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Thinking of traveling this summer in California? Then you’ll want to understand these travel updates before deciding where and how you travel this summer. Amidst travel restrictions being lifted in California and openings for leisure travel this last week, it will be important now more than ever to do a bit of research before taking off on a trip.

I’m going to break down different components of travel to consider, as well as a bit on traveling consciously this summer. One of the most popular questions I’ve received has been: “Will I be traveling this summer?” The answer is yes. And it will look very different than any other summer travel before. I will not be getting on a plane quite yet and will be focusing on what is reachable via a road trip from my home. Travel is going to take time to open up fully and the impact I make as a traveler when it comes to the health of other communities will solely be my responsibility.

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With all of this said, I’m sharing a few thoughts and tips on how we can travel responsibly and safely here in California. Because let’s be honest, I know we all have a TON of places in California we haven’t visited!

As information changes and travel restrictions evolve, I will continue to update this blog post. I hope you’ll take the time to read through everything below before planning your summer travels. Since a large part of my readers are California residents, I’m focusing this summer on destinations that will be relevant to locals. And for those who cannot travel to California just yet, I hope you’ll be inspired to visit my beautiful home state when the time is right.

I look forward to sharing some exciting road trips, outdoor destinations that maybe you never considered before, and along the way, beautifully designed accommodations that will inspire you. The hope this summer is to have meaningful travel experiences that are rooted in being conscious.

*Please note: this blog post is directed for California residents. If you’re traveling elsewhere, I hope you’ll also consider these same steps before planning a trip.

How to Travel Responsibly and Safely in California This Summer 2020

Know Before You Go

The first two questions that need to be considered are:

  1. Am I in a county that is open for leisure travel or being able to travel out of?
    (i.e. no shelter in place orders for where I am)
  2. Is the destination in a county that is open for leisure travel and accepting out of county visitors?

These are super important to consider and part of traveling responsibly this summer will be following local guidelines and regulations. Each county is very clear on whether or not they’re accepting visitors. Most have this information on their tourism site and almost all counties at this moment are open. Though things change (as we all know), it will be good to check for any updates before you book AND before you travel.

Start here: Visit California has this wonderful link that has a directory to every county’s updates for leisure travel. Also available is their Responsible Travel hub which I highly recommend reading through.

How to Travel Responsibly and Safely in California This Summer 2020

Know Your Destination

Every county in California has been opening up in different stages. The next most vital piece of information will be knowing what stage or rules are in place in the county you’re headed to. For instance, this last month, Sacramento County was slower to open up businesses than in neighboring counties, which means things were different in terms of restaurant experiences and amenities even though the county lines are only 15 minutes away from us.

Understanding what rules or safety measures are in place for each county will be important. Be prepared that the county you’re headed to may have stricter or looser regulations, meaning it will feel different than where you live. It may also mean you can’t do everything you would normally be able to do. Some businesses have opened and others haven’t, some state parks are open and others are not.

Taking the time to research will allow for a more thoughtful and well-executed trip. As a general rule of thumb, physical distancing and enhanced cleaning standards are mandatory statewide for leisure travel vendors (i.e. hotels, hospitality businesses, etc..). Again, following local and state regulations comes first.

Every component of travel is opening up in phases, so be sure to check ahead. I’ll give an example: Currently, at the time of this being written, hotels are being opened in Sonoma County, but the campgrounds remain closed. I found on a recent trip to Lassen Volcanic National Park that the services were minimal.

How to Travel Responsibly and Safely in California This Summer 2020


Road trips this year will be the name of the game for us. By using our own cars, we have an opportunity to be outdoors and keep our distance. In California, this is how I will be choosing to travel this summer at the current moment.

Along the way, I’ll be thinking about my interactions. As an example: when I stop for gas, I will use gloves and properly distance to make sure that I am being thoughtful of this community that I don’t live in.

Being mindful of my impact is my responsibility and first priority. And I’ll call it how it is: The extra mental energy can be overwhelming but I also recognize that this is what it takes to travel in this current season.

How to Travel Responsibly and Safely in California This Summer 2020


As all accommodations are being opened in different stages, from short term rentals to hotels, it will be county dependent again.

All that are opening are having to keep standards for cleaning, so this is the first thing I’m checking on or calling ahead before booking. I want to know what the occupation rates are and what standards of cleaning are implemented. Most accommodations have a note about this on their site, which is great. The California Hotel and Lodging Association has a full page dedicated to this information.

The California Hotel and Lodging Association also has a “Clean + Safe” Certified Member List of hotels that have been approved for ensuring the highest standard of safety for guests. I’d take a look here before booking if this is a priority for you.

For me personally, moving forward, I’ll be more inclined to book a short term rental where I have an entire space to myself or a hotel that has fewer rooms in the outdoors before a bigger, crowded hotel in a large city.

*One thing to note on hotels: many have not opened up public facilities like gyms, restaurants, or pools quite yet. So be very sure of what it is you’re booking to help with expectations.

If you’re thinking of a short term rental out in nature, you’ll want to check out this list of 25+ incredible Airbnbs in California. Trust me, some of these are destinations themselves.

How to Travel Responsibly and Safely in California This Summer 2020

Activities & Dining

Another county dependent component of travel will be what is open for recreation and what dining will look like. It will also depend on what you feel most comfortable with. For our first trips, we will mostly be packing our own food or doing takeout (again, to reduce interaction) and will ease into outdoor dining. We recognize that it may take time to be able to do some of what “normal travel” looks like.

For this summer, I’m looking forward to:

  • Traveling mid-week when possible
  • Hiking longer, less-crowded trails
  • Exploring state parks
  • Driving through coastal destinations with open space
  • Supporting locally-owned restaurants and companies
  • Experiencing outdoor recreation that can be enjoyed at a safe distance

When it comes to outdoor destinations, if you’re looking for what is open or not, check out Google Maps. Most of the state parks and beaches have been marked open or closed. You can also check out the local county website. For example, you can search “Sonoma county beaches” and you should be able to find updates.

California Parks and Recreation also has this link that shares what has opened or has limited availability. Some national parks are even doing ticketed entrance, like Yosemite National Park, so keep this in mind when planning.

Destinations I’m Looking Forward To Visiting

There is so much of California I haven’t explored and places I’m craving to return to. Here’s my shortlist for the summer:

  • Mammoth Lakes
  • The Eastern Sierras
  • Carmel Valley
  • Big Sur
  • Mount Lassen
  • Mendocino Coastline
  • Redwoods
  • Shasta County
  • Death Valley
  • Joshua Tree
  • Jenner Coast

Outdoor Destinations in California for Summer

I think outdoor destinations will be some of the best places to travel this summer in California. I’d also encourage you to consider some destinations that are not as heavily impacted by tourism. An example: instead of Lake Tahoe, consider the lakes near Lassen. Instead of hiking in Yosemite Valley, consider hiking the trails out in the Eastern Sierras.

There is a ton of resources on the blog, so I’m going to link to a few that are top of mind:

Conscious Travel This Summer

Alongside this idea of traveling safely and being respectful of other communities, there is a concept of being conscious. A bigger idea of how we can be responsible and reduce waste. I want to share a more in-depth resource to this, but for now, I can give a few examples. This time at home has had me recognize just how much waste I personally produce through travel. Also top of mind is how can we take care of the places we visit? More on that later.

A few ways I’m reducing waste this summer:

  • Using a reusable water bottle. We have a few and I’m looking at this one by Larq that cleans the water with a touch of a button so it could be used while in the outdoors
  • Reusable food storage bags for snacks, these by Stasher are my go-to
  • Bringing my own snacks
  • Bringing a to-go coffee cup (I know most coffee shops aren’t using these but for when we make coffee in the morning at home, I can store it in this for now).
  • Eliminating single-use products like straws and refusing plastic
  • Packing my own reusable utensils, like these metal ones or this bamboo set

A few ways I’m traveling consciously this summer:

  • Supporting local businesses by where I eat and where I shop
  • Being educated on the places I am going
  • Following and being up to date with public health guidelines
  • Eating seasonal and buying local
  • Choosing less-visited destinations


I hope you’ll join me this summer in a pledge to travel safely and responsibly. If anything has been eye-opening this last season, it’s that our choices matter. We can enjoy the beauty around us and do it consciously.

Enjoy the beauty that California has to offer and do it in a way that allows communities to thrive in health and economics. I look forward to seeing your adventures, sharing memories, and exploring more of California this summer.

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How to Travel Responsibly and Safely in California This Summer 2020

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Use for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.

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Use Viator or Get Your Guide to find the best tours and experiences. They are my favorite tour search engines. I always check both as their inventory varies depending on the destination.

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  1. Darin Wissner Reply

    Spot on with this column. I have been saying in our Facebook group, “Do your homework.” I have shared the same links you have in this writing to help folks and guide them.

    It’s a different travel era as people want to really control their trips, example, using their own cars and no plane travel. Because of this, I am sure you would agree, there has been such a strain on state parks, waterways, etc because with NO events, youth sports, or community pools, people are all flocking to these beautiful area and many not taking care of them either. We have to be patient.

    Last weekend, Fathers Day weekend, we stayed at the Jenner Inn. That Friday was the first day that Sonoma County “opened up,” right? I was surprised that earlier in the week I was able to get a room there, as THAT never happens. Maybe they had cancellations, not sure. But, we are mostly spontaneous in our trips, so, it was nice to be able to land a room at the Jenner Inn. The Bodega Bay Lodge and the Tides Inn were not taking reservations. Some restaurants were open, and others not. I was just surprised by the inconsistency.

    And yes, most websites are up to date, and other not, which makes it difficult sometimes to plan. Anyways, thanks for this and I will be sharing.

    • Jessica Wright Reply

      Well said, Darin. There is so much research that needs to be done. I hope others will do their part as we reopen to do their homework and take care of our beautiful state. I’ve been on a few hikes thus far and saw some major issues with people trashing the areas. It seems that the infrastructure isn’t quite there yet to handle it all.

      Hopefully, this will encourage others to get out and explore parts of California that are out of the major routes.

  2. Daisy Rosales Reply

    Such a useful guide, Jessica! Thank you. We’re moving back to northern California after 11 years away and I’m excited to do some local exploring while maintaining safe social distance. These suggestions are great, and I agree, so important to do lots of prep and research.

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