Should you travel during the pandemic? Answer — no. Do people travel anyway? Answer — yes and I’m sorry to report that I am one of these people. Recently, my boyfriend and I took a car trip north to Camden, Maine and I want to share a little bit about my experience.
Each state has its own policies regarding movement during the pandemic and Maine is stricter than others. For those traveling from out of state, unless you are from a select few states in the North East, you are required to produce a negative COVID test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival, quarantine for two weeks, or complete a COVID test upon arrival (and then quarantine until the results are received). Without any firsthand experience with these procedures, we considered whether we should still journey to Maine or, perhaps, venture to New Hampshire, Vermont, or stay within Massachusetts where restrictions are less stringent. Ultimately, we opted for the COVID test, which is not as easy as it sounds. In many places, taking a test without real cause (i.e. without symptoms and without contact with an infected person) can mean long waits and a $160 fee — yikes!
Before checking in at our hotel, we were sent a link to complete a form attesting that we performed the proper protocol in accordance with the “Keep Maine Healthy” program. Although we took the rules seriously, aside from electronically signing the form, we did not need to give any evidence of our tests or documentation of quarantine. When we arrived at the front desk of the little inn in Camden, Maine, we met the receptionist who was protected behind a pane of glass. He welcomed us to the area and handed us the keys — and that was that!
Social distancing means that restaurants cannot operate at full capacity. Camden, a small town on the harbor, still gets its fair share of tourism even into October. This meant that there were long waits for restaurant seating at almost all hours. Luckily, our hotel provided breakfast, so we were never waiting out in the early morning. However, even at awkward late and in-between hours like 3pm and 8 in the evening, the wait was almost never less than 30 minutes. Then, on the Saturday, wait times skyrocketed to 60 – 90 minutes. Even at one establishment that we visited just before 6pm, a line of us outside the restaurant was told that they would soon no longer be able to take reservations for the rest of the night. The bustle, I imagine, was made worse by the fact that a few restaurants were shut down entirely during the pandemic and others still were booked out for private events. Most restaurants were not accepting reservations for parties with fewer than six guests. For these reasons, every night without fail, we visited multiple places, added a name and phone number to the wait list and moved onto the next establishment.
Tourism during COVID also means less things to do. The pizza restaurant, ice cream spot, and a few other little stores were indefinitely closed. The fitness center at the inn was by appointment only and the hotel breakfast buffet was (naturally) shut down and a packed breakfast was served instead. Regardless, I enjoyed my time in Camden and aside from a thrift shopping stop, meals, and picking up souvenirs, I limited my activities to the outdoors. In the little town of Camden, one can walk up, down, and around the city center twice in under 30 minutes. Favoring long walks, I ambled through the residential areas and viewed the summer cottages, historical mansions, and quiet side streets. Additionally, on this trip, I took a somewhat-less-than relaxing sailboat ride (more here) and endured an uphill hike (more here).
Traveling during the pandemic is not advisable and I am incorrigible. If you do choose to travel, however… my advice to you is to pack plenty of hand sanitizer, wipes, masks, and heaps of patience as you will need all of the above to enjoy a safe weekend away.