I’m a lifestyle blogger, who over the last few years, has morphed into a travel-centric blogger. For my last two jobs, I had many opportunities to travel nationally (Seattle, Miami, New York) and internationally (like South Africa, Buenos Aires, Italy, Turks & Caicos, Puerto Vallarta). This spring, I was supposed to visit Montreal, Slovenia, and a few other U.S. cities too. COVID changed all of that. All of my trips were canceled, and I haven’t traveled outside of California since February. To say that I miss traveling would be a massive understatement. I get my energy from traveling and I derive so much joy from taking in new cultures. Since COVID is nowhere near gone, I’ve been thinking about if/how to vacation during COVID. It’s a tough issue, but one I know a lot of people are thinking about.
For my first COVID vacation, we actually chose to go down to San Diego for a couple of days. San Diego is a two-hour drive from my home. The hotel I chose had just recently reopened, and the rates were really fantastic. I am also a loyal Marriott customer, so it was an easy choice for me. I specifically chose to stay at this hotel on Coronado Island because I’ve been to San Diego countless times, but usually stay in Pacific Beach or Mission Beach. It was nice to try a totally different part of the city. Coronado is such a special place to visit too, because our hotel had sweeping views across the harbor to downtown San Diego, and also a view of the massive Coronado bridge.
How to Vacation During COVID
1. Research Lodging Cleaning and Social Distancing Practices
When you’re trying to decide if or how to vacation during COVID, you’ll definitely want to spend a lot of time considering lodging options. Most hotels I’ve researched have outlined very distinctive plans to ensure the clenaliness and safety of their guests and employees. I personally chose a large chain hotel because it is a brand I trust and I knew that they would take their protocols very seriously. The hotel had only been open a few days when we arrived and I was very impressed with how well they were prepared and instituting social distancing practices.
The one questionable area was the swimming pool. People were not wearing masks in the pool area, however, the chairs were all far enough apart and they were limiting the total number of guests in the pool. Both of those practices seemed as though they would ensure proper social distancing practices, although I was definitely around more people at that pool than I’ve been anywhere else since COVID happened. However, I did not get within 6 feet of anyone.
If you do choose a hotel, make sure to ask other questions about their on-site restaurants, daily room cleaning, etc. My hotel offered very limited meal options, no room service, and the hours for the pool and restaurants were significantly less than normal.
2. Plan a Staycation During COVID
The absolute best option for how to vacation during COVID is a staycation. There are several reasons for this. First of all, it is important that if we are carriers, we’re not spreading the illness to other places. I happen to live in a densely populated area that has a lot of active COVID cases. Although my family has continued to practice social distancing and isolation as much as possible, we don’t want to be carriers and get other people ill. Staying close to home means you’re less likely to cause community spread in areas where there aren’t a lot of cases. Plus, if someone does start to show symptoms, you’re close to home so you can go home. I would suggest two options for staycation – either rent a private home through AirBNB or VRBO, or find a hotel with good cleaning/social distancing practices.
3. Choose Private Lodging
The absolute best lodging option is to choose a private residence through a site like AirBNB or VRBO, assuming the owner has a diligent cleaning regiment. The reason why private lodging is the best option is simply because you will not have to interact with anyone. If you find a private home, just be sure that you talk to the owner about their cleaning practices and also find out about their cancellation policy. If things with COVID start to get worse in your area, it’s probably the best idea to postpone your trip until things have settled down a bit.
4. Consider a Regional Road Trip During COVID
Depending on where you live, you might consider a regional road trip. I would personally suggest you try to stay to within your region – maybe a 2-3 hour drive, max. Not only will that help to lessen the spread of COVID, but it will also ensure that you’re close to home in case someone starts showing symptoms or there is another urgent reason you’d need to be home.
5. Eating While Traveling During COVID
Although I’m not a huge advocate for fast food, during COVID it is the best bet because you will have the least amount of contact with people. I would also suggest you try to pack ample snacks and even other nonperishable foods during your trip. Your hotel or private home may have a microwave or even a kitchen so you can prepare food right in your room or home rather than have to go out to the store or a restaurant.
If you do stay in a hotel, I would order takeout from the hotel restaurant. Ordering takeout will still give you the least amount of contact with people. Room service is more problematic. It does generally require someone to come in your room and also the cart may have been touched by a lot of people so you’re bringing germs into your room. Take out is a better option, overall.
6. Create a COVID Travel Safety Kit
This article outlines some great tips for a travel safety kit, so I won’t expand on that too much. However, I think the other big thing you need to think about when considering how to vacation during COVID is to ensure you have plenty of face masks, hand sanitizer, gloves, and sanitizing wipes. When you stop at the gas station, make sure to use disposable gloves or wipe off the handle with a sanitizing wipe. If you have to use public restrooms, make sure to wear gloves and wipe down the toilet and sink before you use them.
When you do get to your hotel or your lodging, you may want to consider doing another thorough cleaning so that you know exactly that everything has been cleaned. I personally feel this is a less necessary step if you stay in a large chain hotel. If you stay at a boutique hotel or a private residence, I would put more effort into cleaning when you arrive.
7. Talk to Your Kids in Advance
If you’re considering how to vacation during COVID, it’s important to talk to your kids about what they can expect. My kids personally have not had to wear masks much because they never leave our neighborhood. I do take them to our local park, but we are never around any other people. Thus, they are not used to the ‘new normal’ in public. So, I had to prep them for the trip and show them how to put on their masks.
My biggest challenge on this trip was how to keep my kids away from other kids in the pool. The rest of the trip it was easy to social distance. They wore masks on the few times we walked around the hotel grounds, but at the pool, they were around little kids and made friends instantly. I do not know if chlorine would kill the virus. But, I did worry about them playing in such close proximity to other kids. However, the battle to keep them socially distanced inside of the pool just felt too difficult. Either way, they had a great time at the pool.
8. Avoid Crowds During COVID
Although some amusement parks are opening in different parts of the country, I would highly encourage you to avoid them. Any public venue with a lot of people is a breeding ground for community spread. I think you’d be much better off choosing more isolated and secluded destinations. State parks and beaches are definitely less crowded. Although beaches in Southern California are more crowded in the summer than other times during the year, it is still very easy to social distance. The beaches are expansive enough that you can find areas that are 6 or more feet away from other people.
One struggle I did have during our stay on Coronado Island was how to keep my kids away from other kids in the swimming pool. My children are naturally very friendly and make friends easily, so it was difficult. I did allow them to play with a few other kids in the pool. I realize did open us up to some potential risk of catching the virus. However, they were in the swimming pool and they were not outwardly touching the other children. We could maintain some space between them. In an ideal world, I would have found a private home with a pool. But, it was nice to see my children socializing again. It’s been quite a long time.
Overall, we really enjoyed our first COVID vacation to San Diego last weekend. It was a much-needed break from the grind of being in our home basically 24/7. However, it still felt like one of the safest ways for how to travel during COVID. I must say, that the best option is still just to stay home. However, if you are going to travel, I hope these tips are helpful!