If you’re planning a California trip, your hotel reservation might have been canceled.
California’s latest regional stay-home orders restrict hotels and other lodging establishments — including vacation rentals — from honoring reservations from out-of-town guests traveling for nonessential reasons.
And buyer beware: If you’re booking online, you may not get a warning before you place your reservation.
The new restrictions make exceptions for essential workers and those who plan to quarantine for the 14 days required by the state’s travel advisory.
During a press conference on Dec. 8, California State Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly urged Californians to discourage people from coming to visit them.
“We know that’s hard. We know these are difficult choices to make, especially eight or nine months into our response, but we believe these are important decisions to make to keep our community safe,” Ghaly said.
What are California’s travel restrictions?
On Dec. 3, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced an expanded Regional Stay at Home Order. The order triggers restrictions and closures in regions that have fewer than 15% of their intensive care unit beds available. The restrictions include barring hotels from renting to out-of-town guests arriving for nonessential travel.
As of Dec. 10, three California regions are under stay-home restrictions: Southern California, the San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento region. Those restrictions last for three weeks after they are enacted and are evaluated weekly after that.
If you are planning a trip to a region that’s under stay-home restrictions, the hotel or vacation rental cannot honor your reservation unless you are an essential worker or plan to quarantine for the 14-day duration of the state’s travel advisory.
How hotels are reaching out to guests
As California enacted these new regulations, major hotel chains told The Arizona Republic they were working to inform guests about the changes.
“Hilton has been proactively reminding guests, through various methods of communication, to review the restrictions which may be in place at their destination ahead of traveling,” a Hilton spokesperson said when reached by email.
“Hyatt continues to proactively communicate to guests, pre-arrival, regarding any local travel-related protocols; this includes guests who may be impacted by the new California mandate,” a Hyatt spokesperson wrote. “Hyatt hotels in California are also working to inform guests upon arrival of any travel protocols in an effort to ensure they are aware of and meet the mandate.”
A Marriott statement said, “Travelers are reminded to review government guidance to confirm eligibility to travel & stay at hotel. Updated guidance is available on travelguidance.marriott.com. Local guidance is communicated at the point of reservation, prior to and at the point of arrival. Reservations will not be honored where prohibited.”
Messages to Expedia Group, which owns online travel booking sites including Expedia, Hotels.com and Hotwire, went unanswered.
What happens if you try to book online?
We went to some booking sites to see how they were handling California reservations.
Some sites prevented us from reserving a room by ending the booking process and showing a screen telling us to call the hotel directly.
Others showed rooms available.
Marriott’s website had a small blue banner stating, “Face coverings are required. Customers should review government guidance to confirm eligibility to travel & stay at hotel. See travelguidance.marriott.com.” The website allowed us to click through to available rooms.
Hilton’s website showed a small banner stating, “Hotel Status Update: Booking Notice Learn More.”
When we clicked on “learn more” a screen popped up that said, “Before completing your booking, please review the State restrictions and guidelines to confirm eligibility to travel and stay at the hotel. Due to temporary State rules where this hotel is located, out-of-state guests are subject to a mandatory self-quarantine unless they are traveling for essential work.”
Still, we were able to click through the booking process.
On the Hyatt page, a small banner read “Government Mandates – This location may have COVID-19 travel restrictions in place including national, local and health advisories and requirements.”
After putting in an Arizona address, it took us to the screen for payment.
Luckily, many hotels have flexible cancellation policies right now that allow guests to cancel without penalty. Still, due to the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a good practice to read your lodging’s policies and make sure your reservation is cancelable and refundable.
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