Holiday road trip - is it a good idea?
October 12, 2021 10:17 AM   Subscribe

Last year we were going to take a big road trip down the west coast during the late-November holidays but scrapped it because of Covid + the overburdened hospitals & first responders. This year, with the delta variant and the overburdened hospitals etc. I'm struggling to figure out how to make a good decision about whether we should go.

Are there resources that you have been using to help you make these kinds of travel decisions? I already use the microcovid calculator for day-to-day life, which is helpful. I was thinking I could do some research closer to the date about how things are going in the places we'd be driving through, finding hotels with good ventilation in rooms, etc. but I would love to hear of any other resources or tools that might help this decision-making process.

More about me, if it helps: I am fully vaxxed and have been pretty locked down - still not seeing others indoors unless we can do a short quarantine & test, that kind of thing. My biggest goal is to not get Covid (and I rage when I read or hear people talking about how it's inevitable, so we should just live like normal). Where I live case rates are slowly going down BUT are still at last-winter numbers, the hospitals are jammed, and I know a lot of fully vaxxed people who have gotten awful breakthrough cases.

Thanks for your help in sorting this out!
posted by rocketing to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
BUT are still at last-winter numbers, the hospitals are jammed, and I know a lot of fully vaxxed people who have gotten awful breakthrough cases.
The societal burden is roughly as high now as it was then, if not higher. The people who die of non-Covid things bc they can't get treatment continues to rise.

The only way this is any less bad of an idea than last year is lower risk to yourself, specifically due to Covid. But if you get into a car accident or break your leg on a hike you could still end up in a very bad way because of the ongoing deadliest pandemic of a century, even if you don't get Covid.
posted by SaltySalticid at 11:12 AM on October 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

We went on a trip this summer, vaxxed up, masked up, and had a great time. Hospital rates and covid cases were about the same where we live and where we went. If I had just read the news and headlines*, we never would have gone. I would do it again. I still mask in stores (people about 50/50 around here), kids mask inside classrooms, and we do not take the pandemic lightly. * According to the news, we would encounter airport delays and cancellations, rental car unavailability, hotel staffing issues, restaurant / food closures and lack of options, empty shelves, forest fires, national park hordes and traffic jams, transportation cancellations, no uber/lyft drivers, but in reality everything went smoothly.
posted by RoadScholar at 12:09 PM on October 12, 2021 [3 favorites]

It's hard to say how things might change over time, but right now in the Bay Area, the number of new cases seems to be nearly as low as it was at the best point in the spring/summer. People do a decent job of wearing masks inside stores. Who knows what may happen with wildfires, but in my immediate area, the air quality has been mostly fine and it will still be warm enough later in the year to fully occupy yourself outside, if you want to. I wouldn't be afraid of coming here, and I'm very cautious. I might stay in a single family home Airbnb that you can have completely to yourself rather than a hotel, so that you can avoid unnecessary extra contact with other travelers.
posted by pinochiette at 12:29 PM on October 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think it depends on exactly where you want to go & for how long. Im in the Bay Area too. My advice just based on the situation here in the Bay Area & what I've gathered is if you're absolutely stir crazy and must take a trip soon or you're going to lose it (which is understandable!) it's ok within these parameters-
- stick to the coasts (where ppl have accepted a pandemic is on), don't venture inland
- try to stay outside as much as possible; take food to go or dine al fresco
- be brisk & business-like inside cute little shops or museums etc, don't hang around
- don't take mask off inside public spaces for any reason
- don't take unnecessary physical risks (like surfing, swimming, hardcore style hiking, driving at night down twisty mountain roads, driving fatigued)
- find out what the situation is like in each of the places you want to visit & avoid places that are having a hard time
posted by bleep at 1:18 PM on October 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I use covidestim for state and county-level data mapping and an estimate of R(t), which is helpful in thinking a little bit ahead.

I've also recently been watching for broader planning. For example, I'm considering a trip to Ohio in December, but I know it has relatively lower population level immunity, which makes it more likely to have a bad outbreak than eg South Carolina despite both having equally bad vaccination rates. It also shows why Oregon and Washington had a harder time with Delta than California despite being almost as vaccinated.
posted by joeyh at 1:18 PM on October 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

Post-vaccine, I don't have a big problem with doing a car trip to an area that isn't so badly hit/are so resource limited that they're asking people to stay away (like Hawaii) while being careful. I don't have any comorbidities and am generally in good health and I don't have anyone in my day to day life that's high risk or unable to get vaccinated who would be at risk if I did come back infected. I have the means to pay for an evacuation if it were to come down to it.

Limiting exposure to strangers to being outdoors, with some distance, while wearing a KN95 or similar mask is really effective. My area (adult vaccination rate of ~75%) has returned to doing outdoor festivals with a few thousand people attending (with somewhere between 20 and 80% mask use) and there's been no alarming set of breakthrough cases. We don't have medical professionals advising us to stop doing them, we have them begging the unvaccinated to get the vaccine. I do know a few people who've had breakthrough cases but all of them were doing things like going to packed dance clubs with poor ventilation or have unvaccinated kids in school that were the likely vector and extended in-home exposure to them.

I've been involved with two small (100-300) people conferences that have required vaccination+masking with no known resulting cases (and we asked people to report them if they do occur). One of the biggest conferences in my industry had ~7,000 people in August with the same requirements and 3 known cases (which easily may have been contracted at parties without mask requirements).

I went on a trip to Puerto Rico with trusted friends where we were able to get short, direct flights and were almost entirely isolated from locals (both for their and our protection). We did a few outdoor meals at restaurants and that was it. We all got tested after getting back just to be sure but were fine.

There was a trip I really wanted to do but had too many potential problems - it would have required flying with a long layover. I'd have been solo and across the country from most people I know so had I gotten sick there would have been no one to care for or advocate for me. It was in an area that's underserved medically to begin with and is actively overwhelmed and where the overall population were significantly unvaccinated and infected. That one I regretfully passed on; there were just too many warning flags. There was a concert I would have liked to have go to but was indoors with no mask or vax requirement - that was a hell no.

In other words, I think it is possible to do a personal risk evaluation and determine that certain things are worth it to you and to create plans that are safe-enough (which really just comes down to avoiding breathing other people's air indoors). I suspect the winter will get worse (and there's always the possibility of a new, even worse strain popping up that could make the spring bad again even for the vaccinated) so if your mental health would benefit from a fall trip, I'd consider going. As others have noted, one of the other big things to do is to figure out travel plans with the least likelihood of sending you to the hospital, both because of exposure to covid there and because of decreased quality of care for other things.
posted by Candleman at 2:01 PM on October 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

I am in San Francisco now, having driven down I-5 from Portland over the past two days. I have a son living in Santa Rosa, and I wanted to see him. I made a similar trip in June, before the Delta variant really got going.

To minimize my risks this time, I'm wearing a KN-95 mask in public. I am not eating in restaurants, and I chose an AirBnB here versus a hotel room so I would have more choice in meals. I bought my snacks in PDX versus stopping at a convenience store on the way.

I am fully vaccinated and have the privilege of working from home normally. Mask wearing in PDX is virtually universal (at least in grocery stores and such) although people do like to wear them half-mast sometimes. Here people who are vaccinated are not required to wear masks everywhere and a lot don't. It's a bit surprising actually.
posted by elmay at 11:51 AM on October 13, 2021

I took a roadtrip through the u.s. in june, stopping in hotels and airbnbs along the way. America is not so scary once the television is off. I wore my mask indoors and in crowds. In some places people looked at me funny but that was about it.

If I were being extremely cautious, I would stay south and go camping.

The u.s. is an incredible country for camping and road tripping.
posted by jander03 at 12:53 PM on October 13, 2021 [1 favorite]

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