How to Have a COVID-Safe Spring Break with Kids
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If you’ve been dreaming of a break from chilly temps and pandemic stress, you’re not alone. We’re all craving a little R&R under sunny skies, but COVID-19 might have thrown cold water on your spring break plans or stopped you from making any to begin with. And since little ones under 5 can’t be vaccinated yet, we’re all holding our breaths a little.
Not to worry — if it’s adventurous and safe spring break fun you’re after, even at the last minute, we’ve got you covered. Here’s our guide to supercharged, COVID-conscious spring break ideas. Whether you’re fully in staycation mode or are up for venturing a little further from home, we have options!
The Great Outdoors
Using your own home, a hotel, or a rental home as basecamp, spring break is a great time to get out for some fresh air.
Check out national and state parks.
This could be the year you check out more of the country’s fabulous 63 national parks. And if you want to avoid the crowds, there are several less crowded, but no less magical, options on the list like the 15 least visited national parks. That includes spots like Florida’s Dry Tortugas National Park — a 100-mile park of seven small islands, coral reefs, and the stunning Fort Jefferson — and Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park, home to North America’s tallest sand dune. There are also countless state parks and wildlife areas to explore in every state to hike, kayak, or even go caving. On the road, make sure to take a pit stop at some of the weirdest roadside destinations in America.
Hit the trails.
Gather the kids around the laptop to plot out several days of walking adventures. Alltrails.com is a perfect starting point. You can filter by trail length, difficulty, and type of terrain and read reviews to plot your perfect course. Make your walk more interactive by crafting a nature- or urban-inspired scavenger hunt or wildlife bingo. The kids can make their own or choose from thousands of printables on Pinterest.
Camp with your pod.
Gather up your family or your pod to enjoy a few days of rest and relaxation with as much or as little human interaction as you want. ReserveAmerica.com is a great resource to find and book campsites and cabins. Or check out the country’s largest campground network, KOA, where you can filter locations by whether they have cabins, pools, or hot tubs.
In the Water
If you’re not interested in wading into crowded waters right now, you’re not out of luck. Vacation rentals with indoor and outdoor pools are hot commodities, but you might be able to snag one by scoping out less tourist-y locations. Or book a few hours at a homeowner’s private pool through the app Swimply. Several hotels are also letting guests reserve private pool time slots at check-in during their stay. You can also hit up your Facebook circle or a local online parent group to find a nearby pool. A simple Google search should do the trick, too. Be sure to call the hotel to confirm that they’re still offering pool reservations before you go.
Off the Beaten Path
Whether you’re sticking close to home or making a long-distance road trip, there’s no shortage of strange and unexpected sites waiting to be discovered. Pile into the car and make a day — or two or three — of exploring weird and wonderful attractions. Roadside America has a collection of thousands of roadside oddities from the world’s largest tire in Allen Park, Michigan, to a re-creation of the Leaning Tower of Pisa in suburban Chicago. Meanwhile, Atlas Obscura can point you toward more than 9,000 of the country’s lesser-known attractions, from a bookshop in an abandoned bank in San Francisco to a boneyard for old neon signs in Las Vegas. And when it’s time to stretch your legs or get some grub, use the iExit app to see what parks, restaurants, and playgrounds await at the next highway exit.
A staycation doesn’t have to be boring or basic. Plus, there’s the bonus of getting to sleep in your own bed at night. The options are nearly endless for how to spend the week, even if the weather doesn’t cooperate.
Tour the world — right from home.
Even if you’re staying home, you can still see the world. No one knows that better than Chicago resident and English teacher Lynn Gilbertsen, who became Facebook-famous for the creative cultural-themed outings she and her husband and two young kids embarked on starting in 2020. Gilbertsen has since organized 30-plus themed excursions, mostly centered around a country or culture. A day dedicated to Egypt, for example, included a visit to the golden pyramid house in Wadsworth, Illinois; lunch in an Egyptian restaurant; and a stop at an Egyptian revival architecture building. To plan their adventures, Gilbertsen and her family scour the internet and Google street view looking for interesting buildings or murals. “Once you’re in that mode you tend to see more. My kids would say, ‘Why is there a Japanese flag on that building?’ They really took ownership [over the planning],” she says. “The great part is you learn about your own city and the people who live in it.”
Gear up for game night.
No doubt board games have gotten their fair share of use in your home lately. This can be a great time to test out a few new ones. Our recs? The hilarious Pictionary-meets-telephone mashup Telestrations; the route-building Ticket to Ride or Ticket To Ride Jr.; and What’s Next?, a choose-your-path cooperative adventure game. If you want to up the ante, pick up some prizes to hand out to winners! (You may want to save a stash for participation wins too.)
Give geocaching a go.
Geocaching, a supersized modern-day treasure hunt, combines exercise, adventure, and a chance of scenery. Using GPS and the Geocaching.com app, you can search for “treasures” that people have hidden near you. These caches usually include a logbook for you to sign and sometimes a trinket to take home. (Just be sure to leave something behind for the next person to find).
Plan a multi-course, no-ingredient-left-unturned cooking night.
Cooking can be especially fun as a group activity. Let everyone get in on the planning and dream up a night or more of over-the-top dinners. And of course, don’t forget dessert. Make it even more of an adventure by visiting specialty markets or farmers markets to pick up your ingredients. Here are some wildly fun theme night ideas to get you started.
Camp out in your own backyard.
You don’t even have to leave home to get the camping experience. For entertainment, plan a few hours’ worth of classic camp-style games, like tug-of-war or horseshoes. Set the scene by hanging paper lanterns and breaking out a checkered tablecloth. For dinner, stoke the fire (or fire up the grill) for hot dogs and hamburgers; or make your own walking Fritos pies. And of course, no camping experience would be complete without some ooey-gooey s’mores for dessert. You might not make it the whole night tent sleeping in your backyard, but your kids will still think it’s the coolest. (See more ideas here!)
An Epic Yes Week
Ready for bucket list-type fun or super-spontaneous silliness? We’re talking Segway tours in the city, doughnuts for dinner, and going through the carwash with the windows open. (Just kidding on that last one — leave that to the movies.) Think of spring break as a chance for you and your family to plan something over-the-top to do every day.
Soar through the trees.
For an adrenaline-pumping adventure that’s tons of fun, try ziplining. Go Ape! offers ziplining and other treetop adventures for all ages at several locations around the country. For little ones, some playgrounds actually have mini-ziplines for them to try out.
Sleep somewhere fun.
After you’ve spent time soaring through the trees, how about sleeping in one? Spending a night in a treehouse is sure to be a blast. You can do just that through rental sites like Airbnb and VRBO. Or maybe you’d rather catch a few z’s on a working farm or ranch. Ordinary rental houses or hotels are great, too, especially if they come with perks like pools, hot tubs, and game rooms. Architect and tour guide Tai Kojro-Badziak and her family are driving to the Smoky Mountains this year where they rented a secluded cabin. “There’s a hot tub and a stream right out the back door so there’s plenty to do and enjoy right on site,” she says. They’re skipping most of the heavily trafficked tourist activities, but they booked a sunset ride on an open-air train car of the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad. We have some stunning tented resort ideas for you too!
Rent out a movie theater.
Pull up to the drive-in.
A drive-in movie is a fun, safe, and super-novel family experience. DriveInMovie.com has a list of the country’s operating drive-in movie theaters, but plenty of cities, park districts, and more have started hosting pop-up drive-in movie experiences, too. Subscribe to your local entertainment publications for updates!
Having a fun and safe spring break takes a bit more work during a pandemic, but stocking up on KN95 masks, staying outdoors as much as possible, and calling ahead to check on crowds and safety measures can help you protect yourself while you make great memories.