Traveling to Florida Amidst a Pandemic

In February I decided to take the boys to Pensacola, Florida for a summer vacation. I booked a vacation rental that had two bedrooms, one with a queen sized bed for me and another with two twin beds for the boys. I wanted to see the white sandy beaches and be in the South for a week like we did last summer in Charleston. And then the pandemic hit.

I waited to see if things would settle down. See if things would open back up before I decided not to cancel my trip. Florida has many cases of COVID-19, so I knew there would be risk of exposure. By June 1, all the shelter at home orders had been lifted and the beaches in Florida were open. I checked the numbers of cases in Pensacola and it was much less than the rest of the state. I decided that I should go. We’d social distance at the beach, go to some nature parks, and get take out or sit outside at restaurants. We’d take walks and do basically the same things we’d do at home, just in a different place. I didn’t want to sit at home all summer with two energetic boys. We needed a change of pace. Hopefully I wouldn’t regret this decision later.

The Plan

We decided to drive. I couldn’t afford to fly all of us and wasn’t comfortable with the exposure I’d get in an airport. We would stay with my mom for two nights on the way down. This is a bit of a risk because her husband, Steve, is a nurse and cares for COVID-19 patients. We would then travel to Kentucky and stay in a hotel. I picked a pricier hotel because they had plans in place for disinfecting and they put a breakfast in a bag for you in the morning so that we could avoid a buffet. I also learned from my trip to Charleston that I need a pricier hotel. It was definitely worth the extra money. They had snacks at night and many security features, which made me feel better as a single woman. Then we’d make it to our vacation rental the next day. Upon arrival, I will be disinfecting the surfaces with my anti-bacterial wipes.  

Reality

This was the plan…and it worked for the most part. It was hard to social distance at the beach. It was very crowded. But we tried. We ate outside at every restaurant except one that didn’t have outdoor seating. I did my homework this time…the week before we left I scouted out restaurants with outdoor seating on Yelp and picked one for each night we were in Pensacola. I wasn’t sure if they disinfected the tables before we sat down, but I assumed they did. One restaurant offered anti-bacterial hand wash as we sat down. Most restaurant staff were wearing masks. We did have to go grocery shopping while we were there. We all wore masks. I noticed most people wearing masks too. We didn’t do much except hang out at our vacation rental (I parked myself on the porch swing a lot and enjoyed the warm weather), go to the beach (at least 3 hours a day), go out to eat (mostly outdoor seating), and walk around downtown. There was a nice pier we walked out to each night and sat on benches. We didn’t stress too much about who had sat there before us. We just tried to wash our hands a lot. We ate ice cream each night too…we ordered and then ate outside. 

Overall, the vacation was fun, but wasn’t as magical for me as going to Charleston was last year. It was nice having so many days in a row with the boys. I will definitely miss them when they go back to their dad as we have had a lot of memories again. It was nice having such warm weather and eating such good seafood. The drive was long…we drove 17 hours each way. But the boys tolerated it pretty well. I’ll miss this time, but it’s nice knowing that I have a full summer ahead. I’m planning on taking the boys on some fun day trips whenever we can. I’ve become a more seasoned traveler. I learned a lot from my trip to Charleston that I applied to this trip, which made it even better. Next year I’m hoping to take the boys to Mackinac Island. A shorter drive! I’ve always wanted to go there. I was just hoping to go with a lover of some sort. I guess my little men will have to do for now. 🙂

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