Jan 4, 2021

Here's some ideas on how to plan a short, safe getaway in the new year


Home sweet home

Last year was the first in the past 40 that my husband and I didn't leave the United States. We haven't been on a plane since January, 2019. Our passports haven't been stamped in 14 months.

What we have come to look forward to are short two or three-night excursions within our own state of Washington or neighboring Oregon. We settle into an Airbnb, map out walks and hikes, research restaurants with outdoor seating, scout out bakeries for breakfast fixings, and make plans to connect with friends.   

These mini-breaks have bridged the gap between choosing to stay home for a year and dissing precautions and jumping on a plane to Mexico

It's important to be a responsible traveler, whether crossing the ocean or a county line. By choosing destinations and accommodations that minimize risks, we've been able to get out and explore without feeling as if we've compromised our safety or the safety of others.

Even with vaccines coming, much of what we will be able to do will depend on the situation elsewhere. Until Covid cases decline and travel restrictions ease, we may have to be content with baby steps for a while longer. 

So...if you're ready to get out, here's my advice for planning a short and safe getaway:

*Stay close to home, meaning within your state if possible. Avoid long-distance travel, and abide by state government (ie: California) restrictions for non-essential travel.

A ferry trip across the Puget Sound

Check what the Covid situation is in the area you plan to visit.  For example, we normally would like to spend a weekend snowshoeing in or around Leavenworth, a popular German-themed town in Eastern Washington. But Leavenworth is in Chelan County where the total Covid cases per 10,000 residents (627) is among the highest in the state. Leavenworth also tends to attract crowds. This winter, we'll choose instead to go to a county close to the Mount Baker ski area where the cases (160) are much lower, and fewer people go.

*We choose Airbnbs over hotels, mainly because by booking self-contained units such as mother-in-law apartments or backyard cottages, we cut the risks associated with indoor lobbies, elevators, hallways etc. used by many people at the same time.

We used to book Airbnbs that were rooms, often suites with private baths, inside people's homes. We avoid those now in favor of detached units with kitchens.

Hotels may have the advantage when it comes to professional cleaning protocols, but this is less of an issue now that Covid is believed to be spread mostly through aerosols rather than by touching surfaces.

Nevertheless, most Airbnb hosts adhere to Airbnb’s enhanced cleaning protocol—a set of standards developed by Airbnb with health and hospitality experts for COVID-19 times and beyond. Some leave the unit empty a day or two between guests. Check on their policy if this is a concern. We bring our own pillows.

* Research restaurants ahead of time to identify those with outdoor patios, heaters etc. Make sure the Yelp or TripAdvisor reviews you consult are up-to-date (Many are not due to Covid closings), and recheck hours and menu changes. Limited seating may mean reservations are required, and there might be a time limit on occupying the table. 

We usually bring our own fixings for one dinner, and scout out a restaurant with outdoor seating for the other. Booking a table earlier rather than later guarantees you'll encounter fewer people. We recently enjoyed a lovely 4:30 p.m. (It's dark by then in the Pacific Northwest) on the patio of the charming Nell Thorn restaurant in the waterside village of La Conner. Few of the tables were occupied. 

*We're all feeling like we'd like to connect more with our out-of-town friends. Booking an Airbnb close to where they live rather than staying with them is an option that works well during Covid. 

It's not wise to gather indoors at the moment, but we can make plans to connect for walks, coffee or backyard picnics or patio dinners when the weather cooperates. 

This worked out well for us over New Year's when we booked an Airbnb a mile from the home of friends on Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

Happy New Year!

Bundled up with jackets, hats and wearing fingerless gloves, we enjoyed homemade dinners and wine on their outdoor deck, warmed by flames from a potbelly gas heater.