Tips for Recreating in the COVID-19 Era
Updated: Jul 1, 2020
Lately people have been asking me how my travel-based lifestyle has been affected by the outbreak of COVID-19, and whether I had any tips for other travelers and aspiring adventurers. I'm all about staying safe and still pursuing your passions, so I've put together this list of tips that have helped me navigate these uncertain times.
First, consider if the trip you are planning is something you cannot reschedule. Contact parks and recreation centers to find out what is open and operating before you travel anywhere. Consider that, depending on where you choose to visit, you may be limited on what services are provided and you may need to bring your own food and shelter. If your trip includes lodging, call to verify what is open and what isn't. Book in advance and ask questions. Are staff practicing physical distancing? Are masks and other protective equipment being used? If you are not satisfied with the answers you get, consider staying elsewhere. Finally, read up on the local community and consider their response to the pandemic. If you aren't comfortable with what you find, consider travelling elsewhere or staying closer to home.
Explore Close to Home
Sometimes we feel awkward being a "tourist" near our own homes, but as a local, you will have insight into what restrictions are in your area much better. Plus, you decrease the risk of exposure by not making unnecessary stops, and you will avoid being a potential carrier to a community that may not have much access to medical resources. Many towns and villages near tourist areas are not medically equipped to handle an outbreak, and these rural areas should be treated with care and respect.
You may be surprised by something you find not far from your own home! The world is a beautiful place. Take advantage of where you live.
Travel By Car, If Possible
One of the best ways to travel right now in my opinion is with a road trip. The advantages to travelling by car are many: you can use your vehicle as shelter as well as keep all of your essentials close at hand. Scenic drives are another way to get out of the house and travel without impacting anyone, and it is easy to practice physical distancing on the road. Stop at turnouts and other scenic rest stops to stretch your legs, and look for opportunities to "boondock" or car camp (where it is legal of course). I like to use FreeRoam for Apple or Android to identify free car camping near me while I travel. Not only am I not relying on a hotel, it is much cheaper and I have complete control over the cleanliness of my immediate environment.
Bring the 12 "New Adventure Essentials"
You have probably heard of the 10 essentials, and you can find that list HERE. When dealing with travel during the pandemic, you should bring those 10 essentials with you in excess of what you would normally bring, PLUS:
Sanitation- Hand sanitizer in your car or pack and a disinfectant spray for sanitizing after gas station stops
Face Covering- I like to use my Buff* when on the trail. Not only does it provide sun protection, it also covers my face for quick trips inside. You can pick one up HERE. *Click here for a statement from Buff regarding use of their face coverings.
Avoid Crowded Destinations
Generally speaking, most places are dealing with limited staff and limited access. This creates crowding. Not only is it annoying and stressful to be around so many people, it makes it nearly impossible to practice proper physical distancing. Try to plan a trip around a lesser known site or location. I am often surprised by how beautiful some of these places are!
Try to avoid travelling to well known destinations or vacation hot spots. Look for refuge in our National Forests and other Public Lands. National Parks are amazing, but there are usually a few lesser known State Parks or other public lands nearby that, more often than not, are just as spectacular. Plus, you'll enjoy the peace and solitude.
Adventure at your Own Risk
Consider your skill level and fitness when choosing your activities. Be honest with what you can reasonably handle and consider altering your plan. If you have never climbed a mountain before, maybe hold off on your first summit. If you aren't a strong swimmer, reconsider your rafting trip. The point of saying this is not to discourage you from trying new activities, but to be aware that rescue services may be delayed or even completely unavailable due to staffing cuts to many of our public lands. Don't take on an activity you don't feel 100% comfortable with, but do practice safety and recreate at your own skill level.
Adventure With People You Live With
As much as we may be tempted, now might not be the best time for that large camping trip with 15 of your closest friends. Instead, bring along your quarantine buddies for an outing close to home, or while practicing these other tips.
Chances are you've been all cooped up together for quite some time, and you could use the opportunity to bond in the great outdoors.
Leave No Trace
Most of us are familiar with Leave No Trace and the 7 Principles but if you aren't acquainted, check them out HERE.
When we talk about leaving no trace, we are also talking about wearing a face mask and physical distancing, as well as lessening your impact on the communities you visit as well. Keep in mind that it may be harder to find places to dispose of your trash or even use restrooms. Having a good understanding of LNT will guide your decision process when travelling and keep you and others safe.
Please consider these tips when planning your next trip. Embrace the Journey and travel safely.
*These tips are based off of personal experience and also guidelines from the CDC and WHO, but are in no way endorsed by any health agency. As always, you travel at your own risk. If you do not feel well, STAY HOME and contact your health care provider.*