So, what do your summer vacation plans look like?
I know, I know. You canceled the long-anticipated cruise or the once-in-a-lifetime European family vacation in March. But now that you’ve “enjoyed” countless days and evenings locked down with your family, the prospect of heading somewhere – anywhere! – beyond your backyard seems a lot more viable than it did a month or two ago.
But, really, should you go?
Clearly, there’s a pent-up demand. Just look at the photos from Lake of the Ozarks over Memorial Day weekend, where celebrants gathered cheek-by-jowl in pools, bars and party boats. Likewise, reports emerged of thousands of sun worshippers making their way down teeming boardwalks and beaches from Ocean City, Md., to Port Aransas, Texas.
In theory, beaches would seem a logical choice for a getaway in the current climate. Outdoor settings like beaches are less likely to spread the virus than indoor spaces. The virus dies off relatively quickly in the sunlight, and the wind from the ocean disperses the particles in the air.
Still, the reduced likelihood of infection outdoors hinges on the ability to maintain social distancing. If too many other folks get the same idea, and you end up packed in the sand next to other beachgoers, all bets are off.
A similar logic applies to lake and mountain getaways. So long as you can keep your distance from others, they present relatively low-risk vacation options.
The New York Times recently reported about a big uptick in long-term bookings of rental properties. It seems that those who are still in an economic position to do so like the idea of hunkering down with the family in a beach or mountain house for an extended period of time.
With air travel still fraught with potential viral exposure, folks will almost certainly favor destinations that are closer to home. A recent survey conducted by MMGY Travel Intelligence and the U.S. Travel Association found, not surprisingly, that most people felt safer in their own cars than on a plane. And only about 1 in 5 respondents said they were willing to drive more than 500 miles to reach their destination.
Those numbers bode well for quelling any summer viral waves that could lurk. So long as we maintain social distancing and minimize contacts with those outside of our “safe” spheres – and do so in a rental property within driving distance in an area that’s not too dense – we shouldn’t increase our risk for infection significantly.
Now, I recognize that the preceding paragraph contains a lot of variables. For each one we choose to fudge a little (say, flying instead of driving, or opting for a hotel or resort over a single-family rental), the risk level will climb.
Also, no matter how careful you are, travel inherently entails encountering new people and places. In the current environment, those encounters we once considered a broadening of our personal horizons also serve to increase our exposure to new viral vectors.
As a result, many employers – including my own Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation – are requiring any workers who travel out of state to undergo viral testing or self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to their jobs onsite. Admittedly, the virus knows nothing of state borders, but installing gates around trips outside of Oklahoma diminishes the chances of employees traveling to places where infection levels are surging and then returning to expose fellow workers.
Before you plan a trip, be sure to check your employer’s policies. If you have to test or self-quarantine upon your return, that could influence your decision.
In the end, you may opt for a staycation. A walk to the park isn’t quite the same as a stroll along the Seine. But we all know that these days, it’s a heckuva lot safer. And what is a vacation if not peace of mind?