Safe Summer Vacation Ideas: Find the Place Where Everyone Isn’t Going

Where can you safely go this summer?

Is it safe to go on a vacation this summer? Families across the country are grappling with this question as summer nears and COVID-19 (coronavirus) continues to alter our daily lives, six weeks after the country began implementing stay-at-home orders. So what should you do about taking a real summer vacation?

Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider taking a road trip or going camping, suggests Dr. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease physician for Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. He says minimal-contact options like those will be the safest options this summer and ideal for people who want to keep their risk factors low.

Along Champlain Canal, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

And even though state health departments may give the go-ahead to reopen facilities like amusement parks, he says people with underlying conditions should avoid them because they involve more contact with a larger number of people and thus a higher chance of being infected. 

Along Covered Bridges Scenic Byway, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Nothing is without risk and it’s all going to depend on how much risk you want to tolerate. Some don’t want to leave home until there is a vaccine while others are eager to take a family road trip. It’s really about being smart about where you choose. You’re probably best to avoid the bucket-list places that are crowded.

So where can you safely go this summer? The key is to find the place that everyone isn’t going to.

Folly Beach, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The longing to get out of the house is perhaps stronger than ever. The coronavirus has forced us to cancel everything from spring break travel to weekend getaways. For now, the only way we’re traveling is virtually. If you haven’t already taken advantage of it you can tour a national park online. Many zoos, aquariums, even amusement parks are offering similar live-look experiences. But it’s not long before the virtual trend gives way to a revival of the good-old-fashioned road trip.

Palmetto State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

We are ready to hit the road and get back to feeling like we have that freedom to travel how we want and when we want. The immediate desire is to keep those trips short, to keep them regional, to keep them easy, and to keep them affordable.

Fish Lake Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

People are going to be more inclined to road trip than fly. In fact, a recent study shows nearly 50 percent of people are second-guessing flights and looking at road trips instead.

Fall could be “the new summer” and small towns in many states can expect to see a boom.

Dauphin Island, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are national and state parks and local recreation area and miles and miles of scenic highways and byways. These are the spaces travelers will gravitate toward right out of the gate where there will be a little more elbow room between ourselves and the traveler next to us. In other words, places that offer open space and physical distance will be very popular in our new social distancing era.

Borrego Springs, California

Borrego Springs sculptors © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A big part of any road trip is stumbling upon bizarre roadside attractions—and there are plenty to experience in the California desert. Just outside Borrego Springs and near the boundary of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, sculptor Ricardo Breceda assembled roughly 130 gigantic scrap-metal sculptures of animals, including dinosaurs and a saber-toothed cat. These fanciful creatures seem to march across the scruffy flats. It’s quite a remarkable menagerie with everything from desert bighorn rams in battle to a gigantic, 350-foot-long sea serpent that appears to be slithering through the desert sands.

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico

El Malpais National Monument © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The richly diverse volcanic landscape of El Malpais offers solitude, recreation, and discovery. Explore cinder cones, lava tube caves, sandstone bluffs, and hiking trails. While some may see a desolate environment, people have been adapting to and living in this extraordinary terrain for generations. Come discover the land of fire and ice!

The Pinal Pioneer Parkway, Arizona

Springtime along Pinal Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Pinal Pioneer Parkway connected Tucson and Phoenix in the years before Interstate 10 was built. Now a little-traveled back road, it’s a much more picturesque route than the main highway. The parkway itself is a 42 mile-long stretch of Arizona State Highway 79, beginning in the desert uplands on the north slope of the Santa Catalina Mountains at about 3,500 feet and wending northward to just above 1,500 feet outside the little town of Florence.

Along Pinal Parkway © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The parkway is marked with signs pointing out some of the characteristic desert vegetation—saguaro, for instance, and mesquite. Pack a picnic lunch and stop at one of the many roadside tables. Stop at the Tom Mix Memorial, 23.5 miles north of Oracle Junction, at mile post 116, to pay your respects to the late movie cowboy.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota

Theodore Roosevelt National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A social distancing-friendly destination, Theodore Roosevelt National Park in the colorful North Dakota badlands is a great place for hiking, camping, and sightseeing. Bison roam throughout the North and South units of the park and most visitors can see them as they drive along the park roads. Deer, elk, feral horses, longhorns, pronghorns, coyotes, and even bobcats can also be seen in various parts of the park.

Worth Pondering…

As Yogi Berra said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.”