In the case of post-pandemic travel, a “social bubble” refers to having a small, clearly defined group of people that agree to limit their close social contacts to only those within the bubble.
While traditionally applicable to social activities like family dinners, playground meetups and holiday get togethers, this term is now starting to take precedence with folks who are itching to get back to travel and adventuring. While small group trips are not a new concept, social bubble travel takes it a step further by with specific rules and guidelines that limit exposure.
During the holiday season, the Mayo Clinic shared social bubble guidelines with the aim of keeping as many people safe and healthy as possible. As countries slowly start to lift travel bans and quarantine guidelines, social bubble guidelines are very much required to help make sure we don’t see a surge in cases by limiting exposure safely.
In the summer of 2020, my family planned and implemented a social bubble camping excursion. Tired of life-from-home for over four months, we needed a break. However, we still wanted to be socially responsible and limit our exposure to others. So, we decided to focus on the outdoors and planned a remote backpacking trip with one of our closest friends. We hit the road from Chicago to Colorado’s wilderness areas to meet up with friends who drove in from California. Prior to the trip, we collectively agreed to quarantine for two weeks before leaving.
We packed most of our food so that we wouldn’t have to go out to grocery shop at our destination. We practiced social distancing from members not in our household, even while on the trip. Although we camped together, we kept our tents more than 6 feet apart and stayed a respectable distance from each other during meals and conversations by the campfire.
Even though it seemed like so much extra effort with all the pre-planning that had to be done at that time, the social integrations and mental health benefits of engaging with people near and dear to us were priceless. Post-trip, both families took the appropriate quarantine measures to ensure the whole experience did not negatively impact our health back home.
Here are some basic guidelines to think about when you plan a social bubble holiday:
Choose Your Bubble Carefully
Be strategic about the people who you are inviting into your social bubble. Are they practicing the same level of COVID-safety that you are? Are they willing to quarantine and test before a trip?
Book a Vacation Rental or Campground Instead of a Hotel
Even though hotels are investing a lot of time and resources in making sure they follow all the necessary sanitation guidelines as set by the country’s governing body, there could still be a lot of uncontrolled activity in common areas like lobbies and elevators. Instead, opt for a home or a condo so you can maintain control of the number of people you and others come in contact with during your holiday. Choosing a vacation rental or campground will also give your group plenty of private outdoor space where you can socialize together in a safer manner.
Plan and Pack Most of Your Meals
While a huge part of traveling is experiencing different food cultures, it does come with its own set of risks especially during COVID times. By planning and packing most of your meals, you minimize risks of exposure by dining out. To make it fun and feel less like a chore, divide up the meals and let everyone pitch it. Maybe even have a group cooking night – find a meal you want to enjoy and try recreating it in your vacation rental. This might also be a fun activity to enjoy with the group creating an even stronger bonding experience.
Quarantine and Test
Be sure that everyone in your group quarantines for two weeks and receives a negative COVID test before getting together, in order to reduce risk. Follow the same practice when you return home, to prevent spreading infection.
Follow all Travel Guidelines
Stay up-to-date on the travel guidelines at your destination, and follow all local rules around travel. Remember that your home state may have rules around quarantine and testing that you’ll need to follow post-trip as well.
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