5 Things I Learned While Traveling During a Pandemic

5 Things I Learned While Traveling During COVID-19 | biblio-style.com

So, we're back from traveling and I'll just break it down really quickly: 3 months, 25 states, 2 coasts, and a whole lotta preparing for interstate travel during COVID-19. 

Anyone who has done #vanlife or, like us, just casually and temporarily tried out a nomadic lifestyle, knows that it takes a ton of preparation to get to the point where you actually pull out of the driveway. It's hitting financial goals, quitting your job, selling or renting out your house. There's a lot to do. And then...COVID. 

We delayed our plans by about three months and then just sort of threw up our hands. At some point, we just decided we're still doing this thing, and from there, we had to start preparing to travel during COVID-19. And that meant googling things like "are there any interstate travel restrictions?" and "what should I know about traveling during a pandemic?" 

Buckle up, because there's a lot to know. 

1. Every State Has Different Mandates

Duh. But when you're casually crossing state lines and cruising into a new town every day, it's easy to get mixed up. Usually, communication is clear - you'll see signs in business windows letting you know what to do. You can count on wearing a mask indoors pretty much everywhere, but keep an eye out for the spots that require masks outdoors, or using hand sanitizer before walking into any indoor space. 

2. You might need reservations for National Parks. 

Honestly, most National Parks are business as usual, except for the visitor centers. We visited 16 national parks this summer and every single one had their visitor centers shut down due to COVID-19. But there are also a couple of parks that are managing crowds and flow with a reservation system, meaning if you don't make reservations, you're not getting in. 

Yosemite National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park are using a reservation system, so if those are on your bucket list, plan ahead. 80% of reservations are released a month ahead and 20% are saved for release 24 hours prior. And guys, the spots go fast. They are released at 8am and we set an alarm to remind us. No joke - within 1 minute, all the reservations were snapped up. We got lucky with Rocky Mountain and scored a spot for a 2 hour reservation, but never made it into Yosemite. 

3. Lots of campground closures

Like, a lot. Especially around national parks and state parks. In New York, we encountered several that I suspect were obligated under a state mandate not to allow same-day reservations. Candidly, I'm not sure what the thought process is there, but it is what it is. In Washington, campgrounds were open, but they had to close their bathrooms, showers, and laundromats, which was a HUGE bummer. My point is, things are weird right now, so double-check for closures and ask about amenities. 

Related: Postcard from New England

If you're like us, and never really sure where you'll land at the end of the day, campgrounds might be a little tricky. Either get weird and make your plans 24 hours in advance or do what we did....

4. Self-sufficiency and boondocking is your safest bet. 

Boondock. There's so much public and BLM land out west, that if you're traveling in that direction, it'll be easier to find a spot anyway. Oh and safer. All kinds of social distancing when there is NOBODY for miles. 

We usually stopped at a campground once a week or so to do some laundry and refill our water tank, but otherwise, you'd find us out in the middle of nowhere. 

5. A lot of landmarks are really busy and packed. 

Imagine Old Faithful, but pre-COVID. Basically it's the same in the absolute midst of the Coronavirus. We  hung out for two hours and watched as it slowly became shoulder-to-shoulder packed. 

Related: Postcard from Montana

Here's the thing: most folks accept that now isn't really the time to hang out at the pool or go to a busy resort, so road-tripping sort of became the default vacation of the summer. That means a lot of people are out and about, hitting a lot of the same famous landmarks. They can be just as busy, if not busier. This was a tough lesson and I recommend planning your landmark visits during off-hours or in the middle of the week. 

Bonus 6. It's still really fun! And totally worth it. 

We had a total blast traveling this summer. We were crazy vigilant with the hand sanitizer and spent most of our time out in the middle of nowhere, so basically living exactly the same way we do at home. Ha! If you're on the fence about a road trip, I say go for it. RV Life is a dream that requires a ton of preparation anyway. Just add this knowledge to your book of "stuff to know" and get after it. 

Related: How to Road Trip Safely During a Pandemic

5 Things I Learned Road Tripping During COVID-19 | biblio-style.com


Are there interstate travel restrictions during COVID-19?

Not really. We had no issues crossing state lines. Occasionally we were asked if we'd recently traveled or been out of state, but that was when we were entering shops and restaurants, which are obviously private property and can take whatever precautions they deem necessary. 

How can I avoid crowds at the National Parks?

Take advantage of those reservations. That guarantees that the park is managing flow and crowds by limiting the number of people in the parks at any given time. Otherwise plan your visit during "off" times, like early morning and during the week. 

How can I stay safe traveling during the pandemic? Is it too dangerous to travel?

Definitely not too dangerous to travel if you're being smart. Be as self-sufficient as possible, wash your hands, cover your mouth, and social distance when you are in busier areas. 

What's the best way to social distance while traveling?

Avoid those packed popular spots and opt for hiking in lesser-known state parks. Figure that a lot of folks are going to be road-tripping during this season of life and the hot spots are going to be literally hot spots for the virus. Going to California? Stop at a road-side beach! There's a whole coast of it. Checking out New York, skip Niagara Falls and visit the Finger Lakes or Watkins Glen instead. 

And I'd recommend camping rather than staying in hotels. Precautions and such aside, you're just so much more self-sufficient if you bring your own bed to sleep in. 

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