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The Summer of COVID-19: Social Distancing-Friendly Vacation Ideas for Families

Family Travel
Photo: Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Golden Valley, North Carolina Photo: Yogi Bear's Jellystone Park Golden Valley, North Carolina

Well, here we are, entering into the "Summer of COVID-19." We're all dealing with the reality that summer vacation is going to look a lot different this year. The CDC is still recommending against non-essential travel, particularly for those at higher risk of severe illness; many newly-opened tourist destinations and theme parks are operating with restrictions that will impact your experience; and some of us plain don't feel safe flying or staying in a crowded hotel just yet. 

While there are so many legit reasons why we should skip the beach and stay "safer at home" this year, the reality is that many of us are in desperate need of a mental health escape. Rest assured, there are still ways we can travel both safely and responsibly this summer. We've rounded up some social distancing-friendly vacation ideas that may just end up being your most memorable family vacation ever!

Vacation House Rental

The simplest and most obvious way to make your family vacation more social distance-friendly is to forgo a resort or hotel stay in favor of a vacation rental. Staying in your own private house allows you to confine your daily interactions to your immediate family, just like at home; eliminates the need to navigate congregate settings like lobbies, hallways, elevators, buffets, and pools; and provides you more control over the sanitation and safety of your living space.

Vacation rentals are widely available just about anywhere across the country through sites like Vrbo, airbnb, homestay, and FlipKey. To avoid crowds (and save money at the same time), consider searching for properties outside the most popular/populous areas near the center of town or a boardwalk area, if traveling to a beach. You can even search for properties that have private pools and things like pool tables, foosball and ping pong to keep the family entertained without having to leave the house! 

RV Trip

My husband has long wanted to take the family on a cross-country RV adventure, but I was was never much into the idea (I'm more of a lay by the pool at the resort kind of girl). However, for the Summer of COVID-19, RVing is truly the perfect social distancing-friendly way to travel. Whether you're interested in an outdoorsy experience but not so much into camping, want to take a road trip but trying to avoid public rest areas and hotel stays, or want to visit multiple locations affordably while traveling at your own pace and having all of the comforts of home at your fingertips, an RV rental is the perfect solution.

We found this great business called RVshare, which is like the airbnb of RV rentals, that will hook you up with an owner in your local area or at your desired destination (like National Parks). You can rent everything from a trailer to pull behind your regular car - which gives you the flexibility of having a car to drive while at your destinations - to a full-on, decked out Class A, luxurious Motorhome. There are even pet-friendly rentals so you can bring your furry family members along on your adventure.

Houseboat Rental

Renting a houseboat for a week with some family friends on Lake Shasta in California is one of my all-time favorite childhood memories. I remember listening to Madonna's "Like a Prayer" album on repeat, while sunning myself on the top deck of the houseboat (and now I've just dated myself!).

Houseboating is another unique, social distancing-friendly way to travel this summer - just board your boat with your fam and drift away from all other civilization for a few days or a week. Some of the top houseboat destinations in the U.S. include Lake Powell (Arizona/Utah), Lake Mead (Arizona/Nevada), Lake Shasta (California), Table Rock Lake (Missouri), St. John's River (Florida), Lake Vermilion (Minnesota), Eerie Canal (New York), and Smith Mountain Lake (Virginia), but there are undoubtedly places to houseboat in all areas of the country.

Houseboats have come a long way since my childhood days. They come equipped with everything from full kitchens, wet bars, and barbeque grills to hot tubs, water slides and flat screen TVs. You can also rent fun toys to haul along on your adventure, like power boats, water skis, wake boards, jet skis, inner tubes and rafts. 

Camping or Glamping Getaway

Camping is the quintessential socially distanced getaway, and both private and public campgrounds have started reopening in most states for your family's enjoyment. Traditional tent camping at a local, state or national park is what most people associate with camping, but there are so many other fun and unique options, ranging from primitive to luxury. Whether you are veteran campers or total newbies, there are plenty of camping options to consider.

Family camp resorts like Yogi Bear's Jellystone Parks and KOA offer both cabin and tent and RV campsite stays, and come with on-site amenities like restaurants, bathhouses, laundry facilities, and recreational activities, though note that many are operating with restrictions to promote social distancing and comply with mandatory state guidelines.

Luxury camping, or "glamping," has become very popular over the past few years, and yurts are one of the more popular types of glamping accommodations. A yurt is a portable, round tent traditionally used by nomads in Central Asia. GlampingHub allows you to search for a variety of luxury 'camping' (if you can even call it that!) accommodations in your desired destination -- from tricked out yurts to cabins and cottages.

Tiny House Rental

Getaway DC Tiny Cabin Rental Near Shenandoah National Park in Standardsville, VA

If HGTV's "Tiny House, Big Living" or "Tiny House Hunters" has you wondering what tiny house living is all about, then this vacay has your family's name written all over it. These charming micro homes include all of the comforts and amenities of the full-size versions - kitchens, dining areas, bathrooms, (strategically-placed) beds - just in a cozier format. 

Multiple tiny house and cabin rental companies have popped up across the country; you can also search for tiny homes on vacation rental sites like airbnb. Brooklyn-based Getaway is one of our favorite tiny cabin rental companies with rental locations near major cities across the U.S., including New York, Washington, D.C., Dallas and Atlanta.

Campervan Rental

I have many childhood memories of camping trips in my parents' green VW campervan with the pop-top sleeping compartment in the roof. Much to my surprise when researching for this article, these still exist!

I'd equate campervans to the tiny house versions of RVs; a great option for smaller families or those who don't want the commitment of driving or hauling around a large RV or trailer. There are many companies out there that will rent you all sorts of different versions of these for your adventure (mostly in the American west), depending on your taste and style -- from vintage wagons to adventure sport utility vans

Unlike RVing or tent camping, 'campervaning' allows you to pull off the road and set up camp almost anywhere. Some even come outfitted with sinks, tiny kitchens, and dining tables for max comfort and convenience.

Treehouse Vacation

Channel your inner Swiss Family Robinson and take your family vacation to new heights - literally! - by staying in a treehouse. Treehouses aren't just for child's play anymore; from luxury treehouse resorts to more rustic treehouse cabin rentals, treetop-style accommodations are popping UP all across the country. Even Disney has gotten into the action with its elevated treehouse villas at Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa property.

A nature and adventure-loving family's dream come true, treehouse vacations often come with a host of outdoor activities to enjoy, like ziplining, canoeing, hiking, and fishing. One of our favorite finds is The Mohicans treehouse hotel in Ohio where all six treehouses are accessed by boardwalks through the forest. You can't get much better social distancing than that!

Plan a Staycation

If traveling away from home is outside your comfort zone, there are still ways you can make summer special for your family while sticking near home. Just like you would a real vacation, set aside a long weekend or week and treat it as a true vacation - from work, chores, responsibilities and obligations - and indulge both the adults and kids in special treats and experiences. Sometimes, even little things make a big difference in mental outlook. For instance, our kids feel officially on vacation when they are allowed to pick out whatever 'sugar cereal' they want to eat for breakfast! 

Gather the family together and have each person share what they look forward to most about a vacation (e.g., eating out, relaxing by the pool, indulging in sweet treats and fancy drinks, trying out new adventures), and then brainstorm ways you can make those things happen during your staycation. The good news is that many outdoor experiences are now open or preparing to open like golfing, ziplining, boating, tubing, stand up paddleboarding, rafting, drive-in movies and more. Alternatively, you can put some budget that you would have spent traveling toward a big at-home entertainment purchase like a trampoline, inflatable water slide, outdoor movie projector, or game room equipment like a billiard or ping pong table.


Check out CertiKID's family getaway deals for more summer vacation ideas and save up to 50% off.


CertifiKID was founded by a mom with a passion for helping parents provide the best experiences for their children on a budget. From outings to adventures, classes to camps, theater to sporting events, amusement parks to getaways, CertifiKID provides the best family-friendly experiences at unbeatable prices. Sign up for family-friendly deals in your area and start saving!