What Will Travel Be Like This Summer?

Like a bear emerging from hibernation, many of us are taking our first steps outside for the first time in weeks, eager to shed our quarantine garb and travel again

Will this be a normal summer? Definitely not! The #stayhome brigades are shaming travelers but summer travel may be what the country needs. With the traditional start of the summer travel season—Memorial Day weekend—behind us, what can we expect from the travel industry?

La Connor, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you choose to travel by air, expect higher fares and new procedures at the airport before you even board your flight. More than 6,100 planes are currently parked on runways from coast to coast. Many of those planes will not be returning.

Montpelier, Vermont © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Travelers should be prepared for something new at the airport: Temperature checks for every departing passenger in hopes of preventing those with COVID-19 from boarding. What’s still being decided is whether the TSA or individual airlines will conduct the checks. Either way, expect to be charged an extra fee to pay for them.

Gloucester, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s also a logistical problem that will need to be addressed. If you’re going to practice social distancing, and everybody has to get their temperature taken, there are some airports that are worried that the lines might stretch more than a mile.

Upper Colorado Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The warm greeting you’re used to receiving when you arrive at a hotel will likely be out the window. The idea of having contact with a bellman, or room service, or any other human being is getting withdrawn. Expect the check-in process to be done online. Some hotels already allow you to unlock your door with your phone.

Luling, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For the hotels to create an image in which you feel safe and secure, they’ve put the word hospital back in hospitality. For instance, Hilton Hotels have partnered with the Mayo Clinic to create a branded cleaning process for its rooms. When it comes to housekeeping, staff will not enter your room unless you make a request. Hotels still offering room service will leave your meal outside your door for you to bring inside.

Gaffney, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many things you’re used to finding in a hotel room will likely disappear. Pens, paper, magazines, that extra pillow that used to be in the closet, coat hangers—kiss them goodbye. Necessary items such as the TV remote, the telephone handset, and water glasses will likely be enclosed in some kind of wrapping with a seal.

Applegate River Valley, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s hard to forget the awful stories of cruises wrecked by the coronavirus earlier this year including that of the Diamond Princess which was quarantined for two weeks in a harbor in Japan. The cruise lines have a very steep hill to climb based just on optics and public perception. They have a problem because a lot of folks think of a cruise ship as nothing more than a floating petri dish.

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A no-sail order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expires at the end of June but cruise lines are required to submit a detailed anti-coronavirus plan to the CDC for approval to sail again. Few cruises—if any—will likely happen during the remainder of this year but expect a turnaround next year as people who love cruises are very loyal.

Woodstock, New York © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cruise ships which emphasize loads of shared experiences need to make major changes. Expect to see them change with limits of people in the pools and the Jacuzzis and a buffet in which you will never go near the food. You will point to what you want, and a uniformed staff member will plate it for you. Prices may not increase initially because the focus will be on getting passengers to return. But eventually, prices will likely rise.

Waterboro, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meanwhile, demand for recreational vehicles, whether to buy or rent, will go through the roof. Families will want to travel together and an RV gives them the opportunity to be in their own self-contained quarantine-mobile, if you will, to rediscover their own country.

Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many families will stock up on groceries ahead of their RV trips so they don’t have to stop at any restaurants along the way. Camping will be big at the national and state park level. State parks will be rediscovered because the national parks will be full. You can count on that.

Custer State Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wherever you live you have many options. Take a look at the map and consider a 3- or 400-mile radius from where you live. You will be surprised at what’s available that’s not crowded and will offer a wonderful travel experience at an affordable cost.

Medora, North Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Aim for a small town that doesn’t have big high-rise hotels, theme parks, or a crowded beach. Social distancing is almost the definition of a small town anyway. You’ll learn about American history, you can go antiquing, and you’ll have a better chance of having a better experience within the boundaries of what’s acceptable social distancing.

Midway, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

There is nothing permanent except change.

—Heraclitus, ancient Greek philosopher 

Quarantine on Wheels: Families Turn to RVs to Save Their Summer Travel Plans

The summer getaway theme of 2020 is staying safe, healthy, and in control

It’s become clear that far-flung international travel isn’t going to be as common as it once was for quite some time. Four-hour wait times to get on a plane will be the norm with as much as twice that to get out of the airport when you arrive. That’s before you take into account that most international travel will require 14-day quarantine on arrival and once you return home or consider which borders will to be open to tourists from our continent. (For example, it’s looking more and more like Europe will only allow internal tourism for the rest of the year.)

Katy Lake RV Resort, Katy, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With international travel pretty much off the books for the rest of 2020, it’s time to look to the highways and byways of the good ol’ US of A to get your travel fix (assuming you’re lucky enough to get a couple weeks of vacation this year and feel able to afford it). That means the Great American Road Trip is back in a big way. A chance to see the ever-changing nation in a time of massive upheaval, use your tourist dollars to support struggling communities, and get a little elbow room as quarantine winds down. A chance to stay socially distanced without going stir-crazy.

Along Newfound Gap Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

According to a recent GasBuddy survey 36 percent of respondents are canceling trips that require flying and 24 percent plan to make shorter trips by distance. 31 percent are planning to take a road trip. Not to mention, gas prices are the cheapest they’ve been in almost 20 years, AAA says.  

Edisto Beach State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s not a surprise that summer vacation will look at lot different this year but perhaps what no one saw coming was the rise of RV travel. A recent survey of 4,000 U.S. and Canadian residents by KOA showed the pandemic sparking interest in camping especially among first-timers and younger generations. 

Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“Once it is safe to travel, it’s likely the camping market will get a greater share of leisure travelers’ trips in 2020,” reads the May 11 report measuring the effects of COVID-19 on the campground industry. (The study showed camping drawing 16 percent of leisure travelers for the rest of 2020, up from 11 percent before the pandemic.)

Monahans Sandhills State Park, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In March, as RV buyers evaporated and manufacturing plants—mostly in northeastern Indiana—closed, the RV industry pivoted toward crisis management. Dealers and manufacturers sent vehicles across the country for use as isolation units, housing for critical health care workers, command centers, and mobile testing labs. 

Along Highway 12 Scenic Byway, Utah © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

California ordered 1,309 to house the sick should hospitals be overwhelmed. Louisiana state police ordered nearly 100 for command posts. A dealer in Texas sent RVs across the state to municipalities. Florida health officials retrofitted RVs as rolling testing labs. 

Bird Island Basin Campground, Padre Island National Seashore, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 418 businesses that make up the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association pushed federal and state lawmakers to keep RV manufacturers and dealers open as essential businesses to meet this new demand. 

The generally accepted plan for reviving the country’s tourism industry starts with people traveling closer to home. It’s not likely vacationers will be jumping in planes anytime soon, so the RV industry is hoping more people start looking at self-contained motorhomes and trailers as a way to vacation while distancing and controlling their own environments. 

Wind Creek Casino RV Park, Atmore, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV production was strong in January and February with shipments pacing ahead of 2019. Even after the collapse in mid-March, the RV association reported a slight increase in shipments for the first three months of 2020 over last year. After a dormant April, the industry is seeing a revival in May, driven in large part by a surge in demand for RV rentals.

Capitol City RV Park, Montgomery, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The 3,000-plus members of the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds in recent years have seen a majority of their RV visitors traveling within 150 miles of their homes. This most certainly will be the case going forward in the age of COVID-19.

Tom Sawyer RV Park, West Memphis, Arkansas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The association’s latest survey of private campground owners estimates there are more than 1.2 million private campsites across the country and owners plan to add more than 60,000 this year. Private campground owners are preparing for wary visitors by scripting specific plans for cleaning, disinfecting, and maintaining distancing. Most communal facilities including pools, gyms, and game rooms remain closed.

The MotorCoach Resort, Chandler, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As restrictions begin to ease we will see people get outside, stay closer to home, and be as safe as possible. The RV is a self-contained way for them to do that.

It’s like everyone was in a holding pen and as things begin to open up, there is a definite and growing demand for RVs and RV travel.

Rio Grande Bend Golf and RV Resort, El Centro, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Happy (and safe) adventuring!

Worth Pondering…

Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course, of action and follow it to an end requires courage.

—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Why NOW is the Best Time to Plan Your Travel Bucket List

Have you been dreaming of destinations that you’d like to be quarantined in?

As we travel again, having had time to consider how much we miss traveling and exploring, will we do anything differently? Will we make better use of our time by ensuring that our travels have a defined goal in mind?

I posed the above question in an earlier post titled, Why Do You Travel? Many of us, I suggest, travel for the wrong reasons, putting the ‘where’ ahead of the ‘why’. We have a perfect opportunity to change all that with a new travel paradigm.

Ocean Drive, Newport, Rhode Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A renewed and surging interest in travel suggests that many people (including myself) are starving for travel and as it becomes safe to travel again, many of us will embrace it— and we should. But will we travel better than before?

Audubon Swamp Garden, Charleston, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This pandemic is not the first major disruption to travel and besides other outbreaks from SARS and Swine Flu to MERS and Ebola there have been volcanic eruptions, terrorist attacks, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, tornados, and wildfires. But because this is so widespread and long lasting, I for one will emerge with a newfound sense of seizing the moment.

World’s Only Corn Palace, Mitchell, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Life is short enough without one not knowing when the next shoe will drop. A lesson to be learned is that if there are things you want to do in your life, you should put a plan in place and Just Do It.

In terms of travel, this is not a new idea since the pandemic. Each trip we create is by definition unique. What all of our trips share in common is the belief that any journey worth taking should be a rich personal story set within the larger narrative of life itself.

Lady Bird Wildflower Center, Austin, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In Why Do You Travel? I concluded that in this time of reflection we can make the most of the opportunity to plan our future travels by first asking why rather than where. Because travel is so freely available we tend to rush through this question.

Fort Jackson State Historic Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The bulk of travel that puts the where ahead of the why follows a predictable blueprint that hasn’t changed since the days of the Grand Tour; we visit the Louvre, tour the Pantheon, and ride the London Eye. We do all these things automatically because they’re what you’re meant to do.

Laughlin, Nevada © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

That is why you need to think about what you really want to do and see? Create your own Bucket List and do it in multiple categories that could focus on family trips and personal passions that could include an interest in history, architecture, food and wine. Then plan a realistic timetable to accomplish your goals.

Fountain Hills, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

During the pandemic, time is the one thing we have in abundance which makes travel planning even more desirable. This forced break is the optimal time to begin planning those big trips that require considerable research and forethought. We may also see tighter restrictions in place in terms of visitors to some of the most coveted sights which makes advanced planning even more important.

Julian, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This multi-year calendar approach makes a lot of sense for many reasons. Bucket list sporting events such as the Kentucky Derby, Indy 500, Daytona 500, Masters Tournament, Rose Bowl Parade, and Superbowl benefit from booking a year out.

Daytona Beach, Florida © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition, some trips can be done by just about anyone while others require a modicum of fitness and mobility that may mandate simply not waiting too long. If you want to hike the Appalachian Trail or heli-ski in Rocky Mountains, these should be closer to the front of your list.

Fort Frederica National Monument, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But besides these logistical issues the biggest reason to plan a multi-year bucket list calendar is to ensure you do what you want to do while you’re physically able and in a way you can afford. Since the world is just too big and diverse not to explore, use some of your downtime and emerge from this crisis with a better sense of all the things you want to do and see with the time you have remaining.

Rebecca Ruth Chocolates, Frankfort, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

I have wandered all my life, and I have also traveled; the difference between the two being this, that we wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment.

—Hilaire Belloc

Will It Be Safe to Travel This Summer? Consider Your Options

People are turning to RVs to save their summer travel plans from coronavirus

Most of us have been social distancing for weeks if not months now and between coronavirus anxiety and the weather getting warmer, a getaway sounds pretty nice right about now. Dirt-cheap flights and discounted hotel deals are even more tempting when you add a little cabin fever to the mix.

Saguaro Lake, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But should you really book a summer vacation now? Whether you’ve already booked a trip or are itching to take a vacation as soon as possible, this post will answer your questions when it comes to traveling this summer, from safety measures and travel restrictions to creative alternatives.

Old Town Temecula, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When will we be able to travel? Because the situation changes every day, it’s hard to give an exact date. But right now, many countries are still experiencing severe coronavirus outbreaks and have extended their mandatory quarantines and border closures. To get a better feel for summer travel and where and when you can go, it’s best to continue checking every day as the situation develops.

Jekyll Island, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s important to take your departing location and your destination into consideration. For example, if you live in an area where things are improving but want to travel to an area where they’re not, you should consider pushing back your travel dates or changing your destination.

Yuko-En Japanese Friendship Garden, Georgetown, Kentucky © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) placed a No Sail Order on cruise ships until the end of July but could be extended even later. Given the nature of cruises—living in close quarters with thousands of people, eating buffet-style food, and not having access to major healthcare facilities, it’s safer for everyone to avoid being out at sea for the foreseeable future.

Longfellow-Evangeline State Historic Park, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This summer will be the summer of ground transportation. Both Amtrak and Greyhound are still operating and requiring employees and passengers to wear masks, providing extra sanitation methods, using a digital ticketing process, and waiving all change fees. To ensure social distancing on board, Amtrak has reduced its sales to 50 percent of its normal capacity and Greyhound is said to be operating at just 35 percent of capacity. However, workers and passengers on both train and bus companies have contracted coronavirus despite these efforts.

Hyannis Harbor, Cape Cod, Massachusetts © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Few things having to do with travel will be unchanged in the post-coronavirus world but of all the ways we travel the road trip will be least affected—at least from a regulatory standpoint.

Roosevelt State Park, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No one will tell you to wear a mask or take your temperature or demand blood work before you hit the road this summer. But questions abound about this American institution including whether it’s safe—at least safer than airline travel.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Data from MMGY Travel Intelligence in partnership with the U.S. Travel Association seems to bear this out. In a survey taken April 17-22, 47 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to travel by car, an increase from 35 percent in data collected April 4-11.

El Moro National Monument, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For all travelers, safety is a priority and many are asking whether driving is safer than flying these days. In terms of the coronavirus, probably, said Dr. Robert Winters, a Southern California infectious disease specialist.

“Car travel has to be safer than airline travel when you factor in controlled boarding/exiting processes, number of people on the airplane, unknown health status of people on the flight, uncooperative children sitting near you, etc.”

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

Paula Cannon, virologist and USC professor at the Keck School of Medicine, said that “being alone in your own car is going to be the safest way of travel.” Road trips not only provide a safe way of transportation, but allow you to choose a safer, less common destination. It’s also an inexpensive option, as gas prices are the lowest they’ve been in years. The national average has stayed under $2 per gallon during the pandemic (in some states, under 99 cents a gallon!) and is predicted to stay cheap over summer.

Welcome to what could be the year of the recreational vehicle, more commonly known as the beloved RV.

Ohio River at Marieta, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With experts predicting that any return to travel will likely start with short, domestic trips, the RV could become the go-to vehicle for travel this summer. Though the outlook for RV sales entering the year was grim—504,000 RVs were sold in 2017 and that number slipped to 364,000 last year—many dealers across the country are reporting an unexpected uptick in sales.

Cowpens National Battlefield, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As so many try to keep their distance and avoid crowds during the coronavirus pandemic, peer-to-peer RV rental company RVshare said last week bookings had increased 650 percent. The spread of COVID-19 has made air travel and public transportation mighty unpopular options while personal vehicles feel like more of a safe haven. Other recent studies have shown travelers feel more comfortable in a personal vehicle where they can control the scenario, unlike shared transportation.

Kerrville, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Americans and Canadians love the space and freedom of the outdoors and the enrichment that comes with living an active outdoor life. RVs not only enable this lifestyle, they also provide a self-contained existence that other forms of travel don’t allow.

Mount St. Helen’s National Monument, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While we wait to see what the future holds, stay safe and take a road trip this summer. Who knows, it may turn into a bucket-list trip after all.

Worth Pondering…

I hear the highway calling. It’s time for a road trip.

Quarantine Fatigue Is Real

Instead of an all-or-nothing approach to risk prevention, we need a manual on how to have a life in a pandemic

#StayHome had its moment. We urgently needed to flatten the curve and buy time to scale up health-care capacity and testing. But quarantine fatigue is real. I’m talking about those who are experiencing the profound burden of extreme physical and social distancing.

Devonian Botanical Gardens, Edmonton, Alberta © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In addition to the economic hardship it causes, isolation can severely damage psychological well-being especially for people who were already depressed or anxious before the crisis started. In a recent poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of Americans said that the coronavirus pandemic has harmed their mental health.

Colorado River from the Arizona side © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Meanwhile, most public health experts agree that a premature return to the old version of normalcy would be disastrous. States continue to lack the capacity for widespread coronavirus testing. A vaccine is months or even years away.

Amador Flower Farm, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But the choice between staying home indefinitely and returning to business as usual may be a false one. An all-or-nothing approach to disease prevention can have unintended consequences. Individuals may fixate on unlikely sources of virus transmission—the package in the mail, the runner or cyclist on the street.

Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If for you these last few months stuck in coronavirus quarantine have felt a little weird, you’re not alone. For me, April seemed to take forever. Now, in May, I can’t remember what day it is half the time. I’m starting to feel like I’m enduring a perpetual time loop, reliving the same day over and over.

Lake Wawasee, Indiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

But I’m not alone! Helen Rosner, a writer for The New Yorker, tweeted that her therapist described this weird time in our lives as “an infinite present” which feels pretty accurate. With no future plans, no anticipation of travel, or sports or summer festivals or celebrations, it’s an endless today, never tomorrow.

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There’s a name for this phenomenon: temporal disintegration, according to E. Alison Holman, PhD, a psychologist and an associate professor with the University California Irvine Sue & Bill Gross School of Nursing. And, she says, they’re a direct result of trauma.

Bay St. Louis, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“People lose track of time when the future is in question,” Dr. Holman told the University of California. “The continuity from the past to the future is gone. That’s what they are experiencing right now.”

Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In a different interview with USA Today, Dr. Holman elaborated, “For people who are staying in all the time, the days meld in all together. There’s no distinction between the work week and weekend and you lose sense of time and what time it is.”

Holmes County, Ohio © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The coronavirus pandemic has been thoroughly disrupting. Beyond creating a fear for our lives and livelihoods and the loss of our freedom to travel, it has obliterated any sense of schedule and structure we once had. What’s more, there’s no end in sight.

Lackawanna State Park, Pennsylvania © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

All this destabilization and stress can create a sensation of “time dragging by,” Ruth Ogden, PhD, senior lecturer and researcher at the school of psychology at Liverpool John Moores University in England, also told USA Today.

Edisto Island, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“This is because our sense of time is governed in part by the emotions that we experience and the actions we perform,” Dr. Ogden said. In normal life practically every hour has some sort of marker—now is when I run for the train, now is when I buy my afternoon coffee. Post-coronavirus, that’s all gone. It’s no wonder our sense of time has gone all wonky.

Rockport, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For now, my sense of time remains shaken. But I’m slowly building a new schedule which is supposed to help: getting up at the same time each morning, getting dressed (I know), working in the yard every day. Slowly, I’ll build boundaries around my days that will allow me to stop asking myself terrifying questions like, “Is time real?” Yes, it’s real (?). Today is Friday. I think.

Columbia River near Woodland, Washington © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

The place to live is in the here and now.