How 3 Families Are Planning COVID-Safe Summer Vacations

Family vacation during COVID-19.

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Key Takeaways

  • Families with children not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccination are still carefully considering the risk factors associated with travel.
  • Roadtrips are an increasingly popular choice as people avoid flying.
  • Outdoor activities help create a semblance of normalcy for families.

Any other year, kids would be counting down the days to summer and looking forward to family vacations. But this year, many parents are still struggling to decide whether to travel or not.

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine received FDA authorization for children between 12 and 15 on May 10. But those younger than 12 have little to no chance of getting vaccinated before the 2021-2022 school year begins.

So what are parents doing? Weighing their options. Many are debating whether to opt for domestic flights or road trips and figuring out ways to incorporate the outdoors into their activities.

Verywell spoke to three families about their summer travel plans and how they decided on their itinerary.

Delaying Vacations

Travel blogger Melissa Conn isn't just a summer traveler. She and her family hit the road for two years from 2017 to 2019 and documented their journey on their blog, Since the pandemic hit, they've kept activities close to their home in Ohio.

But the travel bug never died—it simply hibernated out of caution. Both Conn and her husband are fully vaccinated, but her two children, ages 6 and 9, aren't eligible. They've decided to now venture a bit further from home, with plans to go to Alaska in August.

Although they spent two years traveling around the world, Conn says they made a point of staying domestic this year for many reasons.

"Our lives aren't flexible enough to accommodate the potential to stay abroad longer if one of us was to test positive," Conn tells Verywell. "There's so much instability concerning borders opening and closing, and we just don't want to subject ourselves to that."

Their domestic trip to Alaska will focus on outdoor adventures like hiking and fishing. They've dreamed of heading to the state for quite a while, and when they found $200 airline tickets, they decided to take a calculated risk and booked the refundable tickets for later in the summer.

"We feel like the more we delayed into the summer, the more likely it is that things will be well controlled," Conn says. "Our kids won't be vaccinated at that point, but since they are back in school now, they can wear their masks for seven hours a day so that they will be fine on the flight."

Once there, they plan to stay COVID cautious and continue social distancing, dining outdoors, and exploring the outdoors for nine days.

Driving Instead of Flying

For Kansas City resident Andrew Klement and his 15-year old daughter, Alyx, the outdoors are also calling—this time across the great plains to Colorado. Instead of flying the short distance to Denver, the duo will be driving to Boulder to vacation with extended family. Additionally, Alyx will be driving to Colorado for a youth missions trip with her church.

"Once you account for time in the airport, it's not really much of a time savings to fly," Klement tells Verywell. "Now, with the youth group, she'll be going with a much larger group, but I expect that they will be following the same protocols that they would in Kansas City, if not the stricter standards of Colorado."

Klement says that they chose their destinations based on proximity and outdoor options. Although he is slightly concerned about his daughter traveling with a group, he says the church enforces every precaution, including only holding meetings outside. He expects these safety precautions to extend to the trip.

What This Means For You

After a long year, this summer feels like the first time it's safe to venture beyond your home. Only you can gauge what level of risk is appropriate for your family. Many families choose outdoor, active vacations that feel a little more normal for their kids while they wait for vaccines to be approved.

Prioritizing Outdoor Activities

Rachel Ciordas, a Kansas City-based entrepreneur and cooking instructor, recently upgraded her car to a minivan in anticipation of frequent summer road trips with her husband, Ionut, and sons Adam, 9, and Nicholas, 6.

The Ciordas family is no stranger to social distancing. They've been extra vigilant during the pandemic because of their preexisting conditions: Ionut is a cancer survivor, and their son, Nicholas, is diagnosed with Celiac disease. Asthma can be a common side effect of celiac disease, so Ciordas says their family isn't taking chances with other respiratory illnesses. Both Rachel and Ionut are fully vaccinated.

For the summer, the family plans on embarking on many short trips around the region and one larger road trip to the Black Hills in South Dakota. They will either camp or stay in rented vacation homes where they can isolate themselves. Sticking to outdoor activities not only keeps the children safe, Ciordas tells Verywell, but it also lowers her childrens' anxiety about being exposed to the virus.

"I don't know how they know what they do," Ciordas says. "They must absorb it from TV or radio, but they are very aware of the vaccine and that they can't get it yet."

They intentionally chose the Black Hills because outdoor activities are the norm for the area and wouldn't feel out of the ordinary.

"We didn't choose to go to New York City or Chicago," Ciordas says. "We didn't choose places where we would normally have gone to a museum or other enclosed space. Focusing on the outside makes it feel more normal."

With family out of the country in Romania, Ciordas says they would love to travel internationally but feels that the risks are too high. And after a year of homeschooling for the boys, Ciordas says limiting the time they need to wear a mask makes their trip feel more like a vacation and less like something they need to endure.

The information in this article is current as of the date listed, which means newer information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

By Rachel Murphy
Rachel Murphy is a Kansas City, MO, journalist with more than 10 years of experience.