I think it goes without saying that 2020-2021 have been a VERY strange time in our existence, particularly when it comes to travel. Even if the virus situation starts to improve, it is still a good idea to consider socially distant travel options for the safety of your family. This is not the time when you want to plunge headfirst into a huge crowds of strangers who may or may not be vaccinated.
So I thought I’d share some of the socially distant travel options we’ve been doing this year. I have to confess, I was BAD at the whole quarantining business. My whole family are all rampant extroverts (except for my introvert daughter-in-law) so the idea of being locked up in complete isolation for months or years was just really HARD for us to even imagine.
And I’ll be honest, for the first few months, I was a bit of a skeptic, to my family’s dismay. I kept saying it was just a bad flu and that we’d be FINE. I’m a natural optimist, so it was very hard for me to imagine that a little germ like that could paralyze the whole world. But finally I changed my tune once people started dying in huge numbers.
So, we compromised. We did stay locked down for the worst months of the virus, but when we just couldn’t stand it any more, we started researching some socially distant travel options that would allow us to get out a little, but still do our best to keep ourselves safe. We found local activities we could drive to, rented isolated cabins, visited National Parks, and practiced all the sensible precautions with masks, hand washing, and social distancing as best we could.
Here are our favorite Socially Distant Travel Road Trips
Oprah’s 2020 Vision Tour
This trip was in early March, right at the beginning of the pandemic, so we didn’t really know what was going on or how serious things would get. All I knew was that I had been dreaming of seeing Oprah in person during my entire 4 month round of chemotherapy for breast cancer. So even though I was bald and a bit frail, and probably wide open to every germ in the place, I still flew to Denver with my best friend Linda to go see Oprah. It was probably the very LAST public gathering of that size in the whole United States. But I’ve got to say, it was WORTH IT!
We were clear up in the nosebleed seats, so we could only see her on the jumbotron, but I knew that voice and I was enthralled. Each stop on the tour had a different guest – Michelle Obama, The Rock, Amy Schumer. We had Oprah’s best friend Gail and the two of them together were AMAZING. Such lifelong friends.
Common was one of our special guests. He was pretty amazing and so were some of the other performers on the bill. It was a whole day-long event and I wouldn’t have missed a minute of it. Fortunately, neither of us got sick, which was likely just dumb luck or providence. In fact, neither of us has had it and we are both fully vaccinated now (Linda is an elementary school teacher, so it was super important that she get vaccinated early on). I just got mine in early March.
AirBNB – Knotty Girl Cabin, Mountain View, Wyoming
Our second more socially distant travel location was in May, so we were both smarter and more cautious by then. We got on AirBNB and started searching around for isolated cabins that were within easy driving distance. We’re in Salt Lake City, but we LOVE Wyoming, so we were absolutely delighted to find this little private cabin over someone’s garage. It was a bargain at just less than $100 for the night and it had a full kitchen and was completely isolated from anyone, even the owner.
But it was super cute inside and very comfortable. You can find some real bargains on those AirBNB sites. It’s just that the $100ish cleaning fee they usually charge is pretty hurtful when you are only staying a day or so. I think we didn’t have that with this booking. It’s a little better if you are staying a week or so.
We didn’t do much – napped, watched Netflix, played board games, and hung out with our crazy son and daughter-in-law. They went on a hike and we could see some cranes and deer in the pasture nearby. It was just so refreshing to see a different set of four walls and a wee bit of nature. We tried to see Fort Bridger which was just up the street, but everything was Covid-closed, so that was disappointing, but it was pretty small and not too impressive anyway.
See, I told you they were CRAZY, but we have a lot of fun with our grown kids and when they can arrange their work schedules, we try to travel together with whatever kids we can round up. Our younger son had to work or something, I don’t remember. This was a fun little bridge in Heber City on the way back.
Caboose Village, Marysvale, UT
Our next little trip was to a fun little place called Caboose Village, near Marysvale, UT for Father’s Day. We had stayed there before in a converted railway car. It’s right on the Sevier River and each little car has it’s own private patio to sit and watch the water birds and just relax. We packed in a lot of our own food so we would be able to stay to ourselves for the most part, but there were a few mix-ups and we ended up having to drive nearly 50 miles to find a place to eat because the tiny town’s two restaurants were both CLOSED on the same day #weird
The background is the Big Rock Candy Mountain. Each different car has a completely different setup and they’re all really cute inside. My husband was just recovering from knee surgery and I was recovering from my radiation treatments, so we weren’t doing anything too strenuous. Just sitting on our little patio, reading books, avoiding germs, and enjoying the view.
Our July trip was a road trip to Yellowstone. Self-contained for the most part, either in the car or in our cute little cabin that we rented. We found some pretty good deals in nearby Island Park and again found another cute cabin over a garage with a full kitchen. It was funny, people in Idaho where we visited Bear World, were surprisingly lax about masking and social distancing, but Montana was much more strict and we were grateful for that.
We love Bear World. You can get up close and personal (from your car) to a whole bunch of bears. And they also have some baby bear cubs that you can bottle feed, which is so cute! They had about 8 cubs of different ages while we were there.
Look at this guy. He’s had his bottle of milk and a bit of a cuddle, now he’s ready to snuggle up for a little nap! Sad that they take them away from their Mama’s though. They’d be better off raised by their Moms.
Here’s a cute little video of one of these bear cubs trying to climb up one of the metal-clad trees. Poor guy. He wanted that sooooo badly. He tried for about 15 minutes.
We always like to get up close and personal with the animals (safely and sensibly – so many people are just plain STUPID). We were in the car, just watching a whole herd while this guy just casually meandered by. Talk about social distancing! Check out our older post from our previous trip to Yellowstone for some really great buffalo photos. We didn’t see as many this time – different time of year.
We are great animal lovers and enjoy seeing them in their natural habitat, but we also stopped by the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center to visit a few old friends as well.
They had lots of funny signage around. I think a little humor helps people keep a bit of perspective on the restrictions.
Safari West, Sonoma, CA
My birthday trip in October was a positively magical experience at a super cool nature preserve called Safari West in Sonoma, CA. Like I said, our kids are all grown, (but of course they had just as great a time as we did), but if you have younger kids, this type of a place would be just delightful for them. They even have GLAMPING! They have these awesome traditional tents that they’ve added hardwood floors and real beds and BATHROOMS (a must!). I wrote a whole post about it, but I’ll share a couple of nibbles with you.
See, I promised you GLAMPING. This was so fun, although we were right outside the flamingo pond and they are NOISY buggers! All night long. But we could see the giraffes and the zebras from our patio. So cool.
Just a word about the FOOD. Safari West has a little on-site restaurant and the meals were AMAZING!
Here’s just a quick little video from our tour of the giraffe enclosure. I have to say giraffes fascinate me! They’re so cool!
After we visited Safari West, we spent the rest of our time exploring San Francisco. California was pretty locked down at that point, so we were able to keep pretty safe and manage our social distancing from people for the most part. We stayed right on Lombard Street just a mile from the famous twisty part.
After the Fall, the Covid numbers got much worse, so we went back into lockdown for about 6 months. It was pretty scary because the hospitals were so overloaded, they might not be able to help you if you’d had a heart attack or a car accident. I had to have some surgery during that period and I was a little nervous about it, but it actually went fine.
Out of Africa Wildlife Park, Camp Verde, AZ
In early Spring we were starting to get antsy again after so long in quarantine. We were dying to go on a cruise, which is normally our favorite form of travel, but that was impossible. And International travel was not possible, nor did we want to get on a plane for any period of time, so we got to digging around for drive-able possibilities.
We managed to find a little wildlife park in Arizona called Out of Africa Wildlife Park that looked pretty awesome for a socially distant travel choice. Similar to Safari West, they had all the African wildlife you’d want to see, but they also had some pretty thrilling shows, particularly the Tiger Splash show. Who knew that tigers enjoy water so much. Here’s a quick little video of it.
During our tour, we were able to get really close to a variety of animals – lions, tigers, bears, snakes, hyenas, camels, giraffes, and zebras, plus others. So much more fun than a regular zoo and you get better access to the animals. And the tour operator was so funny and knowledgeable. We had an absolute blast! It’s obvious that just being around animals is our happy place, but there were lots of other things to do. Hiking, mountain biking, there was a casino (I may have dropped a few quarters!), and the beautiful desert landscape.
Keeping up the Social Distancing and Other Measures to Keep your Family SAFE
That’s all the trips we’ve taken during this awful, awful year. Even if you don’t do much, it’s so refreshing to be able to just see different sights and get out on the road with your family, regardless if you’ve got little kids or big ones like ours! Everyone can benefit from trips, so long as you can keep your family socially distant and safe, it is nice to get out and about.
I know that the virus isn’t gone yet and we still need to be careful, but I think that’s one thing I learned through my breast cancer journey – you never know how much time you have, so you’ve got to figure out what delights you and go after it!