Before the coronavirus hit, travel was a way for many of our families to bond, build memories, learn about new places and people, and get a break from our daily routines. With the ongoing stress of a pandemic, we may need the anticipation, excitement and relief of travel more than ever. But is there a safe way to travel in the age of COVID-19? This is the question that’s pressed on our family since February.
We’ve raised our kids primarily on the road, living out of a converted shuttle bus, camping on public lands, and exploring the U.S. When the pandemic hit, we were at our home base in New York City, waiting to have our third baby before moving back onto the road. We had planned to move into our camper van in June, but as happened with everyone else in the world, the pandemic changed our plans. Even though we could be largely self-contained in our van, would we be putting the communities we passed through at risk when stopping for groceries or gas?
The Case For Travel
As the pandemic stretches on, we are all finding ways to adapt, balancing the needs of our families and the safety of our communities, weighing the risks of every daily activity. The very safest course of action is still staying home, limiting our contact with others as much as possible. But experts have also agreed that with precautions, travel can be quite safe. And as the risks of COVID are likely to stay with us for a long time to come, it’s worth considering how we can bring cautious travel back into our families’ lives.
In August, our family decided to move to Idaho, where our extended families live. We have a home base so that we can mostly stay in place, but we have also been taking short, local trips to national parks and other natural areas.
We keep all our travel activities focused on the outdoors. We are lucky to be close to several national parks, so we’ve spent time in Yellowstone and Grand Teton, as well as nearby national forests and state parks. We’ve found that it’s quite easy to socially distance while hiking, mountain biking, and paddling. We’ve also scouted out new trails in our area and made a habit of going for weekly hikes and campfire cookouts. Getting out into the mountains always feels like a little vacation, even if we’re only an hour away from home.
Wherever you are, there are sure to be parks, trails, public lands and natural areas nearby for you to explore. Challenge yourself to find new spots to discover. Search nps.gov or your state’s website for parks and landmarks, or check alltrails.com for local hikes.
We shop at our local grocery store and bring with us most of the food that we’ll need. This may not be possible for a very lengthy trip, but when we can, we bring along plenty of snacks, sandwich supplies, and ingredients for simple dinners. If we need to stop for food, we look for places that have curbside pickup options and then eat outside. We also stock our vehicle with several large jugs of water so we can easily fill up our water bottles along the way.
Instead of staying at hotels, we camp in national parks or national forests. We have done lots of tent camping, but we’re also lucky to have a large van that we can all sleep in. Many of our friends have rented RV’s so that they can be self-sufficient and avoid hotel stays. There are several websites where you can rent an RV from someone in your area; options include rvshare.com or outdoorsy.com.
Mask & Quarantine
Mask, mask, mask! Masking is an easy and effective way to keep your germs to yourself. We avoid public indoor spaces as much as possible, but if we have to go inside somewhere, we always stay masked. We also stay masked outside when there are others nearby, including on hikes or bike rides.
On one trip, we went to visit family. To protect us all, we kept fully to ourselves for two weeks before we made the drive and our family on the other end did the same. That way we felt confident staying in their home and hanging out indoors and unmasked, while keeping us all safe and healthy.
We hope these tips help you envision a new kind of travel that can keep your family and everyone around you healthy and happy!