Is It Safe To Take A Train, Flight, Or Road Trip? What You Need To Know

Your European vacation is canceled and your shoe-box sized apartment is sitting at an unbearable temperature of 105°. If you’re one of the lucky ones who still has a job, Mondays are basically indistinguishable from the weekend and your vacation days feel pretty much useless. At least we’ve made it to summer, and halfway through this dreadful year.

The CDC still advises against travel, and the best way to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19 is to stay home and limit your interactions with other people. However, being around people—particularly in enclosed spaces—is what spreads coronavirus, not the actual act of traveling. This means that there are still ways to take a vacation and plan ahead to ensure you stay as safe as possible this summer. As every company’s email newsletter informed us back in March, these are unprecedented times. So take precautions when allowing yourself to decompress, safely take a vacation, and try to dull the pain of 2020 with tequila sodas.

Travel, But Make It Local

Travel, both internationally and domestically, has obviously taken a serious hit due to the pandemic, with a low point on April 14th of only 87,000 fliers, according to the TSA. Since then we’ve seen a gradual increase in travel both in the air and on the ground as states rushed to open. Memorial Day weekend seemed to be the turning point when everyone just thought we could forget about the pandemic and get on with our lives, with a 48.5 percent increase in road travel compared to the previous weekend. Unfortunately, this jump and people’s general unwillingness to socially distance resulted in a huge spike in coronavirus cases. Anddd this is why we can’t have nice things.

The moral of the story: don’t be that guy! If you’re going to travel this summer, now is the time to keep your group exclusive and spend your money on fancy sh*t rather than just flocking to the hottest vacation spot (or literal COVID hot spot). Forgo the crowded Lake of the Ozarks pool party and show off your bikini body via Instagram from a private pool in an Airbnb instead. Skip the long flight and treat yourself to summer loungewear or dinner on a socially distant street-side patio. We’re always talking about how we want to be where the people aren’t, so let’s take advantage of this opportunity and built-in excuse for getting out of plans.

It also helps to limit your groups, wear a mask when social distancing isn’t possible, and avoid peak travel times. Before booking and going on a trip, be sure to monitor the number of cases in the area you are visiting, follow travel recommendations, and definitely don’t ignore some states’ 14-day quarantine mandates and get arrested.

“Help Me, I’m Poor,” -The Airline Industry, Probably

 

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While your pink Away luggage set collects dust, your preferred airline has gone into a tailspin and the remainder of 2020 is looking increasingly bleak for the industry. American Airlines may furlough 20,000 employees starting October 1st when the federal bailout expires. United said they could lose 36,000 jobs in the fall. That said, should you be rushing to give them your money? While before, you would probably book flights based on what was cheapest, now you might want to choose your airline carefully. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, airlines have claimed to be doing all they can to prevent the spread of coronavirus. However, as the economic pressures loom and lockdowns are lifted, there has been a gradual abandonment of precautions. Flights have become increasingly full, and airlines like American are booking back at full capacity. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) called his jam-packed connecting flight to Texas  “incredibly irresponsible” and “high-risk.” Meanwhile, airlines are not prioritizing cleaning, according to a recent Association of Flight Attendants survey where only 44 percent of flight attendants said their planes were thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between flights. A worker from American Airlines’ evening shift also stated that she and a few colleagues had only ten minutes to clean some incoming flights before they had to board more passengers. Considering I spend double that amount of time just on my nighttime skin care routine, I don’t think ten minutes is enough time to sanitize a whole plane’s armrests and tray tables.

As we know from collecting air miles (remember those?), not all airlines are created equally. Delta will continue to not sell middle seats through the summer, and United will allow you to switch to a different flight if the one you are booked on becomes too full. While most airlines have policies advising all passengers to wear masks during flights, some airlines (you can guess which one) are not enforcing them.

Not Feelin’ Fly Like A G6

Air travel is risky due to the increased time around large numbers of people in enclosed spaces, but if you must travel by plane, be sure to take the necessary precautions. Take the time to disinfect your seat, area, and hands, and opt for shorter flights without layovers to help reduce your exposure. Dr. Farley Cleghorn tells National Geographic, “Choose a window seat as far from the restroom as possible. Keep the overhead vent open and toward your face—continuous airflow creates a small, invisible ‘wall’ that restricts (at least slightly) the exhaled air from other passengers.”

If international travel is essential for you, be aware that some airlines are prioritizing business class seats, which currently can cost as much as some people’s annual salary. While on July 10th American Airlines told flight attendants that “for now, it’s OK for customers to move to different seats in the same cabin,” that policy isn’t always the case. For one couple trying to get home to Australia from the U.S., their only option might be a $24,000 USD business class ticket. Somewhere out there an out-of-touch, super-rich person (Ivanka, is that you?) who only flies private thinks that must be the normal cost of a seat in economy…must be nice.

Trains: Bad And Bougie, Or Just Bad?

Trains can conjure two types of imagery: relaxing on a humming passenger train in comfortable seats like you’re on your way to Hogwarts, or being shoulder-to-shoulder on the subway with a guy who smells as you try to drown out someone’s argument with a podcast on your daily commute. 

Doesn’t the first option of train travel just feel so European? While you may just be chugging upstate, it feels like you could be making your way through the Italian countryside. Even though European travel is off the table this summer, trains remain a safer option during coronavirus. Amtrak offers flexible bookings, limited seats for sale, and even private rooms. If your train travel is a little less “martinis in the lounge carriage” and more “essential commute on the L in Chicago at 6am”, you definitely deserve a vacation. Even though cities like New York have gone to great lengths to clean and sanitize their subway systems, transit employees have been heavily impacted by coronavirus with many deaths in the early stages of lockdown. Regardless of the type of train you’re taking, be sure to stay six feet apart when possible and wear a mask.

Roadtrip > Eurotrip

 

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Ok, fine, an Aperol Spritz in Positano is probably better than Bud Lights from a cooler by a murky lake, but traveling by car is likely the safest way to vacation this summer. It allows the least contact with other people and the most control of your surroundings, plus gas is at record low prices. If you’ve ever dreamed of being Britney Spears in Crossroads and driving down the highway in a convertible with your besties, now is the time!

“Traveling by airplane is much higher risk than traveling by car with your family,” Carl Fichtenbaum, an epidemiologist with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Infectious Diseases, tells CNBC. If you don’t own a car, renting one is fairly easy, or upgrade to a camper van and convince your boyfriend that you are the next Caelynn and Dean, without having to meet on Bachelor in Paradise. Once you rent the vehicle, clean and sanitize it, then download Britney’s full discography for when there’s no cell service. (That last part is just a personal recommendation, not the CDC’s.)

Before you leave, pack a COVID tool kit with hand sanitizer, masks, and wipes. While on your journey, try to limit interacting with others as much as possible: bring your own snacks to avoid going into convenience stores, pay at the pump rather than inside, and limit your number of stops—particularly in public bathrooms, as they can be cramped, and flushing a toilet can stir up aerosol particles. (If we weren’t germaphobes before this pandemic, I’m pretty sure we are now.) Once you’ve completed your road trip checklist, you’re ready to hit the open road like a suburban family in a minivan.

Drinks Well Alone

2020 is certainly a wild ride, and America continues to be the world’s Florida. We won’t be getting drunk in the airport lounge this summer, and Maine is the new Greek Islands, but at least the panhandle state stays consistently wild. Plus, on the bright side, you can delay buying another millennial pink bridesmaid dress for your cousin’s destination wedding for at least a year.

With things looking so depressing, it’s definitely time to salvage what’s left of summer 2020 and book a vacation or even a long-term stay to take advantage of working remotely. Being safe doesn’t mean you have to stay in your apartment alone, but it does mean you have to take precautions and limit your interactions with groups of people. And remember, drinking alcohol doesn’t act as an internal sanitizer, but multiple White Claws can help you forget the terrible Zoom dates you went on in April and make summer feel a bit more normal.  

Images: Anna Shvets / Pexels

7 Easy Trips For When You Need To GTFO Of NYC

There’s a certain feeling that comes with the arrival of summer. As an adult living in New York, summer may not have brought three months of total freedom from work and responsibilities, but it did bring Summer Fridays, day-drinking on rooftops, and most importantly, weekend trips away from the craziness of the hot, humid city. But, as we head into our fifth month of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s clear that summer 2020 won’t and shouldn’t be what it once was. Most rooftops and pools are still closed, working from home means that every day could be a Summer Friday, and travel seems to be all but canceled. But while an escape to Europe or even a flight to California might not be in any New Yorker’s future, there are still plenty of nearby destinations that make for the perfect weekend (or mid-week, since there’s no real difference these days anyway) getaway.

The Catskills, New York

If you’re anything like the rest of us, you probably fell in love watching the second season of Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel—not with Dr. Benjamin Ettenberg, the impossibly handsome doctor who catches Miriam’s discerning eye, but with the beautiful, mountainous lake where the whole thing unfolds. The glamorous environment that surrounds Midge and the gang may seem like the ultimate 1960s throwback, but the Catskills are in fact alive and well, and with breathtaking scenery and one-of-a-kind hotels just three hours from New York, the region is the perfect place to head to this summer.

 

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Where to Stay: There’s no shortage of great hotels and resorts in the Catskills, and, whether you’re after a lakefront stay filled with water activities or a woodsy oasis, there’s a great option for every type of traveler. If you’re looking for the quintessential mountain lodge experience, look no further than Scribner’s Catskill Lodge. The bespoke hotel boasts the rustic-chic aesthetic that’s so synonymous with the area, and there are 20 acres of mountains, perfect for hiking and exploring, just outside the door. In response to COVID-19, Scribner’s is operating at reduced capacity and will be closed every Monday and Tuesday for deep cleaning, but the large property is in many ways a natural fit for social distancing, and guests can still enjoy its best offering: the hotel’s stunning surroundings. 

If you’re seeking a little bit more quirkiness in your summer getaway, the recently-opened Starlite Motel is the ideal fit. The boutique hotel is the brainchild of three veterans of the art and design worlds, and the attention to detail in the property’s colorful look, which is basically straight out of a Wes Anderson movie, is impossible to ignore. Located in the heart of the Borscht Belt, the pink motel is actually less than two hours from New York, and don’t let the name fool you—this place is nothing but luxury. 

For those deadset on recreating the magic of the Mrs. Maisel Catskills, it seems only fitting to visit Scott’s Family Resort, where the show was filmed. The lakeside retreat dates back to 1845 and is steeped in history, and the allure of the refreshing Oquaga Lake is as strong as ever. Stay in one of the hotel’s charming guest rooms, or follow Midge’s footsteps and opt for one of two stunning lake cottages, and then head to the Playhouse for all sorts of indoor fun, including a four-lane bowling alley.

How to Get There: The easiest way to get to the Catskills is to drive, but since most New Yorkers don’t own a car, and renting one isn’t always an option, there are alternatives. Amtrak and Metro-North both have several stops along the Hudson River, and from there, you can simply take a taxi or car service to get to your hotel. Depending on where in the region you’re going, it can take between two and four hours to get there.

COVID-19 Guidelines: New York currently has a travel advisory in place for 31 states. If you are traveling to New York from any of these states, a 14-day quarantine is mandatory.

Newport, Rhode Island

If you’ve ever dreamed of living in the wistful world of Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby, you’re probably already familiar with Newport, Rhode Island, the coastal town where the three stars’ 1956 film High Society takes place. Opening with a scenic flyover of Newport and its Gilded Age mansions, the majestic architecture and seaside not only set the tone for the high-class love triangle plot to unfold but also makes Newport itself a deeply alluring character. More than six decades later, the New England town remains as glamorous as it was when High Society’s star-studded cast graced its historic homes and properties, and it continues to be an obvious destination for New Yorkers looking to escape. Once the summer home of the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors, and even Edith Wharton, Newport is chock full of history, but it also boasts some of the east coast’s most inviting hotels and resorts, unparalleled fresh seafood, and gorgeous beaches. And just over three hours from New York, it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular getaway for urbanites to stretch their legs and enjoy the coast.

Where to Stay: Named one of the 15 best hotels in the Northeast by Travel + Leisure, Castle Hill Inn has been a star of the region for more than a century, and it was in fact where Grace Kelly stayed while shooting High Society. Nestled on a 40-acre peninsula overlooking Narragansett Bay, the hotel strikes a balance between old-world elegance and modern hospitality, and guests can stay in one of seven rooms in the original 19th-century mansion, or in one of 26 private waterfront accommodations. The hotel’s stunning grounds include a private beach, the Castle Hill Inn Lighthouse, and the Grace Kelly Beach and Gardens, and the natural distance and seclusion ensures that guests can still enjoy them all in the COVID era. 

Another great option, and a little less well known, is The Wayfinder, a new boutique hotel created by a group of local Rhode Island artists, bartenders, chefs, designers, and entrepreneurs. If you want an authentic feel of Newport, this is the spot. Spend the day relaxing at the pool or walk just a few minutes into town, plus the hotel is dog friendly so don’t worry about finding a sitter. Located in Newport’s North End, the hotel is running a grand opening special with 20% off your stay and two complementary specialty cocktails from on-site restaurant Nomi Park for travel through August 30th. And realizing the uncertainty of the world right now, you can cancel your stay without penalty up to 24 hours before you’re supposed to check in. 

For a waterfront option with a more contemporary feel, check out Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina. The sister hotel of the ultra-trendy Gurney’s Montauk, the Newport resort overlooks the town’s colorful marina and features ample outdoor space that makes social distancing easy. The hotel is coated in beachy minimalism, and between Scarpetta, The Pineapple Club, and The Lounge and Fire Pit, you won’t even have to leave the property to enjoy first-class dining. 

How to Get There: Although Newport is, like the Catskills, easiest to visit by car, the New England town is accessible via public transportation. Climb aboard the Amtrak Northeast Regional Train to West Kingston, Rhode Island, and then take the RIPTA Bus 64 to Newport Gateway Center (about an hour away) in downtown Newport. There are also buses available from New York to Newport through Adventure Northeast Transportation Service and Peter Pan Bus Lines.

COVID-19 Guidelines: Rhode Island currently has travel restrictions on 34 states. Travelers from these states must either quarantine for 14 days, or present a negative COVID-19 test from less than 72 hours prior to traveling.

Adirondacks, New York

The Adirondacks is one of those areas that New Yorkers often take for granted, dismissing it as just another place upstate. But in actuality, the mountain range region is one of the most beautiful places around, and with 2,000 miles of hiking trails and 3,000 lakes and ponds, it’s the ideal destination for anyone looking to get a taste of the wilderness after months stuck in the city. From Lake Placid and Lake George to Glen Falls, the Adirondacks stretch from just four hours north of the city all the way to the Canadian border and offer basically every outdoor activity imaginable. A visit to the area is ideal for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers, but don’t let the hiking fool you—staying in the Adirondacks can still be luxurious.

Where to Stay: Sitting on the southern end of Green Island on Lake George, The Sagamore Resort has been welcoming visitors to its luxury accommodations and seemingly never-ending grounds since the 1880s. On its more than 70 acres, the hotel features breathtaking views of the lake and its many islands, a championship golf course, and five outdoor tennis courts. Guests can stay in newly refurbished lodges or The First House, a recently updated private rental that’s perfect for families or groups. Aside from normal social distancing measures, The Sagamore remains fully operational, and all of its many amenities can still be enjoyed. 

 

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If you’re in search of the true outdoor experience but don’t want to sacrifice the luxuries that come with a hotel, glamping at Camp Orenda might be the solution. Located in Johnsburg in the southern region of the Adirondacks, the camp offers canvas cabins filled with rustic furnishings but surrounded by nature. Guests can take advantage of hundreds of nearby hikes, rivers, and lakes, and unwind with Orenda’s all-inclusive dinners every night.

How to Get There: Depending on where in the Adirondacks you’re heading, the drive can be anywhere from four to six hours. The Amtrak route from New York City to Montreal includes seven stops within the Adirondacks, so you can find the one nearest your destination and take the Amtrak Thruway Shuttle or a taxi or car service from the station to your accommodations. You can also take the Adirondack Trails bus from New York to Syracuse and transfer to the bus to Lake Placid, Keene, Keene Valley, Schroon Lake, or Saranac Lake from there.

COVID-19 Guidelines: New York currently has a travel advisory in place for 31 states. If you are traveling to New York from any of these states, a 14-day quarantine is mandatory.

Kennebunkport, Maine

Kennebunkport may be best known as the place where President Bush spent his summers, but with several gorgeous beaches, excellent dining, and many charming hotels and inns to choose from, the coastal town is one of Maine’s most popular destinations for even the non-presidential among us. Situated between the Kennebunk River and the Atlantic, it’s the perfect spot for beach fun, be it kayaking, fishing, paddleboarding, or boating, and the picturesque town boasts great shopping, dining, and a burgeoning arts scene. 

Where to Stay: For the essential rustic luxury stay, check in to Hidden Pond, a private resort nestled among 60 acres of pristine forest. Part retreat, part summer camp, this hotel is steeped in nostalgia, but unlike Camp Walden, where Annie and Hallie met over fencing and poker in The Parent Trap, Hidden Pond is also the ultimate refuge. The hotel provides a relaxing and private escape for couples and families alike, and Hidden Pond’s signature bungalows and cottages are joined by 10 new Treetop Lodges, bringing your childhood treehouse dreams to life. All accommodations are currently functioning as high-end vacation rentals, available for a minimum of five to seven days, depending on the accommodation type. 

The newly renovated, waterfront Yachtsman Lodge and Marina offers the other end of the design spectrum, coated in bright colors and beachy finishes. A 10-minute walk from the center of town, the hotel offers an unobstructed view of the Kennebunk River and marina, and every room features a private patio for guests to take in the sights. And this summer, the Yachtsman has partnered with popular boating brand Sperry to create the ultimate getaway package that builds on their shared nautical aesthetic.

How to Get There: Although in other years, flying from New York to Boston or Portland may have been the easiest way to get to Kennebunkport, you’d now be wise to avoid air travel given the current risks. If driving is an option, the trip is straightforward and should take around five hours. There’s no direct train or bus service to the town, but you can take Amtrak to Boston and then the Downeaster train to Wells Transportation Center, which is just a few miles from downtown Kennebunkport. 

COVID-19 Guidelines: Maine currently has travel restrictions for 44 states. Travelers from those states must quarantine for 14 days, or show a negative test result no more than 72 hours before traveling to Maine.

Greenport, New York

While the Hamptons are an obvious choice for New Yorkers looking to get away from the city, essentially becoming Manhattan with a beach in the middle during the summer months, there are plenty of other parts of Long Island that are often overlooked—or at the very least, underrated—and Greenport is no exception. Located on the North Fork, the town is known for its lush wineries, fresh oysters, and seaside village, and even though it’s one of Long Island’s northernmost points, it’s still just two hours away.

Where to Stay: Nestled in the heart of Greenport Village on the North Fork, The Menhaden is a small boutique hotel that opened its doors just last year. The 16-room property boasts a crisp black-and-white design palette, and because the resort is so small, it’s basically like staying in someone’s (very nice) guesthouse. There’s something for everyone, with several quiet beaches, wonderful restaurants, and some of the region’s best vineyards all within walking distance, and you can travel there in style with the Menhaden’s complimentary bikes or the Menhaden Moke, the property’s famous Jeep. 

 

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Also in Greenport is Sound View, a charming beachside hotel with a 14,000-foot private beach that rivals the Caribbean and certainly tops the overcrowded nearby Hamptons. The retro-chic design is a throwback to the region’s mom-and-pop days of yesteryear, and the hotel’s 55 beautiful rooms are complemented by enticing amenities and top-notch dining, including a summer residency from world-famous bar Death & Co.

How to Get There: There’s no shortage of ways to get to the North Fork, and nearly every city and town is accessible by car, train, bus, and even boat. Many New Yorkers opt to drive to the region, but often, taking the short train ride on the Long Island Rail Road is even easier, as it services 124 different stations in the area, including Greenport. Bus is also a popular option, with the Nassau County NICE Bus, Hamptons Jitney, and Suffolk County Transit all offering routes throughout the area.

COVID-19 Guidelines: New York currently has a travel advisory in place for 31 states. If you are traveling to New York from any of these states, a 14-day quarantine is mandatory.

Shelter Island, New York

While any mention of Long Island’s South Fork immediately brings to mind images of South Hampton beaches and crowded Montauk bars, the region is also home to Shelter Island, a beautiful destination that’s slightly more off-the-beaten-path. Only 90 miles east of Manhattan, the small island strikes a perfect balance between modern sophistication and old-fashioned charm, and its peaceful shoreline and colorful harbors offer a much-needed break from the craziness of New York City.

Where to Stay: The Ram’s Head Inn has been welcoming guests to its gorgeous grounds for nearly a century. The tranquil Shelter Island hideout features a rolling lawn and four acres of land that has been painted with 12-foot squares, each six feet away from the next, to ensure optimal social distancing. Overlooking the water, Ram’s Head Inn has tennis courts, paddleboards, a bar, a highly-acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant, and nightly performances from local musicians, all of which can still be enjoyed whilst observing new precautions.

 

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How to Get There: Although Shelter Island is only accessible by ferry, getting there is no more challenging than the rest of Long Island. If you’re looking to go by train, take the Long Island Rail Road to Greenport’s North Ferry Station, and then hop on the eight-minute ferry ride to Shelter Island. If taking the bus is more your speed, climb aboard the Hamptons Jitney to Greenport, and take the ferry from there. Both options, as well as driving, will take slightly under three hours.

COVID-19 Guidelines: New York currently has a travel advisory in place for 31 states. If you are traveling to New York from any of these states, a 14-day quarantine is mandatory.

Greenwich, Connecticut

One of the oldest towns in Connecticut, Greenwich is full of history and culture, and it’s less than an hour away from New York. Known as one of the wealthiest cities in America, it should come as no surprise that much of 2004’s Stepford Wives was filmed in Greenwich, or that Bobby Axelrod’s insanely over-the-top mansion from Billions was on the town’s coast. The Connecticut town has plenty to see and do, with as much shopping and dining as the best parts of Manhattan but without the crowds, and the sandy beaches and celebrated mansions make it a hotspot for visitors around the globe. 

Where to Stay: Located alongside Greenwich Harbor, The DELAMAR marries Meditteranean-style luxury with New England charm. The 82-room boutique hotel is steps from the Metro-North station, where New Yorkers can take a direct 40-minute train, and local beaches and Greenwich Avenue’s famous shopping (nicknamed “The East Coast’s Rodeo Drive”) are both within walking distance. Operating under new precautions that satisfy CDC guidelines, the DELAMAR is one of only a few hotels to reopen all dining and spa services, though slightly modified.

 

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With brightly colored shrubbery, stately green shutters, and art throughout the property, The Homestead Inn looks like something cooked up in a romance novel. Set on Connecticut’s coast, central Greenwich’s shopping, dining, and train station are just under a mile away from the 18th-century mansion, but the beautiful grounds and Thomas Henkelmann restaurant make the Homestead Inn a destination in itself. After reopening earlier this month, the hotel is implementing strict health and safety precautions, but all of its amenities can nonetheless be enjoyed by all visitors.

COVID-19 Guidelines: Connecticut currently has a travel advisory in place for 31 states. If you are traveling to Connecticut from any of these states, a 14-day quarantine is mandatory.

Images: Starlite Motel; Castle Hill Inn; Gurney’s; The Sagamore Resort (2); Hidden Pond; Read McKendree / Menhaden; DELAMAR; scribnerslodge, camporenda, soundviewgreenport, theramsheadinn, homestead_inn / Instagram