As COVID-related restrictions and mask mandates begin to lift across the US, travel plans are easier to commit to, especially domestic travel. After being on the road for the last 5 months sprinkled with a handful of cross-country flights, I’ve learned a great deal to help you survive your pandemic travels.
Extra Planning, Research, and Budgeting
Creating an itinerary ahead of time allows you to budget better, no matter the timing and travel destination. But since traveling is getting back on its feet, there are still inconveniences to consider:
- If you plan on flying, remember that airlines are not back to 100% of their pre-COVID schedules yet. Tickets are a bit pricier, and the planes are filling up quickly.
- Road trips are incredibly popular this year. More people are renting cars & RV’s making it difficult to grab a vehicle at the last minute. Planning ahead allows you to reserve the car you want at a better price.
- Gas prices are still on the rise. Plan your road trip ahead of time to maximize your mileage and be kinder to your wallet.
- Some places are still closed. Not all hiking trails are open, and you may have to wear a mask when walking around certain areas. There has also been a number of parking lots and garages that have increased their prices.
Even before the national park season started, some parks were hitting maximum capacity early in the morning. Visitors were waiting for hours to have the opportunity to enter. If you only have a limited amount of time, it’s an absolute waste sitting in your car not seeing anything.
There are also areas of the parks that are still closed until further notice. Please respect these closures as it can be unsafe to venture off-trail. Not all closures are COVID-related and can be because of the season, storms, natural events, etc.
Try visiting lesser-known national and state parks. And if you opt to visit national parks after the summer is over, it’s a way to avoid the crowds, heat, and need for a reservation.
Don’t forget – if your pandemic travel plans include visiting multiple national parks, purchasing the annual pass is such an awesome way to save money!
There’s Still A Risk
Regardless of the number of vaccinated people, COVID-related closures are still a possibility. Have a backup plan and be flexible about any changes that may come up. It never hurts to arm yourself with some travel insurance if you’re nervous about your trip. Especially if you plan on international travel, make sure you’re covered for medical expenses and border closures!
Respect Indigenous Boundaries
Some popular destinations are controlled by the local Indigenous Communities and still remain closed as they continue to recuperate from COVID. Navajo Nation is a prime example. Any activities, such as tours through Antelope Canyon, have been closed for much of this year.
Early Risers Win
The earlier your day starts, the better. If you’re planning on spending the day in nature on a hike, sunrise is a good time. The trails will be clear, and you’ll have the area mostly to yourself. This is incredibly helpful to stick to if you’re in the South West this summer, as it’s also a lot cooler at that time of day.
COVID has seen an increase in single-use plastics to a heartbreaking extent. Try to think sustainably and bring your own bottle wherever you go. There are plenty of places that don’t mind your filling up water for free, and national and state parks usually have some kind of water fountain system to utilize.
Masks & Sanitizer
Even if states lift certain mask mandates, some businesses might still require customers to wear masks while inside. It’s best to be respectful and wear your mask when asked to do so. This is a strange time, and scary for those with chronic illnesses and/or autoimmune diseases that make them a susceptible target, or prevent them from getting the vaccine.
Sanitizing stations seem to be empty on the regular, and it’s best to bring your own with you if you’d like to keep your hands clean after interacting with a lot of people.
Patience and Kindness Go A Long Way
We’ve all been stuck inside for a long time. So many people have lost their jobs or are only just getting back to work. A lot of people have died. We’re frustrated and itching to get outside and stretch our legs. You never know what people are going through and a little compassion can go a long way.
I’ve found this advice to be the most useful when flying. Everything is chaotic in the airports. Customer service wait times on the phone are hours long, flight attendants are tired of reminding so many people it’s still federal law to wear your mask on planes, and sometimes it’s a challenge to grab a beverage or a bite to eat while traveling.
Whether you’re traveling internationally or exploring super-local this year, be aware of what’s going on to keep yourself safe and help budget your adventures. Let us know where your post-pandemic travels are taking you!