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The Great Summer Break Escape: Your Backyard

Continuing uncertainty with travel safety has led many families to plan a staycation close to home. Follow these tips and enjoy spending time together.

Summer break is usually a time when families and college students flock to beaches around the world. But even though we’re all going stir-crazy and itching for a welcome escape after a year in COVID-19 lockdown, you may be asking, “Is it safe to travel to the seashore and other long-distance destinations?”

“Not yet,” says Jessica Malaty Rivera, an infectious disease epidemiologist with the COVID Tracking Project. Daily metrics are trending in a positive direction, “but we're also at a crossroads right now, where it's a race between the variants and the vaccines. I wouldn't say somebody should look at the daily data and say, ‘Oh, it's safe for me to travel.’”

The good news: You really can create a getaway experience. The ultimate summer break can be in your own backyard.

Follow these tips for a safe and fun staycation:

Day-Trippy Ideas

Staying physically active is one of the best ways to keep yourself and your family healthy, relieve some stress and get some fresh air. Consider parks, picnics at an arboretum, playgrounds, and biking and hiking experiences, along with other places close to home — but with a new lens for health and safety.

Parks and Recreation

Here’s what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says you need to know if you plan to head outside:

  • Don’t visit crowded parks or campgrounds
  • Carefully consider use of playgrounds, and help children follow guidelines
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with
  • Wear a mask
  • Wash your hands (often and scrubbing for at least 20 seconds) and don’t share items with people you don’t live with
  • Stay home if you or someone in your household is sick

Rest Stops

Every parent knows that traveling near or far always includes the cry for a potty stop. After using public restrooms (or spending time in a public place), wash your hands with soap and water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds.

If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

Pumping Up

When fueling up, wear disposable gloves or use disinfecting wipes on handles and buttons at the gas pump.

After fueling, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. When you get to your destination, wash your hands with soap and water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds.


If venturing a little farther than your own backyard, packing a picnic meal and snacks is essential for your outing. The safest option is to bring your own food. If you don’t bring your own food, use drive-through, take-out and pick-up options. Also keep in mind that warmer weather can create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. To help protect your family from foodborne illness, here are eight tips for a safer picnic:

  1. Store and transport perishable foods properly: Put perishable foods such as hot dogs, cut fruits and salads in individual containers and place on the bottom of the cooler with ice packs on top. This provides the best insulation for foods that need to remain cool and helps prevent cross-contamination. Transport uncooked meats in a separate cooler from ready-to-eat foods.
  2. Put cold drinks in a separate cooler: Place sodas, bottled water and other drinks in a separate cooler from your fresh and ready-to-eat foods. You’ll open the cooler containing food less often and keep the food colder longer.
  3. Carry the cooler in the car’s passenger area: Keep the cooler in the passenger area instead of in the trunk so the air conditioning can help keep the contents colder.
  4. Avoid taking food that contains uncooked or unpasteurized eggs: If you plan on making a dish that contains a homemade salad dressing or mayonnaise, use pasteurized eggs or egg products. Food items containing properly prepared homemade or store-bought mayonnaise need to be kept cold until just before serving.
  5. Wash your fresh veggies and fruit: Before you leave, wash your grapes and put them in a container so they are easy to snack on. (Grapes can also be frozen and used as cooling packs!) It’s also important to wash fruits with hard rinds, like avocados and melons. Any bacteria present on their skins can be transferred into the edible fruit when you cut it.
  6. Do not prepare food more than one day ahead unless you plan to freeze it: Cooking foods in advance allows more opportunities for bacteria to grow. Be sure to reheat pre-cooked foods to at least 165° F (74° C) before serving.
  7. Eat within an hour or toss: Don’t eat any perishable foods that have been sitting out longer than one hour on days where the temperature is over 90° F (32° C). On cooler days (under 90° F or 32° C), return perishable foods to the cooler or throw them out if they are not eaten within two hours. It’s a good idea to throw away the leftovers since picnic foods have likely been sitting out for more than a couple hours and have been handled by many people. The more time that food has been sitting at unsafe temperatures, the more likely that harmful bacteria have grown.
  8. Wash your hands before eating or handling food: Wash your hands with soap and water, scrubbing for at least 20 seconds, before eating or handling food. If there’s no source of clean water, bring soap, water and paper towels or use disposable wipes or a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

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