| Wilmington StarNews
Among the many disruptions that the coronavirus pandemic has caused, one ongoing frustration has been the cancellation or postponement of long-awaited vacations. Now, months into the pandemic, you may be among those who are really ready for a chance for escape.
Rick Courtney, a local musician, said he was looking forward to his anniversary and a family reunion this fall. But uncertainty about the pandemic made him rethink how he wanted to do them. This summer, he and his wife bought and refurbished a 1998 RV.
“I hate flying ordinarily anyway,” he said. The coronavirus pandemic just adds stress to that form of travel.
Another Wilmingtonian, Michael Voorheis, said he was also looking for an interesting way to spend his anniversary. He opted to take a 21-foot boat on an overnight sail up the Intracoastal Waterway for the first time
“It was something fun and different to do,” he said.
They stayed in Beaufort, and although they had to wait out the weather and experienced some rough seas, the couple also floated alongside a school of dolphins and enjoyed their time off in a way that felt relatively safe during a pandemic.
Travel experts say this kind of travel is indicative of a larger trend.
“With the pandemic being fluid and uncertain in the coming months, currently most travelers are booking domestically,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA spokeswoman for the Auto Club Group in the Carolinas. “We expect, much like summer, that a ton of fall travel plans will be last minute, or maybe 2 to 3 days out, depending on COVID-19 restrictions and numbers during that time.”
Wright said that air travel has been increasing over recent months, but she still expects road travel to be the top mode of transportation.
Or maybe it should be phrased differently, as in individual vehicles rather than mass transit. Like Courtney, others are looking for homes on wheels. The RV Industry Association said that the pandemic has increased interests in sales and rentals. That goes for boats, too, as some dealers like MarineMax (which operates in 23 states), said that sales of boats are up in all categories.
Lucky for locals, there are lots of opportunities for interesting travel only a short distance away. Voorheis opted for the coast, and Courtney said he is heading to the mountains in October to camp with friends. We compiled a list of other ideas, if you need some inspiration.
Leaf peeping: Missing fall color and changes in elevation? Appalachian State University monitors foliage reports each year, and you can find updates on their blog. But, generally speaking, you can expect color during the first week of October for locations above 5,000 feet. Later in the month, you will see more fall leaves change at progressively lower elevations. Usually the third week of October is best for many of the sections of the Blue Ridge Parkway.
On the parkway: Speaking of that stretch of road, it’s billed as ‘America’s Favorite Drive,” which makes it an ideal choice for a road trip. The Blue Ridge Parkway weaves through 469 miles from Virginia to North Carolina and includes local landmarks like the highest mountain peak (Mount Mitchell), the oldest river (New River), and the highest waterfall east of the Rockies (Whitewater Falls).
Brews and ‘cue: Goldsboro has developed a trail that is sure to appeal to foodies. Its map includes 15 destinations in Wayne County focused on Eastern North Carolina barbecue and breweries. Check it out for stops like Wilbur’s and Grady’s barbecue restaurants and retail centers like the Heritage Farms General Store, Well Travelled Beer, and Tobacco & Hops.
Art of the trail: If you’re envisioning a trail of an entirely different sort, the Hendersonville Art Gallery Trail features 16 galleries and art businesses in this Western North Carolina town and nearby Flat Rock. Settle into a day strolling through galleries and studios to ignite your creative spirit.
Stay for the day: While some road trips require at least one overnight stay, not all of them do. For travelers who would rather stay closer to home, there are plenty of options, from a boat trip on a local ferry, to time spent at nearby Lake Waccamaw. Another idea is to more fully explore local beaches. Many of us in the Wilmington area have our favorite spot and know little about others that are farther down the road. Check out the Topsail area, Carolina Beach, or the beach communities in Brunswick County, depending on where you live.
Tips for safe travel this fall
As the coronavirus pandemic continues, AAA reminds travelers that the situation is constantly evolving. Be sure to plan ahead to see what restaurants, museums and other attractions may be open and if restrictions and guidelines have been updated. Also, make sure you are taking the proper steps to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Here are a few tips.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. Stay home when you are sick.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
- Follow the advice of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for masks. All people 2 years of age and older should wear a cloth face covering in public settings and when around people who don’t live in your household, especially when other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.
- Travel with all necessary travel documentation, including health insurance cards.
- On your packing list, add an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, disinfecting wipes, thermometer, face masks, gloves (plastic bags are good alternatives) and extra supplies of medication.