We are all spread too thin right now, mommas…the homeschooling, the work-from-homing, the financial stressing, and the unspeakableness that is quarantining with our children and spouses 24/7. It’s all just A LOT to deal with right now.
My fight-or-flight response kicked in and my brain started screaming: We have to get out of here. So I chose flight. That’s right, we went on “vacation” in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s controversial, I know. But before you start hurling the #stayhome and #flattenthecurve hashtags at me, let me explain. We didn’t undertake our trip lightly or flippantly.
If we were getting out of Dodge, we knew we’d have to maintain our social distance and quarantining practices, not only for our own health and safety, but for the health and safety of others. So I did a ton of careful research and planning to make sure we remained quarantined and properly social distanced, doorstep to doorstep. Here’s what I learned: the dos and don’ts of planning and taking a quarantine “vacation.”
But first, here’s my disclaimer: If the idea of taking to the road right now makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it. Listen to your gut and do what is best for you and your family. Also, if what I suggest here, such as traveling between certain states, is not currently allowed in your area, don’t do it; follow all state and/or county guidelines in your area. And finally, keep it safe and smart— no foolishness or unnecessary risks; we’re talking doorstep-to-doorstep quarantine travel.
The DOs of a Quarantine Vacation
- DO go somewhere secluded. Choose an area that is rural and not heavily populated, allowing for plenty of room for physical social distancing. For example, we chose to head about three hours north to an area known for seclusion, beautiful scenery, and hiking. There, we rented a cabin in a secluded, wooded area where the nearest neighbors were at least an acre away on all sides. We didn’t come within 100 yards of another human when we were hanging out at our home away from home. Most of the other cabins were not even occupied.
- DO stay within bladder range. A doorstep-to-doorstep quarantine means no potty breaks on your drive. Be sure to choose a location that is within your family’s bladders’ control, unless you want to find a nice tree on the side of the road. Hey, I’m not judging; do what you gotta do. Just don’t do it inside a Buc-ee’s.
- DO your lodging research. Obviously hotels, motels, and any lodging space that share common areas with other people are not options (or they shouldn’t be), so that pretty much leaves individual cabins and certain AirBnBs. When choosing where to stay, go with a rental or booking company committed to deep cleaning between each guest stay. When vetting our cabin rental company, I learned they had instituted special cleaning procedures specific for COVID-19; they also had excellent reviews regarding cleanliness even in normal times. After comparing several rental companies, I went with the one I deemed the most likely to be COVID-free based on their cleaning procedures and policies. As an added bonus, our cabin came equipped with a pretty decent WiFi signal, so we had the option to squeeze in a few school and work assignments.
- DO disinfect everything. Even though I was fairly comfortable with the initial level of cleanliness and sanitation of our cabin, I still disinfected everything. When we arrived, the fam stayed outside to explore the grounds while I entered the cabin, Lysol in hand, and thoroughly disinfected every surface, handle, drawer pull, knob, remote control, and faucet in the place. Our cabin came with a fully equipped kitchen: plates, bowls, utensils, etc., so we also made sure to wash each and every item before we used it.
- DO bring your own food and supplies. Before we left on vacay, I made a detailed meal plan, down to snacks and s’mores, so that we wouldn’t have to set foot in a store once we arrived at our location. It was a headache. I’d much rather buy a gallon of milk upon arrival than transport one across state lines, but I chose safety over convenience. Do your research to find out what your rental company already provides, such as toilet paper, paper towels, kitchen equipment, a grill, etc., and then bring any essential items not accounted for with you.
- DO support local and small businesses if necessary. In the event you absolutely must go to a grocery store while you’re on your quarantine vacation, choose the small, local store or business rather than the nearby Walmart. This is for two reasons: 1) small businesses are struggling right now and need support, and 2) small businesses are likely to have less foot traffic, thus fewer interactions with other people. We actually ended up patronizing two small, local businesses while we were out of town. One was an ice cream parlor that offered ordering at a walk-up window, and the other was a restaurant where we called in an order for takeout pizza. Safe, easy, and delicious, and no different than what we’ve been doing while quarantining at home.
The DON’Ts of a Quarantine Vacation
- DON’T be too rigid. Or try not to be… Admittedly, this one is hard for me. Under normal circumstances, if we were on a family vacation in the great outdoors, we’d leave the electronics at home, ban the in-cabin TVs, and I’d make a detailed itinerary to make sure we didn’t miss out on any experiences. But this time, I took a chill pill and just let it go. We certainly got out to hike and explore a good portion of each day, but if the kids wanted to relax by watching TV or playing the Nintendo we brought from home, we let them for as long as they wanted. Though kids are super resilient, this time is stressful and weird for them, too. They also need some downtime right now, not a drill sergeant mom making them “enjoy” every minute of every day. (And I think the official consensus is that screen time doesn’t count during COVID. Just like carbs.)
- DON’T plan to eat out. This probably goes without saying, but a lot of restaurants in more rural areas are closed, even for take-out. Be sure to pack enough food to get your family through the time you’ll be gone. But if you happen to stumble across a restaurant with an open dining room, remember…if you’re eating there, everyone is eating there. So play it safe and stay out of dining rooms. (Side note: My family has been ordering take out a few times a week since dining rooms closed, so we still allowed that option while we were on our vacay, just like we would have done at home.)
- DON’T be afraid to protect your personal space. For whatever reason, there are still some people who don’t get it, don’t care, or just can’t remember to respect 6+ feet of personal space. Don’t be afraid to speak up if someone is too close for comfort. I try to do this subtly and kindly at first by saying (loudly) to my kids, “Remember we’re social distancing, guys. Give people some space.” If that doesn’t work, I have no problem telling the personal space offender to back up off us. It’s in their best interest, too.
Overall, our quarantine “vacation” was a huge win for our family when we really needed one. Whereas we were at each other’s throats at home, no one really fought or even complained while we were away, even though being there wasn’t much different than being at home.
Apart from appreciating scenic views and daily hikes, we did what we do at home under quarantine: watch TV, play games, complete puzzles, and just hang out. We came back refreshed and encouraged that we could make it through this. Sometimes a change of scenery is just what the soul needs.