Just like that, another year of covid has gone by, and as I am writing this post in the first weekend of 2022, despite all the challenges and travel restrictions, we look forward to a new year of making family travel memories. Whether it is going to be on a road trip in New England or on a journey across the ocean – is still to be seen, but hopefully, there will be plenty of both!
2021 started joyfully for us as travel restrictions were being slowly lifted and our vaccine cards getting filled. We enjoyed several family vacations (including a trip abroad) and many fun weekend celebrations- before the virus did catch up with us – and our December holiday plans.
So let’s recap our 2021 travel triumphs and challenges.
In January we went to North Conway, New Hampshire on our first pandemic ski trip. Here was one place where wearing face masks felt normal!
In February, we continued our Florida winter road trip tradition. This time we discovered a West Coast gem of Marco Island on Florida’s Paradise Coast South of Naples. We also took advantage of on line working and schooling and spent a week being digital nomads in St. Augustine, Florida. We plan to be back in this charming historical city -and promise to write about it-, but we did report from our 6-hour stop-over in Savannah, Georgia on that trip.
We liked the white thick sand of Florida’s Gulf shore (and the freedom of road tripping) so much, that in April we went back for more, this time as a couple, to Miramar Beach on the Emerald Coast.
We took advantage of the adults-only trip and stopped in New Orleans for our weekend of food and music. The blog story from this colorful city, full of old-world charm is coming up soon.
In May we spent a family (rainy) weekend in New York City. That did not stop us from walking all over the city and eating outdoors as this city has more adaptable dining options than most in the US. (We went back for Thanksgiving Weekend and were able to catch a glimpse of two seasons at once!)
During summer and fall weekends– we went back to our local New England favorites- Cape Cod, the island of Martha’s Vineyard and the Berkshires. Tanglewood summer was back and we enjoyed several picnics with Boston Symphony. We also were thrilled to return to LIVE theater- with an outdoor production at Shakespeare & Co in Lenox. We stayed in the Seven Hills (a cozy motel with Gilded Age main building).
In Lenox we also discovered day passes to Spa Miraval – and can’t wait to return during warmer months to fully enjoy their beautiful outdoor space.
On Cape Cod we started what would hopefully become a new tradition- an extended family biking in Falmouth (complete with two grandmas!) celebrating my sister-in-law birthday.
Martha’s Vineyard in November to celebrate a friend’s birthday made a return.
Another happy return was a couple’s weekend in coastal Maine (we updated the post with our “discovery” of Cabbage Island clambake).
Finally, with all our domestic travel experience we were ready for our first pandemics trip abroad (also our first pandemics air travel) for my big birthday in September. We decided to go to Iceland which being a short plane ride from Boston offered something for everyone in our multi-age, multi-interest family travel group. I am finalizing my trip reports from our self-drive around Iceland in 7 days (complete with a spa visit for every day of the trip).
Now, travelling in this era of “new normal” is challenging and… far from normal. Researching ever changing travel restrictions, scheduling pre-departure covid test for the family of 5, dealing with delays caused by provider’s computer system crash, taking the video-monitored covid tests in an Icelandic hotel room in the middle of nowhere, while trying to catch the Northern Lights – was difficult. And as we feared- there were indeed the circumstances that interfered with our travel plans, like finding our that one of us was “positive” on a routine “pcr” test for our Canadian trip planned for last weekend. But as we are currently home-bound, nursing our viruses during this first weekend of 2021, we have NOT stopped hoping and planning our next travel adventure. I admit, planning a foreign trip for extended family group is next to impossible at this time, but we are hoping for ski trips with family and friends, and a multi-age extended family birthday roadtrip to Maine , and- just maybe if we are lucky- a return to Europe.
So here are a couple of tips (and lessons) on planning a family getaway at the time of covid:
- For an extended family group, stick to domestic destinations, preferably within a driving distance; Roadtrips offer the biggest flexibility. It took me a long time to get mentally ready for a foreign trip and I did say “never in the time of covid” several times as I was waiting for delayed test results during the night before our trip. There is nothing wrong with wanting to “wait” for pandemic to end before going on a foreign trip and plenty of local destinations to be enjoyed. There is a lot of uncertainty in planning a foreign trip right now and I still do not have a good answer to “what if one of us tests positive while abroad” issue. Do share if you have your tips on this!
- If you do brave a foreign trip, research official travel restrictions (usually on the government websites) and be sure to check them often (e.g. Iceland changed theirs 3 times in the last 2 months before our trip). Be ready to go fast if travel terms seem “favorable” or you just recovered from covid and could take advantage of testing “amnesty” for a couple of months.
- If covid tests are required, pay attention to the type of tests and timing requirements and book yours well in advance. We booked our pcr tests on cvs site (for free) 10 days in advance. If rapid tests are allowed, choose this option so you don’t need to depend on often unpredictable wait time. Order plenty of home self tests and test before your “official” test to possibly avoid surprises. For a return test back to the U.S. we used an abbot test purchased on emed -with video component. It worked for us in the middle of nowhere in Iceland, but you should also research rapid test options at a local pharmacy should your internet connection fail you. *Omicron update: there is currently a severe shortage of testing spots/locations.
- If you strongly prefer outdoor dining you may need to choose “warm weather” destinations or do a lot of advanced research on the subject (in some cities, like New York, an outdoor dining is a thing even during cold or rainy months, but you still need to research the places). During 2021, we spent a rainy weekend outdoor dining in New York City, a summer weekend picnicking through concerts in the Berkshires and a week bargaining with wait staff in Iceland persuading them to serve us outdoors in September.
- An unexpected benefit of overcoming family covid- is a test-free trip planning- for 3-6 months depending on a destination. Let’s see if we manage to take advantage of it!