Why the pod vacation trend is taking off

Mar 26, 2021

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As COVID-19 vaccination rates increase across the United States and other countries reopen their borders, many Americans are itching to travel. And taking a so-called pod vacation could be a safe way to venture back into a familiar travel routine.

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From the early days of the pandemic, households have balanced the epidemiological need to physically distance themselves from others with the psychological need to socialize and joined together with one or two other households to form a slightly larger social bubble. While terms like “germ circle” and “quaran-team” may have had their day in the sun, “pod” is the name that stuck around.

Of course, pods only work if there’s a high level of trust among everyone included. Oftentimes, the group will agree to a set of health and safety standards that everyone involved must uphold. Those might include regular testing for COVID-19, not sharing food and restrictions around seeing people outside the group indoors or unmasked.

As people get vaccinated, those pods can broaden to include other vaccinated people or even unvaccinated family members who are at low risk for contracting COVID-19.

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What is a pod vacation?

A pod vacation takes the parameters of pod living and applies them to travel. A contained group — whether unrelated couples, families or groups of friends — will take a trip together and continue to uphold the aforementioned standards of COVID-19 safety. The only difference is they’re in a new place.

Accommodations play a major factor in pod vacationing. In addition to getting away to fresh surroundings, the place must allow a travel group to gather safely and away from others. Popular options include Airbnbs or vacation rentals, boat charters, private guided tours, a small hotel buyout or camping at national parks.

In other words: Places that allow the group to remain insular and minimize their risk of intermingling with others.

Of course, in many settings, there are still staff members your group may interact with. Plus, there’s getting there: Some groups may decide to drive, while other pods are comfortable flying while taking all safety precautions.

If a group feels comfortable enough to fly, they can reduce risks by agreeing to follow proper post-flight quarantine guidelines in addition to the pod’s previously agreed-upon protocols.

Pod vacation packages

(Photo courtesy of Grand Hyatt Baha Mar.)

Some tour companies, hotels and resorts have recognized the growing trend and jumped to accommodate pod vacations at all price points.

Within the continental U.S., the quirky, one-of-a-kind Roxbury at Stratton Falls in the Catskills offers buyouts of their film-inspired cottages. The “Archaeologist’s Digs” cottage, for instance, goes for $4,100 per week and comprises a kitchen, three bedrooms, two bathrooms and a private outdoor seating area. From their rooms, guests are a short walk to hiking trails.

Then there’s the lively W South Beach, which  is offering new, high-end standalone bungalows to pod travelers. Each two-bedroom residence offers a private entrance, plunge pool, kitchen, rooftop garden, outdoor shower and three floors of living space. All needs — from groceries to takeout — can be delivered to your door. Of course, it’s spring break season so rooms are pricey at about $4,500 per night in April.

Venture farther south to Nassau, in the Bahamas, and you can find 1,000 acres of outdoor space at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar. This oceanfront oasis provides travel pods extra privacy with a multi-bedroom luxury suite in The Reserve, the resort’s hotel-within-a-hotel concept with a private entrance and 24/7 butler service. Pods will have a full kitchen, separate living area, washer and dryer, and a balcony with ocean views. Prices in April start at $1,829 a night for a two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bathroom unit.

At the Banyan Tree Mayakoba, an eco-resort in Mexico’s Riviera Maya, travel pods can book new two- and three-bedroom pool villas from around $1,400 per night for a group of four. Each residence features its own heated pool and are walking distance to the beach. Guests can prepare meals themselves, or arrange for a personal chef.

(Photo courtesy of Banyan Tree Mayakoba)

And The Ritz-Carlton Residences Waikiki Beach has two-, three- and four-bedroom residential-style layouts offering expansive pod living in the heart of Oahu’s Waikiki Beach. When groups book these residences, they gain access to the resort’s Pod Travel Concierge who can provide services such as stocking the swanky kitchens; planning socially distanced group activities and excursions; and arranging private, in-suite chefs to whip up dinner and cocktails for the pod. Three-bedroom, three-bathroom units are available in May starting at $2,970 per night.

Bottom line

Pod vacations may be a viable way for some people to gather with friends and loved ones while maintaining COVID-19 safety protocols. Just make sure to do your due diligence to ensure everyone in your group is following the same guidelines and avoid traveling to destinations where infection rates are high and local health resources are overburdened. Destinations that cater to, and are centered around, outdoor activities continue to be your best bet.

If you rent a house, ask the property manager about what safety precautions they are taking to sanitize the space between groups. If you choose a hotel or resort, check the website for updated health and safety protocols.

Featured image courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton Residences, Waikiki Beach

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