Summer holidays are an annual tradition for my family.
We usually pick a destination in the fall of last year, spend a lot of time researching the details of the trip and minimizing the cost while still doing the things we want to do, then set off in the summer for about 10 days on the way .
Our goal while our kids are younger was to explore the United States and, to some extent, Canada, but as they grew into their teenage years we also considered options overseas.
Our main family travel considerations in normal years are whether our family vacation has an aspect that everyone in the family will enjoy and whether we can make it affordable.
That changed in 2020. We had planned a trip to Florida for summer 2020, but with the arrival of COVID we had to cancel those plans. Instead, our summer vacation turned into a camping trip to a very secluded place where we had plenty of canoeing and hiking opportunities and almost no one around.
What about 2021? With mass vaccinations looming and restrictions related to COVID slowly disappearing, our family is planning a summer vacation later than usual this year. We want to do something together since our kids (and we) are a little bit crazy, but what works in this situation? Here are some of the aspects we are considering for family travel after the coronavirus.
The impact of COVID on our travel plans
Our summer travel plans are highly dependent on vaccine availability, the reduction in COVID restrictions, and the relative safety of the things we are considering. What will a family trip after COVID look like? Here are some of our considerations.
COVID itself. While the case numbers appear to be in good shape as I write this, it is difficult to predict what they will be like this summer. We rely on predictions we trust what summer will be like, such as this summary of public health projections for COVID in late spring and summer in The Atlantic. With the introduction of mass vaccination, the question arises whether there are vaccine-resistant strains. As a result, we are more inclined to vacation plans that make it easier for us to be outdoors.
Vaccinations. Sarah and I will be vaccinated when we travel. Our children are also vaccinated as soon as they become available, if vaccines are approved by the FDA for their age group. This appears to be the case in early summer.
Remaining restrictions. We anticipate that most domestic restrictions will be lifted by midsummer, but major events will not be held yet due to the need for planning and remaining COVID concerns. We won’t be adding major events to our summer plans.
Let’s see how these considerations, along with our family’s considerations of addressing everyone and being frugal, have led us to plan for a family vacation 2021.
Pay for the trip
Since the spending on our vacation in 2020 was only a fraction of our planned spending and we assume that we will receive economic stimulus money in the next few months, we have actually reserved money for summer trips. As we will discuss, we will likely still have some cash left for summer travel in 2022 and beyond. During this time, we are tentatively planning an international trip as soon as COVID is a thing of the past and travel restrictions are gone.
We made an early decision that our family vacation would have to be based on outdoor activities. We wanted to do as much outdoors as possible, which allows for natural air circulation and seems to minimize the remaining risk of COVID. This is not uncommon for us – many of our family vacations have been outdoors.
We also didn’t want to rely on major events where a lot of people would gather, not just for safety reasons, but out of doubt that such events would still take place in the summer.
In the end we chose an excursion to two national parks. We drive with our camping equipment in two national parks in the east of the USA. This fulfills the goal of a very outdoor summer vacation at a very reasonable cost. Camping is actually a great cheap family vacation.
Plan the details
How are we going to travel there and back? We do that with the car. We already have a vehicle that can hold all of our family and necessary camping gear, so this will be our mode of transport for this trip.
Where will we stay Since we are camping, this is resolved by finding a campsite on or near the national park that we want to visit. Most national parks have many campsites within their boundaries and several more nearby. Our goal is to stay in the national parks, but see below for more details on this.
What we gonna do? This boils down to identifying interesting aspects of each park and the nearby areas. For example, one park we would like to stay in is Shenandoah. We identified a couple of day hikes there as most of our family enjoy hiking. Part of the reason we chose Shenandoah is because some members of our family became interested in bird watching, and Shenandoah offers many opportunities for great bird watching. We take this into account by filling at least a day with some very simple bird watching. oriented walks. Our family is also passionate about geocaching, and national parks always have an abundance of geocaches – Shenandoah is no different.
What shall we eat? Most meals are eaten on the campsite or out of backpacks. We’ll be eating at a couple of restaurants, probably take away or al fresco dining.
One possible obstacle to our plans is the availability of camping sites. National parks often have concerns about camping availability, especially on weekends. Our approach to this is to simply search carefully for campsites in the parks we are interested in and jump into campsites as soon as they become available, usually about six months in advance.
Vehicle breakdown is always a risk on such a trip, as are other minor emergencies that we may have to deal with without hotel or resort staff to help. Because of this, we have a well-stocked emergency fund accessible by debit card and no credit on our credit cards before we leave so almost any emergency can be handled with ease.
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