Coronavirus Travel Update: Learn More
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Smithsonian Journeys Health & Safety Protocols

Updated as of April 13, 2021

Since our beginnings over 50 years ago, Smithsonian Journeys has focused on providing worry- free, enriching, and enjoyable educational travel experiences. The well-being of our guests and staff members has always been our highest priority. The pandemic has posed new challenges but our commitment to these priorities remains unchanged.

We know the decision to travel is a personal one; each of us has to determine our own comfort level with travel. To help you make your decision, we have outlined below the extra health and safety measures we are taking across all facets of our tours.

We have worked with our travel partners to develop these measures, in accordance with organizations such as U.S. Department of State (DOS) Travel Advisories, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) protocols and travel industry guidance. As the situation is fluid, we will be updating this document as we obtain any new information or guidance.


Preparing for your Journey

All guests and staff traveling will be required to provide either (a) proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 3 days prior to arrival on tour; or (b) proof of a COVID-19 vaccination, including both doses when applicable. Proof of a completed COVID-19 vaccination is a requirement for all of our ocean cruises, and may be necessary for entry into certain destinations, depending on the country’s policies.

Following the CDC guidelines for preventing COVID transmission as closely as possible will decrease your risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the two weeks prior to your trip – protecting you and your experience with Smithsonian Journeys. We highly recommend that you consult your physician for best practices to keep you safe and healthy before, during, and after your trip with us.

Please note that these same policies will apply to all staff accompanying the group throughout a Smithsonian Journeys tour.

Prior to departure, all guests will be required to sign a liability waiver to ensure that they understand the risk factors involved in traveling during the pandemic and the preventative measures that are expected to be followed to mitigate exposure to COVID-19.

International Entry Requirements Imposed by Foreign Governments

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, most countries around the world have introduced new entry requirements for international visitors related to health and safety.

Guests will be notified of any entry requirements for their specific destination(s) with their pre-tour documents and will receive an update if there are further changes prior to the tour’s departure. Regulations may include insurance requirements for entry. Current regulations by destination can be found on the U.S. State Department website for COVID-19 Country Specific Information, located here.


For the convenience of our travelers, an included on-tour insurance plan is provided by Travel Guard. Smithsonian Journeys travelers (U.S. residents traveling more than 100 miles from home) have tour emergency evacuation insurance (up to $100,000), medical expense coverage (up to $25,000), and travel medical assistance and worldwide travel assistance.

In addition, we strongly recommend that guests purchase a travel protection plan to protect yourselves and your investment in the event of illness prior to or during the tour, and to obtain additional medical coverage while on the tour. When purchasing a policy, please consult with a travel insurance agent to review what COVID-19 related contingencies are covered.


Destination Considerations: Smithsonian will not travel to destinations that are deemed high risk for healthy travelers per DOS/ CDC guidelines.

Small Group Size: Our land-based tours average between 12 and 20 travelers, and not more than 24. For our ship tours, we use small ships ranging from 17-passenger barges to 264-passenger ocean ships.

Increased Spacing throughout Your Tour: We have re-planned all coach/van rides, meals, activities and excursions to accommodate physical distancing, where feasible, and provide more individual space throughout your tour. Our travel directors will assess local conditions (and possible crowds) to adjust timing of visits.

More Single Rooms and No or Reduced Single Supplements: To provide more privacy and space, we strive to contract as many single rooms as possible. In addition, a number of our tours offer no or reduced single supplements. During 2021 and 2022, we will not be making any roommate assignments in instances where guests do not know each other prior to the departure.


If you utilize public transportation or a taxi en route to your destination, the CDC recommends wearing a mask.

Airline Travel

It’s important to consult with your airline on regulations regarding your flight. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and most airlines are implementing their own health and safety precautions, including health screenings and temperature checks prior to boarding, and mandatory face coverings. You can learn more about individual airlines’ details and requirements on their websites.

Guests are strongly encouraged to wear a face covering while inside the airport and during the entirety of the flight.

Please note that you are responsible for bringing your own face covering that complies with your airlines’ requirements and airlines may deny boarding to any passenger without one.


Upon Arrival

Our travel directors will use non-contact thermometers to check all travelers’ temperatures upon arrival and at the beginning of each day on tour. If a guest has a temperature of 100.4 degrees (F) or higher or demonstrates symptoms of being unwell, we will separate the guest from the group and assist the guest in obtaining medical attention. The guest will not be permitted to join the tour until deemed safe to do so by a physician. Our travel directors will have a supply of hand sanitizers, wipes, and disposable masks available upon arrival. It is recommended that you bring a personal supply as well.

Smithsonian Journeys Travelers

In order to provide a safe travel experience for our guests, we need your help, as well. By joining a tour, you are pledging to make the following commitments to health and safety:

  • You will wear a face covering at all times when you are in an enclosed public space, on the motor coach through the tour, and within a 6-foot distance of others. This applies to both group activities and to time on your own. (Please note: This may be updated prior to your departure if CDC recommendations are revised).
  • You will allow for your temperature to be taken and recorded daily or when needed.
  • You will alert us during the trip if you have a fever, dry cough, or other COVID-19 like symptoms.

Travelers are asked to follow CDC guidelines for selecting, wearing, and caring for their face coverings.

Your Smithsonian Journeys travel director will outline and reinforce traveler expectations at the beginning of your tour. Failure to comply with the safety and commitments during the tour will result in your being excluded from the tour.

Tour Staff

Your Smithsonian Journeys Experts, travel directors, drivers, and local guides are required to adhere to the same health and safety protocols as outlined for guests. Tour staff will also receive additional training on health and safety measures to support you during your tour.

Ground Transportation

All transportation vehicles will be cleaned, and all surfaces sanitized prior to your arrival each day throughout the tour. We will arrange for coaches and vans to accommodate adequate physical distancing, to the extent possible.

Accommodations and Meals

All hotels and lodges utilized have agreed to implement enhanced cleaning procedures, with a particular focus on guest rooms and high impact areas such as check-in desks, lobby areas, elevators, restaurants and fitness centers. While specific measures may vary by destination, we will use only establishments that have implemented and agree to maintain a high level of sanitation and cleanliness. We will select restaurants that also meet our cleaning and sanitation requirements and provide an appropriate degree of physical distancing. We will eliminate self-serve buffet service and offer in-room dining options, where possible.

Guests can also expect that some hotels, restaurants, and tourist sites may conduct contactless temperature checks or other protocols upon entry.

Group Activities and Independent Time

Smithsonian Journeys is dedicated to providing our travelers with high quality group travel experiences. During this unique time, the structure and style of some of your excursions and activities may be altered to ensure your safety and well-being. These can include the timing and location of lectures, group excursions, meals and receptions. Detailed information will be outlined in your pre-tour documents.

Many of our tours utilize whisper audio devices for excursions. All headsets and controls will be sanitized, and sterilized ear buds will be in sealed plastic bags. You will receive a headset at the beginning of the tour that will be in your possession and used only by you for the duration of the tour. The audio devices are very helpful not only to aide in listening to any given speaker, but also encourage physical distancing.

While on your tour, you will have time for independent exploration and meals on your own. In the interest of ensuring the health and safety of all group members, both during and outside of scheduled tour activities, guests are required to follow the Smithsonian Journeys Health & Safety Protocols and local health and hygiene regulations intended to prevent the transmission of COVID-19.

Traveling by Ship

The safety and health measures being implemented for our ship-based tours are very similar to those that will be in place for our land-based tours.

Please see the links below for detailed safety and health measures being implemented for our cruises:

Health & Safety Measures for Ocean Cruises

Health & Safety Measures for River Cruises


Return to the United States from International Travel

On January 12, 2021, the CDC announced that all travelers entering the United States will be required to submit proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken no more than 3 days prior to their return flight. More information on this order can be found here. Please note that, if this CDC requirement is in effect at the time of your scheduled Smithsonian Journeys tour, we will ensure that all guests have access to professional and expeditious on-site COVID-19 testing accompanied by proper documentation prior to their return home.

Travelers will be asked to inform Smithsonian Journeys immediately if they develop COVID-19 symptoms within 14 days following the last day of the tour. Travelers thereby consent to be contacted by Smithsonian Journeys for COVID-19 contact tracing efforts if necessary.