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Ready for a Vacation?

Overseas travel is mostly out, but short trips are still possible. Here’s how to plan them, including tips on budgeting and managing restrictions.

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This year has been the opposite of a hot girl summer. During normal times, if we spot a deal online for a great trip, it could be an easy yes. Now, due to the pandemic, we’re often unable to fly overseas, taking the train might not be ideal and cross-country road trips can feel complicated.  

I’ve taken three short trips a couple of hours from my hometown of Denver, Colorado, since June, and each one has been a balm to my soul. Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But if you weigh the benefits and risks and decide to take a short trip, particularly within your state, there are precautions you can take in addition to the usual travel planning. Consider the following points.

Figure out your budget. This summer, I stayed in a boutique place outside Breckenridge, a mountain town that is a couple of hours from Denver, for $145 a night, but there are a range of prices and hotels in the area. I pay cash for all of my travels, but you may want to look at deals via rewards points, your credit card or your AARP membership. 

Get clear about what you need. Typically, I am looking to get away from my town and to be in a place with calming energy because right now life feels stressful. So know what you enjoy and would like to prioritize during your short trip. I prioritize high-quality food versus high-end accommodation. Even though I stay at a hostel, I’m eating at least one phenomenal meal out a day and then eating food that I cooked as well. 

Determine whether you’ll work on your trip. Many of us now have the opportunity to work remotely, from a new location. I work for myself online, and I love going on working trips because I’m able to enjoy another location while still making money. If you’re working for someone else, the great thing about a working trip is the ability to avoid using vacation hours as you travel. Or you could use significantly fewer vacation hours by negotiating working half days during your time away.

Research COVID-19 protocols in advance. I feel comfortable traveling around my state because I understand our mandates. Besides embracing the simplicity of traveling within my home state right now, I also like the idea of supporting local businesses during this time when tourism is down.

If you want to travel outside of your state (or outside your city, if you live in Washington, D.C.), check with your local or state health department about any potential quarantine orders upon your return. Also check with the health department for the area that you want to visit to double-check that area’s current COVID protocols and quarantine requirements.

In addition, check your accommodation’s website and call ahead for more information. You can ask questions like:

  • What are the venue’s and city’s expectations for guests? For example, will the venue expect guests to wear a mask in communal spaces? Does the city require it?
  • How is the venue approaching client safety? In asking this question, you as the traveler may also want to consider if it’s safe for you to travel. If you have an underlying health issue or are part of a vulnerable population, now might not be the best time to venture too far from home. (Editor’s note: Talk with your health care provider if you have questions about your health or any health risks.)

Pack your suitcase and expectations appropriately. I also bring some things with me to keep me healthy and safe while I’m soaking in hot springs, hiking in the mountains or just sitting in front of the fire having a nice glass of wine. For instance, I pack two face masks: I’ve decided to have fun with them and like to rotate them. Also, I like to have more than one mask on hand in case I lose one. I also bring hand wipes; you may decide to bring other hand sanitizers. And I keep clear boundaries: I don’t waver from what I will do to maintain my health while traveling, such as maintaining a distance of 6 feet from other people. 

I’m now planning my next two trips for the end of September and October. With the upcoming election, the end of summer and having to still deal with COVID-19, it’s looking like I’m really going to need those trips. I’ve found these short journeys away from the stress of my daily life worth the effort to help maintain my peace of mind, and it’s my hope that you will enjoy your next short trip, too.