Five Things That Helped Me Travel During COVID-19
We just returned home after two weeks in Colorado. The plan was to have a change of scenery while still taking the same precautions we would at home. Here are five things that helped me feel more comfortable traveling:
People wearing masks (and me wearing mine). A washable and lightweight, soft-cloth neck gaiter was easier for pulling up or down than constantly taking on and off a mask with elastic straps. Steamboat Springs, Colorado requires masks in businesses and restaurants (until you are sitting at your table). As a result, more people in Steamboat are wearing masks even walking along the streets of downtown while outside. Walking in busier areas in mask-wearing Steamboat felt more comfortable than the week prior in Vail Village, where most people did not wear masks in busier areas outside. As a result, we avoided most areas with people in Vail and headed out into nature.
Keeping hand sanitizer with me. We each had a travel-size container of hand sanitizer. I kept mine in a lightweight jacket pocket that went with me everywhere, and I used it frequently. We haven’t been able to find sanitizing wipes for awhile, so each night I squeezed a little hand sanitizer onto a paper towel and wiped down my phone. The Sheraton Mountain Vista in Avon, CO and the Steamboat Sheraton also had automatic hand sanitizer locations on each floor, including the parking lot level, which I greatly appreciated. Businesses that offered hand sanitizer were a nice bonus (I even had to go to the optician in Edwards, CO that required a face mask to enter and for you to use the hand sanitizer upon entering).
An airline that requires masks and keeps middle seats open. Knowing that Southwest kept the middle seats open and required masks in your seat unless you were eating or drinking helped us feel comfortable booking the tickets. Previously, we had stuck to only purchasing tickets on United for points purposes. Now our motivations of knowing cleaning procedures, capacity of planes, and price of tickets is outweighing points. We pondered driving the 24 hours from Maryland to Colorado. We would have had so many bathroom breaks and food stops in random places. If we were wearing masks and using hand sanitizer, we decided that flying Southwest (which was far more convenient) wouldn’t add more exposure risk than driving.
Staying somewhere thoroughly cleaned and with a kitchen. We checked the cleaning procedures of our accommodations before booking. Every inch of our Marriott Bonvoy condos felt extremely clean on the inside. In an enclosed restaurant, even with fewer tables, was where I felt least comfortable (other than crowded places where people didn’t wear masks). I am, however, extremely grateful to all the workers everywhere wearing masks! I felt more comfortable outside at restaurants with fewer tables. With a clean condo kitchen, it was nice not to have to go out to eat and it was easy to grab a bite when we needed to, which kept the restaurant eating to when the conditions aligned with what we cared about (cleanliness, spaced outdoor seating, and quality of food).
Focusing on things off the beaten path. Where once we might have headed to popular activities, we focused more on finding hidden gems with little to no people or choosing off-peak days and times. Searching the internet for “department of parks and recreation” with your destination or surrounding towns may bring up hiking, walking, biking trails, or swimming or fishing lakes you didn’t know about before with ratings and comments. We often were willing to try a new adventure than do what was most popular (make sure you have sunscreen, water, snacks, hand sanitizer, and tissues in the event of a needed bathroom break without TP!).
There were situations that we found ourselves in that did not feel comfortable. For example, the Denver airport was packed (maybe 80% mask wearing upon arrival two weeks ago and 90% mask wearing yesterday even though there are signs now that say masks are required), and the airport did not modify the capacity of their packed trains to terminals and baggage claim (neither did Dulles airport last night, although the airport was empty and I suppose one could wait for another train). Two weeks ago, the Avis location at the Denver airport had a one-hour wait inside and did not require masks (maybe 50/50 mask wearing?). In Avon, CO, we came across one restaurant at happy hour where staff didn’t have their masks on around each other until a customer entered the restaurant. In both Vail and Steamboat, we encountered one clean restaurant with a neighboring restroom that was not clean. Normally, ew. During a pandemic? Not helpful at all.
Even without traveling, you can find new things to do near where you live and experience them in a way that you are comfortable that also helps protect others. We plan to get tested for COVID-19 after staying home a few days so that we know whether we are asymptomatic and can quarantine longer if needed.
I’m glad we were able to get away, although it will be interesting to see when we are ready to travel more or if the extra stress and logistics of getting to, being somewhere, and coming home make us not ready to do it again anytime soon.
Rebecca P. Cohen is author of the parenting book Fifteen Minutes Outside: 365 Ways to Get Out of the House and Connect with Your Kids and the children's book series, PJ's Backyard Adventures. Rebecca is also Founder of ShareMyJourney.org, the curated peer hub that connects caring people by email and phone during challenging life circumstances. Rebecca has been featured recently on the People Helping People Podcast and as a Mom Boss in the Washington, DC area. Rebecca has worked with over 6,000 children around the world in making outdoor connections for a healthier life. Her work has appeared in USA Today, Better Home and Gardens, Parenting, Redbook, Working Mother, Family Circle, and Backyard Solutions.