The pandemic put a real damper on our spring and summer plans, and the reality is that we still need to continue taking necessary precautions as we venture into fall and winter. Luckily, there are certainly ways to venture outside of the house with minimal risk of catching or spreading coronavirus. The key is to wear your masks and to avoid crowded, enclosed spaces.
“The risk of viral transmission is lower outdoors than indoors, as the air either evaporates or denatures the viral particles, making them ineffective,” explains public health expert Carol Winner, MSE, MPH. “According to researchers, just social distancing without masks is not enough. Together, with the added protection of being outside, your risk is much lower—almost at 90 percent.”
If you’re itching for some adventure, grab your mask and consider one of these fun fall travel ideas.
Take a sweet road trip
Driving is one of the safest ways to get around this fall—even if you have to rent a vehicle. “Car rental companies have mastered safety measures by minimizing person-to-person contact by using mobile apps to check in and out, sanitizing vehicles, and requiring employees to wear masks and social distance,” says Winner. You can make a day of your road trip and venture back home that evening, or even consider camping. If you’re not really a camper, Winner says to opt for cabins, bungalows, bed and breakfasts, or boutique hotels versus large chains. Remember to always check for any state quarantine requirements at your destination and to always pack food for your journey, as many are closed or have limited service.
Explore a national park (or two)
If you had your international travel plans squashed in the last six months, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there’s natural beauty all across the world, and likely something scenic to explore within a few hours of where you live. “National parks are a great option that have lower risk. Before venturing out, we recommend that travelers make a safety pack that includes masks, wipes, hand sanitizer, and gloves that they can use throughout their stay,” says Terika Haynes, founder of luxury travel company, Dynamite Travel. “Additionally, bringing non-perishable meals can help to reduce trips to the grocery store or restaurants.” Use the National Parks Services website to discover parks near your home, and to read the parks’ operating status and procedures.
Roll into a drive-in theater
Drive-in movie theaters have popped up everywhere and they are a throwback in the best of ways. “Some drive-in theaters are even offering the option to rent a private space to ensure safety,” notes Haynes. Make sure to bring your own popcorn and a cozy blanket for good measure!
Hit the apple or pumpkin patch
Apple picking and pumpkin patches are iconic fall activities, and they’re fortunately one of the few that are still considered safe. “We recommend that travelers contact the company ahead of time to ensure that their schedule and services have not been modified. Travelers should also ask what the company is doing to keep the guests safe,” says Haynes. Ideally, visitor numbers are greatly reduced, the orchard or pumpkin patch is very large, and everyone must be required to wear masks. Bonus points for locations that require a scheduled visit.
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Book a private wine tasting
“Many wineries are now offering private sessions, which allows guests to experience less exposure to others while enjoying their wine,” says Haynes. Many are even hosting outdoors or will allow you to pick up a bottle and head to the vineyard for a socially distanced picnic. If wineries aren’t really a thing where you live, create your own wine tasting session. Pick up three to five bottles from the same winery, print out descriptions from their website, and taste away. Make it extra special by setting up a picnic in the backyard.
Channel nostalgia on a train ride
Winner says that Amtrak is “on board” with COVID-19 precautions; all passengers must wear masks, follow strict boarding and disembarking instructions, and maintain social distancing. The trains are also equipped with automated doors, and you can book a privacy room big enough for you and a friend. “Amtrak’s privacy rooms are just that—private—where you can sit without a mask and sleep on a longer journey,” says Winner. In addition to Amtrak, look into historic trains that allow you to take quick, sight-seeing trips; many are open-air. Make sure to call ahead to ensure they’re open, and do some research to make sure they’re following safety protocols.
Plan a leaf-peeping tour
Not even a pandemic can suck the joy out of the stunning autumn foliage. “This is a great activity for those who love and appreciate nature and the fall season. It’s also a fun way to combine road tripping with photography, and adventure,” says Haynes. Research the best leaf peeping spots close to you and then make a full day or weekend of it.