How to Plan a Vacation During COVID-19
Coronavirus has ensured that our 2020 looks quite a bit different than our expectations. March brought us lockdowns and then as they were gradually eased around the country, there were some ongoing spikes of the virus. For adventure-seeking Southerners, or even those looking to relax somewhere new, this has put a damper on travel.
Most places are now requiring that you wear masks when you can’t social distance, but in some ways, life is returning to normal bit by bit.
Some people won’t be ready for traveling or taking a vacation for some time, particularly if they are in a high-risk health category.
Other people are ready to travel but maybe more cautiously than they would have in the past. Still others are open to traveling as they did pre-coronavirus, but they just aren’t sure how to plan a trip with so much uncertainty.
The following are some tips to help you if you’re contemplating a vacation this fall.
Choosing a Destination
Always do your research before you plan a trip. Some destinations in the U.S. are safer than others right now in terms of community spread. There is a fair amount of community spread in the Southeast and Sunbelt, so it’s something to be aware of if you’re planning to travel.
Community spread means that within a particular area, people are infected who don’t know where or how they were exposed. It’s not the same, for example, as a destination where there are a few trackable clusters of infection.
If you have a destination in mind, you can check their local health department’s website to see if community spread is happening and, if so, how widespread it is.
The CDC also has a guide to states around the country that highlights the coronavirus risk in each of these places. If you look at that map now, it’s a little daunting because most states have at least 5,000-20,000 confirmed cases, which means the COVID-19 risk is high.
Along with considering the risk level and the community spread in any given destination, you also have to think if you’ll even be allowed to go there—and whether or not there are quarantine requirements.
Some states aren’t letting travelers in right now, others will let you in with a negative COVID test presented on arrival, and some will let Americans in, but only if they agree to quarantine for 14 days.
If you’re going to travel in the South, there are fewer of these quarantine requirements. Only two Southern states have restrictions on visitors coming going as of August 11.
Kentucky has restrictions on people coming from Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Idaho, Kansas Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas and Washington and asks that visitors self-quarantine for 14 days before traveling there. North Carolina recommends that people visiting high transmission places quarantine 14 days after leaving that location.
All of these factors are going to play a role in where you might plan a vacation.
Have a Backup Plan—Or Maybe More Than One
There is still tremendous uncertainty around the world, and coronavirus is very much with us. Countries that had previously felt they’d eliminated the virus are now facing resurgences.
Just in the U.S., it seems like every day states are announcing rollbacks of reopening plans or new restrictions or, in some cases, opening up more.
Things can change quickly, and you should be prepared for that as you’re planning. Start planning a vacation with the assumption that it might not go as you plan it or that it might get canceled. Choose refundable plane tickets, which is something most airlines are still offering right now.
You should also look for lodging accommodations that are refundable as well. You don’t want to be stuck with something you can’t cancel, and you don’t want to have to pay a fee.
You might also consider travel insurance in case you have to change your plans, or someone becomes sick on your trip. If you do get travel insurance, make sure you choose an option that has protections specifically for coronavirus, because many list this as an exclusion.
Choose Somewhere with Open Spaces
You can reduce your risk of contracting coronavirus and also of having to cancel your trip if you choose somewhere that’s mostly outdoors and wide open.
We know that being outdoors has the potential to reduce the virus spread, and it’s less likely that outdoor destinations are going to see rigid restrictions.
If you are looking to go camping, Smoky Mountains National Park is always a good option. Other open-spaced places include Fall Creek Falls State Park or Big Bend National Park.
If going to the beach is more of your thing, there is Daufuskie Island, Melbourne Beach, Frisco Beach and Audubon Bird Sanctuary Beach.
Choosing Your Accommodations
When you’re planning a trip during these times of uncertainty, you want to offer yourself as much safety but also flexibility as possible. With that in mind, a vacation home rental or camping may be better currently than staying in a hotel.
This isn’t to say that hotels aren’t safe—most major chains have announced stringent cleaning and social distancing policies. However, when you’re at a hotel, you’re inherently around people, even with the best protocols in place.
When you rent a vacation home, not only can you distance yourself from other people as much as you want, but there’s less likelihood of you having to cancel your trip. It’s more likely for a location to close hotels rather than vacation rentals.
Vacation rentals also give you a kitchen. If restaurants are closed where you’re going or you just don’t want to take the risk of eating out, when you have a kitchen you can make your food at home and still enjoy your trip. The benefits are similar with camping.
When You Return Home
If you do travel anywhere, but particularly somewhere with a relatively high rate of community spread, you might want to self-isolate for two weeks when you get home. Especially avoid your higher-risk friends and family members and make sure you wear a mask anytime you go out.
If you notice any symptoms of sickness, contact your doctor right away and see what they suggest you do next.
The recommendation from the CDC is that you don’t travel non-essentially right now, but many people are going on late summer vacations. Try your best to plan ahead in terms of logistics and smooth travel experience, as well as in terms of reducing your potential exposure. Always wear a mask and be vigilant about hand hygiene.
Of course, if you notice any symptoms before your trip, don’t travel.