by KIM WADSWORTH | illustration by LAUREN REBBECK
The couple’s CREWZER license plate says it all. “Until the pandemic forced us to cancel several trips this year, we were mainly ‘cruisers,’” says Carolyn Cox of Chesapeake. Like many who enjoyed exploring the world on the high seas, Carolyn and her husband, Shawn, realized that travel as they knew it was going to look a lot different because of COVID-19. So, they hopped on the domestic-exploration bandwagon and purchased a Sol Dawn RV.
“Now we’re doing a different kind of cruising and we love it,” she says.
As summer days make us crave seaside vacations, holiday getaways or extended weekends, many are considering roads less-traveled – and how to navigate them safely in this new, socially distanced world. Whether your journey means traveling by RV, car, train or plane, there will still be rules in place. Learning how to interact politely and mindfully with others will guarantee a safe adventure, no matter how you hit the trail.
It’s easy to feel like the outdoors is the only place of normalcy. Nonetheless, state and national parks have strict rules for using facilities and congregating with others. On their first road trip to a KOA in Cape Charles, Carolyn says even though they had to park close to other vehicles, there were cheerful signs reminding visitors about hand sanitizing and social distancing.
“For campers, everything is about the outdoors,” she says. “Although the campground was packed, the beaches and trails were spacious and safe.” Carolyn found that planning and knowing the guidelines guaranteed a positive experience. “Micro-living is a new path and taking it on the road offers a world view that we’re all learning to navigate.”
If you’re renting a camper, staying at a resort or traveling by plane or train, the Environmental Protection Agency offers suggestions for sanitizing surfaces, which can be done without offending or annoying others. Disinfecting wipes should be used on seats, armrests, tray tables, door handles and restroom doors in a discrete manner. When in close quarters, you can always alert the person next to you by saying, “I hope you don’t mind if I take my own precautionary measures.” Offer them a wipe as a polite gesture. When entering a restaurant or restroom, wearing a mask and maintaining distance are ways to show you’re being careful. If someone gets too close in line, it’s acceptable to say in a kind voice, “Excuse me, I’m trying to keep socially distanced.” If someone is not wearing a mask, avoid judging or commenting on the decision they’ve made.
Christina and Mike Havlin, with their three children, made plane reservations for their annual summer trip to Michigan, and their journey was viewed through a different lens. “My kids are seasoned travelers and know how to occupy themselves quietly with devices and games,” Christina says. “We reviewed all the safety protocol and manners with them and came up with ideas like wearing gardening gloves and masks so they won’t touch their face.”
Asked about airport and plane change worries, Christina says, “If we were really concerned, we wouldn’t be going. Platte Lake is in a rural location with swimming, boating and outdoor activities. When we return, there’s two weeks before school and my job begins, so we’ll have our own quarantine time to settle in.”
If you’re opting for a road trip to visit friends or attend a family reunion out of state, establish considerate protocol to keep the drive enjoyable. When it comes to listening to music, let everyone take turns as DJ and limit their time. Or use headphones so others – especially the driver – aren’t subjected to personal music or movie choices. Offer snacks, share reading material and be extra thoughtful while sharing the same, confined space.
Lizzie Post of the Emily Post Institute in Vermont believes manners need not go by the wayside during times of change. The website lists three basic principles: consideration, respect and honesty. On her Awesome Etiquette podcasts, Post suggests only visiting family and friends who share the same standards of caution as you do. Ask pertinent questions before making plans to visit. If there’s a difference of opinion regarding safe practices, have a calm conversation and avoid criticizing personal choices. Then decide if the trip is worth any potential unease or conflict.
While it’s a given that safety comes before etiquette, it doesn’t mean travel can’t be done without keeping everyone in mind.
Kim Wadsworth has been a source of etiquette protocol for 20 years. Her company, Southern Charming, offers consulting in manners for social and business needs.