With autumn just around the corner, we know many of you have already dusted off your pullovers and favorite pair of jeans. We won't even blame you if you've already ordered something pumpkin flavored! But, if you are trying to get away for a long weekend this fall, there is definitely more to consider in 2020 than just short sleeves vs. a light sweater.
Here are our top 5 things to think about when planning your fall road trip in 2020:
1. Road time vs. quality time
Inevitably, people start planning trips based on where they want to go. While this used to make perfect sense when quick flights seemed a lot less scary, many people are opting to drive this year. With that in mind, a 2.5 hour flight from the east coast to Colorado could now mean 24+ hours in a car… yikes! If you intend to drive, we recommend that you weigh how much time you will be in the car vs. the amount of time spent at your destination. If a couple of extra hours gets you somewhere you are much more excited about, go for it! If the point of the time away is just a change of scenery to connect with some friends or family, cash in those extra non-car hours to enjoy more down time with your people.
While hotel chains are still in a very fragile position due to COVID-19, short (and even long) term vacation rental companies have had a pretty solid summer. The question of hotel or Airbnb certainly depends on where you plan to go (or avoid). Either way, here are a few things you should prepare for before booking that place to stay:
- Carefully read/ ask questions about booking and cancellation policies
While many hotel chains and rental agencies have become more lenient, these policies have not gone away altogether. Don't get stuck paying in full if something comes up!
- Be prepared for check-in to take a little bit longer
As you can imagine, everything from the check-in process to the continental breakfast has changed a lot. In addition to additional hygiene measures, many hotels are working with limited staffing due to lower bookings and furloughs. If you are planning to at a peak time like a Friday afternoon, it may take you more than 5 minutes.
- Check on anything that concerns you before booking
Wondering how long it has been since a guest has been in the room/ vacation rental? Want to know if things are scrubbed, steamed, or fumigated? Ask. It is much better to have clear expectations on what you are getting into, before being unpleasantly surprised upon arrival. Many chains and hosts really are going the extra mile to make guests comfortable--but some are certainly more diligent than others.
3. What to bring
The age-old question of what to pack is a tough one. We all travel a bit differently, and often partake in different activities at our destinations. That being said, there are a few essentials that will definitely make your fall road trip better.
For starters, be sure you pack a few layers--especially if you are traveling in late fall. The last thing you want to be is the goober in board shorts on a 49 degree, rainy morning.
You'll also want to bring plenty of ways to entertain yourself. If your planned activity options become limited (see below), you may be spending a bit more time in your accommodation than you normally would. Board games, books, and other activities will help the time pass even if you
Lastly, you need to bring the right accessories. In addition to phone chargers, camera batteries, and water bottles, we know better than anyone that a solid pair of sunglasses is crucial in Fall! The angle of the sun gets flatter and flatter through December in the Northern Hemisphere--so don't get caught in the early morning or late afternoon glare on the highway.
4. Activity planning
Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, or a museum maven, in 2020 you HAVE to check the status of your favorite activity destinations. While many public attractions have reopened, admission limits, distancing requirements, and increased demand may make it tough to get the walk-up tickets that were normally available in 2019. Additionally, you may find that many supporting industries like tour companies, restaurants, etc. have temporarily changed the way they operate. If you are planning a visit to an attraction, check out websites and social media pages first; or just call directly to get a clear picture of what to expect.
Our alternative option? Seek out the small stuff! While the "main" attractions of a place certainly make it special, oftentimes there are dozens of other gems in the neighboring community that get overlooked. If you are in rural areas, see if there are any local farms open to the public. Lots of land = lots of space for visitors to spread out! If you are in a city, visit smaller parks and greenways, or even the more niche museums. While larger museums tend to have big collections approaching subjects from multiple angles, you may be surprised to find that a more focused view of a subject can be even more informative!
5. What if you have to work?
Unfortunately, work during the pandemic (and just the 21st century in general) means we are usually tied to the office through at least one digital medium. If you know you'll have to work a bit while away, plan ahead! Ask your hotel or host about wifi options or general cellular connectivity in the area. If the signal isn't strong, can they recommend a coffee shop close by that is open to patrons? It's definitely better to know your options than having to drive to the next town 30 miles away to respond to a text.
We also recommend that you try and silo your work into a couple of windows that don't interrupt your relaxation or quality time with others too much. Early riser? Knock out an hour or two before the family wakes up. Also, don't feel inclined to check your email every 15 minutes--99% of the time, the office won't descend into chaos just because you decided to get a little R & R.
Happy travels this fall!
The SunHeist Team