I Just Returned From My First Trip Since Coronavirus Outbreak Began

First Trip Since Coronavirus
Photo: Jonathan Tallman

I Just Returned From My First Trip Since Coronavirus Outbreak Began

One of the greatest questions for many Americans is when to begin traveling again.  Since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, I noted that people should ignore the “experts” and book travel when they felt comfortable doing so.  The return to travel is largely a personal decision driven by health factors and risk acceptance levels.  My husband and I returned earlier this week from our first trip since coronavirus outbreak began.  The last time we traveled was during the initial outbreak, as we went to Bali, Indonesia in early March.

Mode of Transportation

We decided to go to Florida for a family reason.  At first, we were hesitant to go, simply because we didn’t want to put family members at risk.  However, we’ve been in quarantine since March with minimal public interaction.  My in laws were comfortable with us coming to Florida, so we decided we would make the trip down there.

The next step was determining how to get there.  Flying is obviously the most convenient way to get to Miami, Florida from Washington, D.C.  However, we decided to drive so that we could bring our dog with us as well.  Many airlines are not currently allowing pets in the cargo hold due to the prevalence of delays and cancellations.  We rented a car for 10 days from Enterprise at a cost of $229.  The car was a hybrid, so we only paid ~$80 roundtrip on gas.  That means the total for our trip was just $300, about 60% less than it would have been if we flew.

We left at 6:30am and arrived in Miami by 10:30pm that same day.  We drove straight through, since I’d much rather get to the final destination and wake up there the next morning, rather than waking up and driving more the following day.

We drove to Orlando last weekend to spend the night with family and cut off about four hours from our drive on Sunday.  We left at 6:30am on Sunday morning and arrived back to Washington, D.C. just after 8:00pm that night.  Unfortunately, we hit traffic on I-95 North (go figure) as we approached D.C.

Observations From The Road

I made a few observations during the drive and trip.  We kept stops to a minimal since we wanted to limit interaction with the general public and also keep a good schedule.

  • Few people wore masks at rest stops in Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia.  I would estimate about 90+% of people did not have a mask on inside the rest stop buildings and facilities.  Of course, we wore our mask at each stop.
  • The roads were largely free from traffic.  We’ve driven to Miami about six times since 2013, and I-95 can be a drag with traffic.  This was the first time there was no substantial delays on the drive.  On the way down, we had absolutely no traffic backups.  The Florida Turnpike was a ghost town as we approached Miami.  The only traffic we hit was on the return, which delayed us about 30 minutes or so.
  • Florida is open for business.  This was a drastic change coming from Montgomery County, Maryland.  When we left, our country just entered Phase One, so there was very little activity still.  Florida was a drastic shift.  Restaurants had a good deal of people out and about.

Activities in Florida

We largely stuck to being around family during our time in Florida.  The only exception to that was when I went to a happy hour with a friend of mine (the restaurant was socially distant) and we visited Blue Spring State Park near Orlando.  Aside from those two exceptions, we largely kept to ourselves.

Here’s a picture I snapped from the Blue Spring State Park.  I didn’t get a picture of the actually spring where we were able to swim, but it was a neat little park.  It was also nice to get outdoors and get some fresh air.

First Trip Since Coronavirus
Photo: Jonathan Tallman

Bottom Line

This was our first trip since the height of the coronavirus outbreak.  We traveled for family reasons, and we chose to drive rather than fly.  We considered a number of factors before going, but the trip was very low risk.  Our interactions were limited, and we’ve been quarantined since March with limited interaction with the public.  I’m happy we went, as it was great to be with family.  Our next trip will also likely to be to visit family — this time in Pennsylvania.  That will be over two weeks from when we returned though, just to make sure we keep our PA family safe.

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