6 safer, expert-backed vacation ideas during the pandemic, whether you’re taking a last-minute spring break trip or planning ahead for summer

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All our ideas on safer summer travel 4x3

  • Despite the pandemic, many US travelers are eager to take a spring break vacation, but safely.
  • For safer vacation ideas during COVID, we compiled options based on expert advice and research.
  • From remote hotels near beaches to vacation rentals and road trip essentials, consider these ideas.

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With vaccine rollouts well underway, it finally feels like there might soon be light at the end of the tunnel. However, the pandemic continues across the country, and some are worried that spring break trips could lead to new spikes in cases. Though pandemic fatigue may be setting in, it’s still vital to seek safe vacation ideas for closer-t0-home getaways right now.

For those of us wondering if it is safe to travel right now, the answer depends on many variables, namely, how you plan to do so, where you want to go, the rates of infection in your chosen destination, and your anticipated behavior once you arrive.

To help determine the risks associated with each mode of travel during COVID, we reached out to experts including infectious disease and ER doctors, cleaning specialists, travel industry professionals, and representatives from major rental cars, hotels, Airbnb, and transportation organizations, to reveal both the risks and best practices associated with various forms of lodging and safe travel during COVID. We’ve also taken into account the latest guidance from the CDC.

Of course, it’s impossible to guarantee any place other than your home is safe right now. The pandemic is an evolving situation and it’s crucial to follow guidelines set forth by organizations such as the CDC and WHO, and practice safety measures, no matter where you go, including wearing a mask, washing your hands, and maintaining social distancing. Additionally, consider quarantine mandates for your destination, as well as your own level of risk and whether you’re traveling from or to a hotspot, so as not to increase the rate of infection.

However, if you’re fully vaccinated, Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo, does note that “flying, travel, and life, in general, is significantly safer.”

But that doesn’t mean you’re totally in the clear. “The vaccines are very good, but they’re not perfect. While you’re much less likely to transmit the disease or get it, there is still a chance,” says Dr. Russo.

The CDC advises that even those who are vaccinated should continue to wear masks in public areas. Additionally, keep in mind that you need to be at least two weeks out from receiving your final dose to be considered fully vaccinated.

If you do want to take a safe vacation during COVID and are seeking safer spring break ideas, we compiled several options based on expert insight that suggests travel this year will stick close to home, with travelers choosing safer travel alternatives to traditional choices. Think regional road trips over far-flung flights, lodging that prioritizes hotels with stringent COVID policies, and private vacation rentals instead of crowded resorts. Both Airbnb and Vrbo have seen an uptick in bookings compared to last year and, according to Airbnb, domestic vacation rentals will continue to be a trend throughout 2021.

From beaches and mountains to lakes and islands, as well as private vacation home rentals, remote hotels, and how to prepare for a road trip, the following list includes close to home vacation ideas during coronavirus. Additionally, if a spring ski trip is on your list, start with this guide where we break down if skiing is safe, all the changes to expect at ski resorts this year, plus expert-backed recommendations for precautions to take.

Travel looks different right now, but it’s still ready and willing to welcome you as safely as possible.

Here are 6 ways to take a safe vacation during COVID:

Book a socially distant hotel stay

We already know that most major hotel chains have announced wide-reaching new cleaning policies made in combination with health experts. These policies focus on social distancing and contact-free transactions such as virtual check-in and out, digital keys, limited dining, and more.

However, the experts we interviewed still feel that the answer to the question ‘Are hotels safe during coronavirus’ is highly subjective and depends on whether an individual also takes proper protective measures like wearing a mask, distancing, and disinfecting.

best santa fe hotels four seasons rancho encantado

If you swear by staying in hotels, make sure the property has announced rigorous new cleaning measures, and look for signs they are implementing such procedures, from check-in to common spaces like the elevator or pool, and of course, in your room. Some are even promoting COVID-friendly WFH – work from hotel – travel deals aimed at the socially distant traveler. Also, consider more remote properties with plenty of wide-open spaces and outdoor-friendly amenities.

If you’re worried about flexibility, many hotels are offering more generous cancellation policies right now than usual.

To help facilitate a socially distant hotel stay, the following destinations and hotels all detail new COVID policies and are well-suited for a domestic getaway. Think wide stretches of beaches, remote mountain retreats, idyllic island escapes, and other places that embrace the great outdoors.

Book a private vacation rental to limit interactions with others

After breaking down the risks of both hotels and vacation rentals such as Vrbo or Airbnb, the doctors and experts we spoke with agreed private vacation homes are likely safer than hotels because they come with fewer person-to-person interactions.

“While there is no question hotels are working diligently to keep their hotels clean and sanitized, Airbnb has a huge advantage given that the renter is generally the only one occupying the property,” said Dr. Neil Brown, K Health’s chief diagnosis officer. “With Airbnb’s new Enhanced Cleaning Initiative, the company provides a better option than public hotel spaces,” he said.

Additionally, the CDC’s current lodging guidelines note that private vacation rentals with members of your own household are a safer option than hotels or staying with family.

Airbnb

For those who like social distancing of aspect of vacation rentals, but prefer the comforts of hotels, consider in-between options like Sonder or Marriott Homes & Villas, which offer professionally managed vacation rentals with hotel-like amenities.

We detailed everything to know about vacation rentals, from what to know about Airbnb’s new cleaning protocol to the platform’s COVID cancellation policies and Airbnb Plus program, plus key differences between Airbnb and other vacation home rental sites such as Vrbo.

If you’re ready to hit the road, these are some of the best places in the US to rent a vacation home right now:

Nationwide

Northeast

The South

Midwest

West

Hawaii

Plan a socially distant road trip during COVID

Remember when planning a road trip simply meant queueing up a great playlist and stocking up on snacks?

These days, they’re one of the safer-seeming ways to travel while limiting exposure, especially compared to planes, trains, and other mass transit. And should you feel any discomfort, or worse, become sick, you can hop back in the car and drive home.

road trip

From expert-recommended precautions to take and products to pack, to getaways that are close to home, scenic drives, and more, here are our top tips and ways to hit the road right now:

Camp somewhere remote

If you want to get away and embrace nature, but feel uncomfortable checking into a hotel or private lodging, there are plenty of other outdoor options from camping to glamping that make it easy to avoid crowds.

Book a home on wheels or pack your gear into the car and pitch a tent. These ideas all afford a charming level of rustic charm where you can control just how much, or little, you encounter the rest of the world. Even in colder areas, camping can be a cozy option, provided you bring plenty of warm supplies and a heavier sleeping bag. You may also want to consider car camping or truck camping to help ensure you’re plenty warm.

Consider safer alternatives to traditional travel

Ultimately, if you plan to head out on a trip, consider adapting your vacation plans in ways that provide safer alternatives that can help can reduce your risk of virus exposure while away from home.

To come up with a list of safer approaches to air travel, ground transportation, lodging, activities, and more, we culled the advice from our interviews with experts – including medical, sanitization, and travel industry professionals.

travel during the coronavirus

Do note, however, that many public health and medical professionals (including some of those we talked to) still advise limiting nonessential travel in the pandemic, as it poses inherent risks.

Here are four safer travel ideas based on expert advice – public charters over commercial flights, private home rentals overcrowded resorts, and much more

Work with a travel agent

While many travelers previously booked travel independently, some are returning to travel agents. These seasoned professionals have spent years in the business and are well-equipped to help clients identify viable locations with vetted, flexible policies. They may also have better insights into new practices at specific hotels to help determine how clean and safe they will be, and whether facilities and amenities may be impacted.

Their advice is to plan now, travel later (most of their clients are looking to travel between March and May of 2021), book refundable options, be aware of cleaning policies, try to travel domestically or close to home, opt for socially distant places, take advantage of deals, and assess your own comfort level with risk before booking.

Read the full story on key takeaways to learn from travel agents and tour operators about how to book travel right now, and into next year.

For more reporting on whether it’s safe to travel right now, click a link below to jump directly to related coverage:

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