Summer time without question means traveling. It’s the time of year that you take a break from your normal routine and hit adventure parks, Caribbean islands and local beaches. And this year, after months of quarantining, it felt like a summer trip was so needed and so well-deserved. But is it ok? Is it appropriate? Is it safe?
It’s hard to know the right answer. It’s hard to know what to do. For the sake of sanity, you have to get away from your day to day and have mental space, but with the laws, policies, and personal beliefs surrounding COVID-19, it’s hard to know exactly how to get that summer break that our bodies and our lives are so accustomed to.
I honestly cannot tell anyone whether they should or shouldn’t attempt travelling. It’s really dependent on a ton of factors, and a lot of individual considerations. But I can tell you the approach I took and let you know what worked and what didn’t work for me.
Before COVID-19 was so much as a flicker of a nightmare in our wildest dreams, I planned a getaway for June of this year. Around January, I saw a deal for Outer Banks, NC and it’s a place I’ve wanted to visit for a while, so I took advantage of the deal and booked a trip. Of course, COVID hit around March and strict quarantine measures were put in place across the country. As the virus was researched more and experiences were brought to light, we learned more and more about its transmission, symptoms and prevention. I assumed my trip was off, but I decided to wait until the date got closer to figure out what to do.
As June arrived, quarantines were being lifted around the country. The hotel where I booked my stay was opened for business and it was up to me to decide what to do. This is when independent research and personal preference kicked in.
In addition to COVID-19, the nation was dealing with another virus, which was the aftermath of the George Floyd murder. My mind was all over the place. A pandemic and racism…I just didn’t know what to do or what was appropriate. My emotions and fears were heightened for so many different reasons, and I teetered back and forth more than a kid on a see-saw. Go. Don’t go. Go. Don’t go. UGH!
Ultimately, after prayer, research, and feedback from family and friends, I chose to go. But I gave a lot of thought about how I felt the trip could be taken while being safe. After returning from the trip, of course, I quarantined for 14 days, and I guess I can count my efforts as a success. (Note: I have since taken another road trip and used my same policies mentioned in this post with that trip as well.) Here is what I did for my COVID-19 road trip.
ACCEPTANCE: I had to accept right at the onset that this trip was not going to be a normal trip. I had to realize that this trip may literally just amount to a time to be away from the home I’ve been quarantined in for the last several months. An opportunity to get some sunshine, be in a different environment, and dip my toe in the ocean. Those were my only objectives for my trip, and everything else that I would have normally done on any other vacation likely had to be scrapped. Before I even left, I had to have that thought ingrained in my mind, because otherwise I would have felt disappointed for what wasn’t, instead of appreciating the trip for what it was. Bars, clubs, restaurants, live music, local attractions, shopping, etc….not happening, and just accept it.
DESTINATION: A vacation during COVID-19 is by nature just going to be different. While you may normally plan international trips, or cool road trips to amazing destinations, that may not be an option this year. For me, I decided to pick something that was far enough to be away, but close enough to not require multiple pit stops and multiple searches for open places to eat. Nowdays, more places are open, but at the time of the trip, there were still many places still closed and figuring out their COVID-19 policies. The further you get away from your home base, the harder it may be to navigate food stops and bathroom breaks while maintaining control of potential exposure. Outer Banks was about a four-hour road trip from me, and I felt like that was just enough to limit how many times I may need to stop for food, gas, and restrooms. Ultimately, I only needed a change of scenery, and there are a lot of options close to Maryland that don’t require a lengthy travel time. For me, four hours is right at the max for a road trip during COVID-19.
CLEAN & SANITIZE: I’m pretty rigid at home about wiping up my surfaces, sanitizing myself and items I bring into my home, and washing my hands constantly. So that was no different when I traveled. I carried my disinfecting wipes, lysol sanitizing spray, and counter sprays with me. When I arrived at my room, I wiped down the tables, counters, tub, toilet, light switches, door knobs, remote, etc. I sprayed disinfecting spray on the bed and the carpet. And I deemed my room off limits at that point from any person outside of my travel party. I asked the hotel not to provide room service during my stay. And any time we left the room, we had to wash hands and sanitize clothing when we returned. The room was considered our home base and our safe space, so we made it priority #1 to keep it sanitized and clean for the duration of our stay.
PACK MEALS & SNACKS: One of the biggest and most important items on my vacation list was where would we eat. I knew sitting down in a restaurant was out of the question. At the time of the trip, most places were still only doing curbside pick-ups if they were opened at all. Now, more jurisdictions have entered into phases of reopening that permit some sort of inside and/or outside dining. At the time, that wasn’t an option, so we had to think about food. We decided to pack sandwiches, snacks, wine, alcohol, and water. For the times we actually went to a restaurant, we called ahead and picked up our order. We ate at the table in our room, on our patio, or on the beach. Dining is typically such a big part of vacation, but we knew this time it would not be the case, and we prepared our minds ahead of time.
- Call ahead. If there is an amenity that makes or breaks your trip, call ahead, even prior to reserving your stay, to confirm that that amenity is still open/usable. Websites may not be updated appropriately, or there may be some caviat that may be a deal-breaker for you. For example, on my recent trip, all I wanted to do was find a place where I could sit by the pool all day. A lot of hotel websites claimed that their pool was open, but when I called, I found out it actually wasn’t open. Or the website didn’t mention that time slots had to be reserved, that they fill up quickly, and that they are only for an hour per day. Those were deal breakers for me, and none of this was mentioned on the websites for hotels that I considered. And out of the five hotels I called, four had additional limitations that were not mentioned on their website that ruled them out as an option for me.
- Reviews matter. Other people have traveled and their review of a location may give additional insight into racial climate, mask protocols, adherence in general to COVID-19 policies, and food availability. All of those things mattered for me and I took other people’s experiences very seriously.
- Avoid weekends. I hate crowds, so this is something I try to do whenever I travel anyways. But to the extent possible, right now is the time to avoid massive groups of people. Try to find a time to travel that includes some or all week days.
- Opt for less populated areas. This is not the time to go to the hottest beach spot during its most popular week. Save that for once we have all of this pandemic mess sorted out. Try to find that town place off the beaten path, or the hotel with few rooms. The name of the game is limiting potential exposure. Less people means less chances to expose yourself to the virus.
I hope these tips help. I do realize these are just my personal standards and preferences. Yours may be different, and that’s ok. I just encourage you to give some forethought to safety before you travel, and remember that while this may not be your most ideal trip, you can still have a great time.
Be safe and be kind. And enjoy!
Have you traveled during COVID-19? How has your experience been? I’d love to hear about it!