Should You Be Planning Your Next Vacation Escape?

A winding road along Maui’s coastline into the sunset. Photo Courtesy: Archershoots/Getty Images

The holiday season is long over. But between positive tests, quarantines, delayed or canceled flights and news of a new more transmissible variant of COVID-19, our chances for a much-needed faraway relaxing vacation weren’t necessarily met. I already told you about my trip back to Barcelona to see my family in July of last year and why I don’t think this was the appropriate time to travel to Europe. I’ve also written about the great debate we all pondered in deciding whether to travel or not during the holiday season. And all the things I’ve learned while flying in pandemic times (be patient, pack extra masks).

But with the winter months bearing heavily on us and the effects of pandemic fatigue weighing on us more than ever, is it responsible — or even possible — to start thinking about the next escape we might take?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding travel to international destinations with very high levels (Level 4) of COVID-19 and advises you should be fully vaccinated before heading to countries with high levels (Level 3) of COVID-19 — you can check travel recommendations by destination here. The agency also recommends delaying domestic travel until you’re fully vaccinated and reminds us that wearing a mask over your nose and mouth is required on planes, buses, trains and other forms of public transportation. 

You might also want to know that, yes, air travel can increase your risk of getting COVID-19. And we’re far from the early days of summer 2021 and their low numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases. The Omicron variant is driving the increase in the number of cases and hospitalizations in the U.S.

Maybe, like myself, you’re thinking about whether international travel will be at all possible this year and are daydreaming about the Hawaiian islands and how promising they always sound. Especially after how the paradisiacal Maui was portrayed in The White Lotus. You could always settle for rewatching the HBO show or screen some other Hawaii-set titles, such as the movie The Descendants (2011) starring George Clooney and Shailene Woodley, of course. But if you want to actually go to the islands, know that travelers were welcomed back in November of 2021 after Hawaii Governor David Ige had asked visitors and residents to reduce travel to Hawaii to essential business activities in the late summer months. 

I was in Oahu over Christmas, and my trip — filled with water activities, naps on the beach and outdoor dining — felt almost the same as any of my previous visits to the islands and very safe. Bear in mind that, before going, you’ll have to complete a mandatory health form from the state of Hawaii. Domestic travelers are required to show proof of vaccination or have a negative test result if they want to avoid quarantine. Once there, indoor masking is enforced and restaurants require proof of vaccination for patrons. 

Is This the Time for a Road Trip?

Redwood National and State Parks in Northern California. Photo Courtesy: Carmen Martínez Torrón/Getty Images

Things could be better in February and March when it comes to the number of cases and hospitalizations, and that Hawaiian getaway might look even more enticing — and responsible — then. Or maybe it’s time to embrace once again the very American custom of road trips and start planning long weekend excursions. 

A three- to four-day outing is an option that still affords us a change of scenery and the welcome mental reset that getting out of the house tends to provide. Plus, a weekend drive can be the kind of trip that doesn’t require that much planning and can be postponed or even scratched last minute. Most hotels have relaxed their cancellation policies, and Airbnb has also increased the flexibility in its cancellation rules. So, it’s easier than ever to book a worry-free stay away from home, knowing changes are possible if something goes wrong and you no longer feel like traveling. 

Choosing a destination you’ve already visited in the past — and that you love — is also a good way of getting to disconnect a bit, but without the stresses of having to learn the ways of a new place. Returning to a spot you’ve already enjoyed in the past also takes the pressure off typical vacation concerns like getting to see all the landmarks. Chances are you won’t be able to visit anywhere the same way you’d have done it a couple of years ago.

Even if you opt for and limit yourself to weekend getaways this winter and spring, that doesn’t mean you should stop at those. There’s no reason you shouldn’t start planning your next big international voyage. You just maybe don’t want to book it yet. But there’s no harm — or risk — in starting to research one of those big adventures that takes months to put together. Daydreaming about a future trip and imagining all the things you’ll get to see — and delicious stuff you’ll get to eat — sure alleviates the mind a little bit.

If you’re still longing for your next getaway, check our Travel section.