Updated: How to Visit Alaska this Summer with New Travel Restrictions

Note:  On August 11, 2020, the State of Alaska issued this latest Alaska Health Mandate Travel Restrictions. There’s a saying here in Alaska, “Test Before Take-Off.” But the rules to visit Alaska have changed. 

Follow Alaska travel restrictions and visit the Arctic Circle
Overland adventure to the Arctic Circle. No cruise needed.

Alaska Travel Restrictions Explained

Though cruise ships won’t be heading north to Alaska this season, tourists can still arrive by air or drive up from the Lower 48. The State of Alaska recently removed the required COVID-19 14-day quarantine rule for all incoming travelers. And replaced the old rules with some new confusing travel restrictions.

Now, travelers who arrive by plane to Alaska can forgo a 14-day quarantine only if they test negative for COVID-19, 72 hours before departure to Alaska. Unfortunately, the new requirements can be confusing, even to Alaskans. I’ll try to explain this as simply as possible. 

If you want to travel to Alaska, these are the new Travel Requirements when you land at any Alaska airport.

  • You must have an official certificate that states you have tested negative for COVID-19 within the past 72 hours prior to departure to Alaska AND
  • If you’re coming to Alaska for work, you must follow the work plan that your employer filed with the State of Alaska.
  • If you are unable to take a COVID-19 test done and have the results before you leave home, then you must purchase a COVID-19 test for $250 when you arrive in Alaska. Then you must self-quarantine at your expense until results arrive.
Marjerie Glacier at Glacier Bay Alaskan Dream Cruises
Marjerie Glacier calving at Glacier Bay.

What to do in Alaska if you purchase an airport COVID-19 test and await results

With new Alaska travel restrictions, while you wait for (hopefully) negative test results, you must self-quarantine at your own expense. If you know you will need to purchase the $250 test at the airport, it’s a good idea to have a hotel reservation.

The Travel Declaration form will ask where you plan to self-isolate  while waiting for test results. You’ll be able to get meals delivered to your hotel room. You should not stop at the grocery store after you leave the airport. 

In some states, it’s still not possible to get a coronavirus test if you don’t have symptoms. Plus, you have to wait for the results and it can take up to several days to find out if you’re negative. You may be stuck with paying for the test when you land in Alaska plus hotel.

Once those results show that you are negative for COVID-19, it is recommended that you take a second test within 7 to 14 days after arrival. During this time you are asked to minimize interactions until the second test is confirmed negative. Chances are you’ve already completed your vacation by that time.

The previous Alaska travel restriction gave free coronavirus tests at the airport and required you self-quarantine for 14 days, at your own expense. Too many incoming visitors did not comply so the new, more restrictive mandate was issued.

What you can expect at an Alaska airport

Airports in Alaska have restricted entrance and exit doors so that only travelers are allowed inside. If you purchase a test, they are being conducted at all airports when you enter the airport.

With Alaska’s COVID-19 cases spiking in the last few weeks, the state is trying to minimize the infection rate coming in from the Lower 48. The entire state only has 198 ICU beds and many communities are really remote so it’s crucial to be as cautious and careful here as possible.

Running Reindeer Ranch

Driving to Alaska – Travel Restrictions Still Apply

Last, if you thought you would drive to Alaska from the south, that may not be possible. Canada’s borders are still closed to almost all U.S. vehicular traffic. There’s a large swath of Canada between Washington State and the Yukon. Check with Canada’s Department of Health for their requirements before you pack your bags. 

Last time I checked, you were not allowed to overnight anywhere in Canada. You will receive an in-transit sticker for your windshield and have to take the most direct route to Alaska through British Columbia and Yukon Territory. No hotel stops permitted.

How to plan your trip to Alaska

Alaska-based small ship cruise season started and stopped. Planning your trip here this year is complicated. If it were me, I’d pass on 2020 and look forward to a hopefully better Alaska travel season in 2021.

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  1. Hi Tracie,
    To the best of my knowledge, a non-resident of Alaska does not need a COVID-19 test to leave. Here’s what the new travel mandate states and does not mention departures:

    For all travelers (resident and non-resident):

    Complete a Travel Declaration Form and Self-Isolation Plan in the Alaska Travel Portal.

    All travelers with negative results must still follow strict social distancing for 14 days after arriving into the state or until the traveler receives a second negative test result from a test taken 7-14 days after arrival.

    The five-day pretest option is no longer available for any travelers.

    For non-resident travelers:

    Test 72 hours before departure.

    Upload negative result into the Alaska Travel Portal or have results available to show screeners at the airport.

    If still awaiting results by arrival time, travelers will need to upload proof of a test taken into the Alaska Travel Portal or show that proof of a test taken to an airport screener and self-quarantine, at their own expense, while waiting for results.

    The results must be uploaded into the portal when received.

    If a nonresident arrives without a pre-test, testing is available for $250 per test. The traveler will be required to quarantine while waiting on results.
    The 14-day quarantine option is no longer available for nonresident travelers.

    Here’s a link to the Alaska Travel Portal: https://www.alaska.covidsecureapp.com/

    I would check to see if the state that you are returning to requires testing or any other restrictions.

    Thank you for taking the time to read my article and send in your question. I hope you have a wonderful stay here in the Last Frontier.


  2. I know you need a covid test arriving to Alaska. Do you need one to exit Alaska as a non resident staying less than 5 days?

  3. Hi Aaron,
    It’s really a mess now for incoming visitors. There is a new work-around that may help you. If you can’t get a test taken no more than 72 hours prior to departure, you can “Purchase a COVID-19 test for $250 when you arrive in Alaska, and self-quarantine at your expense until results arrive.”

    Those are the two options for travelers from the Lower 48 or international. Here is the link to the latest update: https://covid19.alaska.gov/travelers/ Here you’ll also find another link to nationwide testing sites, if that’s of any help.

    Thank you for taking the time to read the article and send your question. I don’t know how one gets hunting tags, but if the two options aren’t possible, I would contact the license place and see if there’s anything they can do for you regarding what you’ve purchased. Good luck and safe travels.

  4. My friend and I have moose tags in Alaska and were planning on driving but now that’s out the window and getting neg test done before we fly and with in 72 hours is not an easy task so what do we do.

  5. HI Clifford,
    Since the day I received your question, travel to Alaska has changed. As of Thursday night, the state has discontinued airport testing for non-Alaska residents. Visitors to Alaska must now present a negative-result COVID-19 test (the molecular, polymerise chain reaction (PCR)test) taken no more than 72-hours prior to your departure date for Alaska. As it states at covid19.alaska.gov/travelers/ “New Interstate Travel Protocols to begin on August 11
    During the July 28 press briefing, Governor Dunleavy announced that starting on August 11 all non-residents must arrive with a negative COVID-19 PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to departure. Testing will no longer be available for non-residents when they arrive in Alaska. Residents can still be tested when arriving at the airport. Current protocols will remain in place through August 10 and this website will be updated as more information becomes available.”
    This might make your travel to Alaska more difficult than you anticipated. I hope you and your family get to visit Alaska soon. It’s an amazing state.
    Thank you for taking the time to write and submit a question. I apologize for not replying sooner…I was waiting for all of the new info to settle into place.

  6. My wife and I are planning to flying from San Diego, California to Kodiak, AK on August the 13, 2020, however we are having a hard time finding a COVID-19 testing site that will allow us to be tested because we have no symptoms let alone the 2 hour window.. The 5 day before travel is a better options but still no symptoms so NO TEST. The option of testing upon arrival sounds good but presents a question and concern, because we arrive at the Anchorage airport and the question then becomes can we arrive at 1:52 AM August 14, 2020, wait in the airport area for our flight to Kodiak at 6:45 AM August 14,2020 and then be test upon arrival in Kodiak where we can self-quarantine at our destination (our daughters house. Does Alaska have any rules for this or who can I talk to to find out our options.

  7. Hi Liz,
    That’s a great question. My best suggestion would be to have some type of trip insurance to cover your entire trip. Maybe you’ve already purchased it. I’m also thinking of a trip for early summer next year and wondering if it will be a risk or even possible. Good luck with your plans and I really hope you and your family will be able to come up to Alaska next summer. It’s an incredible place.

  8. Should these restrictions still be in place next summer (2020), I wonder how this will affect Seattle tourism. We are planning to spend 4 days fishing in the Seattle area before embarking on Quantum of the Seas. Due to school start dates, we can add days to the front end of our trip.

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