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COVID-19 makes traveling via recreational vehicles, like this one offered by Blacksford RV Rental Company, an attractive option. There is no need for hotels/motels, and it’s easier to maintain social distancing. Courtesy photo
ColumnsHit the Road

Hit the Road: Getting creative to salvage the summer vacation

There is so much to be said about summer vacations — and so much that can’t be said because of the continuing pandemic and all the uncertainty around whether to take a vacation or not.

Looks like I’ll be staying put, at least through mid-October, but others I know are trying to figure out how to travel within limitations. In some cases, you’ll have to expend extra effort to visit that destination.

For instance, before exploring Alaska, you must produce a travel declaration form and several negative COVID-19 tests, fill out some surveys, then foot the bill for a 14-day quarantine before you actually start that vacation. A similar dance is required by Hawaii.

And then there are those states that won’t let you in, no matter what, if you hail from the Golden State. The rules and regs change frequently, so the lesson here is to check them before you choose your destination and/or purchase that plane ticket.

P.S. — Hawaii and New York impose fines as high as $10,000 for various COVID-related infractions.

Europe doesn’t want Americans (re)infecting their populace either, so AFAR Magazine’s website suggests making these substitutions: Aspen, Colo., for the Swiss Alps; Calistoga, in Napa Valley, for the Czech spa town of Karlovy Vary; and (who knew?) Catalina Island for the Greek Islands. To encourage that substitution, Catalina has launched a “Love Catalina Island” campaign to bring more visitors 26 miles across the sea, according to consumer advocate and travel writer Christopher Elliott.

“Catalina’s new site is more than a fresh take on a favorite California destination,” he writes. “It also keeps visitors up to date on the latest hotel and attraction grand openings.”

To mitigate the disastrous effects of the virus, some destinations are getting creative.

A few wineries in Sonoma County are offering private tours and accommodations that promise to be practically sterile. Masks, of course, are required everywhere and at all times except when sipping and supping.

A recent survey conducted by Travel Leaders Network, an organization representing travel agents who design personalized itineraries, found that half of the 2,700 frequent travelers interviewed “are starting to make finite plans for their next vacation or have already made plans, while the other half continues to dream about it.” Forty-three percent said they’ll hold off until 2021.

Some consumers figure that, if they can’t visit a foreign country or fly long distances, camping is one alternative. That’s why searches for campgrounds are up 400% on the campground-search app, The Dyrt, according to Sunset Magazine’s email newsletter; memberships on the app have increased 500%. These same reasons, as well as the need to social distance, are no doubt driving the demand for recreational vehicles, which is up 1,600%, according to RVshare CEO Jon Gray.

Travel writer Sean Szymkowski confirms this.

“The spread of COVID-19 has made air travel and public transportation mighty unpopular options,” which means that “personal vehicles feel like more of a safe haven.”

This trend bodes well for Jonathan Distad, a tech entrepreneur who recently launched Blacksford, an RV rental enterprise that offers a high-end experience. Rental packages include a new Mercedes-Benz Sprinter and various amenities, like fully stocked vehicles and “curated itineraries.” Prices start at $199/day. After signing up online, “we greet you at your airport gate, load your bags … and offer 24-hour roadside assistance,” Distad says.

Pick-up service is currently available at Las Vegas and Bozeman, Montana, airports, with plans to open at Denver International Airport this month.

Have an idea for vacations in the time of coronavirus? Email [email protected]. For more photos and discussion, visit