Vacation During a Pandemic?

Disclaimer: Columbia Mom promotes following CDC guidelines on social distancing and travel. This piece was independently written by a local mom sharing her personal decision.

For the last several years, I have taken a week off work in July to help break up the summer and give the kids a break from summer camp. This year, however, there has been no summer camp to break up. Instead, we are on what feels like month 942 of summer break, staycation style, and my family needed a break more than ever.

My husband and I both work from home, with three elementary aged kids that are also home and kind of running a bit wild. We needed time away from our home, and time together to reconnect. Trying to decide where to go, and what should we do led to more questions.

Initially we thought we’d go to Great Wolf Lodge. It’s a personal family favorite, self-contained, and checked a lot of our personal safety boxes. On a risk meter, staying in a hotel is ranked fairly low on most charts, around a 4 out of 10, with 10 being highest risk – it has been lower on the chart, but with everything during a pandemic, things change.

However, Great Wolf Lodge changed their reopening date and we could no longer go during my scheduled days off. We briefly considered camping – one of the lowest risk activities – but it is just too hot here in SC to do anything that doesn’t involve air conditioning.  

So, being the frugal minded people we are, we went online to see who had the best deals. We found a great deal on a basic hotel at the beach, right on the water. We weighed the pros and cons, and decided the hotel itself was low enough risk. Knowing our kids, we would be spending time primarily on the beach and at the pool, which if we go during non-peak times (very doable, with a hotel with a pool right on the beach), we decided to go. 

The view from our room – There were people but far fewer than we expected. A pleasant surprise.

Note: For every family, the evaluation of risk versus benefit is going to be different. Our family doesn’t have major risk factors that put us in a category of higher concern, and we felt we could travel relatively safely. Other families may feel this would be too risky for them, and I completely respect that. This is just one family’s story.

So, we went to the beach, had a blast together, and found enough lower risk activities that no one felt our mini-vacation was somehow lacking.

But What Did We Do?

On the Beach

Our kids’ favorite time to be on the beach was after dinner, before it was completely dark. There were very few people out then, and most were shell hunting. I don’t think we had people within several yards of us most of the time, let along closer than six feet. We did go earlier in the day, too, but the section of beach in front of our hotel was sparsely populated. I’ll also note that we went during the week, both to save money and to avoid crowds.

At the Pool

The pool was a basic pool – no fancy splash pads, lazy river, or water slides. I don’t know if that is the reason we were often the only family there, but we were happy to take advantage of it. The pool did, however, go to eight feet deep, which made it an astonishing three feet deeper than the neighborhood pool at home. That made it a seem like major upgrade to my kids. The pool closed at 10:30 p.m. and we were there until it closed the two nights we were there. 

Mini Golf

Mini golf was the only activity my kids unanimously requested. How could we say no? We must have gone while everyone else was at dinner because there were very few people there, and it was an excellent course. While there were some groups of people playing, the separation between holes made for natural social distancing (unless there are multiple groups waiting to play the same hole). Also, the staff seemed on top of sanitizing the clubs and balls between uses which made us feel more comfortable. And because we were outside, it overall felt like a very low risk activity with the kids. 

My youngest has a bit of Happy Gilmore in his mini golf stance. 

You Gotta Eat, Right?

One of the major bonuses for vacation is that for the first time in months, I had three days in a row without cooking or dishes. I cannot stress how amazing that was for me! For breakfast, we did strict take out due to how late the kids slept in and their lack of desire to leave the proximity of the water. I packed a huge bag of snacks and drinks so between a late breakfast and an early dinner, we could mostly skip lunch.

For dinner one night we ate outside, and the last night we made reservations for hibachi. While in person dining is generally considered a higher risk activity, we were the only family at the hibachi table, chose an early reservation time (hello, early bird special!) which meant we were one of two parties in the whole restaurant, and it felt as low risk as in person dining possibly can. 

The onion volcano was by far the most talked about part of the hibachi experience.

On the whole, I was pleasantly surprised how less crowded everything was compared to what I expected. This mama doesn’t love crowds, especially during a pandemic. I had some qualms going anywhere, but given our current state of events, there is no end in sight. Our family needed a break, and I can honestly say I have no regrets.

If you are on the fence about taking a vacation with your family right now, my advice is outline what you want to do, activity-wise, and determine how you can manage those things as safely as possible. Maybe you will weigh your family’s risk factors and decide a vacation is not right for you, at least not right now, and that’s okay, too. The important thing for all of us right now, is to make the best decisions we can for our families. 

Is your family taking a vacation this summer? What factors did you consider before making your decision? 

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Katrina is a mom of three great kids and has been married to her first love for nearly 10 years. She’s grateful to have a job that allows her the flexibility to both work from home some days and in the office others. On the surface, Katrina is pretty crunchy – she loves breastfeeding, babywearing, co-sleeping, natural birth, and homeschooling — but still loves her stroller, having her kids in their own beds at some point, her epidural was fantastic, and she’ll be sending the kids through public school. Most of all she loves the fact that we have all these choices, which makes life interesting! One of her favorite experiences was moving to Japan in 2002 to live as an adult dependent with their USMC family. It was an amazing experience, and if it weren’t for that, she probably wouldn’t ever have met my husband.


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