Is it Really Safe to Travel?

*Article featured in the October 2021 issue of Scoop Magazine.

Travel is back and booming! With so many people anxious to get away after the lockdowns from covid, airlines are finding it difficult to keep up with the demand. While lots of people have been several places domestically and internationally since the end of quarantine, others still have concerns as the coronavirus continues to develop into different variances, claiming the lives of several thousand monthly.

So, is it safe? The best approach is to research the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations at www.cdc.gov. Next, allow that information along with your inner gauge to be your guide. We are all different, so discovering the comfort level of you and your family is key to having not only a safe but an enjoyable vacation.

Consider this, would you rather go on a cruise along with about 5,000 people or take a five to 22 day U.S. coastal cruise on a smaller ship that has a maximum capacity of 190 people? Yes, there really are several smaller cruise ships that tour only in America. Would you rather take your kids to the nearest amazing water theme park or book a hotel a few hours away that has a waterslide attached to the pool where they can play for a friendlier price?

Currently, travelers regardless of vaccination status must have a negative covid test to enter the U.S. This includes citizens. Therefore, would you prefer to travel internationally knowing that if you test positive for COVID you may find yourself staying longer than expected vs. domestic travel to destinations you and your spouse have never seen or experienced before? There is no right or wrong answer. The main thing to remember is you have a plethora of options if you are willing to be flexible and think outside the box.

When contemplating if you should travel and where you should go, a big consideration should be your mental and emotional state of mind. Can you hold out for the rest of 2021 and possibly 2022? If you are worried about a crowd at a resort, can you rent a beach house? If flying or driving to the beach is beyond your means, why not try a lake or cabin rental?

The Midwest is full of lake houses and cabins, even right here in the state of Indiana. Have you ever been to Colfax or Michigan City? It may seem strange, however, Michigan City is in Indiana and home to the Indiana Dunes National Park and Washington Park Beach.

The options for travel are limitless. There is no need to plan something extravagant unless you desire. Just keep it simple and safe! Now, while you are thinking about traveling or continuing to travel, be sure to watch for travel scams. We will talk about this next month! Happy Traveling!

Solo Female Travel

It is more common than you think. According to Forbes Magazine, nearly two-thirds of today’s travelers are women. The internet is full of captivating and vibrant travel destinations for solo women. Also, there are plenty of suggestions on ways to stay safe and tips to keep in mind. As a travel lover, travel agent, and someone who is working to become a successful travel journalist,  I have got a few tips and tricks of my own.

  1. Safety First. Although you may not have any fears or apprehensions about traveling alone, always make sure someone knows where you are going, when you have arrived, and when you plan to return. Also, give specifics like what hotel you will be staying in just in case something happens to your mobile phone and you are unreachable.
  2. Do not rely on your GPS. It seems like we never think they will fail. However, it does not take much for the signal to become interrupted and to hear the dreaded words, “GPS signal lost.” Be shrewd. Keep a printed copy of the directions and review them before you leave home if you are driving. If you are flying and plan to pick up a rental, it is still a good idea to have in mind locations you would like to visit and directions to and from the hotel.
  3. Watch for strangers. This is obvious but even more so when you are traveling internationally. Some areas are not safe for solo travels, whether you are male or female. Less savory people exist everywhere and prey on travelers, especially those who are alone. Be aware of your surroundings. If you are renting a home for your vacation and not a hotel, learn about the owner. The owner has a key. Sadly, there have been instances.
  4. Do your homework. Research the area you intend to travel from top to bottom. Know what to expect. Use Google Maps and study the area. Ask your travel agent as many questions as possible. Learn all you need to know until you are comfortable.
  5. Be prepared. As we try to understand what the “new normal” is and how to adjust it is important to have a plan for if the worse should happen. What if you get sick while traveling? It may be a wiser decision to travel domestically at this time. If you become sick your family and friends can get to you a lot easier if you are in need. Just calling overseas can cause financial hardship on an individual, and what if you become sick enough to become hospitalized?
  6. Get Travel Insurance. I cannot stress enough the importance of travel insurance. Should the worse happen, sickness, loss of luggage, flight cancelations, depending on the plan, you are covered!

The Underground World

Undeniably the purest air you can imagine exists underground in chambers such as Mammoth Cave located in Kentucky. There is something about being in this underground exhibit that provides a deep caress of serenity. As you tour the caves feels like you are surrounded by a cocoon of freshness. That was the experience I had when I took my children to Mammoth Cave a few months ago. Since COVID-19 was a concerning factor and Disney World was out, I planned vacations that would allow us safer yet exciting options. Therefore, I gathered the kids and we headed for the popular National Park.

Many caves are open to the public to explore and admire in Southern Indiana and Kentucky. However, I found Mammoth Cave to be an intriguing area to visit after studying about the park and their COVID safety procedures online. Although the drive wasn’t bad, the main thing anyone should keep in mind is the firm warning given on nps.gov. “DON’T TRUST YOU VEHICLE NAVIGATION SYSTEM/GPS. Vehicle Navigation Systems and GPS units may provide inaccurate information.”

This warning is not to be taken lightly. Thankfully, I printed the instructions on how to arrive at the visiting center before departing from home. Sadly, my sense of direction is not always top-notch. I still got turned around and since my cell phone signal was unavailable there was no way to call for assistance. Before long we found our way and made it with time to spare before our afternoon scheduled tour. When I travel, I try to always think ahead, especially when traveling with my kiddos. I made sure to prepurchase tickets for the self-guided tour online prior. When we arrived tickets were sold out, but we were able to pass by the disappointed and head straight for a space in the shade where one of the park rangers gave us all the instructions and safety procedures required before entering the cave.

After we were fully informed, we took the descending pathway that led to the entrance of the cave. At that moment I realized just how many other parents had the same idea as me. It was not very crowded, but we did wait in a brief line before taking the stairs that took us into the well-lit darkness. Mammoth Cave is made up of three trials. We took the shorter of the three and a portion of one of the longer paths. Along the journey informational stands are in place to explain how the caves formed and why they were used by Native Americans. Though the cave tours are self-guided at this time, rangers were placed throughout and available to answer questions and give short history lessons.  

Mammoth Cave National Park has plenty to do besides touring the cave or hiking. Other activities include bicycling, kayaking, fishing, horseback riding, and stargazing. The park has many ranger-led programs that are a lot of fun for the entire family, however, due to COVID-19 most of, if not all, are canceled at this time. Mammoth Cave was definitely a memorable experience for the kids and me. We wore our mask and even latex gloves when we needed to. To keep us extra safe I was sure to pack lunch and breakfast for us to enjoy so we kept restaurant pick-up to a minimum. Next summer, I plan to continue to take the kids to state parks for more outdoor adventures, except I think it’s time to go west!

Explore the Beauty of Northern Indiana

Even on a cloudy, rainy, fall day, the Chesterton, Indiana Dunes National Park is completely captivating and serene. Located at the southern bank of Lake Michigan it is the perfect spot to watch the sunset as waves softly brush up against the bank and seagulls soar by.

This area is an important aspect of history. The Northern Indiana Sand Dunes was formed from the ice of melting glaciers millions of years ago. This is how Lake Michigan and the rest of the Great Lakes came to exist along with the sand at the banks.

This location is favorable to anyone, especially nature lovers. Miles of trails and exploration awaits the inquisitive mind. Many families love to come and take advantage of the campgrounds in this area and enjoy activities like fishing, boating, and biking. I first came up with the idea to grab the kids and hit the road from my daughter’s fourth-grade social studies class. She was studying the history of Indiana, where we are from, and The Ice Age. Since COVID-19 has caused me to rethink our travel plans I felt that this would be a wonderful opportunity to take a field trip, especially since school field trips are canceled for this school year in our area.

Once we arrived in the parking lot adjacent to the bank our vision was obscured by the Dunes Pavilion which is not open yet but will provide food and entertainment once completed. When headed around the pavilion and that is when we first got our glimpse of the alluring water and blue sky. The kids were thrilled to experience Indianan’s beach and the only disappointment was that the weather was too cold for us to swim in. Therefore, the plan is to return often but during the spring and summer when the weather is not cold and cloudy like it was during our visit.

Visiting Chesterton allows you to see much more than The Dunes. The Lighthouse Place Premium Outlet is nearby, complete with the Coach, Levi’s, Tommy Kids, Calvin Klein, Rue 21, and the South Bend Chocolate Café. Barker Mansion is a historical place to tour and the Old Lighthouse Museum. Not to mention, Chicago is just a short train ride away. Northern Indiana has plenty to do and much to see and is a great place to visit that provides fun for the entire family.