After weeks or months of being home, people want to take a vacation. However, social distancing vacation planning is different and there are several details to keep in mind.
I am in no way an expert on COVID-19. There is an inherent risk of getting sick when you no longer follow a stay-at-home order. This is information I have compiled in my attempt to make safe travel decisions for my family at this time. Please consult a healthcare professional with specific questions about your or your family’s potential risks and health.
What Is Social Distancing?
According to the CDC, social distancing is a way to limit the spread of COVID-19. Social distancing recommends maintaining a distance of 6 feet (2 meters) or more from other people both inside and outside.
How Do I Pick A Social Distancing Destination?
Choose Less Popular Destinations
National parks, state parks, hiking trails, and other outdoor activities are popular social distancing vacation options. It is important to know not all options provide the same ability to avoid large crowds.
Well known locations like Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon have limited parking, generally use shuttle buses to manage transportation through the park, and can be extremely crowded. Choosing less popular national or state parks, lakes, or hiking trails makes it easier to have a social distancing vacation.
Know Your Destination’s COVID-19 Infection Trends
Investigating current COVID-19 outbreaks, cases, and restrictions is another important part of planning a social distancing vacation. CNN has a page with a running two-week tally of COVID-19 cases by state that shows infection trends. Many states also have information on infection rates by county which can help you assess how comfortable you are traveling to a certain area.
Avoid States With Mandatory Quarantine
Some states have instituted a mandatory 14-day quarantine for travelers. This means there are several US states where if you intend to visit for two weeks or less you will spend your entire visit quarantined. Here’s a list of states with this requirement.
Understand The State’s Restrictions
States vary greatly in what facilities are open and whether masks are required. This information rapidly changes, but is very important when planning your social distancing vacation. Here’s an overview of state mask requirements. The National Governors Association has compiled information on each state’s reopening plan and restrictions which is helpful, too.
How Should I Travel?
This is a very personal decision. There is limited data available on illness transmission on road trips versus flying. I found this article on staying safe during road trips helpful and this one useful in evaluating the risks of flying.
Where Should I Stay?
Home rentals are incredibly popular right now for people planning social distancing vacations. They afford the comforts of home but with a change of scenery for those feeling trapped by stay-at-home orders. Vacation rentals often include a full kitchen which helps reduce the need to eat out, especially if there are limited options open due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Many hotel chains have also announced increased sanitation of rooms, limited common area availability, and social distancing markers to keep guests safe and comfortable. Check with your specific hotel for the most up-to-date information.
Check Attractions For Reduced Capacity Or Other Changes
Many national and state parks are limiting parking to maintain social distancing. Parks and attractions are also limiting on-site amenities like water fountains, bathrooms, and visitor center access. It is important to review your destination’s website for the most up to date information before heading out for the day.
Other attractions may be completely closed during your visit or require pre-purchasing tickets with timed entry. Make sure you know exactly what you need before visiting so you don’t end up disappointed once you arrive.
Don’t Travel If You Are Sick
Find flights, hotels, and rental properties with flexible cancellation policies. This way you won’t lose out on money if you become sick and can’t go on vacation.
What Should I Pack For A Social Distancing Vacation?
Packing for a social distancing vacation is a lot like packing for any other vacation, but with a few extra items. Masks, hand sanitizer, and disinfectant wipes should now be part of your packing list. Have each of these items easily accessible while you travel plus pack replacements in your luggage. This way you have enough supplies to last through your entire trip.
Airports have limited food options, and many airlines stopped food and beverage service. Pack food for the airport and plane to be safe. The same is true for road trips. Pack snacks in individual portions and have those available in case there are limited options on the road.
Final Thoughts On A Social Distancing Vacation
For our first social distancing vacation we opted for a road trip to Ohio to visit Cuyahoga Valley National Park. There are several trails in and around the area which gave us the option of choosing a different route if one area was busy on a particular day or time. The drive was also relatively short where we would need only one or two stops along the way. Lastly, we opted for a small cottage rental to give us flexibility in making our own meals if restaurants did not have carry-out or outdoor dining as we expected.
Remember, a social distancing vacation will be different from any other vacation you’ve taken. There will be extra planning and packing for this trip, but the potential to experience places you might not have explored normally. Be flexible in your plans when changes in parking, amenities, or dining options occur, or if a last minute illness means you need to cancel your vacation.
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