I want to state something at the outset. I’m anticipating some people will not be happy about a post about mask free travel. Others have been asking for this and will be very happy. This post will not recommend violating any rules. And this post will NOT examine the debate over mask vs. no mask, or government regulation vs. no regulation, or whether private businesses should or shouldn’t require masks. While I agree these are important issues that should be debated, these politically-charged topics are beyond the scope of this, a travel blog. Instead I’m going to focus on being as comfortable as possible while traveling if you must or choose to. And all while staying safe.
Why travel may be more important now than ever
At the time of this post, we’ve been locked down for nine months in a pandemic. Maybe you’re reading this the month it’s posted, or maybe months or years from now and a different health crisis has surfaced. Whatever the crisis, it’s unreasonable to expect people to eliminate travel entirely for months on end. Staying home 24-7 is severely detrimental to our mental and emotional health. And travel is essential for those of us who travel for a living. I want people to know travel is still possible in these challenging times. I am neither condoning nor shaming any actions by any individuals. And I’m not promoting “rule-breaking.” Instead I’m giving people options where rules don’t restrict them. You always have the option to stay home, too, if that’s what makes you most comfortable. Make the right choice for you and your family.
Mask free and mask avoidance travel IS possible
I don’t know a single person right now who isn’t feeling cabin fever. I’m going to give tips and advice for people who want to, or need to, minimize the use of masks responsibly, through avoiding crowded and indoor places. People need, and deserve, to be able to get out of the house. The concept that people will just lock themselves away and throw away the key until there is no illness is 100% unrealistic. Very few people are able or willing to do that. Yet many of us who hate mask-wearing have been doing that in an attempt to avoid wearing masks. And many who have health conditions that prevent them from wearing masks are being “mask-shamed” by people who don’t know their circumstances. There IS another way. Get some relief!
You may need to rethink travel, depending on how you have thought about travel in the past, at least temporarily. If you can’t or won’t wear a mask most of the time, but you are not looking to break rules or get tangled up in confrontation, either, than some ways of traveling that you may be used to won’t work for you right now. Let go of preconceptions about travel, and open your mind to new ways of traveling. Be open-minded about what kinds of destinations could be exciting or interesting to you, and what modes of transportation you’d be willing to take. If you already are open to all kinds of travel, even better!
It’s all about attitude
Remember, it’s up to you the experience you have traveling, positive or negative. Choose to have a positive experience, and choose not to let challenges, or having to get out of any “comfort zone” you may have, put a damper on your trip. If you’re determined to enjoy yourself, you will. Happiness is always a choice. Pack light and leave the misery of a heavy heart behind. I would argue a positive outlook is the single most important thing you can take with you when traveling – now or at any time.
The planning phase
The first step of any travel experience, of course, is the planning phase. Whether you want to go on a whim and plan for 30 minutes, or have a lot of arrangements to make and take weeks, at least some consideration needs to be given to preparing for your trip. In step one, choose your destination. Then, decide on a transportation method. After that, book your accommodations. And, finally, pack in a way that assures you have what you need for a safe, healthy trip. I’ve provided tips for all of these below.
Choosing your destination(s)
If you’re looking for destination ideas, you’re in the right place with this blog! And check out my YouTube channel right here! Other places to get ideas are sites like Lonely Planet, Travel and Leisure, and on my page and others on Pinterest. So what destinations are ideal for avoiding mask use as much as possible without breaking rules? Think the great outdoors. While it’s still possible to travel to cities, you’ll find many attractions closed, and, if open, requiring mask use. Some cities are even requiring mask use outside in public. And you may find your restaurant options more limited in cities. Check the local regulations in the places you are considering going. Determine if those restrictions are ones you can live with, or whether you want to find someplace else to go. You may also want to factor into your decision how widespread the health crisis is in the area.
The Great Outdoors: parks
So my first recommendation is to stray from the city and get out into the countryside! State Parks, National Parks, Provincial Parks, and natural attractions are the best places to visit right now. In most cases, social distancing is extremely easy and masks are not required other than indoors in public buildings like visitor centers. Many people underestimate the charms of State and Provincial Parks. And many think it will be hard to enjoy this environment if they’re not athletic or physically fit. This is usually not the case. Many of these parks offer abundant benches for resting and relaxing, hiking trails for ALL skill levels, and activities like bird watching and fishing that don’t require much physical activity. (Remember to research fishing licenses if you want to fish.)
More outdoors: other options
If the spectacular scenery of these parks isn’t for you, there’s other options too. How about a northern-climate beach off season, or heading to an apple orchard to pick our own apples? Small towns also tend to come with small crowds, and easy social distancing. Mountain landscapes are another great option. Check out the video at the bottom of this post or click the link here for the mask-minimized road trip itinerary my husband and I took this month. The only time masks were required was when we were indoors in public places, which was limited. Another option is to check out amazing natural wonders like Niagara Falls, or watching spectacular national events like the Aurora borealis (you can Google search the schedule in many areas.)
Transportation will probably be your first consideration when planning your escape. And to be brutally honest, the only free-face friendly option is road trips. Social distancing is probably impossible on a plane, train, or bus (depending on capacity) and masks are required on all of the above. Don’t think the airlines will limit capacity to protect you. I had to take a flight in the peak of pandemic and the plane was FULL. Packed to the hilt. With the pandemic raging, most airlines were still not leaving middle seats open. Trains and buses may allow for more social distancing. But ultimately, your car or a rental car is the best choice in this case.
The freedom of car travel
Road trips are the ultimate in freedom travel. You have TOTAL choice to take breaks when you want, change your itinerary as circumstances warrant, get plenty of fresh air, and keep the masks in your glove compartment unless you’re stopping in a rest area. You also have total control over your environment in your own car, and can clean and sanitize as you deem necessary. But my favorite thing about road trips is getting off the beaten path and exploring less-touristy, less-crowded areas. Many surprises are to be found when you let yourself get lost!
Hotels have mask requirements. There’s no way of getting around it. But it IS possible to minimize the amount of time you have to wear one. Many hotels are offering digital key entry on your smartphone for your room now, so you don’t even need to stop by the front desk. You’ll want to download the hotel’s app to use this service, where available. Rates are low at times like this. Just when you WANT a great view so you can actually enjoy spending more time in your room, you can get one cheaper. The photo above shows our room in Niagara Falls, with an incredible view of both the American and Canadian falls. With huge windows, dining in almost feels alfresco. The greatest attractions were outdoors, not indoors, and social distancing was easy here and masks weren’t required. The only time we needed them was during the five minutes it took to whisk through the lobby and take the elevator up to our room.
Room service is more affordable
Many hotels are also offering reduced-rate packages right now, including meal credits that can be used towards room service. These promotions are a win-win, because they allow guests to limit exposure to the public by dining in-room, and they lower the burden on restaurants trying to keep everything sanitized and safe on-site without losing a paying customer. If you’ve always wanted to try room service but were put-off by the extravagant cost, now is a good time to look for a deal and indulge!
Health crises spawn economic crises. Our restaurants are hurting, and the majority of them have a high probability of going out of business in times like this. I’m trying to support my favorite restaurants as much as I can. Whether you need to wear a mask inside a restaurant depends on local regulations. Where it’s not required, stringent cleaning measures are being taken, customers are socially distanced by alternating or spread out tables, and contact-free options are available like menus you can scan on to your phone. If masks are required or you prefer more isolation, take-out and delivery are becoming available at more restaurants that didn’t previously offer them. There’s competition in the food delivery industry these days, and you can compare coupons and prices to get the best deal. Most will deliver to your hotel, or wherever you’re staying.
Packing for health and safety
Cleaning in hotels right now is exhaustive. I feel MUCH safer in a freshly sanitized hotel room right now than the local grocery store, where random people are touching everything, or even being at home, where cleaning measures aren’t as stringent or frequent. And in your car, you’re in full control. Access is limited to you and your traveling companions, and you can clean and sanitize as you see fit. Be prepared and bring along some hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes for those times when you’ve had public exposure, like hotel lobbies and rest areas. Water to stay hydrated is always a good idea. Bring some over-the-counter medication and first aid kit just in case. And boost your immunity with vitamins and a way to get your exercise and wellness in. There’s many apps for your smartphone or tablet providing things like meditation, journaling, and yoga (bring your mat!) and cardio exercise sessions. Many of these apps offer free trials. Finally, bring a mask you can tolerate, for when you have no choice.
But, some of you may be asking, “what if I NEVER want to wear a mask on my trip?” It’s possible, but you’re going to be roughing it more. Think RV’s, camping, and packing picnics or drive-through only. Or staycations. But if you’ve been staying home getting cabin fever because you hate masks, you CAN get out there and start living again! Your mask free or mask avoidance travel experience awaits! Thanks for reading and commenting on what your travel plans are (no politics, please!) Get inspired by my Michigan countryside road trip blog post here. And check out my Lake Huron, Ontario Road Trip video, filmed entirely during the pandemic, here: