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.

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Seaside Paradise

As soon as we checked in to our vacation rental and dropped our luggage off, I got into a sundress and took the boys to the beach. In those moments when I step onto the sand and hear the waves crashing, my anxiety disappears. It’s such a stress-relieving activity. We took off our shoes and walked in the water along the beach. The water was so warm…like bath water. I’m so used to freezing cold water. I live on Lake Michigan and the water temperature in the summer is still in the 50’s! So the water temperature on Isle of Palms, the beach we went to by Charleston was heavenly. I think that’s why I liked this beach so much. I live by Lake Michigan, and we have beaches here too. But they aren’t warm. I could wear a sleeveless sundress and take off my sandals and be totally comfortable. It was like being wrapped in a warm blanket, sitting next to my fireplace. Comforting.

Beach Crowds

There were a good amount of people there at that time, which was about 6pm. We visited the beach each day we were in Charleston and the amount of people changed at different times of day. The morning was the least busy. The afternoon was the most busy and then it got less busy again in the evening…just like a wave. The busiest time was unexpected because that was when the tide was in…there wasn’t as much space on the beach to lay out. But that’s when most people wanted to be there.

Beach Play

I brought beach toys for the kids. They preferred toys where you could splash people. I have to show you this picture of my son running up to splash me…see below. I thought I was taking a nice selfie, but you can see what he was plotting. So funny. I didn’t mind…remember the water was so warm. The kids played in the sand a little bit, but they loved the water. They played in the waves for hours. The current would slowly drag them down the beach. If I stayed back on the sand, I got worried looking for them at times because they’d drift away.

About to be Splashed!
About to be Splashed!

Don’t Forget the Seafood

Because Charleston is near the ocean, they have great seafood. We tried a place that serves locals our second night in town. It was all fried seafood and was pretty cheap. We got shrimp, scallops, fish. A combination platter. The second night we went to Bubba Gumps’ Shrimp Company. I had shrimp and the best hush puppies I’ve ever had. This was a recommendation from our carriage ride tour guide. The third night we went to a place we found on Yelp that was a little more expensive. It was a sit down, multi-course meal. It was good, but not the best we had during our trip. I love seafood.

Wrapping Up a Beautiful Vacation

The best experience by far that we had at the beach was after that last seafood dinner. It was 8 or 9 at night and it was dark. I asked the boys if they wanted to visit the beach one last time. They agreed. The moon was shining on the water. The air was warm with a gentle breeze. There were a few people with flashlights scattered on the sand. We walked down the beach and looked inside all the huge beachside mansions. We ran and almost lost each other in the dark. That night I realized how precious this time with my boys was. I had done it alone. Alone, and empowered. I had memories I treasure in my heart. During that last walk on our Charleston beach at night, I was grateful…and at peace. My heart was content. I had these two boys, entrusted to my care, that I could bless with beautiful experiences. Experiences we shared together…just the three of us. I will never forget those days in Charleston. Those moments on our beach. They, like the pattern the waves leave in the sand, are engraved on my heart. I’m a mother, the most precious part of my identity. And I love my boys more than anything. Charleston represents so much for us. A place we will always return to, even if only in our minds.

Finding Things to Do in a New Place

Hopefully we’ll be able to travel again soon and when we do, we’ll want to find things to do where we’re traveling. Finding things to do in a new place can be easy and is so much fun. You probably have some ideas of what you’d like to do when you vacation someplace or you wouldn’t have chosen to travel there. When I chose Charleston, I wanted to see the historic architecture I’d heard so much about. I knew it was on the beach, and if you’re from a place where there’s winter 9 months out of the year, the beach sounds heavenly. So, I had some ideas as to what I wanted to do. But, what’s the best way to see the architecture? Which beach do I go to? Answering all these questions requires some research.

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Coronavirus and Me

Friday, 12:32pm, 2 days until trip

I receive an email from my kids’ school district. They say they will still be open after spring break. They said they discourage travel to Washington State, California, and New York. If anyone travels there, or to any other state that develops sustained community transmission while visiting, that they will be subject to a 14 day quarantine. I check CDC’s map and Texas is one shade lighter than California. That means they are close to the number of coronavirus cases and, in my opinion, could see sustained community transmission within days.

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Coronavirus and Traveling

Saturday, 8:19pm, 8 days to trip to Houston

So, my sister texts me. She says, “How are you? Are you still going to Houston?” To which I reply, “Why wouldn’t I be?” And she proceeds to tell me that her rather large company in Milwaukee does not want any of their employees traveling even domestically unless “operationally essential.” She says planes are about 50% capacity as of recent. 

A Little Background

I hate flying. I have to fly to see my dad, who lives 1200 miles away in Houston, Texas. So when I have to fly, I take drugs. Yep. Not afraid to admit that. I have anxiety. And going 500 miles per hour at 30,000 feet is enough to put me over the edge. So, being worried about catching a deathly virus does not help things in the slightest. Up until Saturday at 8:19, I thought this was only a big deal if you were traveling to China. I thought that people were being irrational because I figured influenza was just as bad or worse and my son and my ex have already gotten that this year and gotten over it in three days. Other than saying goodbye to my sick days, it wasn’t too big of a deal. (And yes, we all got the flu shot.) 

Saturday, 8:25pm

So, what does a person who has anxiety and is prone to thinking slightly irrationally because of it, do when her sister tells her she needs to be worried about catching a deadly virus while doing the scariest thing on earth…flying? She calls the most rational people she knows to calm her down. These two people for me are my kids’ dad and my own dad. Oh, and my kids’ dad just happens to be flying the week I get back with my own two children to Denver. He’ll know what to do. So, I text him first. And guess what? He’s concerned. Even thinking about cancelling his trip. Now I’m freaking out. I text my dad next. He travels all over the world for work and works with a company that does business in China. He’ll know what to do.

Sunday, 7:14am, 7 days until trip to Houston

My dad says, “I will call you later today to discuss.” Not a good sign. I wait all day. I go to church. I go for a walk. I have a coffee date. My dad finally calls. He says it’s up to me. He says he understands my concern and would understand if I cancelled the trip. He said he would fly, but he doesn’t have young kids. He says I could be quarantined for 14 days if I’m exposed. I tell him I’ll talk to my principal to ask him what we’d do if I got quarantined for 14 days. Dad and I will talk later this week.

I do a little research on the CDC’s website and realize I need a few supplies. I head to Walmart for some hand sanitizer, gloves, and Lysol wipes. They are out. I go to Walgreens. Clean out of hand sanitizer. I go to CVS. Out again. I ask the pharmacist what to do. He says use Hydrogen Peroxide wipes on my hands instead.

Monday, 11:02am, 6 days until trip

I email my principal. Tell him my plans. He gets back to me one hour and 17 minutes later. Tells me it’s my choice to make, but he would be concerned about it as I am. He says the board is approving a pandemic plan this evening. He’ll send me the plan tomorrow. So no one is making me feel any better. I tell my dad. He says to wait to decide until we see the board’s plan.

The good news is that in my desk I find some hand sanitizer. It’s got 65% alcohol, which is what the CDC recommends. See how happy I am below.

Hand Sanitizer
Hand Sanitizer

And here is the stash of supplies I will now carry on the plane with me (if I go):

My supplies while traveling
My supplies while traveling

Tuesday, 12:39pm, 5 days until trip

I get the board’s plan. There is nothing in it that would impact my travel plans. It is geared at parents and kids. Thirteen reported cases of coronavirus in Texas. Twelve in Colorado where the boys plan to be. So far only one in Wisconsin. Six hundred forty seven cases nationwide with 25 deaths recorded. Eighty-three cases are travel related. Tomorrow I happen to be visiting our pediatrician for my son’s annual physical. I plan on asking him for his advice. 

Wednesday, 3:16pm, 4 days until trip

I ask my pediatrician if I should travel and if the boys should travel. He’s another very rational person. He says absolutely. No problem, have a great trip. Finally! Some good news! He said he thinks way more people have the coronavirus but because it’s so mild in most people, they think they just have a cold. He said it’s not affecting children much at all. He said if you were over 60 and had a lung infection, you’d have to be careful. I’m still a little concerned, but I’m doing better. I’m doing extra meditation to calm myself down. I’ve got my drugs, but now I’m concerned that I’ll touch my eyes without realizing because, well, I do a lot of things without realizing it when I take my drugs. (Don’t worry, I have a legitimate prescription). 

Fifteen reported cases in Texas. Seventeen in Colorado. Total cases: 938 with 29 total deaths. Ninety-two cases related to travel. I’m going to wait another day to make my decision final.

The bad news? I guess Houston cancelled the rodeo. I was actually a little bit hoping I could go to that this year.

Thursday, 8:48pm, 3 days until trip

Last night Trump banned travel for Europeans coming into the US. The NBA has been suspended. March Madness will be played in empty arenas. My ex and I talked last night and he is still very, very concerned. I’m not really sure what to do still. I’ve talked with other frequent travelers and they say things are looking pretty normal in airports still. If you shut off your TV, all seems normal in the outside world. I may have a chance to witness this on my own on Sunday. As of now, the trip is still on. I’m going to post this now, as it’s my day to post. Stay tuned for next week’s post to see how things have gone! In the meantime, post a comment below. Tell me what you would do if you were me!

Traveling Healthy

If you’re like me, it’s easy to slip into bad eating and exercise habits while being on vacation. Then, when you return home, you just stick with the unhealthy patterns and before you know it, you’ve gained ten pounds. 

However, when we go on vacation, we want to be rejuvenated. We want to be refreshed. So, why not use your vacation as a reset for positive, healthy behavior instead? There are ways to do this. Here are a few:

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Travel on a Budget

Every month I save a little money into my budget for travel. I usually travel on spring break and during the summer. So when summer comes around, I have enough for a week long trip with my boys. However, I can’t save a lot, so I have to make sure to stick to a budget. Here are some ways I have great, yet economical, trips.

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Finding Lodging

When I’m staying somewhere longer than one night, I prefer to find lodging through www.vrbo.com or www.airbnb.com. I’ve had great experiences with these sites. I prefer to have more features like kitchenettes and multiple bedrooms. I like how you can search for places by price, location, travel dates, or number of bedrooms. You can also view pictures of the rental. I wanted to make sure the rental had a kitchenette (I wanted to eat my breakfasts and lunches at the rental so I didn’t have to spend money buying every meal.) and slept at least three people. I also wanted to see if the place was clean and decorated nicely. The sites are great because you can view the reviews too, which can put your heart at rest when trying to select a rental. The site also lists items available like linens, kitchen appliances, air conditioning, number of people the rental sleeps, and whether or not it has wifi. Read all of the information provided before choosing a rental.

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Seafood

Before heading to Charleston, I did a lot of research on where to sleep at night, what attractions to see, and what weather to expect. I did not look into restaurants. That was my one downfall of the whole trip. The one thing that didn’t go so well.

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Charleston Architecture

The main reason why I wanted to visit Charleston is to see the history and architecture. I thought I could use it as inspiration for my own house back home. I had visited New Orleans and the French Quarter and had fallen in love with the wrought iron gates, the shutters, the old churches and the green spaces. I knew Charleston had a similar feel to it. That’s why I decided to visit.

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