Have you been going a bit stir crazy lately? Us, too. Five months into isolation, we were ready to get out into the world again, but we wanted to do it as safely as possible. Although there’s still so much we don’t know about COVID-19, we do know a lot about limiting the spread. So we decided to very carefully plan a road trip from Washington, D.C., to New England, and we hit the road for 9 days starting on on Aug. 8.
Here are some tips based on what we learned on our road trip.
1. Stay in More Remote Places
Instead of staying in the heart of downtown districts as we usually do, we stayed in a gorgeous in-law suite in a residential neighborhood outside of Hartford, Connecticut, on a small farm outside of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in a vintage airstream near Boothbay Harbor, Maine, and in two hotels that are following strict COVID protocols in Greenwich, Connecticut and Philadelphia.
We’re really glad we chose remote locations, because when we drove through the more popular destinations, they were much more crowded than we expected.
2. Know the Rules and Follow Them
Each state has its own COVID rules when it comes to traveling from out of state, and its easy to check the rules on the state’s website (just search the state’s name and “COVID travel.”)
Connecticut, for example, requires travelers from certain states to quarantine for 14 days if they are staying for at least 24 hours. Pennsylvania recommends quarantine for travelers coming from a shorter list of states.
Maine requires visitors to either quarantine or get tested within 72 hours before arrival and to fill out a certification form that they tested negative. We decided that this was a really great idea even if the state doesn’t require it.
Our medical group has a drive-through testing site, so it was easy for us to make an appointment on the group’s app and get the test done with limited exposure to others. We received our negative results in 48 hours and felt much more confident traveling with that information.
3. Be Flexible with Your Planned Sightseeing
We were really surprised by how crowded many of the towns were in coastal New England. We drove from Salem, Massachusetts on the scenic route to Rockport and Halibut Point State Park, but we never got out of the car because everywhere was so crowded. That was fine with us, as the views from the car were incredible.
We wandered around the beautiful town of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, but it was pretty crowded, too, around the restaurants, and it was difficult to find outdoor seating with our dog. So we went back to our farm accommodations and ordered food later that night on DoorDash from the Portsmouth Brewery and enjoyed a delicious meal of chowder, lobster roll and chocolate cake from the comfort and seclusion of our private deck.
We did find a place at the old port in Portland, Maine for outdoor dining with our dog. This was the first time we actually ate at a restaurant since March, so even though it was outdoors and everyone was following the rules, it still felt weird. This stop workout out great though, and we continued on the road north to our remote airstream.
We also found the perfect spot at Boothbay Harbor—the Boothbay Lobster Wharf—where we could hang out with our dog and chat (at a distance) with some really great people. The tables were outdoors, shaded and spaced apart. Food was available to order from a window. They had lots of local tasty beers on tap and great bartenders (behind plexiglass). We spent a lot of time there and highly recommend it 🙂
Because there were more crowds than we anticipated, we opted not to continue north to the biggest attractions: Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. We did get to check out the Pemaquid Lighthouse Park. We got there early and were able to walk around carefree for a bit without any crowds. I’m so glad we got to see this beautiful place!
On our way out of town, instead of stopping at the famous Red’s Eats in Wiscasset (and standing in the long line in the hot sun), we stopped across the street at Sprague’s (which the locals say is just as good). The wait was shorter and the atmosphere was more inviting and spacious. Most important: the lobster roll and chowder at Sprague’s were absolutely amazing!
4. Bring More Supplies than Usual
Of course you’ll bring your masks, hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, but you also may want to bring some food that’s easy to prepare in case you don’t want to stop, spend too much time at the gas station or go out to eat. We brought a ton of food: protein shakes, Kind bars, instant oatmeal, coffee, ramen noodles and mac and cheese. I went a little overboard, but we were really glad we had these supplies.
5. Isolate and Test Again If You Can
Even though we were as careful as possible, we were out and about on this trip for the first time since March, and it was a little scary. When we got home, we waited five days and got tested for COVID again for peace of mind and so there’s a benchmark for contact tracing. Even with the negative COVID test, we isolated for 10 days and will continue to take precautions. Nothing is 100% accurate, and we don’t want to put anyone else unnecessarily at risk. NOTE: it’s impossible not to hug your mother after not seeing her for five months!
Personally, this trip to New England soothed my soul, and was just the adventure I needed while traveling carefully and respectfully during this time of uncertainty.