We could all use a vacation right about now. In fact, many of us had vacations scheduled, but had to COVID cancel or reschedule for much later in the year or for 2021. So, where does that leave you if you are in need of time off? Clearly a staycation at home is a safe and budget-friendly option, but you are likely tired of staring at your own four walls, porch, patio, yard, street, neighborhood and entire city. Well, we do live in New Orleans, so maybe not the city. I take that part back.

If like me, you still wanted to take your annual, already scheduled vacation, but had to come up with something different than that epic road trip to ever charming Birmingham, Asheville, Charleston and Savannah (insert wailing face and sobbing emojis), there is hope.

(NOTE: I am not advocating traditional travel, in which you go to populated locales, operating business as usual and placing yourself and others in danger. Nor am I suggesting that girl’s or guy’s weekend you take every year with 20 of your favorite people to party at a beach house or condo or in [insert favorite party destination here]. Please stop doing that, people. What follows refers to a no-or-low contact road trip, embarked upon after two weeks of isolation or quarantine to ensure you are not a carrier and prone to spreading COVID.)

According to a May 20, 2020 piece about low-risk summer activities by NPR, Dr. Emily Landon a hospital epidemiologist and infectious diseases specialist at University of Chicago Medicine says going to a vacation home — especially in the woods where contact with others is low or unlikely — is on the low-risk end. Dr. William Miller, an epidemiologist at Ohio State University says to clean all major surfaces upon arrival. Don’t travel if you have symptoms of course and the doctors recommend limiting exposure to people prior to the trip. The piece also says staying in a hotel is also low-to-medium risk. Again, limit time in common areas of the building, disinfect all common surfaces in your room, be mindful in elevators and don’t touch buttons with your fingertips opting instead to “use the knuckle of your little or ring finger,” says Miller, and opt for room service over eating in the restaurant. Remember everyone’s favorite mantra and hashtag #washyourhands.

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My husband Mark is at-risk due to asthma, so we decided on a week alone in the Homochitto National Forest. We rented a cabin, brought in all of our own food, drinks, toiletries and other supplies for the week and spent our time reading, hiking, wading in the crystal clear water at Brushy Creek, taking drives on the backroads, sipping cocktails around the fire pit, doing puzzles and taking the cat on walks. Yes, we brought our cat, Mr. Percy. He’s diabetic and requires insulin twice a day, so it’s just easier to travel with the little guy. He is harness trained, so it’s fun for him, too. Except the car ride. He could do without that, thank you very much.

I realize a week in a remote forest area without TV, internet or cell phone use is not for everyone, but if sounds up your alley, here are my tips to do it the low or no-contact way:

  1. Booking: When booking your stay, be sure to ask the cabin or property rental manager, owner or hotel personnel about their disinfecting procedures and COVID protocols. Ask not only about cleaning and disinfecting, but also inquire about the length of time between guests. If you don’t feel comfortable with their responses, move on and keep searching until you find a place whose protocols you feel good about.
  2. Grocery Delivery: Plan all meals, snacks and, if you imbibe, alcohol, for the time you will be away and order it via your favorite grocery and alcohol delivery app. We use Instacart and Top Box for groceries and produce, respectively. Drizly is great for alcohol delivery from local liquor and wine stores. Martin Wine Cellar also offers curbside pickup.
  3. Supplies: Be sure to pack your now common COVID supplies, such as face coverings, hand sanitizer, bleach wipes and spray and paper towels, in case you have to stop for gas or an emergency and to clean upon arrival. We picked a locale that was only a two-hour drive to avoid stops and had no contact with other humans during the trip — it was really remote, y’all.
  4. Cleaning: Before unpacking the car, go into the cabin (or hotel room) and wipe down all commonly used surfaces. Think doorknobs and door edges, light switches, countertops, cabinet pulls, faucets and so forth. We were fortunate to stay in a cabin with a washer and dryer on site, so we promptly tossed all bed, bath and kitchen linens in the wash, just to be on the safe side. Experts recommend removing comforters, because many hotels do not replace them after every guest. You could also bring your own linens if you are traveling by car, have room and there is not an on-site washer and dryer.
  5. Relax: Once you’ve gotten the cabin, rental home or room wiped down and the linens squared away, kick back, relax and enjoy your down time. You’ve earned it.


Do you have a tip or advice for safecationing? Share in comments or email me at melanie@myneworleans.com.

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