What it’s Like to go on Vacation During Coronavirus

kids smores
Our annual s’mores dessert.

Today’s article is brief… expect a couple of longer ones next week and in the future as the kids go to camp (if camps still happen as planned)

So like everything in 2020, this is going to be a weird article to write. It’s especially odd because coronavirus cases are spiking across the country… except for two states, Connecticut and Rhode Island which are declining. We’re lucky enough to live in Rhode Island. We never got a big spike in our area and now things are on the decline.

I still don’t see nearly enough people wearing masks, but what’s in place is working as well as… what’s working in many European countries when you see the charts.

It’s so strange here, that we did something that few Americans can think about – go on vacation. Last week, we went on our annual trip to Block Island – a small island ~15 miles off the coast of Rhode Island. It’s only accessible by ferry and has a tiny population of ~1000 people. It’s where (allegedly) Billy Joel and Christopher Walken sneak off to if they want to get away from the celebrity life for a bit.

Block Island hasn’t a coronavirus case yet. (Now that I think about it, their “hospital” isn’t really much and I can’t imagine they do testing.)

In a role reversal, the bed and breakfast that we stay called us up and asked if we wanted to come this year. Their usual clients from out of state, couldn’t come as a practical matter, because of the state’s 14-day self-quarantine mandate.

So we did what the 30-year old song said to do:

 

“Sail away on the Block Island Ferry, leave all your troubles behind… take a trip back to carefree times.”

For the most part, it lived up to its promise.

Our Own Block Island Gotchas

This section is likely to go over like a lead balloon. After all, we’re already in the win column by having any kind of vacation at all.

It seems we weren’t the only people looking to take this trip. While we were able to book the hotel easily enough, the ferry itself wasn’t taking reservations for awhile. When they finally started, car reservations were filled up for the first day except for the last one at 7 PM. That would be a loss of a whole day of vacation. That’s significant when you are only staying 3 nights/4 days.

We decided to park the car and go across ourselves in the morning. I took the ferry back at 2 PM to pick up the car and bring that across to the island. I was originally disappointed by this run-around, but it’s the first 6 hours I had without the wife and kids in about 4 months. I was only disappointed that when I got back, everyone (especially my wife) was ready for sleep. I can’t blame her with two kids and the dog.

Before our trip, we got the news that my wife’s friend’s father had died. The funeral was the morning of the last day of our trip. We had planned to stay the full day, but we were able to change our ferry time and leave in the morning. (Few people leave the Block Island first thing in the morning – the ferry was almost empty.)

A four-day vacation turned into about a two day one. That’s still 2 more days than most people have during these times, but it was disappointing nonetheless.

The Block Island Vacation Itself

There isn’t a lot to do on Block Island. That’s kind of the point. There are outdoor activities like hiking, kayaking, and beaching. There are some nice tiny boutique shops. Finally, there are the restaurants. The outdoor activities are exactly the same during coronavirus – except that you bring your mask with you just in case. There aren’t many people around, so there’s not a big need to use it.

We usually go hiking and hunting for glass orbs. There’s a deal with the tourism industry on the island and a local glassmaker to hide around 500 of these on the island every year. They are extremely hard to find, and we haven’t found one in 4 years now. This year they weren’t hiding them until late July. Instead of hiking, we brought an inflatable kayak and took that out for a little while.

We didn’t get to do any boutique shopping. I’m not a big fan, but sometimes there’s something in the 75% bin that’s a good deal. The biggest reason why we didn’t get to do any is that our 6 and 7-year-old kids wouldn’t allow it without ruining the whole vacation. There’s simply nothing fun for kids in boutiques. If we had a longer vacation, we could have split up, but it didn’t work out that way.

The restaurants are very different during coronavirus of course. They were just starting to open up distanced indoor dining when our trip started. It didn’t seem like any restaurant operated the same way. A few took temperatures. Some took our name and phone number. Some had menus. Some asked us to take a picture of a menu with our phone and use that to order from. However, once again, many people don’t have an option to eat at a restaurant.

At the end of the day, the best thing about Block Island is simply unplugging from day-to-day life. It’s nice to not have to worry about a to-do list that never gets done or laundry, dishes, cooking, etc.

If we wanted to be more frugal about the planning perhaps we would have come back the evening before and saved the last night at the hotel. That would have saved us a couple of hundred dollars. However, we would had spent a lot of the last evening cleaning and packing for our trip, which would have cut down on our vacation further.

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