Monday, May 24, 2021

7 Tips For Traveling During A Pandemic


At Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, IL; May 2021. While the Zoo is free, reservation times are required, as is social distancing, masks, and a one way path through the Zoo, with many building currently closed. 

We played things safe at the height of the pandemic, staying home, and not traveling (minus a quick trip for the minis and I up to Duluth last summer. Read about that adventure here). Here we are going into summer and we're in a much better place than we were at this point last year. We decided we were ready for traveling (for numerous personal reasons) and we've spent most of the month of May on the road. It's been great! However, there are A LOT of things to keep in mind if you plan on traveling right now. 

I spent the end of April researching and the month of May learning so many things while we were on the road. Here are a few things that helped us on our recent road trips through MANY states (Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska), all with varying guidelines and preferences:

1.) Don't be a mask-hole. Carry masks with you. Every state, city, and business have different rules and guidelines. Some places may not require anything, some places still take your temperature before you enter. We've found it best to be prepared for all scenarios.

2.) Do your homework before you go. Check what's open before you head out. Read what the requirements are for cities, businesses you plan on going to, or places you're passing through. Many businesses are still temporarily closed, have different hours, have new policies, the list goes on, but you (should) get the idea. For example, many museums are reservation or by appointment only. Playgrounds may still be closed in larger cities (as was the case this past weekend in Chicago). Know what you're going into, so it doesn't put a damper on your vacation or gives you the chance to switch destination(s) or plans.

3.) While it's important to plan and do your homework right now, it's equally important to be flexible. We experienced many places closing earlier than their hours posted. It was never a big deal because we had back up options for all things. Have back up plans in case the place you had originally planned on visiting has sudden policy changes or closures. 

4.) Stick with outside adventures, but beware they're busy! Doing things outdoors seems like a great idea right now. Swimming holes, hikes, outdoor gardens, parks, etc. are all things that are very unlikely to close or be as affected by the pandemic. However, everyone has this idea right now, so things are busy. It's been our experience that all outdoor destinations are busy and booked solid. This means that once quiet hiking trail you could have to yourself is now as packed at Target on a Saturday. 

5.) Decide what you're comfortable with. Road trips vs. flying, hotels vs. Airbnb. We determined we weren't okay popping in and out of multiple hotels (for Covid safety reasons and for convenience reasons), so we chose Airbnb houses and camping on our big road trip through Texas. For a quick weekend trip into Chicago, we determined we were fine with one overnight in a hotel. If you're booking on Airbnb, you can ask how the host before booking how the place is cleaned between each guests and anything else they may be doing. Same goes for hotels. Many chains have it listed on their website, but you can always call and ask. 

6.) If you're taking a road trip and plan on renting a vehicle, RV, or camper book it now! Now may actually be too late. In case you hadn't heard, rental vehicles are sold out for the upcoming holiday weekend and many are turning to RV and camper rentals right now. 

7.) Do not expect things to be "normal." Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, the world is in a very in-between stage right now. Don't go on vacation expecting it to look like every other vacation you've taken. It won't. Embrace the changes and you'll still have a great time! Last weekend, while in Chicago, the minis took a stroll through Lincoln Park Zoo, but it wasn't "just a stroll" as it typically would be. The Zoo required timed reservations, masks, social distancing, and a one way path throughout the Zoo. Many buildings were also not open to the public. This was a VERY different Lincoln Park Zoo experience, but since we did our homework, everyone knew what to expect and were well versed on the "rules." Not one of us had issues with this new normal because it was still a way to experience the Zoo.

Travel has changed rapidly in the last year and things are quite different. I've kept up on things around the country, so I wasn't shocked in our recent travels. However, I know many people who have commented about how different things are. These seven things that can help with that shock and help provide a smooth sailing vacation this summer (or beyond).