Some people say we are crazy. Many people say they are jealous. I suppose that’s what happens when your family decides to take a year and travel the country during a pandemic.
My husband and I have always been a bit obsessed with travel. From early in our marriage, we dreamed of taking our girls out of school and spending a year exploring all the hidden corners of the U.S. When the world shut down in March, travel restrictions canceled our Spring Break on Hilton Head Island as well as our bucket list trip—10 days in Spain and Italy. We were heartbroken. But the silver lining in all this? My husband found he can work from anywhere with an internet connection, and both girls thrived in online school.
As things started to reopen this summer, my husband and I found ourselves discussing the school year over dinner and a glass of wine: “If the girls can do virtual school this fall, I say we rent out our house and travel the country.”
And that’s exactly what we’re doing.
We left town in early September and drove through Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Delaware en route to our current “home” in coastal Maryland. Here are some things we’ve learned along the way:
- Check before you go: Some states are just not really welcoming to travelers right now. We wanted to start our journey on the coast of Maine; however, to rent a place as visitors from Wisconsin, we would either need proof of negative COVID tests or do a 14-day quarantine. Other states, such as Maryland, had no such requirements. So check the CDC guidelines before you book, and stay flexible in your plans. Which leads me to…
- Manage expectations: Not everything is open right now, from restaurants to state parks, lighthouses to nature centers. Some businesses will not reopen. These are crazy days to be out and about touring, and we’ll need to readjust our plans many more times as we continue to travel the country. But when one door closes, another opens. As we get ready to spend the weekend in Washington, D.C., the closure of the Smithsonian museums has led us to look for lesser-known venues off the beaten path that we would have ignored before the pandemic.
- Masks, masks everywhere: It’s just part of the checklist now—keys, phone, purse, mask. Even outdoors. We were on a hiking trail leading to a beach, it was hot and I just tucked our masks in a backpack. About half of the other hikers on the trail were wearing masks, and a good majority of them were giving us scathing looks for not wearing ours! (Whoops.)
- Buy an EZ-Pass: If you are going to be traveling on interstate highways that have any kind of toll system, take a minute to sign up for the EZ-Pass. Many toll plazas have gone contact-less, which means they are sending a bill to our house. (A problem, as we are not going to be home for several more months!) More tips on surviving family road trips here: Hit the Road, Keep Your Sanity and here: How to Road Trip with your Toddler and Not Lose Your Mind.
Live your best life
I know there are going to be people out there who disagree with our decision to travel the country during a pandemic. We adhered to #SaferAtHome for months, and we are being careful and safe in our choices. I keep hand sanitizer at the ready, and we do our best to socially distance ourselves while out and about. But this trip is absolutely the best decision for our family; we are making lemonade out of the lemons that COVID has handed us. In fact, we are calling this adventure the “2020 Lemonade Tour.”
So far, we have toured a chocolate factory, visited historic churches, viewed city skylines, and explored secluded beaches. We’ve hunted for ghost crabs on the beach at night and pulled Maryland blue crabs right out of the water. And the foods we’ve tried! The most amazing seafood, legendary sandwiches, and more kinds of pizza (Some with crab! Some on naan!) than I could have possibly imagined. My final tips for traveling the country, whether during a pandemic or not, is talk to the locals about the best places to eat and drink. You will rarely be disappointed.
If you would like to receive updates about our travels and more tips on navigating our nation’s highways and by-ways during the pandemic, leave a note in the comments! Thanks!