So let’s be honest…. 2020 has been canceled. Graduations. Weddings. Birthday parties. Concerts. Vacations. You name it, it’s been canceled.
As my regular readers know, I am not one to stay home. My husband and I usually go on at least 2 or 3 fairly major trips per year, along with a lot of smaller road trips. This year we did our usual trip to Jamaica in January, as well as a long weekend in NYC in February. But since then everything has been canceled.
All of our Dave Matthews Band road trips. Canceled.
Our trip to Denver for our first concert at Red Rocks. Canceled.
And our fourth visit to The Gorge for Labor Day Weekend with Dave Matthews Band, followed by a week of exploring Washington State. Canceled.
The good news is that because the rest of our plans were canceled, we were able to help my mother-in-law celebrate her 80th birthday in person in Ohio. So while it wasn’t the vacation we planned, we did take a road trip this summer.
We traded the couch in our house for this couch in a hotel room in Ohio for a few days. The change of scenery was nice!
Traveling during this pandemic is a little scary and a lot more complicated than traveling was pre-Covid. Today I’m sharing a few tips that I learned during our trip to help you think about how to spend your vacation and still keep yourself safe during this global pandemic.
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PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES!
So the first thing you need to figure out when taking a trip is how you are going to get there. In the pre-Covid world, that decision was likely more about cost and time. A plane will get you there faster, but will likely cost you more than driving.
In the new Covid world, there is a lot more you have to consider. Let me first say that I believe that the airlines are doing a great job of making air travel as safe as possible. For me personally though, the idea of getting on an airplane right now is an extra risk I’m not interested in unless it’s necessary. I mean, I’ve barely left my house for 5 months!
The other thing to consider is some of the extra things you have to take with you for travel. For our trip to Ohio, we took with us a bunch of cleaning supplies for the hotel – disinfectant wipes and spray, paper towels, dishwasher tablets, etc. In addition, we took our own plates, silverware and coffee mugs so that we would be able to use them at the hotel.
Even though the hotel we stayed in had dishes, I wasn’t comfortable using them until I ran them through the dishwasher. So I brought a few dishes with me “just in case”.
Tip #1: Whether you drive or fly, think about the “extras” you need to pack right now. Cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and extra face masks should be on your new packing list.
PLANNING YOUR ROAD TRIP
Driving from our house in the Philadelphia suburbs to Ohio is just over 500 miles and takes a little over 8 hours. That means we were going to have to make at least one stop for gas, food and a bathroom break.
When we make the drive we can either stick to the Pennsylvania Turnpike, which costs quite a bit in tolls, or save the money and take I-80 across the state. We typically take I-80 unless we know there is going to be bad weather, but this time we considered whether or not we would have access to cleaner and more well-maintained bathroom facilities on the turnpike.
Ultimately, we ended up taking I-80 driving out and the turnpike coming home. On the way out we went through a drive through to grab food and then found a Sheetz that we thought would be better maintained for gas and a bathroom stop. On the way home on the turnpike, we grabbed sandwiches right before we hit the road and then had snacks in the car during the drive.
Tip #2: The rest stops were not very busy during our drive. We noticed that the majority of the vehicles on the road in general were either trucks or RV’s. In order to avoid some of the weekend warriors, we did travel on a Monday and a Friday, which I think made a difference. To help avoid crowds, try to travel on a weekday rather than a weekend, and avoid peak travel hours.
I’M HERE! NOW WHAT?
The first thing you need to think about is where you are going to stay during your travels. When we go to Toledo, we normally just stay with my in-laws at their house. However, for both their safety and ours, we felt it was best to stay in a hotel and not be in 24 hour per day contact with them in close quarters.
In addition to our actual room, the hotel we stayed at had a few common outdoor areas that guests could utilize, including this grilling area.
SHOULD I STAY IN A HOTEL OR RENTAL HOUSE?
Same as the airlines, I believe most larger hotel chains as well as rental companies such as Air BNB have put good safety protocols in place. We stayed a Hilton-based property during our visit to Ohio.
Tip #3: I chose a Home 2 Suites property for a couple of reasons. First, I knew that we were going to be spending more time than usual in our hotel room and wanted a bit more space than a standard room. Second, I wanted to have kitchen facilities – microwave, dishwasher, full-size refrigerator – as I knew we would be having at least a few meals in the room.
Having a full sized refrigerator was clutch! We were able to store food, bottled water, beer and wine with ease!
Wherever you decide to stay, make sure you understand the safety and cleaning protocols that the property has put in place. For the hotel we stayed in, masks were required and check-in and check-out were easy and contact free. We were also able to opt out of housekeeping during our stay, so we knew no one would be coming into our room.
Opting out of housekeeping during our stay meant our bed wasn’t made for us each day, but we preferred not having anyone in and out of our room. And we were able to call down to the front desk and get anything we needed during our stay.
In addition, when we arrived at our room, there was a seal on the door that indicated to us that the room had been cleaned and sanitized. It also contained a QR code that we could scan to get more information on their cleaning protocols. When we opened the door, the seal broke so that we knew no one had entered the room prior to us.
Tip #4: Regardless of the cleaning protocols in place, be prepare with your own cleaning supplies. We brought disinfectant wipes with us, and wiped down all of the surfaces in the room. In addition, we brought dishwasher tablets with us, and ran all of the plates/silverware/cups in the room through the dishwasher before using them.
Our room had a small container of dishwashing soap. I was glad I brought disinfectant wipes, dishwashing tablets, and extra paper towels.
WHERE SHOULD I GO?
This is the tough one. Depending on where you are traveling, a lot of things aren’t open. And the things that are open may have limited capacity and require reservations. So make sure you do your research in advance.
Tip #5: You will likely have to do a lot more planning and plan further ahead for anything from restaurants to tourist attractions. Always call ahead before you head out somewhere. Things are changing so rapidly, that many businesses don’t always have a chance to update their website or social media. Just because a website says a place is open, doesn’t mean it really is.
The best and safest activities right now are those that are outdoors. Even so, make sure you understand the rules. Are masks required? If not, are you still comfortable going? Is there a limit as to how many people are allowed? If not, will it be too crowded for you?
SO SHOULD I EVEN BOTHER TO TRAVEL?
After my trip to Ohio, I think the answer is “it depends”. I didn’t feel unsafe at any point during my trip. But my biggest disappointment is that I just couldn’t do the things I like to do. We like to be spontaneous when we travel and we like to do things and go places. I don’t want to just sit on a beach all day long. I want to explore the local restaurants and bars. I want to go out and hear live music.
And right now, you can’t be spontaneous. You can’t experience a lot of the things you are used to experiencing.
So for me personally, I’m going to stick to home for a while. I’d rather save my money and vacation days for a time when I can travel the way I’m used to traveling . The way I traveled pre-Covid.
If this goes on too long, I may change my mind. I may need to just get away. Maybe we’ll rent a house somewhere and just be happy to be looking at four walls that aren’t the same as we’ve been looking at for the last 5 months.
Until then, I’m going to do my part to stay home as much as possible. Because the more we all stay home, the better chance we have of slowing down the spread of this virus. As I said way back in the spring, I just want my life back.
But that can’t happen until this virus is gone, or at least much more under control than it is right now.
So stay safe everyone and stay home!
Have you traveled recently? If so, what was your experience like? Let us know! Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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