Vacation Amid COVID: Celebrating Safely

A family safely enjoying the beach with facemasks

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With spring break around the corner, many students are itching to continue tradition, especially now when quarantine and stay-at-home mandates have separated families, friends and peers. Now more than ever, students may be itching to get out and let loose on their annual spring reprieve, but with COVID infections still on the rise, the pandemic continues to change how we gather, how we celebrate and how we unwind.

Holidays haven’t looked the same in some time. Traditional celebrations for holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa were all drastically altered in the face of the global pandemic, and even life’s momentous occasions, like birthdays and graduations, have all been transitioned to virtual or socially-distanced formats — if any celebration was to be had at all.

As spring break quickly approaches, many parents, caregivers and students are wondering how it’s safe to pass the time. The days off are usually a time of play and vacation, but things will again look different this year. It’s a new year, but safety is still a concern, and it’s critical that families are prepared with safe, fun activities to enjoy the time despite coronavirus.

At Home

This spring break, kids and students are likely to yearn for outdoor, social activity after being sequestered at home for so long. While safer, virtual learning has deprived developing children of much-needed social interaction. Now as the promise of time off and warmer weather approaches, children are lost in the dry desert of remote learning and thirsting for the normalcy of days past.

However, celebrating at home can still be safe and a ton of fun with some creative imagination, such as the tips below.

Staycation

Turn your home into a playground of adventure with fun, in-home activities that will transform home into a place of magic and wonder.

Game night Sometimes, there’s nothing better than a game night, and retailers like Amazon, Walmart and Target all have a great selection of games to play. Choose video games or board games, whatever’s your pleasure, to make for a fun night infull of giggles, surprises, and perhaps a friendly wager or two.
Virtual visits With today’s technology, there’s nowhere you can’t go. With the simple touch of a button, you can transport yourself to new, exciting places both near and far through up-close virtual tours of your favorite monuments, museums and galleries.
Home spa day Bring the spa to you with all of your favorite lotions, scrubs, masks and oils. There are plenty of excellent spa playlists on Pandora and Spotify to set the mood, and some inexpensive, sheer curtains and a set of twinkle lights will deliver instant ambiance without fear of starting a fire with candles and risking a home insurance claim.
Culinary tour Share the love of food by making it a family affair. Sign up for a virtual cooking class that will whisk you to Spain or Italy, or check out video lessons from your favorite chefs.
Family bonding Just because you can’t go out doesn’t mean that there isn’t plenty that you can do together as a family. Bake homemade cookies and have a decorating contest, or make a fort in the living room for movie night.

Backyard getaway

Your backyard can easily become your family’s own personal oasis with just a few slight preparations or alterations that will bring plenty of entertainment throughout spring break and beyond.

Backyard BBQ Even if there’s a chill in the air, bundle up and fire up the BBQ for your favorite grilled fare. If you live in a warmer area, ask the kids to set the patio table and dine alfresco for some fresh air and a change of scenery.
Tropical lagoon There are tons of ways to turn your backyard into a place of fun and revelry. Try adding a kiddie pool, trampoline, bouncy house or playhouse for your children to create their own adventures in.
Backyard play park The neighborhood playground or community park may be fraught with germs, but you can bring the fun to your own yard with a few simple additions. Lawn games, water toys, and even a treehouse or jungle gym are all ways to ensure that your family has fun safely.
Movies under the stars Creating your own outdoor movie night is easy when you add a projector and screen, if necessary. Pop some popcorn and gather around for a movie night under the stars.
Backyard camping Enjoy the adventure of outdoors with the added spoils of home when you camp out in your own backyard. Throw up a tent or sleep under the stars as you sprawl out in your favorite blankets or sleeping bags.

Inviting guests

CDC guidelines mandate that physical constant is left to a minimum and social gatherings are avoided. There may be those who do not know they are infected or may be asymptomatic. Either way, it’s not worth infecting your household, your guests and anyone else you may come into contact with.

If you do hosting guests, there are some things you can do to minimize your risk.

Guest safety

Your homeowners insurance (or even your renters insurance) provides invaluable protections to safeguard against a whole host of injuries, including guest injury. Be sure to check with your insurance company to ensure that your coverage is up to date and you have all the protections needed before you play host.

Set up

Setting up for your party may look a little different this year with these COVID precautions.

Hand sanitizing stations Hand-washing and sanitizing are some of the most effective ways to protect yourself against coronavirus, so set up a station with an EPA-approved hand sanitizer that guests can use throughout their stay.
Socially distanced seating When setting up tables and adding chairs around the room, be sure to give consideration to social distancing and seat guests from the same household together. Seats should be spaced six feet apart from one another to minimize exposure.
Provide masks Some guests may be more uneasy than others about social gatherings during COVID, so consider setting up a table with disposable masks that guests can use during their visit.
Minimize contact It’s tempting to hug or kiss a loved one that you haven’t seen in awhile, but this is one of the easiest ways to spread coronavirus. Instead, offer a wave and stick to a verbal welcome.
Check-in with guests Before your party, reach out to your guests to see how they are feeling and if anyone in their immediate circle has fallen ill. Most importantly, ask guests to stay home if they are feeling ill or notice unusual symptoms.

Food safety

Meal times can be the fastest way to spread germs and increase the spread of COVID. Instead, make some minor changes to keep everyone safe while still maintaining the festive nature of the gathering.

Single servings A buffet can quickly become a breeding ground of germs, so swap those party trays for pre-packaged or single-serve snacks and foods to reduce exposure.
Disposables Instead of stacking and washing dishes, opt for disposable plates, utensils, and serving spoons. These can easily be thrown away when you are done using them so unnecessary germs don’t stick around.
No potlucks Potlucks are an easy way to bring germs from one household into another, so politely tell guests that you will be handling the food arrangements. This gives them the chance to better enjoy the party!
Sanitizing napkins Just like your sanitizing station, make sure that sanitizing napkins are conveniently located around the food and beverage tables for easy use.
Meal service To limit exposure, consider asking a single person to man the food and beverage table.

Take a trip

While some are hesitant to travel, there are benefits to traveling when you take the right precautions. There are excellent deals to be had, and infection rates are much lower in some areas than others. There are other instances where travel may be unavoidable.

If you decide to travel during COVID, here are some ways to take you and your loved ones safe.

Travel safety

Flying

Get tested According to the CDC, you should get tested one to three days prior to travel. Be sure to bring your results with you, and postpone your trip if you test positive or are not sure of the results.
Check travel restrictions The CDC’s Travel Planner allows you to check your destination, while also offering extended travel guidelines to help keep you safe while you’re traveling.
Use safety protocols Now is the time to put into effect all of those COVID precautions, so be sure to wear a mask, maintain a distance of six feet, wash and sanitize your hands as much as possible, and minimize contact with frequently-touched surfaces, such as handrails, buttons, and pay terminals.
Avoid checking bags Checked bags are just another way to increase the spread of germs, so instead, leave the handling of your bags to yourself and opt for carry-on. You may even save a few bucks.
Bring extra masks Even if you have your favorite NFL or bedazzled face mask in tow, bring a few extra masks with you just in case your go-to breaks, is lost, or isn’t with you when you need it.

Road Trip

Pumping gas There are hundreds of people who use a gas pump each day, so try to avoid touching credit card terminals, pump handles and other surfaces. Use gloves if necessary, and opt for your own pen or stylus when paying.
Public restrooms Bathrooms are hot spots for germs, so avoid touching handles or any unnecessary surfaces, and use gloves whenever possible to limit contact.
Keep cleaning Keep sanitizer on-hand and use regularly throughout the trip. Whenever you stop at a public place or come into contact with someone outside of your household, be sure to wash and sanitize your hands immediately.
Bring snacks Packing a cooler or a goodie bag can help limit the number of stops you have to make due to hunger or thirst. Just watch those bathroom breaks!
Avoid cash Cash may be king but not during COVID when it’s a means to easily transport illness from one person to another. Instead, use your credit card and try to pay ahead whenever possible using online or touchless payment options.

Airbnb safety

Hosts

Coronavirus has created an unprecedented predicament for property owners who depend on Airbnb to pay the mortgage each month. To make up for a decrease in travel, there are some great deals to be had, but hosts must also update their safety protocols to protect the guests who come to stay.

Limit contact Airbnb instructs all hosts to wear a mask and maintain social distancing of at least six feet at all times.
5-step protocol Airbnb lays out a clear five-step plan for hosts to follow when cleaning properties to ensure company safety standards.
Maximum guests On August 20, 2020, Airbnb limited the number of guests that hosts may welcome to their properties, capping that number at 16. The party ban remains in effect indefinitely.
Restrict areas Wherever possible, try to restrict use of non-essential areas. This saves a lot of cleaning and puts an additional safeguard in place.
Cancellation policy The host will not receive a payout if they don’t comply with Airbnb mandates, nor will they be paid if a guest cancels due to COVID.

Guests

Likewise, guests must also take care to limit contact and do their part in keeping everyone safe and healthy.

Socially distance Airbnb also requires guests to wear masks and maintain a distance of at least six feet at all times.
Consult your doctor If you are especially at high risk for COVID or other illnesses, you should first consult your doctor before proceeding with your stay.
Clean and sanitize Coordinate with your host to ensure that all areas are regularly cleaned and sanitized.
Limit contact Whenever possible, try to restrict use of shared spaces with those outside of your household. Book an entire place to yourself if your budget allows, or consider layouts that allow for more distancing.
Cancellation Airbnb will ensure that you are not charged if your host fails to comply with safety standards set forth by the company to preserve your health and safety.

Activities for Kids

While spring break is welcomed by many parents, there’s no comparing the joy that kids feel when they are finally sprung from school for a short vacay. While COVID may change how we spend spring break, technology is making sure that we can still stay connected and have a blast while doing it.

Virtual

Online games Boardgamearena.com is one site that allows you to play against the computer or virtual opponents with plenty of games to try.
Virtual concerts Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok have all reignited the world’s love affair with music by offering free music concerts, interviews, and specials with the world’s biggest and best musicians.
Take a class Now is a perfect time to brush up on an old skill or master a new one. Be sure to inquire about any specials or discounts before you sign up for that new class.
Visit Broadway BroadwayHD lets you enjoy live theater with many famous celebrities your kids will recognize from your favorite TV shows and movies.
Virtual gatherings FaceTime, Zoom, Duo and Skype are all examples of ways to gather with your friends and family. Many services like Amazon Prime are also now allowing for watch parties where you can check out your favorite TV and shows virtually with all of your favorite people.

Outdoor

Treasure hunt No matter how old you are, everyone likes a prize. Stash little presents and surprises around your property for the whole family to find.
Play in the dirt Gardening has long been known as a relaxing stress-reliever so start the kids early and let them choose which flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs to grow.
Go fish Many families have bonded over the soothing lapping of the water against a boat, reels spinning as the fishing lines go flying. Visit your favorite fishing spot or consider renting a boat for some quality time.
Pick a house project Use this time to refresh your home, such as painting your child’s room in a color they choose or building something in the backyard to enjoy, such as a firepit or treehouse.
Get active Find an activity the family can do together, such as biking or riding a scooter. Travel around the neighborhood, or load up the car and head to a local park or school.

Bottom Line

Spring break has long been known as a refresher, a time to relax and recharge for the final push before summer. For today’s students in COVID’s 2021, it means a break from virtual learning and homework. Still, spring break will look different this year as social distancing and business closures leave many still sequestered at home.

However, spring break at home can still be a blast. The time away from study allows for countless projects and adventures that cost very little and will still present a lifetime of memories for the entire family. At the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.