In August, a friend's daughter and son-in-law drove 10 hours from Boston to Maryland to visit their mom for two days. During the trip they focused on what we all focus on: stop only to gas up and use the facilities; pack the car with travel snacks and soft drinks plus lots of Clorox-like wipes and hand sanitizer. When they returned home, they took Covid tests.
Other friends did the reverse trip: They drove 12 hours from Maryland to see their grown children and grandchild in New Hampshire. They stopped en route to overnight at a hotel, picked up dinner from a carry out and limited highway stops to gas and bathroom. They did not get tested but they quarantined-lite when they came home. That is, they stayed home for two or three days--before they got back to their usual routine, which was low risk anyway.
Now we are planning a trip to see our grown children and grandchildren. We are not driving. Our plan is to cover our faces and fly from Maryland to Albany to see our son's family, drive a rental car into Massachusetts to see our daughter and then reverse ourselves to come home.
We are lucky in one way: both states we are visiting have very low infection rates. We are not so lucky in that neither New York nor Massachusetts welcome travelers from Maryland-- unless they quarantine for two weeks or, for Massachusetts, have a negative covid-19 test within 72 hours of arrival. The test requirement is a challenge. Rapid result tests are not easy to get in Maryland. Where we live (and where the infection rate is low), we have to be symptomatic or have been exposed to the virus in order to qualify for a test. It took us more than four hours to set up what we think is going to be a drive-through test that we can use to enter Massachusetts.
We are not sure now if we New York will allow us to enter. The NYS website tells us that "enforcement teams will be stationed at airports statewide to meet arriving aircrafts at gates and greet disembarking passengers." We may make our final destination to Massachusetts and ask our son to drive himself and his family an hour east to visit us there. The big risk we face: Our grandchildren will have started going to school in person. We will have to be extra vigilant around everybody and they around us. My daughter in law says that if the weather turns cold enough to make us uncomfortable to sit outside, we can come into the house and everyone will wear masks, except when we eat and that will not be around the table but scattered 6-feet apart in the family room.
Then there is the question of what we have to or should do when we return home. Can we just unpack our bags as though this was just another trip to see our children, or should we quarantine? Get another covid test in two weeks?
This is what the new normal for travel is: Along with arranging transportation, making housing reservations and remembering to pack chargers for all devices, we have to add extra face masks, covid testing and sanitizers to our travel to-do list--and be prepared to quarantine ourselves.
As to the family visits themselves, we are assured by friends who've driven miles to see their children that even hugless, physically distanced encounters are worth the challenge of dealing with the plethora of pandemic limits.