How to Visit Alaska this Summer: New Travel Restrictions and Mandatory Testing

There’s a new saying here in Alaska, “Test Before Take-Off.”  That’s the easiest way to visit Alaska this summer with new Alaska travel restrictions in place. 

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.

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

Alaska Travel Restrictions Explained

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, you have a few choices 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 OR
  • You can present a negative COVID-19 test result that was taken within five days of your travel date. But then you must have a second test done upon arrival at the airport.  You will be expected to self-quarantine at your own expense until negative test results are returned.  This can take from a few minutes up to five days depending on your arrival airport.  
  • Third, if you can’t get a COVID-19 test done before you leave home, then you must have a test performed upon arrival in Alaska.  The good news is that these airport tests are free.  
Marjerie Glacier at Glacier Bay Alaskan Dream Cruises
Marjerie Glacier calving at Glacier Bay.

What to do in Alaska as you wait for COVID-19 results from airport testing

With new Alaska travel restrictions, while you wait for (hopefully) negative test results, you must self-quarantine at your own expense.  Have a hotel lined up ahead of time if this is how you plan to arrive.  You’ll be able to get food delivered to your hotel room, too.   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 getting the test when you land in Alaska.

Once those results show that you are negative for COVID-19, you must take a second test (using the free voucher you received at the airport) within 7 to 14 days after arrival.  During this time you are asked to minimize interactions until the second test is confirmed negative.  

Finally, if none of these options can be done or if you choose not to be tested, you can still come to Alaska.  This reverts back to the previous Alaska travel restriction that you are required to self-quarantine for 14 days, again at your own expense.  Once the 14 days are over, you can go about your merry way. 

READ NEXT:  Download your Alaska Travel Declaration Form

What you can expect at an Alaska airport

Airports have restricted entrance and exit doors so that only travelers are allowed inside.  Tests are being conducted at all airports as soon as you exit the tarmac or enter the airport.  

In addition to showing proof of a negative COVID-19 test, travelers must also complete the State of Alaska Travel Declaration form online and also bring a copy of the submitted form with them.  

The Travel Declaration form asks several questions that includes your quarantine location if you are in the 14-day group because you weren’t tested at all.  If you are caught in violation of your self-quarantine location, you could have to pay a $25,000 fine or spend a year in jail. 

With Alaska’s COVID-19 cases spiking in the last week or so, 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 careful here as possible.

Running Reindeer Ranch

Driving to Alaska – Travel Restrictions Still Apply

Last, if you are planning to drive up from the south, you will have to travel into and through a large swath of Canada.  Canadian travel regulations are strict so you need to check with Canada’s Department of Health for their requirements.  

Last time I checked, you were not allowed to overnight anywhere and had 24-hours to do a two to three day drive through British Columbia and Yukon Territory.  No hotel stops.  

How to plan

If Alaska-based small ship cruise lines start cruising later this summer, it will be even more necessary to have the 72-hours prior to departure test performed.  Or just plan on getting up here and isolate at your own expense no less than one week before your cruise, if you choose not to have a COVID-19 test before you leave home. 

Maybe just plan on a visit to Alaska next year. 

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4 thoughts on “How to Visit Alaska this Summer: New Travel Restrictions and Mandatory Testing”

  • 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.
    Sherry

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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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