What to expect on Memorial Day during the pandemic

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This weekend is Memorial Day in the United States, which is typically a weekend featuring heavy travel as people from all walks of life kick off summer. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic seeing states still under various stages of lockdown, travel will look a bit different. We have a roundup of what to expect.

Most people staying home

When we polled the Budget Travel audience, most people said they are prepared to stay home for the holiday weekend. According to AAA, this weekend is expected to set the record for the lowest travelled Memorial Day weekend since the organization began tracking the metric in 2000. In fact, there is so little travel anticipated, that AAA didn’t even bother releasing it’s Memorial Day travel prediction report for the first time.

For those that do decide to travel, they are encouraged to stay within one days’ drive of home and within state lines of their home state.

Beaches reopen

Along the coasts, beaches are reopening to the public for the summer. Beaches in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Connecticut are all opening with enforced 50% capacity. They are also preventing contact activities like beach volleyball. In New Jersey, beach goers were required to purchase passes to enable the state to limit the number of people on the beach.

In California, beaches are reopening to swimming and running, but patrons are encouraged to wear a mask. In Los Angeles county, sunbathing and picnicking will not be allowed.

In Southern states such as South Carolina and Florida, local officials say they don’t have too many ways to limit the number of people on the beach, so they will be enforcing one thing they do have control over – parking lots to public beaches. Law enforcement will be aggressively ticketing parking violations, as well as enforcing rules about glass and alcohol being prohibited on beaches.

If you decide you need some beachtime, we recommend that you check with your local beach to determine what rules and regulations might be in place. We also encourage you to be patient with your local officials – this is the first major holiday weekend of the pandemic, and there are sure to be hiccups as they try to keep people safe.

What about the pool?

Memorial Day weekend is also typically the opening weekend for public pools. Based on the phased reopening of each individual state, pools are slowly opening for business around the country. According to the CDC, there is no evidence that the COVID-19 virus can spread to people through pools and hot tubs. In fact, properly maintained pools should have chemicals such as chlorine that will inactivate the virus. That said, there is still a risk of spreading the virus as in any public place.

The CDC recently released guidelines about how to safely operate a pool during the pandemic. These guidelines include:

  • Encouraging staff and swimmers to wash their hands often
  • Face coverings when not in the water
  • Staying home if they feel sick
  • Posting signs and having regular messages about preventing the spread
  • Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces regularly
  • Regularly laundering towels and clothing
  • Ensuring ventilation of indoor pools are operating properly
  • Modifying pool layouts so that people can stay 6 feet apart, by separating things like deck chairs, and providing physical barriers to limit the concentration of people in a space
  • Discourage use of shared items like goggles, toys and food
  • Prevent large gatherings


Camping is a favorite activity of Budget Travel readers, but COVID-19 restrictions caused the closure of campgrounds all over the USA for most of the spring. As states begin to reopen, campgrounds are in various stages of reopening. Check with your individual state to see if campgrounds have reopened.

For example, in Colorado, one of the country’s largest outdoor recreation states, camping resumed for Colorado residents last weekend, but people must make a reservation ahead of time. Colorado residents are encouraged to stay within 10 miles of their home, and the state does NOT want people who are not Colorado residents to cross the state line.

People who plan on camping over the holiday weekend should plan well ahead to ensure they have all the supplies that are needed and that they are able to safely avoid other campers. When using public restrooms and showers, make sure you wash your hands and use ample hand sanitizer.

National Parks

National Parks are slowly reopening, but visitors should be prepared for limited services, including closed visitor’s centers, restrooms and popular trailheads. Make sure you check out the National Park Service website for information on the specific park you’re looking for.

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