The joy of booking new, realistic summer getaways

May 5, 2020

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There’s been an almost incomprehensible amount of loss in the last few months. Some losses were as large as they come, to the tune of tens of thousands of fatalities due to coronavirus, in this country alone. Millions of others lost their jobs, their income, their livelihoods and more as the world as we knew it quickly ground to a halt.

While nothing compares to the loss of life, health or home, there were plenty of smaller losses, too. The canceled graduations, proms, missed final special months of preschool, time with classmates, spring recitals, end-of-year performances, weddings, competitions, business deals and more. There were also missed spring break trips, canceled family vacations, postponed honeymoons and, now, summer vacations face an uncertain future.

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Like many of you, our biggest family trips for the year are booked in the summer months. While we squeeze in getaways whenever we can, our longer, farther, more involved trips typically occur in the summer months when the kids have a few months off from school. This summer, we had booked a multigeneration trip to explore the great outdoors (OK, and some stays at swanky Fairmont properties) in Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise areas in early June.

After some time back at home, the plan was to end the summer with another multigeneration trip across Scotland and Ireland. Neither of those trips will happen this summer.

Missing out on those adventures is not a life-changing loss, but it’s still a real loss that layers on top of everything else.

Normally, I get through harder moments by looking forward to something special, fun or exciting. While that something isn’t always travel-related, it serves as a beacon for me and it is indeed often a trip I’m counting down to. Everything about coronavirus’ impact on life was hard, but having no future change in routine or location to look forward to certainly didn’t make it easier, to say the least.

Related: Why we miss travel so much, according to psychologists 

A week or so ago, that started to change. We were staring at the normally busy summer that instead was filled with … nothing. No camps, no big family vacations, no guarantee we can even swim in our regular local pools. It was just an empty calendar of what are sure to be oppressively hot summer months. Staying safe is the most important job we have this summer but after months of sheltering in place, we wanted at least something to look forward to.

So, after canceling the trips that are now a poor match for our modern reality, we planned two new summer trips we think we can actually take to places we ordinarily don’t seriously consider for summer vacations. These newly planned summer vacations hit all the hallmarks that are likely to become the unexpected travel trends of summer 2020.

The getaways are not big, drawn-out or international. There are no flights or hotels involved, and the destinations aren’t more than a few hours from home. The trip components that, pre-COVID19, could sometimes make the getaways feel not that exciting now make them the seemingly perfect post-quarantine changes of scenery.

Related: How coronavirus could change the future of travel

Instead of darting off this summer using our miles to Scotland, Ireland and Banff, we planned two road trips across our home state of Texas.

The first trip we booked was a beach house rental less than two hours away from home in Galveston. Call me snobby, but historically I’ve been keener on the beaches of Hawaii, Caribbean, Bora Bora and the Maldives than Galveston. It’s usually just my mom who takes my oldest daughter to Galveston each summer for a day or two since my mom is a massive fan of the Texas Gulf Coast. They go, have a grand time, get a little sunburn, buy all the things at the Dollar Store on the way and I have the luxury of hearing all about it when they get back home.

I mention that because it is my 10-year-old daughter who prompted the first whole new itinerary. Galveston was briefly mentioned in another context and she immediately lit up like a twinkling Christmas tree and asked if we were going there. At first, the answer was “no.” But it quickly became, well, maybe, as it was clear that the destination had the potential to be a spiritual boost that she (and all of us) needed.

Related: 7 trips to take while avoiding the crowds 

(Photo by Cavan Images/Getty Images)
(Photo by Cavan Images/Getty Images)

We quickly set three rules to ease our socially distanced-minded parameters — we wanted our own home rental, it needed a private pool (in case the beach was overrun) and it needed a fair cancellation policy. What we found blew me away. Galveston’s water is not that of Bora Bora, but the area is filled with absolutely gorgeous rental homes that are just steps away from the beach. And while not all of them have easy cancellation policies or private pools, some do. Plus, the waves of the ocean sound the same no matter where you are.

Related: Finding the perfect home rental for your trip

Our (new) July getaway was secured. But then, as Texas has recently eased restrictions, I’ve seen some pretty alluring spots posted on friends’ Facebook pages as they begin to leave their homes. July is still a long way away, so my thoughts turned to June. If things go OK as Texas eases the restrictions, we hope to get away for a few days next month … applying the same guidelines of being able to rent our own space, choosing a destination within reasonable driving distance and with a heavy reliance on outdoor recreation and activities.

Jacobs Well in the Texas Hill Country (Photo by Wells/Getty Images)
Jacobs Well in the Texas Hill Country. (Photo by Wells/Getty Images)

The second booking we made — that is actually now planned for several weeks before the first — will take us to the Texas Hill Country. We again used VRBO to lock in a long weekend at our own cabin, this time staying right on a river that will be great for splashing during the day and crafting the perfect campfire at night.

For now, our newly planned Texas summer road trips are short, sweet and simple. There are no flights, passports, theme parks, upgrades, room service breakfasts, concierge lounges or kid clubs on the agenda.

In a pre-COIVD19 world, our originally planned international trips would have been very special in their own ways. I hope we make it to all of those places in the not too distant future. But, with our newly reset priorities and parameters, I’m 4,000% excited about our new, back to basics plans in my home state.

Related: Which credit cards give bonus points for home rentals

While the similar spots that are near you may likely be different from these, the odds are very high than alluring spots are waiting within a two- to four-hour drive of your home. Not all of the country will be ready for these sorts of trips at the same time, but now is a great time to start looking forward and finding the drivable spots near you that are likely just as special as the ones that you may typically travel further to visit. The state parks, national parks, campsites, creeks, streams, hills, vistas, lakes, mountains, flatlands, forests, fields and more are out there waiting for the time to be right for you to come and enjoy.

The allure of that passport stamp, the exotic destination, the points-fueled overwater bungalow and the unknown calls strongly, at times. But right now, packing our cooler with snacks at home, bringing some Lysol wipes, fueling up the car with gas, grabbing some firewood along the way and experiencing more of the natural beauty within arms’ reach of home still sounds like a summertime dream. But regardless of how the trips do — or don’t — ultimately work out, our moods are undeniably lifted just by having something to look forward to, something to break up the days.

Booking these new summer trips is a small thing, but it’s a small thing that gives us an outsized dose of hope.

Featured image by Perry Mastrovito/Getty Images

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