In the famous Shakespearean play, Hamlet asked the question, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” Today, I’m reminded of that famous question. However, I would modify it to: “To travel during the pandemic or not to travel during the pandemic, that is the question.”
This is a valid question even as COVID restrictions are ending across the country. In Ohio, all restrictions ended on June 2. However, despite things returning to normal, some people still might not be comfortable with restrictions ending or beginning to travel again. This decision is a deeply personal one and it will vary by family. I’m going to share a vacation I took with my family during the pandemic in hopes that it will help you to decide what you are comfortable with during this time.
Back in January, I traveled with my twins and my mom to Great Wolf Lodge. I was a little apprehensive because this was not long after the New Year and schools were on an extended close because of the surge in cases. However, given that my twins’ school was closed and we had the time, I decided we would go on vacation because we had to skip our annual vacation due to the pandemic and we had barely been anywhere because of the quarantine. We were all feeling like we needed a vacation.
However, before I decided we would go, I determined what was important to me in a vacation. I considered these 5 things:
- How to get there. I only wanted to travel for our next vacation somewhere within driving distance. Honestly, I feel this way even though things are opening back up. Although, I know so many people traveling via plane and they have been safe, this is still not something I’m comfortable doing even though the pandemic is winding down.
- Location. We didn’t want to go to a state that was considered a “hot spot”, because we would have had to quarantine for the first week of school before returning from break. I didn’t want my children to miss school, therefore I chose an in-state location to avoid needing to quarantine additional time upon return.
- Safety. I was very aware that we were traveling during a pandemic. Therefore, I wanted to make sure that the environment was as safe as possible. Before I booked the trip, I researched Great Wolf Lodge’s safety measures, how they facilitate social distancing and cleanliness while maintaining the traditional Great Wolf Lodge experience. After researching their COVID-mitigation protocols, I was comfortable with their plans, so I decided to book the trip.
- Timing. I wanted to come back from vacation in enough time that would allow us to self-quarantine for a period of time before returning to school. I wanted to ensure my family was safe, but I wanted to do my part to protect others who would interact with us. Therefore, even though we weren’t traveling to a “hot spot” out of state, I still wanted to come back early enough where we could self-quarantine 4-5 days before returning to school.
- Cost. I wanted to have an amazing, budget-friendly vacation so I booked during a sale so I could minimize the cost of the stay and have more money to spend on activities once we were there.
Once I was there, I did a few more things to ensure we had a safe vacation.
- I spoke to my children about maintaining social distancing, wearing a mask, and the importance of it. The signs on the floor helped with that. Even while in the water park we did our best to maintain distance. The set-up at the hotel and water park helped with this. I believed that teaching them and then empowering them to help us stay safe, gave them a feeling of control during a situation that seemed so out of control for all of us.
- We washed our hands and hand sanitized a lot. I was big on hand-washing pre-pandemic, but during the pandemic, it was a whole new level. I just tried to do it in a way that wasn’t stressful or fearful for my children.
- We ate in our rooms. Very seldom did we eat outside of the room – even for snacks. Most of our meals and snacks were consumed in our rooms so we could wear our masks while in the common areas.
If you are considering traveling, here some advice.
- Go at your own pace. Figure out what you are comfortable with and do that. Don’t be afraid to look “weird” if you are uncomfortable traveling. For example, I wore a mask while on the lazy river. Sure, people looked at me like I was crazy (and a little kid swam up to me and asked why I was wearing a mask in the water). However, I didn’t care, and I wasn’t going underwater. It was a stretch for me to even be around people, so I still wanted to operate in a way that allowed me to feel safe yet still experience a slice of normalcy my children and I craved.
- Keep things as normal as possible while being as safe as possible. Traveling with children, in general, can be stressful, and a pandemic adds an entirely different level of stress. However, it’s still important to have fun. Through this experience, I was able to teach my children that we can still have fun even though our experience looks a little different this time. We all adapted and had an amazing time. This truly helped us all build resilience.
I hope that reading my experience and decision-making process about traveling during the pandemic helps you to see it’s possible to travel safely and have an amazing time. I also hope that this helps you to make an informed decision about traveling with your family. There is no right or wrong answer. It’s just about what feels right for you.