There is no doubt about it—it’s a tricky time to travel. While we strongly recommend staying at home as much as possible, we understand you may not be able to stand another day of sticking close to home. So, what exactly are your options in a time when many countries and states have imposed travel bans? And how can you stay safe, now that COVID-19 cases are surging in parts of Tennessee, and beyond?
In addition to wearing a face covering, social distancing, and washing your hands, keep clear of places where COVID-19 is spreading. (In Tennessee, outbreaks are highest in Davidson, Shelby, Rutherford, and Hamilton counties.) And, keep your vacation plans small and travel as close to home as possible–this is not the year to “do” Europe or drive across North America.
When it comes to coronavirus, air travel is a mixed bag. Although viruses do not spread easily on an airplane because the air is continuously circulated and filtered, you may be exposed to crowds in line-ups or on flights. Car or RV travel may be a better option as you can control who comes along for the ride. If you do opt for a car trip, remember that you will be exposed to other people and a variety of surfaces when you stop for gas, food, or bathroom breaks—so bring masks and hand sanitizer with you.
Hotels, cottages, and other rentals
If you want to do more than a day trip, renting a cottage can be a relatively safe option. Whether you decide on a cottage, hotel, or Airbnb rental, always ask how the place is cleaned. (Hotels should comply with the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s new Safe Stay guidelines, while Airbnb hosts should follow this protocol.) It never hurts to bring along a package of sanitizing wipes so you can wipe down bathrooms, doorknobs, light switches, and other surfaces that are frequently touched.
When you have zeroed in on an area you would like to visit, make a list of activities you can do that would not involve crowds— take a raincheck on tours or other group activities. Going for drives is the most low-risk way to sightsee these days, and outdoor activities, like hiking, biking, and swimming are suitable too, as long as you can keep a distance of six feet from others. One tip: travel on weekdays to cut down on the chance of ending up on a crowded trail or beach.
Spectacular outdoor options
If you love the outdoors, you are in luck–Tennessee has a vast network of stand-out caves, gorges, waterfalls, historic sites, and parks. Although state parks (and many of their facilities) have re-opened, always check for the latest info about park closures before you head off. A few parks to consider include:
- Rock Island State Park, which is famous for its spectacular overlooks, deep pools, waterfalls, and narrow limestone paths
- Cedars of Lebanon State Park, which is home to unique natural ecosystems with natural rock gardens
- Obed Wild and Scenic River, which looks like it did in the late 1700s when it was a good fishing and hunting ground
- Fall Creek Falls State Park, which includes more than 34 miles of trails and one of the highest falls in the eastern U.S.
Consider a virtual vacation
If your health is compromised or you feel anxious about traveling, consider staying home and doing a virtual vacation. The best thing about an online experience is that you don’t have to limit yourself to Tennessee (although there are many excellent virtual attractions here).
Above all, please continue to be safe by wearing a face covering, social distancing, and washing your hands.