The safest (and most economical) travel options right now are private homes in drive-able, remote, destination-oriented markets – especially as the country and operators open up with enhanced policies, protocols and guidelines in place. The key factors are less about where you go, and more about the accommodations, how you aim to get there, and how long you plan to stay. Remote, isolated locations will continue to remain a go-to safe haven. But there are other variables to take into consideration, including transportation (car vs. plane), the number of people you may interact with, and the amount of control you'll have over your environment.
It can feel like a lot to navigate – so I encourage travelers to focus on the factors that drive safety, and consider key questions:
- Who owns and operates the lodging you intend to stay at?
- Do they deploy professional-grade safety and hygiene measures?
- How likely are you to interact with strangers throughout your stay?
- Is it possible to drive to the destination directly? If you have to take a different method (such as a plane or train) how many people would you interact with along the way?
When you start asking these questions, driving to a private residence or destination home for a longer-term stay emerges as one of the safest options (perhaps even the only safe option, depending on your circumstances) for travel. For some who live in a dense city or crowded apartment complex, it could be safer than staying at home. That’s because most rental homes in destination-oriented markets are more detached from one another than primary residences are – both in physical proximity, and in the lack of temptation to engage with the local community that you know so well.
As we adjust to the new normal, we’ve seen local governments, private companies, and consumers catching on. States like Florida, which previously had strict restrictions against all types of hospitality, have recently transitioned to a more supportive and smart approach for short-term rental homes, which are inherently distanced and designed for long safe stays. Short-term rental platforms like VRBO have launched new safety programs in response to customer demand for safe, remote locations to shelter in for longer periods of time. Vacation rental bookings across the world skyrocketed by 127% since April, thanks to domestic travelers arriving by car.
My own company, D.Alexander, has seen similar trends in our destination homes, with unprecedented demand for our particular value proposition. All of our homes are in remote, isolated, drivable locations, like Sedona and the Great Smoky Mountains, and the full product – from booking to the accommodation itself – is designed around longer-term stays for life, work, and play. As covid ripped through the U.S., we saw an immediate 30% surge in inquiries and reservation requests, which continued in the following weeks. We saw 96% occupancy in the months following, while our booking lead times dropped from 115 days to just 15 days, in a clear sign that households needed a place to retreat, comfortably and safely. We’re now seeing record occupancy rates, and it's due in part to a focus on flexible booking policies and our isolated destinations – which are drivable from many large cities and towns.
"Is It Safe to Travel Right Now?" originally appeared on Quora and can be viewed here.