Safe Ideas for a Family Vacation During a Pandemic

Arches National Park

Taking a vacation during a pandemic may feel like a risky proposition, but sometimes getting the kids out of the house before everyone seriously maims each other feels very necessary. If that sounds like you, here are some ideas to help you plan a (relatively) safe family vacation during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Visit a National Park

Some national parks have actually become unbearably crowded this summer, with precious few other amusements to distract us. However, the National Park Service has proven itself once again this year to be well worth our tax dollars.

You’ll find crowds at parks carefully managed right now with max quotas (some parks fill up and you may be turned away at the gate if they are full. I have heard of this happening at Arches National Park) or an extra permit obtained online a month prior to your visit (this is the requirement at Yosemite National Park as of this writing in summer 2020). NPS rangers all wear masks and signs for social distancing are everywhere. 

My family has visited the following national parks since the start of the pandemic: Arches, Capitol Reef, Glacier, Olympic, and Rainier. Glacier was the most crowded of this list, which was to be expected, but even there we found it easy to get away from crowds once we started hiking. Hit the parks! 

House rentals during pandemic
For an ultra-safe vacation idea, check out house rentals. Our lakefront rental house in Montana featured a hot tub and canoes, and the kids never wanted to go home. We brought all our food, and pretty much never interacted with another soul during our entire vacation.

Rent a Super Fun House

Oh, you don’t own a waterfront vacation home with a pool, and a game room, and a private theater? The rich and famous are escaping to their second (or third) homes during this time of crisis. Why not join them, via a house rental?

When my family nervously decided to meet in Montana for a getaway, we were careful to plan a way to socially distance as much as possible, so we rented a lovely house on a lake. And then we wished we had done all our vacations that way.

While the price of the house was steep, it was totally worth it. By renting a waterfront house with a hot tub, a lovely kitchen, and a deck, we were able to have a great time staying home. Which meant we didn’t have any other expenses — or have to encounter other humans. Win/win during a pandemic!

Whitewater Rafting
In the right setting (I wouldn’t want to be on a shuttle bus with a crowd of people…), white water rafting is an excellent adventurous family vacation idea, even during a pandemic.

Go Whitewater Rafting

When planning a family vacation during a pandemic, you want to consider ways to have the least amount of contact with crowds. Enter: whitewater rafting through a wilderness area. During times when national parks are getting crowded, river trips are carefully regulated (whitewater rafting companies have to have permits). Reputable companies will have excellent COVID-19 policies in place, and states have regulations, too.

For example, during our 5-day 4-night whitewater rafting trip in Idaho, temperatures were taken, staff wore masks during food prep, and each family had their own raft. Since you’re outside the entire time, social distancing is easy.

Stay at a Spacious Resort

If you DO wish for a true luxury resort experience, hotels and resorts have stepped up to cater to you. When I save my pennies, this is what I’m doing.

Resorts with the space have spent time and money making sure that people feel comfortable staying with them. For example, at Brasada Ranch in Bend, Oregon, you and your family will stay in a spacious cabin and spend your days golfing, swimming, hiking, and having farm-to-table meals delivered to your room. To make sure you feel extra safe, not only do they have a serious disinfectant policy, they also have a minimum stay to minimize the comings and goings of many people during this time — not uncommon among high end resorts right now.

If you are planning to do this, make sure you ask how close in proximity your room will be to other people, and specifically ask about meal options: can you have meals delivered to your room or will you need to eat in a restaurant? Eating inside a restaurant is rated as one of the riskier things to do right now in terms of potential exposure to Covid-19, so I try to avoid that with my family.

Socially Distanced Camping
This was our home on the banks of the Salmon River, but put this tent up anywhere you are six feet away from other people, and BOOM! — socially distanced travel.

Go Camping (or Glamping)

Many campgrounds inside national parks are currently closed, presumably because campsites are too close together. However, there are plenty of campsites out there in the great outdoors — on BLM land, private land, in state parks, or in more remote national parks — that are still open. Put up a tent far away from your neighbors and breathe in that virus-free air!

If you are a camping-hater, but still afraid of the recycled air in high-end hotels, you might consider glamping, where companies set up uber-fancy tents. You’re in the great outdoors, but you get high threadcount sheets and comfy beds and pretty much every other creature comfort your heart desires. (Except, of course, those indoor hallways with frigid air conditioning or high-rise views.) 

Under Canvas is one company that provides glamping options near popular national parks.

Take an RV Road Trip

Even if you don’t own an RV, hitting the road with an RV is a great way to take a socially distanced vacation. Check out RV Share for an easy way to rent RVs from local owners — there’s a wide variety of options on there. While the price of $100 or so a night may seem steep at first, when you consider the money you’ll be saving on hotel rooms and eating out, it starts to seem a lot more affordable. Plus, it’s way cheaper than actually buying an Airstream (my personal dream).

Choosing to travel by RV means you don’t have to worry about germs in hotel rooms or restaurants. You can stay in simple public campgrounds, or in fancy RV resorts (some even have pools). Plus, road tripping beats any other form of travel right now, hands down.