This might sound crazy to many, in fact it sounds pretty crazy to us when we say it out loud, but we are headed to Florida on Saturday. Say what? We, the parents who have been following the COVID rules, are willingly taking our kids to the national hotspot state of Coronavirus??? Yes. That definitely sounds crazy, but hear me out …
First of all, we booked our stay back in May. Even though I almost always prefer staying at a resort because that makes me really feel like I am on vacation, I opted for a vacation rental. I thought it would be easier for us to socially distance ourselves at a vacation rental. It is at this point that I want to make a very clear point. Another reason that I prefer hotels and resorts is that they are much more flexible with your dates (unless you book a non-refundable rate, of course). As a former owner of two vacation rentals, I completely understand why their reservations are less flexible. Vacation rental owners are relying on your stay to help pay their bills. For a hotel or a resort, you are more like a drop in their budget bucket. However, as a planner of travel, it does make it harder to roll with the punches when the need to change arises.
Many people used to say that they are fine to book a non-refundable rate or not buy travel insurance, but I think COVID has flipped the script. The key to travel planning in the future is to build trips that are flexible and use a travel advisor to help you navigate the way travel will look when we are able to travel again.
Now back to our Florida trip. I fell in love with a property that met our social distancing requirements – a standalone accommodation that would not require us to share common spaces with anyone else, with a private pool or very few homes in the community sharing a pool, and walkable to the beach. We were down to only a handful of places, and the home that was pulling at my heartstrings has a very strict cancellation policy. Thus, we are not really able to change our dates. I may have pleaded with them to postpone our dates if it was not for the fact that we are actually heading to a part of Florida with relatively few cases.
We are headed to the beaches of 30A along Florida’s panhandle. This is the cottagey, meticulously planned area around Seaside, the town featured in the movie The Truman Show. Let me quickly note that the reason we chose the vacation rental we opted for is because it has the brightly colored, cottage look that I feel like you have to experience in this area. I have been keeping up with the COVID cases in this part of Florida, and there are only 622 cases in the entire county. While Florida is a COVID hotspot, Walton County is not. Compare that to my suburb of Charlotte NC which has 1956 active cases.
I do worry about coming from a place with more cases because it shows how places less affected can become more affected quickly. The good news is that we will do all the same things we have been doing at home to try and keep safe. We plan to take it a step further while we are there and only do online grocery pickups – we will stay out of buildings as much as possible and wear masks when it can not be avoided, we will only eat outdoors, we will avoid groups of people, and we will space ourselves out by six feet outdoors. The only thing that would make me feel better is if the state had a mask mandate like North Carolina, but at least we will be wearing them. We are staying outside of Seaside proper, but I imagine we will spend a good amount of time there because it has mandated the wearing of masks in businesses in its commercial district.
I am confident in the steps we have taken and will take to reduce our risks of getting sick, while still allowing us to have a summer vacation experience. We have sacrificed a lot over the last few months, and we just need a proper vacation experience this year. I am not actively trying to sell trips for the remainder of the year. I honestly do not know when and if it is the right time to travel. I just know that my family needs a break, and I hope we are making the correct decision. If you ever just need someone to talk to about ideas for a socially distanced vacation for your family, I am happy to lend an ear.