Where DC-area vacationers are going for a ‘safe-cation’

Families like Ocean City as a place to vacation. It’s one of the places people have been searching, according to Travelocity. (WTOP/Colleen Kelleher)

Social distancing has been front and center for summer vacationers.

Travelocity says searches for “rental condo” are up 540% from a year ago. Searches for “cabin” or “cottage” are both up more than 400%. Top Labor Day destination searches consist of searches for beaches and outdoor destinations, including several popular with D.C.-area travelers.

“Really about midsummer, in July, we started to see some Mid-Atlantic lake and beach destinations peak,” said Melissa Dohmen at Travelocity.

“We saw places like Ocean City, Maryland; Virginia Beach; Cape Cod; and the Outer Banks, another hot spot I think for folks in the D.C. area.”

Destinations in the Appalachian Mountains also have been top searches by D.C.-area travelers.

Most travelers are extending their Labor Day trips, with the average length of a stay over the long weekend up 10% to 15% from last year, according to Travelocity.

Travelers are making more last-minute bookings too. Sometimes very last-minute.

“Travelers are likely waiting to see what conditions are like in the place they are headed to before they book,” Dohmen said. “We’ve actually seen that about a week out or less has been the sweet spot for when people are booking for travel — even within that two- to three-day range.”

There has been another pandemic-related trend for travel bookings this year. Travelocity reports a near double-digit increase in lodging reservations for one person over the long Labor Day weekend.

“We are calling this the summer of ’solo-distancing,’” Dohmen said. “I think people think: ‘I just personally want to get away for awhile. If I go and take a hike by myself, or take a timeout at a hotel or work from a hotel room for a day, that can be enough to kind of re-energize you.’”

Travelocity offers several tips for making your vacation a “safe-cation” when you’re planning your trip:

  • Plan ahead. Find out if states or local guidelines have restrictions in place, like quarantine when you return, or are there travel restrictions.
  • Control what you can. Shift travel dates to mid-week instead of peak travel time. Visit a place you’ve been to before so you have a comfort level.
  • Look up hotel cleanliness information. Many hotels are now providing up front what health and hygiene practices they have in place, so when you search for a hotel you know its policies before you go.

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