To say my family has the travel bug might qualify as the understatement of the century. I’ve been to every continent save Antarctica, our not-yet-four-year-olds have been to a half dozen countries, across the country, and above the arctic circle, and my wife and I have been to over 30 countries together in 15 years of being together. Getting away and experiencing different cultures and places has been our escape for years, and 2020 seems to be the year that will finally buck that trend thanks to the stay at home orders, massive disruption to the travel industry, and lack of safe feelings about travel in general at the moment.
With our third child arriving in April, we knew we wouldn’t get much travel in between the spring, summer, and fall, but planned at least some small trips and potentially a family cruise for the winter. We found that a cruise with an infant was actually perfect when we took the boys on a cruise across Norway when they were about a year old. With a lose schedule, planned meals, and the ease of exploring paired with getting back on board for periodic naps and breaks in the day, a cruise was a great way to get away and see the world with small children, so we figured we’d at least travel the Caribbean this winter. But that looks very unlikely now due to COVID-19. Even if restrictions ease up and testing is in place by then, I can’t imagine we’ll be getting onto a packed ship with numerous strangers with toddlers and an infant this year now.
That also means no to the potential trip to Germany to see the best Christmas decorations in the world at the end of the year. It means no visit to Copenhagen in the summer for the first time ever. We’ve only even visited my ancestral homeland in the dead of winter. Probably no trips even for work out to Seattle this year. I can’t imagine getting on a plane without some large shift in testing or prevention. I won’t put my family at risk for any of these trips, and I imagine most others won’t either. It’s not even just that we can’t travel to anywhere, it’s that the entire set of options and the hope and excitement of planning a trip also go with it. One of my favorite things about a trip is the research, planning, and itinerary creation as well as the anticipation that comes with it.
Even worse, it’s not just cruising or flying. We likely won’t even be able to drive anywhere for an overnight trip like our recent Toronto trip because things on the other side will be closed down or restricted still. There’s no point in getting in the car and driving for hours if restaurants, attractions, and hotels are still shuttered or social distancing rules mean there’s nothing to see. No drive to Chicago like we did for the marathon when the boys were a year old. No trips up to Albany for a hockey game. No long weekends to Rhode Island, Mystic, or Boston like we did at various points in the boys’ first two years. Just knowing that we won’t have any of these options is depressing.
It’s also not just an impact on vacations and overnight stays. The worst part about being a parent during the stay at home is that we can’t take the boys anywhere out of the house. In just the month before the virus started making an impact, we had taken the boys to the zoo three times, an aquarium, the Museum of Natural History, our friends’ in New York, and across the city a few times. For the past six weeks, they have not left the house once. It’s begun taking a toll on them and us. Without these experiences and distractions, there is a dearth of things to do. Virtual class meetings for learning only go so far. They ar bored and have begun acting out. They ask just about every day if it’s a school day and if they’ll see their friends. Thankfully they don’t have actual school work because we’d never have time to actually help them get it done, but I still worry about them falling behind and missing the experiences I wanted for them as kids.
Before all of this, we were doing great with getting out of the house frequently. I loved their ability to pick up new experiences like ice skating and skiing. I honestly didn’t expect to get them skiing until they could take lessons at four at the earliest, but they did such a great job the first time I took them just to get comfortable on skis that we went again the last day the slope near us was open. Obviously the summer will intervene anyway, but I can’t imagine that things will return to enough normalcy by the early winter that I’ll feel comfortable taking toddlers to a crowded ski slope or on a chairlift with anyone.
When all is said and done, and I don’t believe at this point that that means a return to complete normalcy of what things were like before this, the biggest impact of the virus may be to our children and how they will be deprived of experiences for an extend amount of time. For travel lovers like ourselves, it’s depressing to think there are no new locales to research and explore this year. No family trips to meticulously plan out just to change when the first tantrum throws plans into disarray. No road trips to build memories and shared experiences together. This, more than the effect on the economy, the thought of working from home for months, or daycare being closed even longer, is what makes me the saddest about the effect this will have on our family.