It’s been another long winter, coupled with the added stress of having to stay home because of the pandemic. Cabin fever is at an all-time high, leaving many of us wondering if it’s safe to take that long-awaited vacation. The truth is, a traditional spring break trip may not be the best idea just yet, but with the right precautions and a little creativity, you can still find a way to disconnect and recharge.
What are the experts saying about travel?
As of March 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still recommends people avoid traveling whenever possible. While COVID-19 cases are beginning to decline in many places, they are still high nationwide, and we’re seeing new, more contagious variants of the disease emerging.
“We’re likely all ready for a vacation,” said Dr. Robert Sedlacek, a Family Medicine Physician with ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca. “At this point, it is just not recommended. Travel increases the possibility of contracting or spreading COVID-19 because you will be exposed to more people.”
Even those who are protected against COVID-19 with the vaccine can potentially spread the disease to others, putting unvaccinated people at risk, explained Dr. Sedlacek. It is also important to note that not enough people have been vaccinated to reach “herd immunity”.
“Additionally, many spring break destinations are located in areas in which hospital and clinic resources are strained,” he said. “Inadvertently bringing the virus into these areas can impact care, whether people have contracted COVID-19 or have other critical care needs.”
What is the safest way to travel?
If you already plan to travel with your family over spring break, choosing car travel over flying is a safer choice to protect yourself and others against the virus. Consider renting a property where you will be the only guests to avoid being in close proximity to others. Or, your family may choose to travel closer to home, such as scheduling a variety of day trips to outdoor venues in Wisconsin.
The CDC provides these guidelines to protect yourself and others from COVID-19 if you must travel:
- If you are eligible, get fully vaccinated for COVID-19, and wait two weeks after getting your second vaccine dose to travel. It takes time for your body to build protection after any vaccination.
- Get tested with a viral test 1-3 days before you travel. Keep a copy of your test results with you during travel in case you are asked for them. Do NOT travel if you test positive.
- Check travel restrictions before you go.
- Wear a mask over your nose and mouth when in public settings.
- Avoid crowds and stay at least 6 feet from anyone who did not travel with you. It’s important to do this everywhere — both indoors and outdoors.
- Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizer, and bring extra supplies.
- Avoid contact with anyone who is sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Do NOT travel if you were exposed to COVID-19, you are sick or you test positive for COVID-19.
How can we enjoy some focused family time, without leaving the area?
While families already have had to think creatively for the past year about how to keep kids occupied and happy, it’s important to keep it up until vaccinations reach a higher threshold.
“The best idea is to create a ‘staycation’ at home,” Dr. Sedlacek said. “It’s an easier and safer alternative than traveling while the pandemic continues.”
Some staycation ideas might include:
- Family Movie Marathon – Each family member chooses a film to watch. Watch them all in one day or plan to watch one each night during spring break. For families with older kids, choose a theme such as “vacation films” or pick one genre like science fiction or thrillers.
- Trips to the Local Park – Many Wisconsin state and county parks are open, and depending on weather, you could plan a series of hikes, bike rides, geocaching or snowshoeing/cross-country skiing adventures.
- Try New Foods – Get take-out or curbside delivery from local restaurants you haven’t yet tried, similar to if you’d be visiting new restaurants in a vacation locale.
- Go Virtual – Try a virtual staycation, planning virtual calls with friends and family from around the country, particularly those you haven’t seen or talked to in a while. You can also try virtual visits to art museums or explore other available online travel resources. Some organizations have offered live ghost tours and other events via Zoom.
“Spring vacations can be helpful in upholding our mental health, but it’s important not to sacrifice our physical health in the process,” said Dr. Sedlacek. “While it’s been a difficult year for all and we look forward to returning to fun events like taking trips, its important continue making safe decisions to help us get to the point where those activities can happen. Let’s all do our part.”