Traveling in a COVID-19 world

The health and well-being of our travelers, our guides and the communities we visit is always our top priority. For more than 30 years, we've worked tirelessly to exceed the health and safety expectations for every trip we run. That continues today, as we adjust our programming and policies in response to COVID-19.

Updated April 16, 2021

We have resumed most domestic departures at this time. If you’re booked on a trip we need to cancel, we’ll typically be in touch around 45 days before your scheduled departure date.
Anyone who'd like to cancel or postpone their trip because of health concerns around COVID-19 can do so with no financial penalty. Some exceptions apply to cruise programs, as those are run by partner operators. If you have any questions, contact our travel specialists—they'd love to help. And if you have future travel plans, please continue to review the travel advisories or warnings from the U.S. State Department, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization.
We’re examining every aspect of every trip, to ensure that we meet or exceed appropriate guidelines, requirements and recommendations of the U.S. State Department, CDC, WHO, and local governments. Any changes to trip itineraries or activities will be communicated to travelers as soon as we make those decisions.
Read on for details about specific changes we're making to every trip.

Health & Safety Protocols

Health assessment

All travelers and guides will participate in pre-trip health assessments as well as ongoing health assessments while traveling. If a person needs to cancel their trip due to illness or potential exposure prior to departure, they can do so without financial penalty.


For lodge-based trips, we will closely assess all accommodations for appropriate sanitation. When camping, tents are assigned for the duration of each trip and cleaned between every departure.

Dining and food preparation

Guide-prepared meals will follow food-handling guidelines and be served by the guides, rather than self-serve or family style. When dining out, we will ensure adherence to local requirements, and accommodate travelers' seating preferences and level of personal comfort to the best of our ability.

Sanitized vehicles and equipment

In our vehicles, high-touch surfaces are sanitized frequently during the trip, and the entire vehicle gets thoroughly cleaned between groups. Gear and equipment intended to be used by one person for the duration of the trip will be issued on an individual basis. Everything gets cleaned and sanitized after each trip, or is regularly cleaned throughout, depending on its use. Guests should also bring their own personal hand sanitizer and use it regularly while on the trip.

Contact tracing

If REI is notified that a member of a trip tested positive for COVID-19, we will follow CDC guidelines and contact all participants. We will not share the identity of the individual.

Social Distancing

Small group sizes

REI has always exclusively offered small group travel. Because of the pandemic, we are reducing group sizes even further to comply with local guidelines. Small groups also create more space in vehicles, and let us spread out more during meals and activities.

Appropriate spacing during activities

Whether on the water, on the trail, on bikes or on foot, guests must maintain adequate spacing during activities whenever possible, even while wearing face coverings. The bright side: more space between people makes it easier to bask in the beauty of the surroundings.

More spacious vehicles

Small group sizes ensure more space between travelers during vehicle transfers. If needed, we'll also use larger vehicles (or more of them). Face coverings will be required for guests and guides during any provided transportation.

Protecting Local Communities

We'll closely assess the risk to every community we visit, and avoid traveling to the most vulnerable communities until it is appropriate to do so.


Yes. For the safety of our guests, our employees, and the communities we visit, CDC-recommended face coverings are required throughout each trip. When physical distancing is possible, there may be exceptions made during strenuous activities or when there’s a high likelihood of the masks getting wet. While being worn, all face coverings must fully cover the nose and mouth. Make sure to try out your face covering before the trip to test it for comfort and fit. You'll want one you can wear comfortably during physical activities and for extended periods of time. Face coverings made of mesh or other loosely knit fabric are not permitted.

Our knowledgeable guides offer field-tested backpacking advice and introduce you to the history, flora and fauna of the Smokies.