Safe-r Family Vacations for Summer 2020

Based on the latest news and early reports from the road, ROAM presents its picks for “less-risky” trip ideas for Americans traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Maryann Jones Thompson


After a spring spent quarantined at home, its no wonder that many parents are desperate to leave behind Zoom calls and online schooling and get away from their shelters.

A study from Longwoods International says Americans’ feet are indeed getting more itchy: Now 60 percent of those surveyed plan to travel by July – but only 1 percent plan to go international. 

While it might be possible to travel, it won’t be a great year for it. It’s important to think through whether you and your family are up for the challenges that traveling during a pandemic can present. Check ROAM’s pre-COVID-19 travel checklist to be sure you’ve thought through all the potential pitfalls you might encounter. 

The good news? There is still a lot of summer fun to be safely enjoyed – even during the pandemic.  This Washington Post article summed up the latest safety guidelines for various summer activities. Swimming is fine. Outdoor eating is fine. Lodging is probably fine. 

The bottom line? You catch the virus from people, not places. Therefore, aiming for uncrowded destinations and areas is the best way to protect you and your family wherever you might be.   For example, swimming pools are fine but socializing on crowded pool decks and waiting in line at the restrooms are risky.

3 Cautions for Coronavirus Travel

Here are three areas of pandemic travel concern, regardless of the trip you take. 

  1. Restrooms are the one consistently odorous issue for families on the road. Some parents have reported success by outfitting their minivans with a camp toilet to avoid public restrooms altogether! 
  2. It’s also critical to wear masks and maintain social distancing wherever you go – kids too! If you live somewhere that does not require this personal protective equipment (PPE), practice wearing it before you get there to be sure you have climate-friendly masks and compliant kids. California just required face masks state-wide and other destinations are doing the same. If you don’t want to wear PPE, you can’t travel. It’s a dealbreaker.
  3. Finally, be sure your destination wants tourists. The Longmont survey said only 40 percent of U.S. respondents were ready to welcome visitors to their communities. It is always a bummer to travel somewhere and feel unwelcome when you arrive. Wearing PPE will reduce hostility from locals but it is a legitimate concern given many of these summer holiday spots do not have enough hospital capacity to treat virus patients.

Family Trip Ideas for COVID-19 

ROAM editors have been tracking travel news and gathering reports from parents who are already traveling during the pandemic. Based on the latest information, here are the types of family vacations that will work best in summer 2020.

Drive-ing. Road trips are definitely THE vacation of summer 2020 for most families choosing to leave home. Reports from parents already on the road are mixed. While it feels great getting out and away, pandemic traveling comes with unexpected pitfalls: unmaintained/crowded restrooms, closed establishments, “no vacancies,” and higher-than-usual prices.  Click here to find ROAM’s list of road trips.

Airbnb-ing. Because hotels were not given the okay to reopen until more recently, rental inventory is very tight and/or very expensive in popular destinations.  The good news is that if summer=pool for your family, it is still possible to just pick a sunny spot, check Airbnb and VRBO, and find a rental with a backyard pool. It might not be an epic resort but if your kids are little, they won’t know the difference 😉 

Lodge-ing.  It really isn’t the year for stays at big resorts or hotels, in my opinion. The smaller the better this summer. Properties are working hard to sanitize rooms between guests so be prepared for check in to take longer. Staying away from lobbies and other common areas as much as possible will reduce your family’s virus risk considerably.

RV-ing.  Every child’s dream road trip involves a motorhome.  Heck, most kids won’t care if you don’t even drive it anywhere; just park it in your driveway and have sleepovers! Rentals are already very difficult to get for this year, but don’t give up! Ask a friend with an RV if you can borrow it or check Craigslist for used ones.  Or it’s possible to try a Juicy-type van for a smaller but equally exciting vehicle-based getaway. Check out ROAM’s tale of driving an Airstream around Oregon by Cullen Wiginton – it proves we can all become “trailer people.” 

Fly-ing Even thought most families say they feel safer in a car-based summer vacation this year, experts say flying might be just as safe, depending on what your’re doing when you drive/fly. Safely traveling by air means flying direct, masking-up the entire time you’re on board (kids too), and splurging on Ubers or taxis to-and-from the airport.

Camp-ing Reservations booked up fast at national park campgrounds as they reopened with lower capacities. State parks are a better option but still filling up fast. For more inventory and less people, try Hipcamp and Campendium to get a spot on private land. You’ll have the place to yourself!

Raft-ing With the entire experience held outdoors, it is a great time to take a rafting trip. ROAM’s trip through Hell’s Canyon was the perfect combo of river and camping – with delicious food to boot. OARS is also operating its rafting adventures with COVID-19 precautions. 

Houseboat-ing If this always sounded fun, check out the possibilities on not only Lake Shasta and Lake Powell but lesser-known lakes like New Melones. After leaving the typically crowded marina, your family can find a cove to yourself for sun, swimming, and fishing.

Backpack-ing. If you’ve been itching to get a pack on your back again, this is the summer to do it. You won’t find a less crowded, more outdoor option for traveling. Need inspiration? Check this list of the best backpacking trips from Backpacker

Yacht-ing. If you’ll spend anything to travel this summer and you’re not afraid of flying to the start of your trip, consider chartering a yacht or sailboat in the Caribbean. You’ll have it all to yourselves and you can anchor in secluded spots. Nancy Van Winter of Envy Yacht Charter says the U.S. Virgin Islands are now open and that the Bahamas will open in July. Yachting is a great option if you’ve got access to a private plane 😉 Today’s charter contracts include COVID-friendly cancellation clauses, as well.

International-ing If you’re hell-bent on heading overseas, good luck! The entire EU won’t take Americans now – heck, New York doesn’t even want Californians! If you can find an international destination that’ll take you, be ready to quarantine for 14 days in a hotel of that government’s choosing. And with all the intrepid travelers in the world funneled into a small number of countries, there’ll be crazy crowds when you arrive.

While most of the world is firmly closed to Americans, Travel & Leisure published a list of the countries that WILL accept us. Ready for it? Lots of Caribbean isles, Serbia, Tanzania and Mexico if you fly in (as of July 1, 2020.) Britons have a lot more choices (see Wanderlust UK’s tracker here.) 

Cambodia recently amended their announcement about welcoming tourists, now allowing only visitors who can pay a $3,000 deposit upon entry for coronavirus testing and care if you get sick. The deposit also includes $1,500 to be put toward your burial if you die while visiting the Khmer kingdom 🙁


Maryann Jones Thompson  – June 2020

ROAM Founder & Editor   

After a thousand years in publishing as a business journalist, ghostwriter, content strategist and market researcher, Maryann brings her experience traveling as a backpacker, businessperson, expat and mom to writing and editing for ROAM.

© ROAM Family Travel 2020 – All rights reserved


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