Vacationing During COVID-19

For the past three summers, my husband and I have enjoyed an adults-only vacation to Tucson, Arizona. We go for a week with fellow teachers, usually soon after school is done for the year. Our dear friend’s parents own a house in Tucson, so they are incredibly gracious and let us veg out there, recouping from the craziness of the school year. And we literally veg out. We lay by the pool and read books. All day. I’m not kidding. We cook meals together. We walk the neighborhood every evening. We rarely see other humans. All we need are swimsuits and walking clothes.

That’s it. It. Is. Bliss.

So, when the quarantine began in March, we panicked. Should we be vacationing during a pandemic? We’d already booked flights to Tucson. What would happen now? Will we be able to go? Will the airlines be flying? Will it be safe? Will we be out of lockdown?

There were so many unknowns, so we just had to wait and see. We did all we could to keep our respective bubbles safe by following lockdown orders and safety procedures.

Then airlines started flying again, and safety measures were implemented. Planes were nearly empty. We gathered on a Zoom call and decided to rebook our tickets on direct flights to Phoenix, then rent a car to drive to Tucson, thereby reducing the risk of exposure during a layover. We’d wear masks and gloves, and come armed with wipes and hand sanitizer. Once we got to Tucson, our exposure risk was very minimal, as we’d all been quarantined, and the house had been empty since November. If we were staying in a hotel, we’d have canceled the minute lockdowns began. We’d have groceries delivered to the house. We just had to get their safely.

Then came the news stories about crowded airplanes, and people not wearing masks. A contributing doctor for NBC came down with COVID-19, which he believed came from not wearing eye protection on a recent flight! Now we needed goggles to fly safely? This was becoming too much, and our trip looked to be in jeopardy. Was this really the prudent thing to do during a global pandemic?

I cried multiple times in one day — I was so angry at everything and everyone that our ONE vacation was being ruined. So after much consultation, we broke the news to our friends that we weren’t going to join them this year because flying was too risky. Another friend dropped out, leaving only three to go to Arizona.

After a few days of moping, someone floated the idea of us driving to Tucson instead. We would take a minivan, split the 18-hour drive between the six of us, stopping only to use the bathroom and restock the requisite road trip snacks (Twizzlers and Fritos, naturally). All right! This made sense — we would all be in the same car, going to the same location. With everyone driving, there was no fear of cross-contamination from someone flying. The trip was ON!

So how did we make this an appropriate, socially-distanced vacation? It took planning, but here is what worked for six adults:

  • We aimed for minimum stops on the drive down. At every stop, we wore our masks and used hand sanitizer the minute we got back in the van. We had a large container that lived in the center console, and some of us had our own supply in our bags. I also had a baggie of Clorox wipes and rubber gloves in the car (because I am a safety kitten).
  • Our stops at fast food restaurants seemed cleaner than the gas stations. We tried to do that whenever possible…but when it’s 2 a.m., you stop where you can find something open.
  • Before we left for Tucson, we downloaded the app for the local grocery store. With 18 hours in the car, we had plenty of time to discuss a menu for the week. When we were a few hours away from our destination, we ordered groceries to be delivered, and no joke, those groceries were at our door 30 minutes after we arrived. It was absolutely perfect! We put in an order at Costco, and Instacart had everything to us within four hours, including alcohol. We wiped down the groceries as they came in the house, and we were set.
  • We did have a few meals delivered, and Postmates served us well. As with the groceries, everyone who came to the house was wearing a mask.
  • There were a handful of occasions when someone needed to leave the house to pick up something. Just as we have at home, we used a drive-up service. Being able to pick up amazing pastries curbside was perfect!
  • We walked at least once a day. In a gated community, we saw virtually no one. One evening we did run into a couple that was out photographing a wildfire on a nearby mountain. We all stayed apart and had a nice conversation about the rare thunderstorm the night before. Aside from them, we only saw rabbits and lizards. 

Now, I realize we were incredibly fortunate to have a free place to stay that had sat empty for a number of months. This is why we decided it was okay to move forward with our vacation, once we knew driving was going to be an option. We also knew a little time away from our kids would be appreciated by EVERYONE, seeing as we’ve been together, inside, since spring break. The kids got a break from us and loved their time with grandparents (who’ve been equally as cautious throughout all of this). This was so important for everyone’s sanity as we head into a summer unlike any other.

If you have the opportunity to take a safe vacation, do it. Find a house to rent, have your groceries delivered, and stay safe. It can be done. And we all deserve it.

Jen was born and raised in Overland Park. After going to Indiana University for college, then living in Washington, D.C. and Chicago, she grew exhausted of circling for a parking spot and headed back home to be near family. She and her husband Matt are parents to a 10 year-old boy and a 8 year-old girl. Jen teaches kindergarten and her husband teaches high school, so they wonder how they’ll relate to their kids during the middle school years. She spends her free time cheering on the Chiefs, Royals, and Hoosiers, hanging out with family, laughing with her teacher friends, and fostering a love/hate relationship with boxing. She also loves traveling, Target, coffee, wine, sunflowers and all things pop culture.