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After stay-at-home order in Florida was lifted, our daily family life didn’t really change a whole lot. We don’t go out to eat, we avoid the local gym, and we haven’t seen our friends in months. I leave the house to shop at a grocery store, and that’s about it. For all intents and purposes, we’ve been under a stay-at-home “lite” order ever since.
That said, I’ve decided to add some occasional recreation, like our May staycation at a local beach. It wasn’t perfectly executed, but I tried. Still, when my sister-in-law has approached me with the idea of renting a cabin in Georgia mountains, my initial answer was No. I simply didn’t feel comfortable with driving for 9.5 hours, which would invariably involve several stops.
So, she asked me if she could take my kids, and I reluctantly agreed. But the more I thought about it, the more it seemed pointless. If my kids got sick, so would me and my husband. We surely can’t quarantine from them for two weeks. My in-laws live across the street and are in our social bubble.
I could tell them they can’t take the kids, but I hated the idea. They bring my MIL so much joy, and she has already lost my FIL earlier this year. So, we decided that we would all go to Georgia. Keep in mind, that was in the middle of May, when the situation in Florida was somewhat manageable.
Forward a month ahead, and the number of new cases started exploding. I was horrified to see 2k new positive tests per day. Ahh, the good old days! Anyway, we had to decide if should still go ahead with the trip. Since the cabin was non-refundable, we reluctantly went for it. Obviously, we wanted to take all the possible precautions to minimize our chances of getting infected or infecting others.
The reason I told you all of this is twofold. First, the Covid-19 situation in the country/state can change drastically within a month. Second, if you decide to make a speculative booking, make sure it’s refundable. Otherwise, get a travel insurance policy with “cancel for any reason” add-on.
Driving vs. flying
We sat down and discussed our driving plan ahead of time. We would make only three stops during our 9.5 hour drive if at all possible. Two would be to get fast food, one for gas. We would go inside and use bathroom during the stop, while wearing masks. There was no exception, masks had to be on while we were around people.
Nope, hubby, only a real mask will do!
We also made it clear to kids that we can’t linger. Go in quickly, do your “business”, get back in the car. From all the research I’ve done, fleeting encounters don’t usually pose a huge risk. It’s when you linger (mostly indoors), that’s when the danger level goes up substantially. There is a reason bars and indoor dining places are often singled out by epidemiologists.
So, in that respect, driving puts you in control of your surroundings. You can choose where to stop and you can leave if a place makes you feel uncomfortable. And you are mostly around people you know. No such thing on a plane. However, what’s often ignored is the risk of an accident while you are driving.
We actually had several close calls just on this trip alone. In addition, our tire blew out when we were 2.5 hours from home on the way back. Fortunately, we were able to pull off the interstate and safely get to a gas station. It was 9 PM, and the only place that would agree to put on a new tire was 30 minutes away. So, my husband got the spare mounted, and back on the interstate we went.
All was well, except the auto shop guy didn’t wear a mask, and I had to interact with him for at least 15 minutes. I did wear my mask, obviously. But it just shows you that things don’t always go the way you plan them during a road trip.
That’s not to say that everyone should be flying right now. I won’t be doing it until next May, at the earliest. But my point is, if you are determined to go somewhere, make sure to weigh all the pros and cons of driving vs. flying. Not everyone travels for fun, sometimes there is a family emergency. Personally, I would rather put on a mask and take my chances on a 2-hour flight than endure two days in a car. And I’m a nervous flyer.
What we did in Georgia
We rented this cabin on VRBO at a cost of $1600 for 6 nights. While not cheap, I can honestly say it’s a very good deal for what we got. The cabin was huge and had tons of room to spread out.
It had a ping pong table in the basement:
And a hot tub on the screened porch:
The absolute best part was the view (my photos don’t do it justice):
I loved watching a sunset from the loft deck:
It felt like we were in a giant/fancy treehouse. I absolutely loved having my coffee on the covered porch, and watching fireflies at night. It was relatively cool compared to Florida, and we all certainly enjoyed the change of scenery.
I definitely recommend this particular listing, with some caveats. I didn’t like the fact that the loft upstairs (where my husband and I slept) was open floor, which reduced privacy. Also, our giant windows upstairs didn’t have curtains, so the sunlight entered the room bright and early. These are not deal breakers, just something to note. Otherwise, this is a great place.
Aside from mostly hanging out at the cabin, we did some hiking at a nearby Amicalola Falls State park. There were people there, but we kept moving at all times and kept our masks on. Since we were outside, I felt relatively safe.
Speaking of, during one of the hikes, a lady behind told my MIL that masks are dangerous. She read about it online, so it must be true. My MIL politely told her she is willing to risk it. No sense in arguing with someone like that, it’s a waste of time. I’m certain that this lady is also warning everyone willing to listen that a Covid-19 vaccine is just a plot from Bill Gates to insert a microchip.
Unfortunately, as long as this sentiment exists (and we are talking 30% of US population here), travel will be tricky during Covid-19 era. I don’t want to put people down because some are genuinely misinformed. These folks also lack critical thinking ability. They don’t stop to think that doctors wear a mask for many hours at a time, yet somehow survive. Others insist on their individual freedom, yet they agree to wear pants in public. It is what it is.
We also drove to North Carolina and ended up dining outdoors at historic Tapoco lodge, found totally by accident. This is a gem of a place, and a great option for a romantic getaway. Both my husband and I want to stay there without kids someday (after the pandemic). All the staff and most guests in the lodge wore masks, and social distancing was taken very seriously. A delightful place, highly recommended.
Was it worth it?
That’s a difficult question to answer. It was worth it because we didn’t get sick. We had a really nice time, and going to Blue Ridge mountains is always a treat for me, pandemic or not. If one of us caught the virus, my post would have a totally different tone to it. I purposely waited more than two weeks to write this trip report after coming back for that very reason.
Ultimately, we all have to decide on acceptable level of risk that we are willing to take for the sake of a vacation. For me personally, if anything happened to my family, I would never forgive myself. We certainly tried to be as careful as possible, but was it a prudent thing to do? All things considered, the answer is No. There were at least a few times I felt a bit uncomfortable.
I still believe some family recreation is necessary. We’ve decided to do virtual school with our kids, and I can’t imagine keeping them home until there is a vaccine. If there is a vaccine. That said, we don’t need to drive 9.5 hours for a change of scenery. That’s unnecessary exposure and potential risks I’m not at all comfortable with. A local uncrowded beach will suffice. The same goes for flying. We don’t have to fly, so we won’t. Simple as that.
I’m not telling anyone else what they should do, so no judgement here. But the thing is, we are in the middle of a health crisis, and pretending otherwise is delusional. That’s not to say that even vacationing nearby is totally safe. I had a getaway booked at a local beach at the end of July, and decided to cancel.
I also have several reservations in September that will most likely get cancelled as well. One is non-refundable, oh well. I obviously don’t have all the answers here, but I believe that changing circumstances require an adjustment in thinking. Yes, that includes me. This situation is fluid.
We live in a small Florida county that rivals Miami when you compare “per capita” coronavirus cases. Except unlike Miami, mask usage isn’t enforced or even encouraged. Everything is fine, nothing to see here. Only 15,000 new cases added on Sunday. Basically, I live in a mini dumpster fire inside of a larger dumpster fire (aka Florida). And the hurricane season is just getting started, y’all. Yeehaw!
Oh, and Disney World just reopened. What kind of a dystopian reality are we living in? I’m sorry, but I just can’t be politically correct on that one. I saw an interview with a Florida doctor who said that seeing people flock to Disney right now (or any amusement park) feels like an insult. I mean, we are getting 12-15K new cases of a friggin’ deadly virus in our state each day, this is insane. To me, going to Disney right now sort of feels like this:
Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.