The current COVID-19 shutdown — in the spirit of Sherlock Holmes, I’m calling it “The Great Hiatus” — has thrown everyone into disarray. Restaurants and clubs are closing down, theme parks are shut, and the tourism and hospitality business is in a tailspin as they’re trying to figure out how to recover from what should have been a very busy Spring Break vacation season. Here in Orlando, I’ve got several friends whose businesses have been upended because their performance contracts were canceled.

So how do you vacation when we’re supposed to be practicing social distancing?

The first thing to remember is that social distancing does not mean isolation. It means you shouldn’t get too close to people or gather in public places. That means if you want to go anywhere, you can’t fly, you can only drive. It means you can’t go out to restaurants or to theaters, it means you should eat at home. It means you can’t take a cruise, especially since all cruise ships have shut down operations.

That does limit your options quite a bit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have some sort of vacation. So here are a few ways you can take a modified vacation in March and April while still keeping yourself, your family, and people around you safe.

As I said earlier, planes are out as a form of transportation, but your car is perfectly fine. So a there-and-back road trip is not out of the question, and neither is driving to your destination. As long as you’re not trying to get from Miami to Fairbanks and back in a week, you should be able to drive to wherever you’re trying to go in a day or two.

Right now, many of the major hotel chains are taking extra precautions in the way they’re cleaning their hotel rooms and public areas. The Rosen Hotels in Orlando are cleaning “. . .with quick acting hydrogen peroxide-based disinfectants instead of standard alcohol-based disinfectants used previously and clean more frequently on a modified schedule.” The Radisson Hotels are increasing their cleaning and sanitizing frequency. And many hotels are changing their cancellation policies, allowing people to cancel their reservations for free, if the reservations were made before a certain date.

This means that many of the larger hotels are going to be a decent option when it comes to cleanliness, although you still have to practice social distancing while you’re there. And since many of them are going to be nearly empty, you could have the whole pool to yourself! Just perfect for sitting and relaxing. (Just stay out of the hot tubs.)

You could also stay in a cabin at one of the state or national parks around the country, if they’re still open. Spend time in the cabin and go for hikes, cook all your own meals there, and spend the days relaxing.

italian-pizza-restaurant-italy-3498Eating in a restaurant may not be an option, unless you can go to a restaurant that’s not very busy and can sit in a section of the restaurant that’s not very crowded. Be sure to pack some disinfectant wipes and wipe down the chair, armrests, as well as both the tabletop and the underside. Also, please tip the servers well — this is how they make their living, and their incomes have been cut, if not eliminated.

Another option is to order your food to go, and then find a place to eat. Depending on where you’re staying, you could either eat back at your house or room, or you might even be able to find a public place to sit, like a park or an outdoor seating area.

Go out for a picnic. Find a park nearby, pack a lunch or dinner, and spread a blanket out on the grass. Enjoy a couple hours outside, safely away from other people, but still enjoying your time off.

You won’t be able to see many sights, as many museums, theaters, and other attractions have closed down. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be entertained. You can watch some past plays, musicals, and operas on different streaming services, including the Broadway Shrek musical on Netflix, any number of old and new Broadway musicals on (they even have a 7 day free trial!), or the Metropolitan Opera streaming a different opera on their website every night.

You can also virtually tour different museums around the world, including the Guggenheim Museum in New York or the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. You can mirror your Apple laptop to your Apple TV device or beam your browser to a Google Chromecast device on your big TV and tour the museums in high definition.

There’s nothing wrong with relaxing and reading. Dive into that pile of books you’ve been buying and promising to read, but never getting to. Or download some books from your local library using the Libby app. Or even order a few Kindle books and read them on your phone or tablet. If you’re on vacation, find a secluded spot outside or in a nearly-empty coffee shop, and read quietly for a couple hours. (I recommend Mackinac Island Nation on your Kindle or in paperback.) Remember to wipe down the tables and tip the baristas well.

Of course, you can just go for a walk around the place you’re visiting. Do some window shopping, hike the trails, see the historic sights. Or go for a nice long drive and explore the countryside, or drive around a historic neighborhood and admire the architecture. Or as someone said on my Facebook page, “Top down, radio up, just cruise.

Finally, be sure to purchase trip cancellation insurance before any trip. Your vacation can be canceled for any number of reasons, but if you had to cancel because of a family member’s illness, you could lose everything you paid for the vacation. Trip insurance will let you recover those costs, as long as you bought the insurance before the illness set in. Cancellations made by your travel provider will be refunded.

Whatever you do, it’s very important that you’re safe, and that you keep family and friends safe. Don’t go into crowded settings, like busy restaurants or businesses. Wash your hands, sneeze into your elbow, and practice social distancing. And if you’re feeling the least bit ill, it’s important that you stay home and quarantine yourself completely until you know what you’ve got.

Vacation isn’t all about jamming yourself and your family into a crowded theme park, standing in lines, or racing around to see as many sites and attractions as you can. It can be a time to rest, relax, and take yourself out of your home space for a little while. You can still have a vacation that’s fairly secluded, separate from other people, and gets you out of the house or hotel.

Photo credit: Skitterphoto (, Creative Commons 0)