Heublein Tower at Talcott Mountain State Park in Simsbury (Andy Leclerc via Shutterstock)

Following months of staying put, Connecticut’s steady vaccination rates and loosened restrictions have many residents itching to travel to destinations both near and far.

“Travel is definitely coming back,” said Beth Gallant, a travel agent at AAA West Hartford. Florida, the Caribbean and Mexico are popular, she added. “I’m busier now than I’ve been in over a year.”

Connecticut dropped its travel mandates and requirements in March as the state saw low positivity rates and a high demand for vaccination. As of Sunday, 57% of those 12 and older are fully vaccinated in Connecticut, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And travelers want to put the vaccine to the test. In a survey of northeastern travelers by the state Office of Tourism, over 68% said they’d feel comfortable taking a trip shortly after being vaccinated, and that they’d be most comfortable staying within 100 miles.

“There has never been a better time to discover and rediscover Connecticut’s many tourism treasures, from popular destinations to lesser-known hidden gems,” state Office of Tourism Interim Director Christine Castonguay said.

Even If It’s Not Required, Take Caution

In mid-May, the CDC announced that fully vaccinated individuals don’t need to wear masks indoors or outdoors. But they are still encouraged to wear masks where distancing isn’t possible, including when traveling domestically.

For those who are not fully vaccinated, meaning they have received only one dose of a two-dose vaccine or have not received the vaccine at all, the CDC advises to continue mask-wearing, distancing and quarantining when traveling. Airlines and states might also require you to show a negative COVID-19 test beforehand.

If you’re planning on going around Connecticut, it is a good rule of thumb to keep a mask on your person at all times, especially as many in-state attractions, like the Connecticut Science Center in Hartford and the Mashantucket Pequot Museum, require them. 

“Visitors are encouraged to check with attractions about any safety policies before venturing out,” Castonguay said.

Vaccinated or not, there is always an inherent risk of traveling or visiting attractions where there are many people. Gallant said that travel still calls for following precautions.

“It all depends on the person and their own level of risk,” Gallant said. 

Summer Fun Here At Home

Connecticut launched its $1.2 million “Say Yes to Connecticut” tourism campaign in early May. Many in-state attractions are taking part in the campaign, which promises to boost the industry following a year of losses from COVID-19.

“Tourism is absolutely critical to Connecticut’s economy and state residents play an important role in that,” she said. 

That means special offers and new activities to welcome visitors back, like at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, where a new harbor seal exhibit recently opened.

Connecticut’s 139 state parks are open as well. Through ParkConneCT, residents can take advantage of fare-free bus rides to certain state parks and beaches through Labor Day weekend.

“By educating them about our offerings, and providing a low-cost way to experience them, we’re inspiring future visits not just to those attractions, but to the restaurants, shops and other businesses nearby,” she added.

While being fully vaccinated opens up more travel options, there are still limitations for families whose young children cannot yet get the vaccine. The CDC advises unvaccinated individuals not to travel, as airports and rest stops are high-risk areas.

For Families, What Is — And Isn’t — Kid-Friendly In Connecticut

Connecticut Children’s Medical Center recommends that unvaccinated children continue to wear masks, including outdoors, even if older family members who are vaccinated don’t need to under CDC guidance.

“Anyone traveling this summer should check with businesses in advance about their safety policies,” Castonguay said.

Instead of travelling outside of the state, Connecticut Children’s recommends camping and quiet beaches and parks as lower-risk venues for children if distancing and mask-wearing are practiced.

Connecticut has many kid-friendly options. The state has put $11 million toward summer enrichment programs for children this year in an attempt to accommodate families who’ve been affected by the pandemic financially. 

Attractions like the Action Wildlife Foundation in Goshen, the Connecticut Science Center and Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo in Bridgeport have free general admission for small children. Many have amended their basic operations with online ticket registration and other measures for enhanced safety. 

Connecticut is exploring providing free visits to Connecticut children 18 and under, as well as to one accompanying adult, through July to August, too.

Connecticut also has a variety of summer camps for kids that can be found at summerct.org. Many have adjusted to ever-changing coronavirus guidelines for young campers from the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood.
“After over a year of closures and restrictions due to the pandemic, people are ready to safely explore and businesses are ready to show off their unique offerings,” Castonguay said.