COVID-19 and Your Family Travel: What now?

The world has gone mad. There’s really no other way to describe what’s happening as the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, sweeps around the world like a hurricane. We, a human, herd-loving species, are frightened, needy, and in search of answers that aren’t easily addressed. 

E-assist fat bikes at White Stallion Ranch, forgetting about COVID-19 for a while. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Our family is currently lodged in Tucson, Arizona, on “phase two” of a 12-day adventure that has included a stay at White Stallion Ranch just outside the city limits, and now, the Hotel McCoy in town. COVID-19 was still a bit of a mystery when we departed Anchorage, but as a former healthcare administrator who also happens to be rather obsessive about cleanliness, organization, and planning, I felt we were as prepared as we could be for the upcoming adventure. That was last week. 

Bunkroom at Hotel McCoy. This retro-style, art gallery-hotel is a perfect place to recharge frazzled nerves. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

In the span of six days since, COVID-19 cases surged, some people died, and anyone on travel was forced to reconsider destinations and returns in the face of travel restrictions, self-quarantine, and social distancing. Anchorage School District, like so many others, announced closures through the end of March. Alaska Airlines (our carrier) ramped up customer service as cancellations and re-bookings with no fees soared. Most stores in the Last Frontier are running low on (yep) toilet paper, cleaning products, and some food items. The rumor mill is traveling almost as fast as the virus itself, and I am wearying of worrying. Seriously. 

We are due to depart Arizona on Tuesday. What will we do? Here are the options, probably similar to lots of other people: 

  • Stay in Arizona. We’re in talks with managers of other locations in the event we decide to stick around. I’m in contact with Alaska folks I trust to give me accurate and timely information, and will make a determination well within the window of flight changes. The general message I’m getting is “Find your place and stay there.” 
  • Transfer to another state in the Lower 48, perhaps by car. If domestic air travel is halted, we have a vehicle and can get ourselves to family or friends in other states. 
  • Return to Alaska. Home, our own beds, the dog, and the security (?) of being in our state. 

Hiking in Saguaro National Park, away from people to avoid exposure, or transmission, of COVID-19. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

What we’re doing to remain safe, and keep others safe: 

  • Carrying disinfecting wipes and hand sanitizer, and washing hands regularly. Everywhere. Entering a building? Wash your hands. Leaving a building? Disinfect all car surfaces, phones, and use hand sanitizer. 
  • Social distancing. We’re avoiding visitor centers, museums, and other indoor facilities. We traveled to Saguaro National Park yesterday and were amazed at the number of people in the vulnerable population demographic (read: older adults) congregating inside the visitor center. Uh, no. We hiked a solitary trail instead, enjoying the quiet and smelling the good desert smells of sage, flowering lupine, and a bit of rain. Today, we’re biking the Santa Cruz River Trail, just around the corner from Hotel McCoy. 
  • Going outdoors, as much and as often as possible. Not only are we less likely to come into close contact with people, we feel better, mentally, physically, and emotionally. This is going to be a long haul, whatever decision we make, and taking care of ourselves in all ways is one thing we can control. 
  • Hotel McCoy is outdoing themselves with infection control protocols, and keeping all guests informed of any updates to changes and cancellations. We feel as confident as it is possible to feel right now, and are grateful for their caring and incredibly positive attitudes. 

Please stay well yourselves. Be good to each other. Help those who need it. 

~EK 

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