Tag Archives: us travel

United States of America map. USA map with states and state names isolated

Every State’s Coronavirus and Travel Information

Even when you arm yourself with the info below—each state’s most useful resources about quarantine rules, caseloads, reopening (or re-closing) plans, and guidance for travelers—it is tough to anticipate all the potential snags of a Covid-era trip.

A smart, safe, luxury vacation within the U.S.—say, in a remote wilderness lodge in Alaska, or on a private sailboat off New England—is possible, but so much depends on your specific individual situation that we recommend you write to us directly for personalized advice. We are longtime travel journalists with a network of smart travel sources, so we’re accustomed to cutting through the noise and news to get reliable answers about travel during Covid-19 (which we’ve been collecting in our Covid-19 Travel section, which includes intel on testing, insurance, and first-hand accounts from travelers). If you are thinking about a future international trip, we can advise you on that too. Don’t miss our article tracking which countries are open to U.S. travelers and what you can do there; if you are fully vaccinated, you can check out the subset of countries where you can travel if you’re vaccinated without pre-trip testing.

Note that the CDC now requires all air passengers coming into the U.S. to have proof of a negative test or documentation of recovery from Covid-19 before they board the plane. This requirement goes for U.S. citizens too. (Masks are required on all forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.)

Once you land, the CDC recommends getting tested 3–5 days later, along with a post-trip self-quarantine of 7 days. Even if you test negative, they advise you to stay home for all 7 days. If you don’t get tested, the quarantine is 10 days. To help with that, we have info on how to get a quick-turnaround Covid test.




No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Alabama’s COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard

Traveler Information (Alabama Tourism)



All nonresidents over the age of 10, including those who have been vaccinated, are asked to upload health declarations and information to Alaska’s Safe Travels online portal.

Travelers must provide proof of negative molecular-based SARS-CoV-2 test taken within 72 hours of arrival or take a free COVID-19 test at the airport. If your results are pending or if you take the test at the airport, you must strictly social distance (both at your own expense) until results come back.  A second test taken 5 to 14 days after arrival is requested.

Fully vaccinated travelers do not have to test or quarantine.

Travelers who have documentation that they tested positive within the past 90 days do not have to submit to pre-trip testing or testing on arrival, but are strongly encouraged to get tested after 5 to 14 days in the state.

Beginning June 1, 2021, at participating airports, all travelers to Alaska will be eligible to receive a free COVID-19 vaccine.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information

Safe Travels information

Reopening Plan

Traveler information, restrictions, and advisories (Travel Alaska)



No travel restrictions for visitors

State Coronavirus Updates

Department of Health Services and Reopening Guidance

Traveler information, restrictions, and advisories (Visit Arizona)



No travel restrictions for visitors

Arkansas COVID-19 Information Hub

Arkansas COVID-19 Data Dashboard

Traveler information (Arkansas Tourism)



The state strongly discourags travel, asking people to delay until they’re fully vaccinated. For those who must travel, the advice is to follow CDC guidelines, i.e. get tested 1-3 days before travel, and 3-5 days after travel, and when you get home, self-quarantine for 7 days, no matter what your test results were. If you didn’t get tested, self-quarantine for 10 days.

All restrictions except those for conventions of more than 5,000 attendees are scheduled to lift statewide on June 15.

California COVID-19 Information Hub

Business and activity restrictions by county

COVID-19 Data Dashboard

Traveler Information for the State (Visit California)

Traveler information by region (Visit California)



No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

Colorado COVID-19 Information Hub

Colorado COVID-19 Data Dashboard

Information on what’s open (state parks, campsites, retail, etc.)

Traveler guidance (Colorado Tourism)



No travel restrictions for visitors, but the state recommends following CDC guidelines for safe travel. Masks are required in public (indoors and outdoors) when six feet of social distancing is not possible

Connecticut COVID-19 Information Hub

Latest guidance on masks, social distancing, and what businesses are open

Traveler Advice and Regulations (Visit CT)



No travel restrictions for visitors

Delaware’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Traveler Advisory (Visit Delaware)



No travel restrictions for visitors

Florida’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Florida’s COVID-19 Data Dashboard

Florida’s Reopening Plan

Traveler Advisory Updates (Florida Health Department)

Traveler Advice (Visit Florida)

Walt Disney World parks information (including mask requirement)



No travel restrictions for visitors

Georgia’s COVID-19 Hub

Department of Health Daily Status Report

Traveler Advice and what’s open (Explore Georgia)



Hawaii has strict requirements for travelers:

•All travelers to Hawaii (including to Kau’ai) must have a negative Covid test prior to boarding the last leg of their flight to Hawaii and must upload the results to the state’s Safe Travels website before arrival. Anyone without a test or proof of the results must quarantine for 10 days. Travelers without a test or who cannot show sufficient proof of a negative test, must quarantine for 10 days or until they can show proof of negative results (testing and quarantine are at travelers’ own expense). All travelers, regardless of testing, will undergo temperature checks on arrival and must fill out a travel and health form. Some airlines are offer pre-flight virus testing to Hawaii-bound passengers.

Effective July 8: Travelers who have been fully vaccinated in the U.S. can bypass Hawaii’s pre-trip Covid test and quarantine requirement. Travelers must upload their CDC card to the state’s Safe Travels Program and bring the card with them to Hawaii.

•Only certain tests are accepted by the state of Hawaii: FDA-approved NAAT nasal swab test from a CLIA-certified approved partner laboratory.

•Covid tests and quarantine are no longer required for travel between islands.

Hawaii COVID-19 Information Hub

Hawaii Travel info: Safe Travels Hub and test results upload information

Travel FAQs

COVID-19 Data Dashboard



No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

Idaho’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Idaho’s Reopening Plan

Traveler Advice (Visit Idaho)



The state has no restrictions for travelers, but Chicago does. The city’s testing and quarantine requirements are based on outbreak data for each state or territory. Travelers coming from a state or territory designated as Orange must quarantine for 10 days (or the length of their stay, if it’s less than 10 days), have proof of a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of arrival to Chicago, or be fully vaccinated no less than two weeks prior to arrival. Travelers from yellow states do not have to test or quarantine. Everyone has to wear masks and abide by social distancing.

Illinois COVID-19 Information Hub

Chicago COVID-19 Information Hub

Restore Illinois reopening plan

Chicago reopening information

Chicago Emergency Travel Order and yellow/orange state designations



No travel restrictions for visitors

Indiana’s COVID-19 Information Hub and Data Dashboard

Traveler Resources (Visit Indiana)

Traveler Resources for Indianapolis (Visit Indy/Indianapolis Tourism)



No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

Iowa’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Current Case Status Dashboard

Traveler Advice (Travel Iowa)



Quarantine is required for visitors who have been on a cruise, been to a mass event outside the state, and from certain states and countries. The length of the quarantine varies with each situation, and the list of states and countries is reviewed every two weeks. The length of quarantine may be shortened depending on whether you’ve been tested.

Kansas’s COVID-19 Resource Center

COVID-19 Cases Dashboard

Traveler Guidance (Travel KS)



No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

Kentucky’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Latest updates and openings

Travel Advisory (Kentucky state government)



No travel restrictions for visitors

Louisiana’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Traveler Information (Louisiana Travel)

Traveler info for New Orleans (New Orleans Tourism)


As of May 1, visitors from all states are exempt from Maine’s previous quarantine and testing requirements. However, if a state has a spike, the Maine CDC will re-apply requirements for visitors to and from that state.

Maine’s Coronavirus Hub

Division of Disease Surveillance and current data

Travel Protocols, FAQs, and Openings (Visit Maine Tourism)


No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Covid Data Dashboard

Reopening Plan

Traveler Guidance (Visit Maryland) 


Visitors and returning residents are advised to follow a 10-day quarantine.  If a traveler can show a negative test result administered up to 72 hours before arrival, or if they are two weeks out from their final dose of a vaccine, they may bypass quarantine (but quarantine must be observed until the test results are received). Visitors staying in Massachusetts for less than 24 hours can also bypass quarantine

COVID-19 Information Hub

Reopening Plan

Covid-19 Travel Advisory (state government)

Tourism information and Traveler FAQ (Visit MA) 


No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Reopening Plan

Guidelines for Traveles (Michigan tourism)



No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Reopening plan and phases

Travel information (Minnesota Department of Health)

Travelers Guidance (Explore Minnesota)



No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Mississippi Case and Data Dashboard

Traveler Guidance (Visit Mississippi)



No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Missouri Recovery Plan

Traveler Guidance (Visit Missouri)



No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Traveler Guidance and Resources (Visit MT)

Contact Info for Montana’s Tribal Nations and Reservations



Visitors to Nebraska from domestic locations have no travel restrictions, but anyone arriving from an international destination must follow CDC guidelines.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Nebraska Case and Data Dashboard

Traveler Recommendations (Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services)

Traveler Guidance (Visit Nebraska)



No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Reopening and phases plan

State-wide Traveler Information (Visit Nevada)

Traveler Information for Las Vegas (Visit Las Vegas)


New Hampshire

Travelers from domestic locations have no travel restrictions, but are advised to follow CDC guidelines, including getting a PCR test 3-5 days after travel.

Travelers returning from cruises or international travel must quarantine for 10 days. They may test out of quarantine if they take a PCR test on day 6 or 7 (antigen/rapid tests are unacceptable), results come back negative, and they are asymptomatic. But the state advises these travelers to self-monitor for symptoms for all 10 days and strictly adhere to mitigation measures.

Travelers do not need to quarantine for 10 days or get tested for COVID-19 if either of the following apply: They have had both doses of a Covid-19 vaccination and more then 14 days have passed since receiving the second dose, OR they tested positive for active COVID-19 infection (by PCR or antigen testing) in the last 90 days (if the infection was more than 90 days ago, then the traveler must follow the quarantine rules).

COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data Dashboard

Reopening Plan

Traveler information and quarantine rules (state)

Tourism resources (Visit NH)


New Jersey

Non-essential travel is strongly discouraged, but if you do travel it is recommended that you follow CDC guidelines and get tested 1–3 days before the trip and 3–5 days after. Even if you test negative, you should still quarantine for 7 days. If testing is not available or results are delayed, you should quarantine for 10 days.

Fully vaccinated travelers and those who have recovered from Covid-19 in the past three months are exempt.

All travelers from from New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Delaware (even if unvaccinated) are also exempt.

NJ’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Live Data Dashboard

Traveler Quarantine Information and Health Form (Visit NJ)

Reopening Plan


New Mexico

Travelers arriving from high-risk states (with a 5% or higher positivity rate over a 7-day average) are advised to self-quarantine for at least 10 days and to seek out a Covid test. Testing locations and availabilities are available at togethernm.org.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data Dashboard

COVID-19 Related Travel Restrictions & Recommendations (New Mexico Department of Health)

Traveler information (New Mexico Tourism)


New York

There are no quarantine or testing requirements for asymptomatic domestic or asymptomatic international travelers arriving in New York, but the state still recommends testing and quarantine for the following groups:

•Fully vaccinated individuals who have not recovered from COVID-19 in the past 3
months are recommended to get tested 3-5 days after arrival in New York from
international travel.
•All unvaccinated domestic and international travelers who have not recovered from COVID-19 in the past 3 months are recommended to get tested 3-5 days after arrival in New York, consider non-mandated self-quarantine (7 days if tested on day 3-5, otherwise
10 days), and avoid contact with people at higher risk for severe disease for 14 days,
regardless of test result.

All travelers must still complete the Traveler Health Form unless the traveler had left New York for less than 24 hours or is coming to New York from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Vermont.

New York State’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Phased Regional Reopening Information

Cases and Data Dashboard

NY State Covid-19 Travel Advisory (state government)

NY State Traveler Information (NY State tourism)

New York City Traveler Information (NYCGo)


North Carolina

No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Data Dashboard

Reopening Plan with information on local restrictions and what’s open

Traveler Guidance (Visit NC)


North Dakota

No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Reopening Updates

Traveler Guidance (State Health Department)

Traveler Guidance (ND Tourism)



No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Data Dashboard

Ohio Reopening Plan

 State Travel Advisory (Ohio Department of Health)



Travelers are requested to wear face masks and limit participation in indoor gatherings for 10 to 14 days, in accordance with CDC guidelines.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Traveler Guidance (Oklahoma Department of Health)

Traveler Guidance (Oklahoma City)



Travelers are requested to self-quarantine for 14 days. Travelers are exempt if they are 14 days past their final vaccine dose and have no COVID-19 symptoms.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Reopening Plan and County Status

Travel Alerts (Travel Oregon)



No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Hospital Data

Traveler information (Pennsylvania Department of Health)


Rhode Island

Domestic travelers from hot spots (the list is updated regularly) must provide proof of a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours of arrival  or quarantine for 10 days.

International travelers must quarantine for 10 days, but If you have a negative result from a test taken at least 5 days after you arrived, you may shorten quarantine to 7 days.

Fully vaccinated travelers do not have to quarantine but are still encouraged to get a COVID-19 test between 5 and 10 days after out-of-state travel.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Reopening Plan

Tourism information (Visit Rhode Island)

Traveler Guidance and FAQs, including testing sites for visitors (RI Department of Health)


South Carolina

No travel restrictions for visitors, but anyone who has traveled is advised to stay home as much as possible and to wear a mask in public.

COVID-19 Information Hub

State Parks Information

Traveler Guidance (State government)


South Dakota

No state travel restrictions for visitors, but some tribal lands are closed to anyone without a permit for providing essential or emergency services. See more information about tribal checkpoints here.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Reopening Plan

Cases and Data Dashboard

Tourism information (Travel South Dakota)



No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data Dashboard

Traveler Guidance (Tennessee Vacation)



No travel restrictions for visitors

Texas’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data Dashboard

Reopening Plan

Travel updates (state government)

Traveler Guidance (Travel Texas)



No travel restrictions for visitors

Utah’s COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data Dashboard

Utah State Parks Information

Utah National Parks Information

Traveler Guidance (Visit Utah)



Domestic travelers do not have to quarantine, but unvaccinated visitors (including children and Vermont residents) must have a COVID-19 test within 3 days prior to arriving in Vermont (see rules here).

International travelers must follow CDC after-travel guidelines for testing and quarantine.

Visitors to Vermont must follow the same gathering rules as locals. See full details here.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data Dashboard

Traveler requirements and FAQ (Vermont state government)

Traveler Guidance (Vermont Tourism)



No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data

FAQs about openings, restaurants, and more 

Traveler Information (Virginia Department of Health)

Traveler Guidance (Virginia Tourism)


Washington, D.C.

A negative test (taken within 72 hours of arrival) is required for travelers from jurisdictions with more than 10 cases per 100,000 people.  Any traveler staying in Washington, D.C. for more than 3 days must take another test within 3 to 5 days of arrival.

-Those who are fully vaccinated (and do not have Covid symptoms)
-Those who have tested positive in the last 90 days and do not have symptoms.
-Visitors from Maryland, Virginia, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Guam, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, Northern Mariana Islands, Oregon and the Virgin Islands
-Visitors coming into D.C. for less than 24 hours

COVID-19 Information Hub

Traveler Guidance (Washington D.C. Tourism)

Open/Close Information on Museums, Restaurant, Festivals, and Attractions


Washington State

No travel restrictions for visitors, but they are advised to follow CDC guidelines.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data Dashboard

Reopening Plan

Traveler information (Washington state government)


West Virginia

No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Traveler Guidances (West Virginia Tourism)



No travel restrictions for visitors, but the Wisconsin Department of Health Services recommends residents cancel or postpone travel, even within the state, unless they are fully vaccinated.

COVID-19 Information Hub

Cases and Data

Traveler Guidance (Wisconsin Department of Health Services)



No travel restrictions for visitors

COVID-19 Information Hub

Travel updates (Wyoming Department of Health)

Traveler Guidance (Wyoming Tourism)


Additional Resources

CDC Guidelines for Domestic Travel (CDC)

CDC Guidelines for After International Travel (CDC)

COVID-19 cases by state (CDC)

Covid-19 Travel Recommendations by Country (CDC)

COVID-19 Risk Map for Every U.S. County (Harvard Global Health Institute)

Health departments by state (CDC)

Mask mandates and business restrictions by state (The New York Times)

Mask mandates by state (Pew Trusts)

National Park restrictions by state (National Park Service)

Restaurant restrictions by state (Open Table)

How to Get a Quick Covid Test for Travel (WendyPerrin.com)

The Countries That Have Reopened to U.S. Travelers With No 14-Day Quarantine and What You’ll Find There (WendyPerrin.com)

How to Stay Safe on a Road Trip During Covid (WendyPerrin.com)

Pandemic-Era Travel: The Trip Reviews That Matter Most Right Now (WendyPerrin.com)

We’re here to help

Right now is a remarkable opportunity for global travelers who are vaccinated. When your friends say that travel is problematic as a result of the pandemic—rental cars aren’t available, service even at 5-star hotels is shoddy—the problem is they’re not planning their trips right! Travel can be spectacular now if you choose the right destination, know the savviest local fixers, and approach them the optimal way. Check out these recent trip reviews to see the difference that Wendy’s WOW approach to trip planning makes. And if you’re looking for a similarly carefree travel experience, contact us at Ask Wendy.

Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Sunrise in Spartanburg, S.C. Road Trip, Wendy Perrin Covid-19

What a Road Trip During Coronavirus Is Really Like

A lot of Americans still don’t understand this virus. Especially the Americans you find in roadside convenience stores. Almost every convenience store attached to a gas station has a sign that says “Mask required,” yet almost nobody inside is wearing one.

That was my family’s main takeaway from our first road trip during coronavirus. On June 18, nine days after New Jersey’s stay-at-home order was lifted and 105 days after we had begun quarantining in March, Tim and the kids and I had to make a road trip to Atlanta (an essential trip for urgent family reasons).  We planned to stay in a bubble except for the time on the highway when we would need to leave the car. We did the full 14-hour drive in one day, leaving at 4 a.m. to avoid rush-hour traffic in as many cities as possible en route. We took I-78 to I-81 to I-77 to I-85 (a relatively rural and low-traffic route that we’ve driven many times). We did the same thing heading back north on June 23, again leaving at 4 a.m.

The farther south we went, the more traffic was on the roads, and the fewer people wore masks. Indeed, the main danger on our road trip, we discovered, was other people. Not only are a lot of people in roadside convenience stores not wearing masks, but they are not staying six feet apart. They brush past you in doorways, in the aisles, at the cash register. And the store managers don’t seem to care. We never saw any mask-wearing requirement enforced. In fact, some store workers didn’t wear masks either, and almost none wore gloves. Coming from New Jersey, where we live in a responsible community (a New York City suburb) that succeeded in flattening the curve and drastically lowering our infection rate (note the NJ graph here), the rules to follow to avoid spreading the virus have become second nature to us.  Tim was in Manhattan for doctor visits two days before our trip, and everybody he saw wore a mask.  We’ve grown accustomed to conducting all transactions in a touchless manner. So imagine my surprise when ungloved convenience-store employees took my credit card with their fingers. (I used a lot of disinfectant wipes on my card during this trip.)

In every state, gas was amazingly cheap—usually $1.75 a gallon. In a past life, we would fill up at gas stations and, while there, use the bathroom and buy food. Those days are gone. On road trips today, the acts of getting gas, using a bathroom, and buying food need to happen at three different places.

car, dog, Charlie, road trip, family Covid-19

My older son and our dog, Macy, had the second row of our mini-van all to themselves. Behind that gray hanging blanket blocking out daylight was my younger son, asleep in the third row.

Based on our experience, here are my five biggest pieces of advice if you’re headed out on a road trip soon:

1. Use the restrooms in state welcome centers.

They’re relatively empty, spacious, and clean, and a relatively touchless experience from start to finish, with few, if any, door handles. Do not use the restrooms in the stores attached to gas stations: It will mean navigating door handles or knobs and people who may brush against you in narrow corridors and stand next to you because there aren’t enough sinks to space yourselves out.

2. Choose hotels where rooms have private entrances and windows that open to let in fresh air.

You can look for motels where each room has a separate entrance onto the parking lot, but such rooms may not have windows that open. Your best bet may be older hotels that have either freestanding cottages or rooms with balconies where you can leave the balcony door open, letting in fresh air throughout the night. Look in areas where you might find historic inns or sprawling old-fashioned resorts with individual bungalows. Because we were driving with our dog, and the only pet-friendly rooms I could find along our route with the aforementioned criteria required a half-hour detour from the highway, we decided to forego hotels and just cram our drive into one day each way. In Atlanta, we stayed with family who, like us, had stayed safely at home for months.

3. For meals, use drive-throughs or pick up curbside.

If you have prep time, of course you can pack picnics and stop in picturesque areas to enjoy them. We didn’t have that kind of time. We packed a ton of snacks, but my two teenaged boys can get ravenous, so for hot meals, we either used fast-food drive-throughs or called ahead and picked up curbside from restaurants near the highway, using Apple Maps or Google Maps to find our best options a few miles ahead of us on the road.

4. Reconfirm curbside-pickup orders.

We ordered takeout 12 times in five days, and not once did we receive a correct order. Sometimes we ordered by phone, sometimes online, but every time, mistakes were made. It’s awkward to attempt to double-check an order that you’re picking up curbside—it isn’t feasible to look through bags and containers to determine if something is amiss—but at least you can, before driving away, look at the receipt to make sure that the order is yours and that the number of items in the bag matches the number of items you ordered. When my 18-year-old, Charlie, realized that a Longhorn Steakhouse in Atlanta had given him bags meant for a different customer, we had by that time encountered so many mistakes that he didn’t even bother returning to Longhorn to see if they could fix the problem. Instead, he called the phone number on the receipt, reached the customer who had been given our bags, and did a direct swap with the other customer.

5. Pack—and have available in the car at your seat—a supply of masks, gloves, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and tissues.

The tissues are for when you need to touch your face and you’re not sure your hands are clean enough (you can scratch your nose with a Kleenex), or in case there’s no toilet paper wherever you’ve stopped. And remember to put on gloves when you pump gas, especially since you won’t be washing your hands at the gas station!


Be a safer, smarter traveler: Sign up for Wendy’s weekly newsletter to stay in the know. And read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip.

Unclaimed Baggage Center Wendy with wedding gowns

Your Lost Luggage Is For Sale in This Store in Alabama

I can hear the screams of agony. I can see the tears flowing. I see the bridesmaid left out of the wedding photos because her dress never made it to the wedding. I see the road warrior shaking with rage because his laptop has disappeared forever. I see the zombie stares from the airline reps who don’t really care.  I hear them parroting the company policy you agreed to in the fine print on your airline ticket.

That’s what fills my mind as I walk through what is, for travelers like Wendy and me, the creepiest store in the world. Even though we drove several hours out of our way just to see it. Even though the place is light and airy—even cheerful. The merchandise, though used, is practically new and includes many top brands and designers. The store is as tidy as Grandma’s house, and the employees greet you with a genuine welcome and the hospitality that the South is famous for.

This is the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, Alabama. It’s 40,000 square feet of your stuff, bought in bulk from the airlines’ baggage equivalent of the dead letter office.

Unclaimed Baggage Center laptops

The laptop section is scarier than a Stephen King novel.

Unclaimed Baggage Center swimsuits

The swimsuit section scares too. For most women, a flattering swimsuit is one of the toughest items to replace when you’re traveling.

Think of the Unclaimed Baggage Center as a nice-smelling Salvation Army or Goodwill thrift store, full of stuff you had no intention of selling. In fact, probably some of your best stuff. Remember what was in your suitcase the last time you traveled? That’s what you’ll find in this store’s aisles and racks … along with displays of bizarre keepsakes discovered in lost luggage over the years.

Unclaimed Baggage Center religious objects

These precious religious objects, found in lost luggage, are on display but not for sale.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center started in 1970 when Doyle Owens bought a pick-up truckload of “unclaimed baggage” from Trailways Bus Lines in Washington, D.C., and brought it to Scottsboro for resale. Today, the store’s stock comes almost solely from the airlines. After an airline has spent 90 days attempting in vain to reunite passenger and bag, and after restitution has been paid, the Unclaimed Baggage Center buys the unlucky luggage sight unseen and hauls it to Alabama. The contents of each bag are triaged into 25 sub-categories: sell, donate, launder, trash, etc.

No different than any big department store, the facility is divided into sections such as men’s, women’s, and children’s fashion; jewelry; shoes; formalwear; swimwear; sporting goods; electronics (laptops, cameras, cell phones); office equipment; etc. Naturally, there’s a suitcase department too. Prices seemed a tad higher than thrift-shop prices, but good values were easily found. Camera equipment and sporting-goods prices seemed fair. All computers’ files have been deleted, and the software has been restored to operating systems only.

Unclaimed Baggage Center paddleboard

Passenger to baggage services staff: “Well, it’s a paddle board, it’s blue and gray, it’s 12 feet long…”

Unclaimed Baggage Center cell phones

Here’s a quick way to get over your smartphone addiction.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, fewer than three out of every 1,000 bags checked on domestic flights were lost last year. But the Unclaimed Baggage Center stocks 7,000 new items every day.

In a daily event promoted as “The Unclaimed Baggage Experience,” a lost suitcase gets “processed” in front of an audience. One lucky customer is picked to be the first to open it, with everyone else watching. It’s part archaeological dig, part gift-opening time at a birthday party, part slowing down to see an accident on the freeway. Items in the suitcase are divided into four categories, with the event emcee and the audience helping to make decisions to sell, launder, donate or trash.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center even offers a free personal shopper service: “Our top notch personal shoppers will help you build your summer wardrobe, spruce up your office style or create a look for a special event!” reads the sign. You can even become an “Unclaimed Baggage Insider.” Just text “UBC Insider” to 33233, and you can be the first to know about “Roll-out Tuesday Highlights” and more.

Unclaimed Baggage Center formalwear

The Formal Wear department

Unclaimed Baggage Center bridalwear

Bridal accessories

Unclaimed Baggage Center shoes

Formal shoes too—at a steep discount

I can understand the attraction of this store to non-travelers. The Unclaimed Baggage Center claims to get a million visitors per year. I’ve heard about this place for decades, and it was well worth the visit. If only I didn’t know the backstory.

The Mission: Return a Lost Item to Its Owner

Just a few minutes into the Unclaimed Baggage Center, I realized what I had to do: Sleuth out an item and glean enough evidence to help me return it to its rightful owner.

I found the sort of thing I was looking for in the Sporting Goods department: a lacrosse helmet bearing a Zurich Lions decal. That decal was a huge clue. Lacrosse is a North American sport. There couldn’t be too many Swiss lacrosse players. How hard could it be to track one down?

Unclaimed Baggage Center sporting goods

Tim found what he was looking for in the Sporting Goods department.

Unclaimed Baggage Center helmet

How hard could it be to find a member of a Swiss lacrosse team?

Standing in the Sporting Goods department, I did a quick Internet search on my phone and found an email address for the Zurich Lions lacrosse team in Switzerland. The tag on the helmet said it had arrived at the store on March 29, 2018. It was initially priced at $69.95 but had been marked down twice. I bought it for $35 and sent an email to the Zurich Lions.

The president of Zurich Lacrosse was amazed and connected me with the helmet’s owner, Johannes Lohner, now living in Vienna. Johannes had played for the Zurich Lions while studying in Switzerland—he got the helmet when playing at the European championship—and, after returning to his native Vienna, he played for Austria at the world championship.

The helmet was actually never in his checked luggage, Johannes says: He unintentionally left it at the gate in Vienna when boarding a Lufthansa flight to the U.S. (He’d spent the previous night celebrating his army promotion, so that may have been a factor.)  United Airlines took over the hunt for the lost item and never found it. Johannes, who also played for the U.C. Berkeley lacrosse team while pursuing his master’s degree there, says he’s been playing with borrowed helmets ever since.

So I shipped the helmet to Johannes … and, a couple of weeks later, received an ebulient thank-you note.  “I really enjoyed my time in Berkeley,” Johannes writes, “and your gesture is the best example to show how great and open you Americans really are.”  He also sent a photo of himself reunited with his helmet.  And my boys and I have been invited by the Zurich Lions to play lacrosse with them the next time we’re in Switzerland.

guy with lacrosse helmet

Here’s Johannes reunited with his lacrosse helmet in Vienna.

But Wait There’s More in Scottsboro, Alabama

Scottsboro, which sits an hour southwest of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and two hours northeast of Birmingham, has a charming, historic town square that looks like a movie set, with the county courthouse right in the middle. The town is known for the landmark “Scottsboro Boys” legal case: In 1931 nine African-American teens were falsely accused of raping two white women on a train passing through town. After several trials, the Supreme Court threw out the convictions— because African-Americans had been systematically excluded from the jury and the boys had not been granted due process—thus setting landmark legal precedents.

We visited Scottsboro in the early morning, so many shops were not open yet, but the Variety Bake Shop was. The shop is a blast from the past, and the maple glazed donut was the best I’ve had in years. Maybe ever. The Variety Bake Shop had no iced coffee for Wendy, though, so for that we went to Pine Bros. Coffee Co., a local hangout with an indie vibe.

Scottsboro’s other must-visit is Payne’s Sandwich Shop and Soda Fountain, which opened in 1869. Talk about a throwback movie set, complete with black-and-white floor and red-vinyl-covered counter stools. It’s the kind of place my buddies and I used to ride our bikes to.

How Not To Lose Your Luggage in the First Place

A trip to the Unclaimed Baggage Center will convince you to take extra precautions the next time you entrust your luggage to an airline.

* Make sure your name, mobile phone number, and email address are attached to the bag in a way that can’t get caught and removed in the machinery of the baggage systems.

* Put the same information on at least one piece of paper taped inside the bag too, so that it is the first thing someone will see when opened. I always put my name and mobile number on our kids’ carry-ons too, as well as on electronics and other valuables inside the carry-ons.

* If your luggage is the same color as everyone else’s, then affix something to your bag to differentiate it—say, a red ribbon, or a purple handle—so that other passengers don’t mistake your bag for theirs and run off with it.

* Use your smartphone to snap a quick photo of each bag you check. If the airline loses it, a picture of your bag will be worth a thousand words.

* Get to the baggage carousel before it starts disgorging bags. If you’re not there when your luggage comes out, it’s more likely to go astray.

Unclaimed Baggage Center Wendy parking lot

The Unclaimed Baggage Center can make for an interesting detour on a Deep South road trip.

Unclaimed Baggage Center store exterior

Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Sonoma July 4th parade

For a Charming July 4th, Think Sonoma, California


Hi Wendy,

Can you suggest a fun family vacation on the West Coast for the 4th of July?  I’m looking for a cute town that’s not so popular.


—Elena S.



My husband won’t be happy I’m sharing this, since he wants to keep it a secret (he grew up in the next valley over), but the best July 4th we’ve found is in Sonoma, California. Independence Day parades and fairs are held throughout Sonoma County, and they ooze small-town Americana and charm.

The Old-Fashioned 4th of July Parade in Sonoma itself winds around the town’s historic plaza and ends with a celebration in the plaza park, complete with children’s activities, rides, and arts and crafts.  My own family can’t go to Sonoma without grabbing a picnic from the Sonoma Cheese Factory and an ice cream from The Chocolate Cow, riding the old-fashioned steam train at TrainTown, and stopping by Viansa Winery—a tasting room and large shop that the whole family can enjoy, what with the spacious grounds to run around in. The last time we were in Sonoma for July 4th, I even took a biplane ride at Vintage Aircraft Co.

Wendy in a biplane at Vintage Aircraft in Sonoma

Yours Truly about to take off in a biplane at Vintage Aircraft Co. in Sonoma.

Flying over Sonoma County in a 1942 biplane

Here’s the trusty pilot who sat behind me.

For an even folksier parade, head a few miles north to Kenwood, where the annual Fourth of July Kenwood Hometown Parade gives new meaning to the term “rural Americana.”  There are about as many people in the parade as there are watching it.  There’s a pancake breakfast at 7 a.m. at the Kenwood Community Church before the parade, and jazz in the park afterward, with plenty of homespun family fun as well.

The other thing my family likes to do on July 4th is the evening symphony concert and fireworks spectacular on the Sonoma State campus. Last year, sadly, the fireworks didn’t go off as planned, thanks to a computer glitch. My then-11-year-old, Charlie, was actually quoted in the local paper as saying it was “like Halloween without candy.” Given last year’s snafu, this year locals are anticipating a spectacular that truly is.

A ton happens in Sonoma County before and after July 4th too. Just check out the tourism site for a list of events and fireworks. On July 3rd there’s community fun and fireworks  in Sebastopol. Every year, Monte Rio Beach hosts the Big Rocky Games and “Water Curtain” (you’ve got to see it to believe it), as well as fireworks over Bodega Bay. And there’s the Penngrove Parade, which my kids have been in every year since they were five and three. It might not be as refined as Sonoma’s parade or as adorable as Kenwood’s, but it’s great homespun family fun nonetheless. There’s even an apple-pie contest in Penngrove Park afterward.

July 4th Parade, Penngrove, California

My kids getting ready to march in the Penngrove Parade, Penngrove, California.

Elena, one final tip: When you’re in Sonoma County with kids, don’t miss the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa. We always go ice skating next door at Snoopy’s Home Ice and grab lunch at its snack bar, The Warm Puppy, where you can get your burger in a dog bowl. Kids love it. Enjoy your holiday weekend!


This article has been updated; it was originally published June 2, 2014
Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

The Larder at Tavern restaurant in LAX

Best Ways to Spend Your Connection in 10 U.S. Airports

As the storm season approaches and we brace ourselves for the flight delays and cancellations due to occur, we have a choice: We can either grumble about the time we waste stuck in airports, or we can turn them into new destinations to explore. You’d be surprised how many boring U.S. hubs have spas, museums, pools, legendary local restaurants, even golf. So the next time you’re connecting in an airport you hate to connect in, make the most of it with these suggestions:


Atlanta airport ATL Mini Suite

Minute Suites at ATL offer five private, noise-neutralized rooms where you can nap for $34/hour.  Photo Courtesy Minute Suites

Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL)

See: A 31-foot-long Yangchuanosaurus dinosaur skeleton stands in the central atrium, a few steps from the security station. It’s on loan from the Fernbank Museum of Natural History.

Eat: One Flew South serves much-buzzed-about “Southernational” cuisine, from shrimp and grits to pulled duck sandwiches to kamikaze rolls (Concourse E). If you’re craving fast comfort food, though, try The Varsity, an outpost of the famed local institution dating from 1928 and serving chili cheese dogs and Frosted Oranges (Terminal F).

Shower: The Club at ATL provides showers, TVs, Wi-Fi, work stations, food, and drinks for $35 for a day pass (Terminal F).

Sleep: Minute Suites offer five private, noise-neutralized rooms where you can nap for $34/hour (Concourse B, near Gate B16).



Chicago airport's O'Hare Hilton Hotel

Chicago’s O’Hare Hilton sells day passes to its health club for $20.  Photo Courtesy O’Hare Hilton

Chicago O’Hare (ORD)

Exercise: The O’Hare Hilton sells day passes to its health club (with an indoor pool reopening August 15) for $20 (Terminal 1).

Relax: Three Terminal Getaway Spa locations offer a menu of massages, from 10 to 90 minutes long (Terminal 3, near Gate H1; Terminal 1, near Gate B12; H/K Corridor, near the American Airlines Admirals Club).

Eat: There are three outposts of local celebrity chef Rick Bayless’s Tortas Frontera, where you can order up hand-crafted tortas and fresh guacamole made from top-quality ingredients from nearby farms (Terminal 1, near Gate B11; Terminal 3, near Gate K4; Terminal 5, near Gate M12).

Play: Kids on the Fly is a huge children’s-museum-slash-playground where parents can accomplish their pre-flight mission: exhausting their offspring (Terminal 2).



DFW Airport's Junior Flyers Club

DFW has three Junior Flyers Clubs, where toddlers can burn off energy climbing on mini cars and planes.  Photo Courtesy DFW International Airport

Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW)

Drink: Grab a Fig Fizz or an Isaac’s Apple in Grand Hyatt DFW’s Grand Met Lounge cocktail bar, home also to the airport’s only sushi bar.

See: Founders’ Plaza has telescopes and an Observation Area where you can watch aircraft take off and land.

Play: Run your toddlers in one of three Junior Flyers Club playgrounds (the largest is in Terminal B at Gate 12).

Relax: The Centurion Lounge offers showers, food, drinks, Wi-Fi, and a family room to American Express cardholders for $50/day and to AmEx Platinum cardholders for free (Concourse D opposite Gate D17).

Golf (yes, golf): The Bear Creek Golf Club is adjacent to the airport, just a five-minute cab ride away. Tee times are open to the public; you can even book online.



Denver International Airport pedestrian bridge

At Denver International Airport, you can stand on a pedestrian bridge and watch planes pass right underneath.  Photo Courtesy Denver International Airport

Denver International (DEN)

Eat: Denver chef Justin Cucci’s popular field-to-fork restaurant Root Down has an outpost at DIA (C Gates). Don’t have that kind of time? Grab handmade potato chips at Randy Petersen’s favorite DIA hangout, Lefty’s (B Gates, Near Gate B48).

Marvel: The pedestrian bridge that connects the terminal with the concourse passes right over the tops of planes as they taxi. Look down and be awed by the giant flying machines.

Detoxify: Choose from a range of massages and treatments, starting at just 15 minutes long, at XpresSpa (Concourse C, Center Core).


Centurion Lounge in Las Vegas McCarran Airport

American Express cardholders can grab food, Wi-Fi, or even a shower at the Centurion Lounge at LAS.  Photo Courtesy Centurion Lounge

Las Vegas McCarran (LAS)

See: The Howard W. Cannon Aviation Museum depicts a slice of aviation history (Level 2, above baggage claim).

Relax: The Centurion Lounge offers showers, food, drink, Wi-Fi, and a family room to American Express cardholders for $50/day and to AmEx Platinum cardholders for free (Concourse D, opposite Gate D1). No AmEx card? Buy a day pass to The Club at LAS for $35 (Terminal 1, D Gates; Terminal 3, across from Gate E2).

Relax some more: There are two XpresSpas here, offering manicures, pedicures, waxing, foot, neck, and back massages—the works (Terminal 1, near Gate D32, and Terminal 3).



The Larder at Tavern at LAX

The Larder at Tavern at LAX

Los Angeles International (LAX)

Gorge: Tom Bradley International Terminal now includes outposts of Top Chef winner Michael Voltaggio’s ink.sack; James Beard Award-winning chef Suzanne Goin’s Larder at Tavern; a Petrossian in case you’re craving caviar, blinis, or any of 20 types of vodka; and an Umami Burger that’s even open for breakfast.

Learn: Traveling with kids or model-aircraft nuts? The Flight Path Learning Center is a museum devoted to the history of aviation in SoCal (LAX Imperial Terminal; open Tues-Sat from 10-3; admission free).

Chill: There’s an XpresSpa in Terminal 5 as well as in the Tom Bradley International Terminal (between gates 154-156).



Miami Airport Training Dog Casey

Soothe pre-flight jitters by spending time with Casey, Miami airport’s therapy dog.  Photo Courtesy Miami International Airport

Miami International (MIA)

Drink: Grab a mojito with a panoramic view at Top of the Port, the rooftop bar and restaurant at the Miami International Airport Hotel (Terminal E).

Eat: Versailles, the Little Havana landmark that calls itself “The World’s Most Famous Cuban Restaurant,” has outposts in Terminal D.

Shop: It’s worth a stroll to the colorful Romero Britto concept store in Terminal D.

Snuggle: Casey, the therapy dog, is a trained golden retriever who wanders the airport delivering stress relief and smiles.

Golf: A 10-minute cab ride away, the Trump National Doral Miami’s golf course has tee times open to the public.



Metropolitan Museum of Art Store at Newark Airport

Find elegant last-minute gifts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Store in Newark Airport.  Photo Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Newark Liberty (EWR)

Ride: When my kids were smaller I could entertain them for hours simply riding the AirTrain from terminal to terminal. At sunset on clear nights the ride yields colorful views of the tarmac and the Manhattan skyline; keep your camera ready.

Dine: The outposts of two legendary Manhattan eateries, Gallagher’s steak house and the Grand Central Oyster Bar, may lack the ambience of their flagships but serve great grub nonetheless (Terminal C).

Shop: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Store is the go-to boutique for elegant yet affordable gifts (Terminal C).



Yoga Room at San Francisco International Airport

SFO’s Yoga Room, the first ever in an airport, lets you get in a good stretch before you board your flight.  Photo Courtesy San Francisco International Airport

San Francisco International (SFO):

See: There are serious art exhibitions throughout, as well as an Aviation Museum in the International Terminal dedicated to preserving the history of commercial flight.

Meditate: Make the world’s first Yoga Room in an airport your zen zone (Terminal 2).

Play: There’s a scavenger-hunt-style self-guided tour for children of all ages. It takes only half an hour, and you even get a prize at the end (Terminal 2). For younger ones, there are three Kids’ Spots for unleashing pent-up energy (Terminal 3, Boarding Area E near Gates 60 and 62; Terminal 3, Boarding Area F near Gate 87A).

Eat: My own kids can’t pass through SFO without steering me toward their favorite airport eatery, Fung Lum, for noodles, dim sum, and won ton soup (Terminals 1 and 3 food courts and International Terminal food court).



Max & Erma restaurant's Garbage Burger

You won’t go hungry during your flight if you fill up on Max & Erma’s Garbage Burger, topped with smoked bacon, cheddar, Swiss, American, mozzarella, caramelized onions, sautéed mushrooms, guacamole, and marinara.  Photo Courtesy Max & Erma’s

Washington Dulles (IAD):

 Shop: The Smithsonian Store is like a mini-trip to the various collections that comprise the Smithsonian, including the National Zoo (Terminal B, Gate B37).

Eat: Max & Erma’s serves up an outrageous selection of gourmet burgers, including the “garbage burger that started it all.” There’s even an All-You-Can-Eat Sundae Bar (B Concourse).

Marvel: Just south of the airport sits a massive and thrilling branch of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, where you can easily spend a day ogling everything from vintage aircraft to the Enola Gay to the space shuttle. You can reach the museum in about ten minutes either by cab or by the new direct bus service from the airport which starts July 26 (bus fare $1.75 each way). Forget that ice cream sundae and just go!


What’s your favorite U.S. airport find? Share it with us!


Be a smarter traveler: Follow Wendy Perrin on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know. 

Lobby of The Affinia Manhattan hotel
Nobody expects to see a space like this at 7th Ave. and 31st St. It's the lobby of The Affinia Manhattan.

7 New York City Hotels That are Convenient and Affordable


Hi Wendy,

A friend and his wife are going to New York City for their 25th anniversary. They want to see all the attractions, which will take them from the Statue of Liberty to the new Freedom Tower, and up to Central Park. What conveniently located Manhattan hotels do you recommend for someone with a budget of about $300 per night?


—Jack C.


Jack, as someone who grew up in midtown Manhattan and still spends most days of the week there, zipping uptown and down on the subway, I do have a few picks for hotels that are well-located for sightseeing, convenient to public transportation, and budget-friendly (for NYC, that is).  Given the tourist crowds that are expected to hit Manhattan over the next few months—New York City is, after all, the #3 U.S. destination for TripAdvisor travelers this summer—these options should come in handy.


In the Theater District: citizenM Times Square

This new 230-room hotel is the first stateside outpost of the Amsterdam-based hotel chain, whose motto is “affordable luxury.”  The lobby, referred to as “the living room,” features oversized art and is filled with books and magazines. Efficiency is the theme, with self-service check-in and check-out, a 24-hour canteen, and rooms that make the most of their limited space with oversized beds and smart storage (218 West 50th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues).


Near Fifth Avenue shopping: Viceroy New York

The 240-room Viceroy aims to bring a downtown vibe to its chic uptown location just a three-minute walk from Fifth Avenue’s most elegant shops and restaurants and the prettiest corner of Central Park.  The lobby has an Art Deco vibe; the restaurant and bar, Kingside, is a destination unto itself; the rooms are done in brown leathers, wood paneling, and brass accents. Doubles start at $305 if you prepay (120 West 57th St).


Near the Flatiron: Ace Hotel New York

This trendy 260-room hotel a few blocks from Madison Square Park is a magnet for locals, thanks to its Stumptown-Coffee-serving lobby bar and Michelin-starred gastro pub, The John Dory Oyster Bar. In a building dating from 1904, the hotel has an eclectic aesthetic that combines the historic mosaic tile floor and stained glass ceilings with oddities such as a graffiti sticker mural wall in the lobby. Room sizes vary drastically, from Bunk Bed to Loft Suite  (20 W. 29th St., near Broadway).


Near Columbus Circle: Hudson New York

Just five blocks from Lincoln Center, this Philippe Starck-designed hotel is still reasonably hip, even 14 years after it opened. Rooms are small; the focus is on the public spaces, such as the Sky Terrace rooftop bar, which is very popular in summer, and the Hudson Common, a beer hall and burger joint with nightly live music (365 W. 58th St., between 8th and 9th Avenues).


Near Pennsylvania Station: The Affinia Manhattan

This hotel is not in a pretty neighborhood, but it’s close to the transit hubs at Penn Station and Herald Square, yet still a few blocks removed from the noise and chaos of Times Square (and just a short walk to Macy’s and the Empire State Building). The hotel has an Old New York ambiance—with velvet couches and gold-plated elevators—and 618 modern, comfortable rooms (371 Seventh Ave. at 31st St).


At Grand Central Terminal: Grand Hyatt New York

It’s hardly a charmer, what with 1,306 rooms and a busy lobby, but it’s attached to Grand Central Terminal, making it one of the most convenient places to sleep in Manhattan. It’s got all the comforts of a large hotel: a 24-hour market downstairs, a fitness center, and just about any service you could need within easy reach (109 East 42nd St).


Near Soho shopping and galleries: The Nolitan

NoLita is a fun downtown neighborhood whose abbreviation stands for “North of Little Italy.” This hotel’s cozy lobby has a library, and its modern-industrial rooms have unfinished ceilings and wood-plank floors. Some even have floor-to-ceiling windows or balconies (30 Kenmare St.).