This past year has been a stressful period for us all. As a parent, you’ve likely experienced more pressure than most. Beyond any anxieties you have, you’re also supporting your kids through their own. This doesn’t even include the additional homeschooling and childcare duties you’ve juggled while sheltering in place. To put it simply, this pandemic has been a recipe for tension, and travel plans have been put on the back burner.
Is it any wonder, then, that you need a vacation? Sometimes you and your family just need to cut away from the strains of the real world and relax. It’s a chance to enjoy one another’s company, rather than feel locked in together. The unfortunate truth is that travel still isn’t advisable at the moment — but there is some hope on the horizon.
Let’s take a look at the current travel situation, its restrictions, and what the likely timescale for emergence will be. What plans can and should you be making as the situation changes? How can you retain at least a little of your sanity in the meantime?
In many areas of the U.S., travel within the country is still technically possible. Indeed, many amenities — hotels, entertainment — are still operational to some extent. This, however, shouldn’t be an open invitation to pack up your things and take a road trip. The country is not out of the woods just yet. While there may not be official lockdown measures in place everywhere, each family must take the responsible approach of voluntarily restricting their movements to prevent further spread and potential exposure.
And let’s face it, even if you took additional measures to travel safely during this time, that doesn’t exactly make for a stress-free vacation! So when can you consider traveling? Well, vaccinations have just begun their rollout. This is good news, but it’s not a silver bullet. The vaccines won’t necessarily stop you from contracting or even carrying the virus — rather, they intend to lessen the severity of the viral load contracted; this takes the pressure off of healthcare facilities and encourages herd immunity. This means that to get control of the virus, around 75-80% of the population will need to be vaccinated.
While there is still a lot of uncertainty, this does give us some idea for an expected timeframe. It is expected that by April the majority of the population who are not in vulnerable groups will have access to the vaccine. That’s not a go signal to start making reservations, but it does give you a guideline. Certainly don’t expect to be making any overseas travel plans before then, and instead, look at what you and your family can be doing in the meantime.
Your family might not be able to book their next vacation right now, but that also doesn’t mean that it’s a good idea to leave everything to the last minute. One thing that most experts agree on is that even after the worst of this pandemic has passed, the tourism industry is likely to change permanently. COVID-19 has highlighted just how vulnerable we can be, and as such, safety will be a priority in all areas of travel moving forward.
Maintaining distance during public travel or in hotels is likely to be less practical as more services reopen. However, as we start to emerge from the effects of the virus, we must maintain our good sanitation procedures. Keep hand sanitizer and wipes as part of your travel kit. Wipe down surfaces you intend to connect with and ensure your family washes their hands often.
Additionally, your mask is one of the elements that you should get used to using in the long term. The vaccine doesn’t fully prevent you from contracting and spreading viruses, but the mask can help. Disregard the misinformation about face coverings that surrounds the issue — there has even been talk of “mask mouth”, which asserts that wearing coverings can cause dental issues. This, along with most of the rumors, has been proven to be false. Continue wearing a mask in all public areas, and encourage your children to do so.
Knowing that you might be able to travel several months from now isn’t exactly reassuring, either. Let’s face it, you and your family are already beyond feeling the strain right now. While you may have had to cancel already arranged reservations, this doesn’t mean to say that a vacation is entirely off the cards. You can change the perception of canceled travel plans to great memories with your family without straying far and risking exposure. One of the compromises that you can make until it’s safe to travel again is replicating the benefits from activities you’d get on vacation, but at home and within the bounds of safety.
This could include:
While it’s inadvisable to undertake activities that find you indoors, or surrounded by a lot of people, you can still go out. Drive to national parks, lakes, or other areas of natural beauty. Wide-open areas are perfect for avoiding unnecessary contact, while still getting to spend some time for fun and relaxation with your family. You can also prepare food before you leave to avoid having to visit restaurants or grocery stores.
Depending on the climate you live in, camping over a weekend can be a great approach to time away from the house. It also avoids the risks involved with staying in a hotel at the moment. Pack some supplies and activities, and head out to your nearby lake, woodland, or campground. A cabin may also be appropriate if you apply the necessary sanitation procedures upon arrival.
One of the exciting aspects of a vacation is the opportunity to step outside of your comfort zone. While staying at home is well within the familiar, you and your family can keep occupied and bond together in learning something new. Choose something fun that you can pair with activities over a period of days — a baking course, building a model, or even learning musical instruments.
The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to be a part of our reality for some time. However, the rollout of the vaccine, alongside continued public health measures could have us all traveling again — with sufficient safety measures — after the spring. In the meantime, it’s worth exploring how you can give yourself and your family a break while at home.
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