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6 safer, expert-backed vacation ideas during the pandemic, whether you’re taking a last-minute spring break trip or planning ahead for summer

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  • Despite the pandemic, many US travelers are eager to take a vacation, but safely.
  • For safer vacation ideas during COVID, we compiled options based on expert advice and research.
  • From remote hotels near beaches to private vacation rentals and road trips, consider these ideas.

 

With 1 in 6 Americans now fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and the CDC saying that travel is safe for vaccinated individuals, it’s expected that travel will return in a big way.

Indeed, Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo, told Insider that if you’re fully vaccinated, “flying, travel, and life, in general, is significantly safer.”

But that doesn’t mean you’re totally in the clear. “The vaccines are very good, but they’re not perfect. While you’re much less likely to transmit the disease or get it, there is still a chance,” says Dr. Russo. The CDC still advises that vaccinated individuals continue to wear masks in public and are not considered fully vaccinated until two weeks after their final dose.   

At that point, if you are wondering if it is safe to travel right now, the answer depends on variables such as how you plan to travel, where you want to go, the rates of infection in your destination, and your behavior once you arrive. 

To help determine the risks associated with each mode of travel during COVID, we reached out to experts including infectious disease and ER doctors, cleaning specialists, travel industry professionals, and representatives from major rental cars, hotels, Airbnb, and transportation organizations

From beaches and mountains to lakes and islands, the following list includes close to home vacation ideas during coronavirus. Just be sure to plan in advance: we’re already seeing fully booked hotels and Airbnbs, rental car shortages, and full flights. If you want to travel this summer, here’s what you can expect, plus great travel deals to help beat the rush.

If you do want to take a safe vacation during COVID and are seeking safer vacation ideas, think road trips over international flights, and lodging such as private vacation rentals or hotels with stringent COVID policies. In fact, both Airbnb and Vrbo have seen an uptick in bookings and domestic vacation rentals will continue to be popular in 2021

 

Here are 6 ways to take a safe vacation during COVID:

If you do want to take a safe vacation during COVID and are seeking safer vacation ideas, look for hotels with stringent COVID policies that include wide-reaching new cleaning protocols made in combination with health experts. These focus on social distancing and contact-free transactions such as virtual check-in and out, digital keys, spaced out or limited dining, and more.

However, the experts we interviewed still feel that the answer to the question ‘Are hotels safe during coronavirus’ is subjective and depends on whether an individual also takes proper protective measures like wearing a mask, distancing, and disinfecting.

best santa fe hotels four seasons rancho encantado



Four Seasons Hotels


If you swear by staying in hotels, make sure the property has announced rigorous new cleaning measures, and look for signs they are implementing such procedures, from check-in to common spaces like the elevator or pool, and of course, in your room. Some are even promoting COVID-friendly WFH — work from hotel — travel deals aimed at the socially distant traveler. Also, consider more remote properties with plenty of wide-open spaces and outdoor-friendly amenities, or smaller boutique hotels.

If you’re worried about flexibility, many hotels are offering more generous cancellation policies right now than usual.

To help facilitate a socially distant hotel stay, the following destinations and hotels all detail new COVID policies and are well-suited for a domestic getaway. Think wide stretches of beaches, remote mountain retreats, idyllic island escapes, and other places that embrace the great outdoors.

After breaking down the risks of both hotels and vacation rentals such as Vrbo or Airbnb, the doctors and experts we spoke with agreed private vacation homes are likely safer than hotels because they come with fewer person-to-person interactions.

“While there is no question hotels are working diligently to keep their hotels clean and sanitized, Airbnb has a huge advantage given that the renter is generally the only one occupying the property,” said Dr. Neil Brown, K Health’s chief diagnosis officer. “With Airbnb’s new Enhanced Cleaning Initiative, the company provides a better option than public hotel spaces,” he said.

Additionally, the CDC’s current lodging guidelines note that private vacation rentals with members of your own household are safer than hotels.

Airbnb



Airbnb


For those who like social distancing of aspect of vacation rentals, but prefer the comforts of hotels, consider in-between options like Sonder or Marriott Homes & Villas, which offer professionally managed vacation rentals with hotel-like amenities.

We detailed everything to know about vacation rentals, from what to know about Airbnb’s new cleaning protocol to the platform’s COVID cancellation policies and Airbnb Plus program, plus key differences between Airbnb and other vacation home rental sites such as Vrbo. 

If you’re ready to hit the road, these are some of the best places in the US to rent a vacation home right now:

Nationwide

Northeast

The South

Midwest

West

Hawaii

Remember when planning a road trip simply meant queueing up a great playlist and stocking up on snacks? Sadly, that’s no longer the case.

These days, they’re one of the safer-seeming ways to travel while limiting exposure, especially compared to planes, trains, and other mass transit. And should you feel any discomfort, or worse, become sick, you can hop back in the car and drive home.

road trip



Shutterstock/gualtiero boffi


From expert-recommended precautions to take and products to pack, to getaways that are close to home, scenic drives, and more, here are our top tips and ways to hit the road right now:

If you want to get away and embrace nature, but feel uncomfortable checking into a hotel or private lodging, there are plenty of other outdoor options from camping to glamping that make it easy to avoid crowds. 

Book a home on wheels or pack your gear into the car and pitch a tent. These ideas all afford a charming level of rustic charm where you can control just how much, or little, you encounter the rest of the world. Even in colder areas, camping can be a cozy option, provided you bring plenty of warm supplies and a heavier sleeping bag. You may also want to consider car camping or truck camping to help ensure you’re plenty warm. 

Ultimately, if you plan to head out on a trip, consider adapting your vacation plans in ways that provide safer alternatives that can help can reduce your risk of virus exposure while away from home.

To come up with a list of safer approaches to air travel, ground transportation, lodging, activities, and more, we culled the advice from our interviews with experts — including medical, sanitization, and travel industry professionals. 

travel during the coronavirus



PeopleImages/E+/Getty Images


Do note, however, that many public health and medical professionals (including some of those we talked to) still advise limiting nonessential travel in the pandemic, as it poses inherent risks.

Here are four safer travel ideas based on expert advice — public charters over commercial flights, private home rentals overcrowded resorts, and much more

While many travelers previously booked travel independently, some are returning to travel agents. These seasoned professionals have spent years in the business and are well-equipped to help clients identify viable locations with vetted, flexible policies. They may also have better insights into new practices at specific hotels to help determine how clean and safe they will be, and whether facilities and amenities may be impacted. 

Their advice is to book refundable options, be aware of cleaning policies, try to travel domestically, opt for socially distant places, and assess your own comfort level with risk before booking.

If you’re overwhelmed by the prospect of planning a summer vacation in what’s likely to be a crowded and busy season, you might also want to consider a prearranged small group tour as a way to eliminate stress.

Major tour operators like Intrepid Travel have debuted new itineraries along with vaccination and testing requirements that apply to all trips. Travelers and tour leaders must show proof of vaccination or provide a negative COVID-19 test no more than 72 hours before day one of the trip. 

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Read the full story on key takeaways to learn from travel agents and tour operators about how to book travel right now, and into next year.

Here are 7 travel trends to expect this summer and how to beat the rush, according to experts

For more reporting on whether it’s safe to travel right now, click a link below to jump directly to related coverage:

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