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Socially Distanced Vacation – 11 Tips You Need to Know

Is it ridiculous? To think that it’s actually safe to travel during the coronavirus outbreak? Well each person’s perspective of safe can vary, but I’m here to say that traveling is possible during the coronavirus. Here are my top tips for a socially distanced vacation.

The goal? To have a freaking fantastic vacation without catching (or spreading!) COVID-19. I mean, we all need a vacation after life threw us a huge curveball! This guide was built with the assumption you’re here because you don’t want to spread or catch the virus. 🙂

I’ve taken a few trips after COVID-19 became a thing. These are the tips that have kept me safe and things I’ve learned along the way.

It seems like every day there are new guidelines and restrictions for traveling to specific states, around the US and internationally. So while I would encourage you to research your specific state guidelines before searching for a new destination, this guide will help you to consider a few things with planning or COVID-19 friendly trip.

mountain views during coronavirus hiking trip
Epic views of Dillon Lake, Colorado during my solo road trip to Moab, Utah

1. Research, research, research

I cannot stress this enough. Your destination may have limitations, as well as your home city or state for those traveling. So before just booking that amazing flight deal, do your research.

Here are some things to consider when researching your destination:

  • What are the city, county and state restrictions/recommendations for masks?
  • What are the numbers? Is the location a hot spot for COVID-19?
  • Is a negative test required to enter the area? (Most common for international destinations.)
  • Can you enjoy your vacation with mostly outdoor activities? How socially-distance friendly is it?
  • What kind of things will you be doing that might put you within 6 feet of someone else? (If there are any, how can you minimize that risk?)
  • Are restaurants open to enjoy the local flavor? Are there outdoor seating options?
  • What’s the feel at attractions – is it busy? Will space/tickets need to be reserved early due to occupancy limitations?
  • When you arrive back home, will you need to quarantine?
  • Are there any other guidelines your state has returning back from vacation (like limited health insurance coverage based on the destination)?
hiking destinations during covid
Enjoying Faux Falls all to myself during my socially distanced vacation

Find a destination where you can be outdoors and spread out from people. Things like national and state parks are a great option. Large festivals and baseball games may not be the best option for traveling right now. According to the CDC, avoiding indoor activities like museums, shopping centers, etc. is safer to avoid contracting COVID-19.

2. Decide to drive or fly

Next thing is to consider is how you’ll get there? Will you take a road trip? Will you go via plane? And although there’s research on how safe airplane travel is, your decision to drive or fly depends on your comfort level.

Things to consider during airplane travel

  • How long will your flight be? You’ll be in close proximity to others so flight times matter.
  • Are you willing and able to be in a mask from the time that you arrive to your airport to the time you get to your destination? Most airports and airlines are requiring masks, so anticipate being in a mask for many hours during your journey.
  • Is it possible to book the 1st flight of the day? While airlines have different policies, many are deep cleaning planes overnight, so there might be less risk of contracting the virus with the 1st flight out.
socially distanced vacation at arches national park
Fresh air and open roads to Arches National Park in Moab, Utah

Things to consider for a road trip

Inherently less risky than flying, you’ll still need to stop for gas and use restrooms. Those are high touch, high-frequency locations.

Consider these extra precautions to keep yourself safe:

  • Use gloves to pump gas.
  • Tap or hover for touchless payments when possible.
  • Pack snacks to limit time lingering inside the gas station.
  • When buying snacks and drinks, consider disinfecting them once you get back to your car.
  • If you’re traveling with young kids, teach them how to push doors open, pump a paper towel dispenser and turn off water with their elbows so they can walk out of the restrooms without touching surfaces.

What about renting an RV for a socially distanced vacation?

What better way to ensure limited contact with people than to be able to drive your accommodations and your restrooms around the country! Renting an RV is a great opportunity to travel to a variety of places, without a lot of risk.

Related read: How to Financially Survive COVID-19

glacier national park hikes saint mary lake
Hiking the gorgeous Glacier National Park on a COVID-19 vacation

3. Things to carry on an airplane during COVID-19

If you’ve decided you feel good about flying, pack these items.

Among your usual packing list for airplane travel, the Coronavirus adds another layer to consider. Here’s a list of things to pack to remain as safe as possible from the virus:

  • Cleaning supplies like wipes and sanitizer. Use them often through the airport and when you get to your seat.
  • Masks are required on most airlines and airports – and pack an extra mask in case yours gets hot or soggy (I know, sounds like a joy, right?)
  • Your own food! Airlines have cut back on services during flights and restaurants in airports may be closed. Keep food in it’s own ziplock bag to simplify the TSA process.
  • Refillable water bottle. Bonus – this is an eco-friendly option, too! Here’s my favorite travel water bottle that’s durable and keeps water cold.

Pro tip: pack lightweight masks while in airports and on the airplane as the lighter masks can be cooler and not so sweaty.

Lastly, pack additional cleaning supplies that you’ll want to use when you arrive at your destination. If you’d rather not pack them, consider picking some up when you arrive to clean your hotel room or vacation rental just as a precautionary measure.

socially distance vacation ideas - picnic with a view
Picnic with a view! Best way to enjoy socially distancing during vacation!

4. Things to pack on a road trip for a socially-distanced vacation

If you’ve decided on a road trip, these items could come in handy.

The nice thing about driving is that you’ll likely have more room for supplies than if flying. Don’t forget:

  • Gloves for pumping gas. (Are the pumps ever cleaned??)
  • Cleaning wipes for wiping down your cell phone or credit cards/wallet as you use them.
  • Hand sanitizer – use it often!
  • Paper towels and cleaning supplies for your vehicle and your hotel or vacation rental when you get there.

Related read: 15 Things to Pack on a Road Trip with Kids

safe road trip
Driving the Going-to-the-Sun Road on a socially-distanced road trip to Montana

5. Decide where to stay: hotel vs. vacation rental

When considering your socially-distanced vacation, your comfort level (and maybe your vacation budget) will determine where to stay. Hotels and vacation rentals both have pros and cons, but if you’re looking to limit your interactions, a vacation rental might be the better option for you.

Typically you don’t encounter anyone in the check-in and out process, you’re not congregating in lobbies or elevators and the breakfast options aren’t begging you to be near others when you stay at a vacation rental.

By the way, if you’ve never stayed in an Airbnb, you can get $40 off your first stay when you sign up using this link! I’ve stayed at vacation properties throughout the US and several countries and have had excellent experiences.

If you’re staying at a hotel during COVID-19, here are some considerations:

  • Book a property that’s not very full, in hopes that you’ll get a room that was empty the night before.
  • When checking in, ask for a room that was vacant the night before.
  • If possible, open a window or sliding door once you get checked into your room. Fresh air movement helps reduce virus aerosols that were lingering from the previous guest.
  • Clean commonly-touched surfaces in the hotel room when you first arrive.
  • If you’re driving to the hotel, bring your own pillow. Never know what could be lurking in those sheets!
covid friendly vacation
Walking the streets of main street in Moab, UT

6. Tips for a socially-distanced vacation (once you arrive)

Okay, so you’ve probably already done the research on masks. Once you arrive, be respectful of the mask rules and just understand that part of traveling is coming in contact with others. Although the CDC recommends limiting being in large groups of people, it is sometimes challenging to avoid that situation.

During your journey and at your destination, make sure that you socially distance! You simply don’t know those who you encounter during your trip, where they have come from and how cautious they are being about the coronavirus.

So if you’re concerned about the coronavirus but still itching to get out, just avoid. Avoid large groups, avoid indoor seating at restaurants, avoid large or indoor tourist attractions.

7. Vacation during COVID-19: safest places to go

  • State and national parks
  • Outdoor parks, lakes, hiking trails and other adventure activities
  • Eating outside, like at food truck parks
  • Getting food to go (after wiping down the packaging, of course)
  • Sitting at restaurants on patios
  • Other outdoor places where it’s easy to stay 6 feet away from people
socially distanced vacation lunchtime essentials
Just the lunchtime essentials: open-air restaurant, hand sanitizer and margarita

8. Limiting interactions = less risk

Simply put, in order to limit the risk, you’ll need to limit the interactions. When I traveled to Moab, Utah during the Coronavirus, one big way I did this was by limiting eating out.

We’ve addressed restaurants already in this article but the alternative was to make my own food. I purchased food beforehand, packed a cooler and drove to Moab. I made at least 2 meals per day for ultimate flexibility.

Doing this not only saved me time, but money, too. It was the least risky thing I could do to limit interactions.

Of course, if you’re flying to your destination you could plan to stop at a store to grab a few things. Or better yet – order online in advance and plan for them to arrive shortly after you do!

hiking in badlands
Social-distance vacation: observing incredible views at Badlands National Park

9. Key to socially distanced vacation: plan, plan, plan

Do you know the phrase ‘if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail?’ Well I don’t think that it’s more accurate than now.

Here are some things to do before you go (in addition to all the research above!)

  • Figure out which restaurants have outdoor seating.
  • What are your activities each day, and where are your stops?
  • Download apps ahead of time.
  • Get cash as needed, although most places are requesting credit/debit card usage.
  • Prepare to take a few extra steps when you arrive to clean and prep things along the way.

You might also like: Best Budget Travel Tips (so good you’ll want to try them now)

staying safe on vacation during covid in Vail Village Colorado
Walking through Vail Village, Colorado, where there were more people than I was comfortable with.

10. Approaching other people

As I was hiking throughout national parks, many people wore bandannas or masks around their necks and simply moved them up over their faces as they passed on the trails. I thought this was a smart idea to protect themselves and others from the spread of the virus, while still being comfortable.

Even my young kids got in the habit of moving masks up and down as we hiked the trails at Glacier National Park and Badlands National Park.

I mean, can we all just agree this is going to be awkward? Whether you’re pro-mask or anti-mask, you’ll meet people on both sides of that debate as you travel. Just be respectful!

hiking hidden lake overlook
At the breathtaking view of Hidden Lake, Glacier National Park

11. Vacation = photos = virus exposure?

So here’s something I didn’t expect during my first social distancing vacation. I was on a solo trip, I was exploring all these amazing places so I asked random people to take a photo of me. Meaning giving my phone to a complete stranger who may or may not have the virus on their hands.

One way to catch COVID-19 is obviously touching surfaces others have touched with the virus. So after the first day, I got smart and started carrying cleaning wipes with me that way I could sanitize my phone after asking a stranger to take a photo of me.

I saw many families and other individuals asking other people to take photos of them as well, and did not see any cleaning going on.

scenic byway 128 road trip during covid vacation
Enjoying the views of scenic byway 128 in Utah during a socially distanced road trip

Traveling during COVID-19: socially distanced vacation

So overall the theme of vacationing during COVID-19 is this:

Limiting interaction equals limited risk. Risk of contracting and spreading the virus. And, of course, cleaning and disinfecting along the way.

It is possible to have a safe and coronavirus-free vacation if you take the right precautions. Traveling during COVID-19 presents a whole new set of factors and considerations, but with a with extra planning, you can have a very enjoyable, safe time!

Okay, so what do you think? Are you pro-travel or against it during the pandemic? Comment below – would love to hear your opinions!

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Katherine Finch

Saturday 19th of September 2020

Wow, I read the full article. A total of 11 tips are outstanding. Thanks for sharing this with us.

Donna Garrison

Wednesday 9th of September 2020

It’s amazing how resilient kids are and just get used to things like wearing masks or pulling them up and down as needed.

While we can’t travel at the moment, I am looking forward to the day we can. These comprehensive tips will come in handy.


Wednesday 16th of September 2020

You're so right Donna! Glad you found this guide helpful :)


Wednesday 9th of September 2020

Great post! I’ve been traveling a little bit- mostly road trips, but there is definitely a lot more to consider now!


Wednesday 16th of September 2020

So much more thought and research is needed with COVID! Glad you're able to travel where you're comfortable right now :)


Monday 13th of July 2020

All very practical tips! This summer will be road trips for me so I can minimize contact with others. Never even thought about the picture taking part though with others touching your phone - definitely going to need to carry sani wipes!


Wednesday 15th of July 2020

Yes! Minimizing contact is the key here. :) Those wipes have come in sooo handy while traveling!


Sunday 12th of July 2020

This is a much needed post of the time. Very detailed and informative. We have been thinking of doing camping, and making our own food! RV or Camper Van option sounds like a even better idea, rather than staying in a hotel or air bnb.


Sunday 12th of July 2020

Yesss! The more socially distanced, the better. Perfect time to enjoy mother nature, too :)