After being largely homebound for much of the past year due to COVID, many of us are looking to get out of the house and get a change of scenery. We want to get out of town and enjoy a summer getaway.
Despite this hankering for adventure, some people are hesitant to take the trip with concerns about safety or about encountering severe travel restrictions during their vacation. People are wondering if they should even bother traveling during their summer vacation time.
Personally, if I don’t travel during my vacation time, I feel like I’ve “wasted” my vacation. I’m not the “lay around and relax” type.
But, I’m here to tell you: there is no need to waste your summer vacation. Despite the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, travel is possible and here’s everything you need to know about how to do it. Now presenting – the “How to Guide” to traveling in the COVID-19 era.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Current CDC Recommendations
- Flying in the Era of COVID-19
- Destination’s Rules and Restrictions
- Best Activities During COVID Times
CURRENT CDC RECOMMENDATIONS
Can you travel during this pandemic? Yes.
Should you travel during this pandemic? That’s a loaded question that you will have to answer for yourself based on your personal risk factors, vaccination status, and other personal choices.
The CDC’s recommendations on travel continue to develop as we continue to learn more about the Coronavirus and how to manage it, as well as vaccines being readily available. You can review the current CDC recommendations by clicking here.
As of this writing, the CDC recommends that fully vaccinated people can travel anywhere domestically without testing or quarantining. Fully vaccinated is defined as 2 weeks after the second dose of a 2-dose series (eg., Pfizer or Moderna) OR 2 weeks after single dose vaccine (eg., Johnson & Johnson) for any FDA-authorized vaccine. Even for fully vaccinated people, the CDC still recommends wearing a mask, social distancing and washing your hands and using hand sanitizer often. Additionally, the CDC recommends that any testing or quarantining be waived for domestic travel if you have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 3 months.
SIDE NOTE: If you’ve taken the time and initiative to get your COVID-19 vaccine, take the time and initiative to take really good care of your vaccination card. All signs point to that vaccination card being your “passport” for travel for the foreseeable future. Once your vaccination card is completely filled out, send a copy to your doctor’s office. You can use your phone to scan the card using the Adobe Scan app. Take a photo of the card with your phone and store that photo in an album on your phone so you can quickly and easily access it if needed. Email the picture to yourself as a backup. We do not yet have clear instructions on whether or not vaccination cards should be laminated or not. For that reason, I opted for a temporary protection method. These waterproof sleeves offer the perfect solution.
FLYING IN THE ERA OF COVID-19
As of February 1, 2021, an Order from the CDC requires that face masks be worn by all people over the age of 2 years on all public transit in the United States, which includes airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis, and ride-shares, with limited exceptions. Additionally, the Order requires that masks be worn at all transportation hubs, including airports, bus or ferry terminals, train and subway stations, seaports, and U.S. ports of entry. The CDC’s Order no longer permits airlines to decide for themselves whether masks shall be required for their passengers or employees. Click here for more information on current mask requirements.
The mask requirement may very well be here for the long haul. Most adults and children alike are now accustomed to wearing masks. If your child is not familiar with wearing a mask for long periods of time, I would suggest that you start “mask training” at least a few weeks before your flight. Here are my basic mask training steps:
- Lead by example – wear your mask and limit your complaints about having to wear it. Speak positively about your own mask.
- Introduce your child to their personal masks – use only positive descriptions and an excited tone of voice.
- Teach your child to properly wear the mask– you know this by now… cover your mouth and your nose.
- Make it fun – find a mask with your child’s favorite character or in your child’s favorite color.
- Start with shorter experiences – take little trips to Target to get your child get used to wearing the mask for shorter durations.
- Reward good mask wearing – let your child pick out a little toy or treat at the store while they’re wearing their mask to help form positive associations with the mask.
It is critical, especially for long days of flying, to wear a comfortable mask. These masks are our favorite for comfort, proper fit and staying put. Bonus points if they have a place to insert a filter. Here are our favorites:
To add a little extra protection, I add filters to our masks when we fly. To do this, look for masks that have a pocket or sleeve for a filter. I found these filters on Amazon and they have worked perfectly for us:
RESERVE YOUR SEATS
Most airlines charge an added fee if you want to select and reserve your seats on the plane. If you’re cost-conscious, you may skip this step and just let the airline assign your seats for you. Typically, this isn’t a problem as long as your family books in one reservation. The airline will, normally, assign your family to seats that are together.
In the era of COVID-19, however, you may want to be a little more selective about where you sit on the plane. The airlines have reduced their flight schedules in order to account for the reduction in the number of people flying. With full flights, the airline may end up separating some members of your family if seats have not been reserved. You may want to reserve your seats to ensure that your whole family is sitting together, thereby reducing exposure from neighboring passengers.
If social distancing as much as possible is important to you, seats towards the back of the plane where it is less crowded may be preferable to you. To ensure you have such seats, reserve your seats at the time of booking the flight. Don’t wait until you check in to request such a seating assignment as the seats for most passengers will already be assigned at that time.
PACK YOUR OWN PROVISIONS
Many airlines are no longer offering any beverage or snack service. Some airlines will offer a baggie packed with cleaning wipes, a small bottle of water, and a small snack when you board the plane, but this does not apply to all airlines.
We have also seen reduced options in the airports for refreshments. Flight schedules have been reduced, so some restaurants and shops have drastically reduced their hours and offerings.
Because of the inconsistent availability across airport and airlines, I don’t recommend relying on food or beverage options from the airport or airline. Pack your own provisions to ensure that no one is starving and miserable on your flight.
You can find all my favorite, tried and true kid snacks for the plane by clicking HERE.
BEWARE OF FLIGHT CHANGES
With fewer people flying, airlines have been trying to reduce their losses by cancelling or rescheduling flights. Multiple times over the past year, we have personally had flights canceled, destination changed, layover added, or flight times changed by the airline without any notification to us. No email, no notification from the airline app, no nothing.
Since we can’t control what the airlines choose to do, the best we can do is monitor the flight after booking. I recommend checking the flight status every few weeks leading up to the flight and comparing the status to your original booking.
If changes are made by the airline or if you desire to change the flight, many airlines are offering no change fees for many types of tickets. Take advantage of this option if the flight schedule no longer works for you.
SIDE NOTE: you can also use the no change fees rule to your benefit if flight prices go down after booking. You can reschedule at the cheaper price and get a credit with the airline for the difference in the cost.
CLEAN YOUR AREA UPON BOARDING
Thanks to COVID, most of us have stepped our cleaning regime. My family’s new routine on the plane includes a quick, thorough cleaning of our seating area. Immediately upon finding and sitting in our seats, we take one minute where no one touches anything while I wipe down every surface with antibacterial wipes – tray tables inside and out, arm rests, seat belt buckles and all around the window. It gives us a fresh start feeling and lets me relax (a little) about my child touching everything around her seat.
If flying during a pandemic just isn’t for you, bring on the road trip!! If you’re ready for a real adventure, check out an RV rental. This is the perfect way to limit your germ exposure by keeping your travel and sleeping arrangements all in once place for the duration of your trip.
If you’re interest in seeing 4 amazing and diverse National Parks in one single road trip, check out my blog post COLORADO’S NATIONAL PARKS: THE ULTIMATE SUMMER VACATION ROAD TRIP. I’ve detailed each of Colorado’s National Parks for you and planned a loop drive to hit each one.
DESTINATION’S RULES AND RESTRICTIONS
Even if you’re fully vaccinated and the CDC recommends that you are free to travel without any testing or quarantining, the rules at your destination and upon returning to your home state may say otherwise. It is critical to check the state, territorial or local rules and regulations for both your destination and your home state.
This is especially critical in relation to international travel. As of this writing, international travel is still highly restricted. We are starting to see some restrictions relaxed for vaccinated people, but testing and quarantine requirements may still be in place, even for those that are fully vaccinated.
Beyond testing and quarantine requirements, there are many other restrictions that may be in place at your intended vacation destination. It is important to check not just the requirements of the state you are traveling to, but also the city/county as the rules may vary within a given state.
Questions I would recommend answering about your intended destination before booking your trip:
- Are hotels open?
- Are vacation rentals allowed?
- Does the vacation rental only allow you to stay with your immediate household only?
- What are the cleaning policies of the hotel/vacation rental you plan to stay in?
- Are restaurants open? Do they have capacity limits? Are reservations required (or recommended, especially if seating capacity is reduced)? Are restaurants take-out only?
- Are parks, playgrounds, and other intended activities open? Do they have restricted hours?
- What are the mask requirements at your intended destination? Are masks required when walking outside? Are masks required when indoors?
- Do you need to be tested before traveling? Do you need to be tested upon returning home?
- Is a vaccine required to travel to your intended destination?
- Do you need to self-quarantine after traveling to your intended destination? So you need to self-quarantine upon returning home?
BEST ACTIVITIES DURING COVID TIMES
Has there ever been a better reason to get outside?? How about getting outside with family?
The best summer vacation to plan right now is enjoying the great outdoors, fresh air, and getting out in nature. This pandemic does not need to stop you from enjoying outdoor activities with your immediate household.
Hiking – This summer is the perfect time to hit the hiking trails. Depending on the trail and time of day, you should be able to avoid crowds or groups of people. When passing other people on the trails, the current, general protocol is to put your mask on for that brief encounter. Otherwise, masks are generally not worn or required (check your destination for specific requirements). For my favorite, highly recommended hiking gear, click HERE.
Explore National Parks – Our National Parks offer an amazing array of open air sites to explore. You may find visitor centers closed or with limited hours, but, for the most part, the National Parks are open for business. There is no better time than now to visit some of the United States’ best natural wonders. I highly recommend the Annual Pass for the National Parks. It’s good for a year and covers your entrance fee at every park and many other sites. It can pay for itself if you plan to visit just a couple parks in the year.
Beach Trip – Are you a fan of your toes in the sand? If so, a trip to the beach is ideal this summer. Fresh air and social distancing shouldn’t be difficult to find, so long as you don’t plan to visit the most popular beach at the busiest time of the day. With some reasonable planning, the beach is the perfect safe getaway this summer.
Bike – Bike rentals are available in many vacation destinations, including tow behind trailers like this for children. Check if your Airbnb/VRBO provides any bicycles. You can also check with local rental companies for their availability.
Get Outside! – Other outside activities that you may look into for a fun, adventurous summer vacation include white water rafting or horse back riding. Any activity with a guide may require some exposure to another person, but with some distance and outside air movement, the exposure is likely to be very limited.
For some of my favorite outdoor activities in Colorado’s National Parks, check out my blog post COLORADO’S NATIONAL PARKS: THE ULTIMATE SUMMER VACATION ROAD TRIP.
Wherever your summer vacation takes you this year, I hope it takes you outdoors! With a little research and planning, you can still make this summer vacation the best yet.
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