outdoor dining area in Miami, Florida

Do you need to book experiences/restaurants in advance?

With experiences and restaurants getting closer to normality on the whole, they’re likely to be in high demand from locals and tourists alike.

While booking in advance is not needed for most restaurants, it could save you a lot of hassle. Booking a table will give you peace of mind knowing you won’t be turned away if the restaurant is at capacity.

It’s a similar story for experiences. With some social distancing measures still in place, most experiences could be operating at reduced capacity. There will usually be a ticketing or booking system, so you should look to book in advance wherever you can to avoid disappointment on the day.

What else can I do in Florida?

Most activities and tourist attractions are opening up again for tourists. If you’re struggling for ideas on what to do on your next trip to Florida, here’s some inspiration:

Manatee swimming in clear blue waters

Swim with manatees

The only place in North America you can legally swim with manatees is in the Crystal River area of Florida. So this is something you should definitely consider on your next visit.

During the winter months the West Indian manatees migrate to Crystal River seeking warmer waters, so your best chance to encounter the river residents will be between December and February.

Many tour operators offer a combined river cruise excursion with the swimming experience to make a fantastic day trip out.

Airboat carrying passengers on the Everglades in Florida

Ride an airboat

If you’re looking for an activity for the whole family to enjoy, you’ll have to try an airboat ride on the swampy Florida Everglades.

Alligators might not be the only animal you see on the day. Turtles, frogs and different species of birds could all make an appearance as you fly through the wetlands.

NASA globe logo in Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral

Visit Kennedy Space Center

Kennedy Space Center is well worth the trip for space lovers and families looking for a great day out.

Experience everything past, present and future with the array of attractions the visitor complex has to offer. Get a close-up view of the Atlantis space shuttle, train like an astronaut with interactive games or experience the (almost) real thing on the shuttle launch simulator.

And if you’re lucky enough, you could watch a live rocket launch! Here’s the launch schedule if you wanted to plan a visit on one of those days.

Boardwalk onto Winter beach in Florida

Hit the beach!

For a day of relaxing and unwinding from it all, you won’t be short of beaches along the coasts of Florida.

Most beaches stretch for miles with white sand and a cool sea breeze to keep temperatures a little cooler in summer.

The areas near sand dunes are prime nesting grounds for sea turtles, and you’ll often find these areas sectioned off for their protection. It’s a rare occurrence, but you may witness hatchlings emerge from the nests and make their way into the ocean.

Senior fans watching NASCAR race

Watch a NASCAR race

For racing or car fans, there are plenty of NASCAR events throughout the year at Daytona International Speedway.

The most famous, Daytona 500, is a 500 mile long race held annually and considered the most prestigious race in the NASCAR calendar. The race has been held every February since 1959.

Hollis Botanical Garden in Lakeland, Florida

Explore a Botanical Garden

Florida is filled with amazing botanical gardens often featuring plants from all over the world.

One, in particular, is Hollis Garden. This 1.2-acre site is set in a neo-classical architectural environment with over 10,000 flowers, shrubs and trees split into different trails. Wander through rose gardens and butterfly trails as music plays along your route, and Lake Mirror is just next door for even more picture perfect snaps.

Travel to Florida with cover

It’s important to be covered with travel insurance so should the unexpected happen, like flight cancellation, you can claim the costs back.

Our travel insurance for the USA comes with superior-rated Covid cover* as standard, and cancellation cover kicks in to give you immediate protection as soon as you take out a single trip policy.

As medical costs are notorious for being the most expensive in the world, don’t forget to declare and cover any pre-existing medical conditions on your travel insurance to make sure your medical claims can be covered.

Travelling back to the UK from Florida

You must follow the guidance on returning to the UK set out by the government. Guidance varies based on your vaccination status, but as you need to be fully vaccinated to enter the US, you’ll follow the ‘fully vaccinated rules’ mentioned below.

As long as the US is not on the red list, and you’re fully vaccinated, you’ll need to:

  • Complete a passenger locator form
  • Take a day 2 lateral flow or PCR test after arriving back in the UK

The day 2 test must be booked or in your possession before you travel. The day you arrive in the UK is day 0.

Find out more about what you need to know when arriving back in the UK.

*As rated by an independent consumer group
^ Cover only applies for newly diagnosed cases while travelling

Jason Davis

by Jason Davis

Jason Davis is Staysure's Senior Content Executive. As a specialist travel insurance provider, we aim to keep up-to-date with travel trends, all while offering tips on how to make the most of your holiday.