Tag: Road Trips

What We are Looking Forward to This Summer

Ahead of Memorial Day, and the unofficial start of summer, we asked readers to share what they are looking forward to most in the coming months. More than 100 people wrote in from across the United States with their post-pandemic plans. Here are a select few, edited and condensed for clarity.


My irrepressible, funny granddaughter is coming to stay for two weeks and we will visit the zoo, the aquarium, several museums and the local plunge pool. We’ll mask up and avoid restaurants, but having adventures together after a year of isolation will bring some excitement back to our lives. — Betty Smith, Vermillion, S.D.

I can’t wait to throw a real party, a bash, a cocktail party, a party with a theme or costumes! I can’t wait to say, “Sure, bring a friend!” But we’re not ready for that yet. We did throw a very small dinner party for a few fully vaccinated friends. I felt like I couldn’t remember how to dress up. I put a cashmere sweater over the sweatpants I wear daily — I split the difference! — Heather La Riviere, Chicago

I’m looking forward to meeting my new baby niece for the first time. I didn’t get to be with my sister at all during her pregnancy since we live on opposite sides of the country and she got pregnant in August 2020. — Chloe Nagle, Colorado Springs

Our 3-year-old cannot wait to swim once again in my aunt and uncle’s pool with all her cousins. And I will cry tears of joy once the border between Canada and the United States reopens and we can see my dad and brother who both live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. — B. Reusch Serapio, Oshawa, Ontario

Road tripping to see my parents and brothers (most of whom I haven’t hugged in nearly two years), getting back to singing in choir and finding more time to ride a real bicycle. — Jen Milius, Portland, Ore.

On March 11, 2020, my friends Kelly and Nicole and I decided to hold off on meeting for drinks that Friday — “Seems risky,” Kelly said. As of this coming Monday we will all reach full immunity and we will finally meet for drinks. The last thing I canceled then is the first thing I’m doing now! — Kate Premo, Montclair, N.J.

What I am truly looking forward to this summer, if all goes well, is in-person summer camp for my children. The pandemic and lockdowns have been hard on all of us, but keeping children at home for so long has been very hard for them and moms. I wouldn’t want to go as far as a concert or a party. But I would love to have my children explore and interact with other children. They miss it and I miss having time and space to do anything other than try (and fail) to distract them. — Lina Garcia De la Ossa, Miami Beach, Fla.

The need to reconnect now feels urgent. I am craving face-to-face, meaningful interactions with people outside our immediate family circle and our dog and cat, who have been elevated to almost human level during the pandemic. I took entertaining for granted before, often looking at it as something I had to plan for. It meant we didn’t entertain often. Now I want to fling open the doors and have our home filled with the friends and family we have missed. It doesn’t matter if we eat on a china plate or a paper plate or have a home-cooked meal or a pizza. — Sally Mathew, Birmingham, Ala.

I am looking forward to wearing lipstick this summer. Not a light color that matches your gums, but a real stains-the-napkin-at-lunch bright coral. Something that isn’t going back behind a mask. That is when I will know we have moved on. — Becky Schaeffer, Atlanta

I am attending a small, masked, distanced outdoor concert in Santa Cruz, Calif., a big step toward the new normal. I’m going with my concert buddy girlfriend, who was my companion at the last show I attended in January 2020. — Mara J. Wildfeuer, Mountain View, Calif.

My friends and I have been meeting together every summer and planning a trip for the past 11 years or so. Last year was tough not seeing them. This year we’re going on a canoe trip together and I can’t wait. We’re all vaccinated, have been diligent and safe throughout the pandemic, and we’re excited to have a moment of normalcy together out in the woods. There are things I’m not quite ready to do (eat inside being one) but more and more, as vaccination rates go up, I’ve started to feel moments of regularity that have shined through. It’s a vaxxed-up summer! — Jared Smith, Boston

Traveling to Capri and Positano for a wedding in September. — Mary Bairstow, Atlanta

I’m looking forward to being spontaneous! Living in the moment with no reservations. — Robin Berman, Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.

I’m looking forward to sitting in a park and feeling content with where I’m at with the world. I’m looking forward to smelling fresh cut grass without a mask. Listening to birds sing on branches above me. Watching the way the sun looks as it peeks behind the distant clouds. I’m looking forward to focusing on these pleasant sensory details and nothing else. I’ve waited a long time to move to New York and the pandemic pushed it back another year. But last week, I took a plane and then a train and then a cab. And now I’m standing in a shower that’s too small. I’m cooking in a kitchen that’s too crowded. I’m lugging bags of groceries up five flights of stairs. And I love it. — Samuel Eaton, New York

I’m most looking forward to the usual summer of backyard grilling with family, friends and neighbors unencumbered by masks, constant sanitizer wiping, bringing one’s own plates and cutlery and the awkwardness of asking if it’s OK to use the bathroom. To greet guests with hugs, share the same bottle of wine and literally break bread together. — Christina Tunnah, Berkeley, Calif.

I look forward to the return of Parkrun USA. It is not just a free weekly timed 5K, it is the most supportive and encouraging group of runners (and walkers) I’ve ever been associated with. I miss the community! — Tricia Jones, Ann Arbor, Mich.

Road trips by myself. There is nothing I like as much as the open highway and freedom to stop anywhere interesting. Getting lost is just an added adventure. — Patty deVille, Tempe, Ariz.

I am looking forward to surfing as much as I can. Summer means thinner wet suits, warmer waters, more sunlight and mellower waves. I started surfing in the thick of the pandemic but being vaccinated and knowing my fellow surfers in the water are as well means more relaxed and welcoming vibes. — Jean Kim, Los Angeles

At 63, I plan on seeing as much live music as possible! Before the pandemic, this wasn’t important to me — now it is; life is short, but music is everywhere. — Sue Leach, Yarmouth, Mass.

River rafting on the South Fork of the American River, plus two nights camping in a tent on the river’s edge. I’m just so happy to get out of my apartment for a couple of nights. I love my little studio on a quiet, dead end street — but after spending 22 hours a day inside for over a year, I’m longing to see the night sky and a lot of trees, and to be in nature. — Marjorie Pryor, San Francisco

I’m looking forward to a reunion in my home state of Nebraska with many of my 20-plus cousins on my dad’s side of the family. Last November our last remaining uncle (out of a family of nine siblings) died of Covid at the age of 87. Because of the pandemic most of us were not able to attend the funeral but vowed to meet up for a reunion over July 4 this summer. I just retired from the State Department and haven’t seen most of them in more than 10 years so I am excited to see everyone again! — Gwen Bedient, Carmichael, Calif.

I’m most excited about nightlife in L.A. returning with a bang. I miss a martini (or two) at Sunset Tower or the Sunset Marquis, watching (and tipping) the amazing performers at Jumbo’s Clown Room, and a night of dancing at A Club Called Rhonda or underneath the disco ball ceiling at the WeHo Edition. So many people are talking about a New Roaring Twenties kicking off this summer and I am definitely ready. I would also love for my name to go back to its association with a beloved beer instead of a lethal pandemic. — Victor P. Corona, Los Angeles

My husband and I live in California with our two kids. But I grew up in New Jersey and my dad and brothers and their families are still there. I haven’t seen most of them since March 2020. They haven’t seen my kids since Christmas 2019. We are going to drive across the country this summer to spend a month at the Jersey Shore, like I did as a kid. I am looking forward to the kids spending long days in the sand with their cousins, digging holes and giggling over melting ice cream cones, wasting hours and money in the arcade, riding roller coasters at sunset and eating french fries for dinner. I am looking forward to grilling dinners on my dad’s patio, to cocktails in water bottles smuggled onto the beach, to not spending hours in the car driving around Los Angeles on a schedule predetermined by child care and commutes to jobs. — Lauren Martino, Los Angeles

Going without a mask. Taking in a movie that isn’t on my television. Getting together with friends and families and not being worried about it. Knowing that I will not make someone else ill. Enjoying life once again. — Shirley Shanley, Harstine Island, Wash.

I’m reminded of a scene from the film “Doctor Zhivago.” Strelnikov, the Bolshevik military commander, asks a captured Zhivago what he wants out of life. Zhivago replies, “To live.” — Tom Sullivan, San Clemente, Calif.

Family Travel Gets Complicated Without a Covid Vaccine for Kids

Amid the chatter of travel’s long-awaited rebound one year into the pandemic, many families with children feel largely left out of the conversation.

Nearly every summer, Ada Ayala, a teacher, and her husband, Oscar Cesar Pleguezeulos, travel with their children to visit Mr. Cesar Pleguezeulos’s parents in Spain. But this year, even though they will both soon be fully vaccinated in their home state of Florida, they are changing their plans. The reason? There is still no pediatric Covid-19 vaccine available for their kids.

The travel industry, buoyed by news of vaccine rollouts, is anticipating a summer rush after a year of devastation. But amid the chatter of travel’s long-awaited rebound, many families with children — who comprise roughly 30 percent of the global travel market — say they are largely being left out of the conversation.

In a March survey on Bébé Voyage, an online community for traveling families, 90 percent of respondents said that amid unclear guidelines on Covid-19 testing, they were searching for flexible bookings. The topic also comes up often on Bébé Voyage’s Facebook page, particularly among parents in the United States. “It’s the Americans in the group that are the most nervous traveling with kids,” said the Bébé Voyage chief executive, Marianne Perez de Fransius.

Ms. Ayala, 44, is among those nervous parents. “If it wasn’t for the kids, we would definitely be flying this summer,” she said. Ms. Ayala already received her shot as a teacher. Her husband, also 44, will soon receive his shots, too, because Florida recently opened vaccinations to those age 40 and up. But their children, Charlise, 6, and Oscar, 2, will have to wait many more months to be inoculated.

“My 2-year-old isn’t going to wear a mask for 10 hours on a flight, and I don’t know if I want to expose him for a 16-hour trip with layovers,” Ms. Ayala said. “I’ll feel more confident when vaccination reaches more people worldwide, or at least in the destinations we want to go.”

Nearly one in three adults in the United States have now received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. But a full pediatric Covid-19 vaccine currently isn’t expected until the end of 2021 at the earliest, and while they wait, parents are struggling to figure out how they, too, can travel safely this summer, and even where their children are welcome as rules on quarantine and testing continue to shift.

“This is the elephant in the room right now,” said Cate Caruso, an adviser for Virtuoso, a network of luxury travel agencies, who also owns her own travel planning company, True Places Travel. The potential that a child could become infected with Covid-19 while abroad and not be allowed on a return flight, she said, is a major deterrent for parents. “Anywhere you go outside of the U.S. right now, you’ve got to think about how you’re going to get back in,” she said. “It’s leaving behind a whole bunch of people who are ready to go.”

In Ms. Ayala’s case, a compromise has been struck: If and when Spain — which is currently closed to American travelers — opens its borders, Mr. Cesar will travel to Spain with their daughter, Charlise, while Ms. Ayala will remain in Florida with Oscar. “She goes to school and is very good with wearing her mask, cleaning her hands and keeping distance,” Ms. Ayala said of her daughter. “So I think she can be safe. But it’s just not possible with a baby.”

But she doesn’t plan to stay home all summer. Whether or not her husband and daughter make it to Spain, Ms. Ayala is planning a family road trip at some point this summer, likely within Florida.

After a year of road trips, R.V.s and rental cottages, many Americans are now ready to fly again: Online searches for late-summer flights are up as much as 75 percent, and hotels on both coasts are reporting that they are sold out through October. But families, more than any other travel sector, continue to play it safe.

Family travel plans for this summer are more low-key than two years ago, with bookings to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, reported to be significantly up.
Family travel plans for this summer are more low-key than two years ago, with bookings to Mount Rushmore National Memorial, in the Black Hills of South Dakota, reported to be significantly up.Tannen Maury/EPA, via Shutterstock

Rovia, a membership-based global travel agency that works with both travelers and travel agents, reports that beach and camping destinations within driving distance are the most popular choices for families this summer. An exception? Disney World, which is seeing an uptick in reservations for summer from families looking to visit while capacity remains limited (and lines, as a result, remain shorter).

“The rate of couples traveling by air has increased faster, whereas families are still leaning toward travel by car and R.V. rentals,” said Jeff Gwynn, Rovia’s director of communications.

Montoya and Phil Hudson, who showcase their travels as a Black family on their popular blog, The Spring Break Family, are among them. “Most years we go pretty far — Spain, Italy, France, as far as we can go. This year it was about what’s reachable by car,” Ms. Hudson said. She and Mr. Hudson, who both work in the health care industry, are vaccinated, but admit they probably won’t be willing to fly with their two daughters, Leilah, 11, and Layla, 8, for several more months.

That’s because they want to wait for herd immunity to help keep their daughters safe. “The goal is to wait until the majority of the population is vaccinated, or has at least had the opportunity to become vaccinated,” Ms. Hudson said.

In addition to preferring driving over flying this summer, travel analysts say families with children will also continue to opt for rental homes over hotel rooms.

In fact, when it comes to the vacation cottage market, parents are booking faster than anyone else. “Families are the number one group expected to travel in 2021,” said Vered Schwarz, the president and chief operating officer of Guesty, a short-term property management platform which reports that its summer reservations are already 110 percent higher than 2020, with families comprising more than 30 percent of those booking. “For families with unvaccinated children, private rentals are appealing — they are comfortable and they avoid hotels chock-full of crowded common areas,” she said.

The question of how to treat unvaccinated children who may be traveling with their parents is also presenting a legal and ethical minefield for American travel operators.

The European Union is considering a vaccine passport that will allow free travel within the bloc for those who can show proof of inoculation. In Israel, a green pass has been established for those who have been vaccinated, granting holders not just the ability to cross a border but also check into a hotel or eat inside a restaurant, but children are not exempt — so parents with unvaccinated children must dine outside at restaurants and find babysitters before heading to the gym or a show.

But in the United States, such policies are unlikely to take hold, said Chuck Abbott, the general manager of the InterContinental San Diego. “Most hotels would not ask for that information, because it violates the privacy of the guest,” he said. “Even putting vaccinated guests on a different floor than other guests would likely present a legal issue.”

Compared with summer 2019, families’ plans for summer 2021 are more low-key: Travelocity reports that bookings to Mount Rushmore and Nashville are significantly up over two years ago; internationally, family bookings to London, Paris and Rome, destinations that were top family sites in 2019, but have still not reopened to U.S. travel, are way down, while Cancún, which is currently open to American travelers without quarantine requirements, is up nearly 50 percent.

Some European countries, like Iceland, have begun inching open their borders, but only to passengers who are vaccinated. That means individuals who can present proof of the Covid-19 jab can bypass quarantine when they arrive — unless they are parents traveling with children.

“Unvaccinated children would still need to quarantine for five days, and the parents, of course, must stay with the child,” said Eric Newman, who owns the travel blog Iceland With Kids. “Iceland’s brand-new travel regulations are not friendly to families hoping to visit with children.”

After a year of virtual schooling and working from home, parents have no desire to quarantine with their kids, said Anthony Berklich, the founder of the travel platform Inspired Citizen. “What these destinations are basically saying is you can come but your children can’t,” he said.

Instead, families are opting for warm-weather destinations closer to home.

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced in January that proof of a negative PCR test would be required of all air passengers arriving in the United States, many tropical resorts — including more than a dozen Hyatt properties — began offering not just free on-site testing, but a deeply discounted room in which to quarantine in case that test comes back positive. That move, said Rebecca Alesia, a travel consultant with SmartFlyer, has been a boon for family travel business.

“What happens if the morning you’re supposed to come home, you get up and Junior has a surprise positive test?” she said. “A lot of my clients have booked this summer because of this policy.”

For parents struggling to decide how and when to return to travel, there is good news on the horizon, said Dr. Shruti Gohil, the medical director of infection prevention at the University of California, Irvine.

“The chances of a good pediatric vaccine coming soon are high,” she said, noting that both Pfizer and Moderna are already running pediatric trials on their vaccines. “There is no reason to think that the vaccine will have any untoward effects on children that we haven’t already noted in adults.”

In the meantime, she said, parents with children need to continue to be cautious. That doesn’t mean families shouldn’t travel at all, but she recommends choosing to drive rather than fly; to not allow unvaccinated children to play unmasked with children from other households; and to remain vigilant about wearing masks and regularly washing hands while on the road.

“We can’t keep saying that you can’t go anywhere,” she said. “At some point we have to have some kind of nuance around this. But this is a game we are all still playing until the virus is gone.”

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10 Children’s Apps for Summer Road Trips

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The car is packed, the pets have sitters and the GPS is programmed. But have you properly prepped your children’s devices?

While there are many apps that can keep a child busy, the best are those designed to promote active, engaged, meaningful and social learning, researchers say.

Here are some recent apps for the job. Most work without a Wi-Fi tether, are free or very affordable and are rich in bite-size bits of interaction, making them easy to pass around the car. Platform and price information change frequently, so check your favorite app store for the latest information.

FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN (ages 3 to 7)

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Chomp by Christoph Niemann, Fox and Sheep GmbH ($2.99 on iOS, Android), is a powerful, easy-to-use video creativity experience that combines hand-drawn animations with real-time video. You’ll find your face inside 52 spring-loaded gags that you can try out simply by looking into the camera, and swiping. Pass this app around and give everyone a chance — except the driver.

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HangArt: Play Hangman, Draw Pictures, Tell Stories by Literary Safari ($1.99 on iOS, Android) brings the age-old game of hangman to your road trip, using words straight out of a school reading curriculum. The two-player mode can promote cooperative play.

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Heads Up! Kids by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (99 cents with in-app purchases, on iOS and Android) is another fun, social word game that is a simplified version of the Ellen DeGeneres game, in which you hold your device up to your forehead and ask someone else for a clue. The initial download contains six decks of virtual cards on topics like animals; extras cost a dollar each.

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Moonbeeps: Gizmo by Moonbot Studios ($1.99 on iPad, iPhone) turns your tablet into a pretend dashboard full of dials and switches that are perfect for imaginary play, say, for turning your minivan into a submarine.

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Sago Mini Robot Party ($2.99 on iPad, iPhone) contains a set of rubbery robot parts that can be mixed and matched. We like how easy it is to be silly with this app. You can use the sock for a head, for example, or put two heads on the feet and flip the robot upside down.

FOR OLDER CHILDREN (ages 8 and up)

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MSQRD — Live Filters & Face Swap for Video Selfies by Masquerade Technologies (free on iPad, Android) is like sticking your head inside a magical mirror where you can try on some glow-in-the-dark face paint, or do a face swap with the person sitting next to you — and you can post it on Facebook. Keep this one far away from the driver.

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Thinkrolls 2 by Avokiddo ($2.99 on iPad, Android, Kindle) lets you swipe your way through a series of increasingly challenging mazes. This is the second app in the series, and it’s well named because it gently introduces properties of matter and physics. You discover that things do more than “roll.” They can also float, glide and teleport through the 270 levels.

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Stack the States 2 by Freecloud Design ($2.99 on iPad, iPhone) for ages 7 and up is a great app for learning about the United States while you drive through it. The app quizzes you on the capital, shape and location of each state. You can now zoom in for a 3-D view of the details on key cities and landmarks.

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Toca Life: Vacation by Toca Boca ($2.99 on iPad, iPhone) transforms your back seat into a tropical resort, with its own airport, hotel and island. There’s no way to fail with this free-play app, and there’s room for plenty of cooperative play.

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Finding Dory: Just Keep Swimming by Disney ($3.99 on iPad, Android, Kindle) delivers plenty of well-illustrated, slippery fun in this maze game. There are 13 levels, each inspired by the movie, and it’s easy to revisit an already mastered level, so a little brother or sister can have a turn. Make sure children know that they can pause the game at any point.

FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY

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Traveling at night? Turn your vehicle into a rolling planetarium with Star Walk HD ($2.99 for iPad, Android). You’ll be able to predict when and where the moon will come up, or confirm if the bright star is actually Saturn.

Google Maps is a wonderful family resource. You can install a second version on your child’s Android or Apple device, saving on data costs by using the “offline map feature.” As you drive, your child can view the scrolling maps, and help you find landmarks or navigation, dropping pins on favorite places along the way. Show your child how to toggle between satellite, topographic and regular map modes, and use the Street View feature to follow your car.

Finally, Siri loves geography facts. Besides knowing “how many people live in Detroit,” she can tell you current altitude, or where the closest rest area might be. She’ll also have the exact answer, in miles, to that age-old back-seat question, “Are we there yet?”