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Coronavirus and vacations: How people have re-imagined travel in order to stay safe this summer

As we abandon our cardigans and boots for tank tops and flip-flops, many of us hope to escape our homes for that quintessential summer vacation. Under normal circumstances, this might mean traveling to new places and unfamiliar surroundings, often by plane. But this is a year unlike any other, with the novel coronavirus outbreak affecting almost every move we make. So how exactly are folks managing their vacation expectations, and what is the future of the summer vacation?

Optimism over the cautious reopening of the U.S. economy has driven a rise in airline and tour operator stocks this week, as reported by Bloomberg. But for a lot of people, myself included, air travel feels like a risky endeavor at this point in time, as the CDC warns that being on a plane — which is basically a flying germ capsule — makes it harder to social distance. But it appears that some are reimagining their getaways to fit more realistic expectations by vacationing within driving distance or choosing spaces that they socially distance in while still having fun.

Airbnb reported domestic bookings rose significantly in April in China, Korea, the Netherlands, and Denmark, Bloomberg reported. And it’s not hard to assume that with all 50 states loosening stay at home orders, the U.S. is not far behind. In fact, sitewide bookings within a 50 mile radius of users' homes is up to 30% from 13% before COVID-19 outbreak, according to Airbnb’s chief executive officer, Brian Chesky. This indicated that people desperate for a break from their current surroundings are being intentional about the safest way to do it. Right now, that means the less contact with other folks that we can manage, the better.

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Not surprisingly, this has led to a sharp rise in people seeking out nature. In addition to booking cabins, visiting campsites, and renting luxury treehouses (yes, you heard me right), folks are revisiting a way of life more popular in the last century: RV travel. Harvest Hosts, $79 a year service that connects RV owners and renters with free accommodations, has seen a 400% increase in memberships compared to last year, CEO Joel Holland tells Good Morning America. Recreational vehicles and Airstream campers symbolize a sort of vacation savior; they ideally offer an escape from your house and your regular semi-quarantine life with significantly less risk of contracting coronavirus. Additionally, the array of wineries, breweries, and farms that Harvest Hosts provide observe social distancing.

Outside of that RV life, it appears that people are visiting, and planning to visit, cities and towns where they can access space — a big house, perhaps with a pool or parks nearby. It makes sense that the vacations of the foreseeable future are all about relaxation, getting outdoors, and enjoying a little more room to move around since people have cooped up in their apartment with whoever they’re quarantining with.

Since getting vacation-tipsy at day parties is not a safe option right now, a cold beer by a lake or under a palm tree-shaded porch does indeed seem like the move. Truthfully, tire swings over idyllic lakes aren’t only for Mariah Carey videos — they might be just what we need to take a brief respite from all the fear and hand-washing.