Assessing The Risks

In just a few months’ time, everything – especially travel – looks very different, doesn’t it?

There’s plenty of speculation going around, but then, that’s about all we have right now. It’s interesting to read articles trying to predict what the future will look like in different sectors of our economy. The internet is rife with articles bearing titles like, “Ten Things You’ll Never See at McDonald’s in the Future,” and “Ten Things You’ll Never See in Hotels Anymore.”

Travel is a popular topic for discussion as people  try to envision just how different it will look in the future. There’s general agreement that travel involving planes and cruise ships will involve significant changes.

It’s not hard to see why air travel will be severely impacted. Even before Covid-19 appeared on the scene, the cramped seating and recirculated (germ-laden?) air made travelers uncomfortable on planes, the discomforts only mitigated by the ease and speed of getting somewhere you need or want to be.

There’s more space on a cruise ship, but once it leaves the harbor, you’re pretty much stuck for the duration of the trip with the people onboard – healthy or not. Over the past decade prior to the present health crisis, there were already numerous cases of illnesses spreading throughout cruise ships.

So what about travel in general for this coming summer? Now that Memorial Day weekend has passed, summer is right around the corner. How much travel will be permitted? And how do you assess relative risks and plan wisely?

Some of the decisions about traveling may be out of our hands, such as international – or even state! – borders remaining closed. The skip-gen trip with my granddaughter planned for August involves a stop in Maine, but the governor of Maine has in place through the end of August the requirement that every outsider self-quarantine for 14 days. Our whole vacation is only 10 days, so that’s not going to work! Even if the governor reconsiders and lifts the requirement before August, there is also the question of the border with Canada.  Which is currently closed to Americans. And getting onto Prince Edward Island itself. Which is currently closed to even Canadians from other provinces. And oh yeah, it looks like the airline is dropping the route to Bangor, Maine anyway.


Obviously, planning a skip-gen trip involves staying on top of destination-related restrictions. But beyond that, how do you assess the risks of various modes of travel – and whether it’s safe – for you –  to travel at all?

One article I recently read said that travel is going to be safe this summer for most people but you should stay home entirely if you are over the age of 65. Since skip-gen travel by its very definition involves grandparents, it’s likely that many of us fall into that 65+ category. If so, I think it’s alright to ask ourselves, “Does this work for me? Is it feasible or even healthy for me (physically and emotionally) to stay home all summer?” If one partner is over 65 and the other is under 65, does that mean that only the slightly younger one gets to travel while the other has to stay home?

Of course not. In assessing the risk, I believe we have to look at more than just a number. In general, people over 65 seem to be at greater risk of complications from COVID-19. But there are documented cases of individuals over the age of 100 who have survived. And there have been documented cases of younger people, including children and even babies, succumbing to the virus. Some of this can be attributed to underlying health conditions but much of it cannot.

Everyone has to decide for themselves what an acceptable level of risk looks like. And this means taking an honest look at your overall health, your personality, your living situation, and with whom you regularly interact.

Once you decide what a generally acceptable level of risk is for you and those around you, there is much else to consider. It’s a big country! There are lots of places to go – and many ways to get there. If you are longing to travel again – as I am – I firmly believe there is a way to tailor the trip in a way that makes it reasonably safe.

Airlines are making all kinds of concessions to ensure that air travel is as safe as possible now – everything from keeping middle seats empty, reducing lines, requiring masks, erecting plastic shields between seats, and improving methods of cleaning the air. Cruise ships and trains will be bending over backwards to regularly disinfect everything possible. Same for hotels and other accommodations. If you have specific questions about a means of travel or what safety precautions a certain hotel or resort might be taking, contact them and they will be happy to provide details.

But maybe this is the year to take a road trip with your grandchild.

The United States has so much to offer within its own four borders, with its diverse geography and cultures. There are 58 national parks scattered across the country and countless state parks from “sea to shining sea.” These parks are starting to open up for camping. Many beautiful memories with a grandchild can be built while hiking and exploring together or just relaxing around a campfire or fishing together.

Not enamored of the idea of sleeping in a tent on an air mattress? Many parks have lodges or cabins that can be rented. It’s also possible to rent campers and RVs with varying degrees of comfort and amenities. Demand is likely to be down this summer, especially early on, so you might even get a deal if you start planning now.

The benefits of travel are many and well-documented. Especially after being “cooped up” for so long, a change of scenery can be good for our mental health. And travel has also been shown to be beneficial for the functioning of our brains and hearts. A case could be made that – even if you’re over 65 – it’s actually healthy for you to plan a trip this summer!

Whatever you do, don’t let fear hold you back. Assess your situation realistically, research your destination and plan wisely, follow the standard safety precautions (you’ll no doubt need to pack masks and hand sanitizer) – and then go enjoy precious time with that grandchild of yours!

I don’t think you’ll regret it.