The (Not) Canceled Vacation Plans of Summer 2020

Stuyvesant students reflect on their summer plans and vacations amidst a global pandemic.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Plane ticket? Check. Boarding pass? Check. Suitcase? Check. Those items would be on the checklist for a typical summer vacation, a vacation in the pre-COVID-19 world. Now, a vacation requires a face mask, hand sanitizer, and even gloves for added protection. Social distancing is the norm—especially on your flight—if it hasn’t been canceled, of course. In this COVID-19 world, the nature of summer vacation travel has changed drastically, whether it be the use of personal protection equipment or canceled plans.

For freshman Unique Zhang, COVID-19 has caused a cancellation of her original summer plans. She and her family had initially planned to bike around New York, go camping with family friends, and travel to France and China. Even though these plans have been disrupted, Zhang has still been able to spend some time outside. “Going out during these times would be too much of a risk, but we do visit each other from time to time and go on certain trips that wouldn't [pose] a threat, like taking a walk in fields, going to an empty beach, and hiking with family friends,” she explained. Ventures such as these have been quite beneficial for Zhang: “Having these more frequent trips with each other has gotten my family closer with our family friends, so that is a positive outcome.”

Similarly, junior Hannah Scheuer had a year-long study abroad program in Thailand planned that was supposed to start this July. Due to the pandemic, the departure date was delayed to September, and then again to January 2021. “That was a huge change because mentally, I had been preparing for a year-long exchange in another country since before school shut down,” she described.

On the other hand, junior Zoe Buff and her family spent four months in Taiwan this past summer. They had originally planned to visit Germany for her grandfather’s birthday and then Prague to attend music camp, but the trips were canceled because of the pandemic. Upon arriving in Taiwan, they had to quarantine for two weeks but got to spend the remaining two weeks exploring. As for the COVID-19 regulations in Taiwan, “Most people still wear masks there, but the regulations aren’t as strict: the CDC is actually getting worried and promoting mask-wearing a lot more,” Buff described. However, when she and her family visited aboriginal villages, they discovered that no one there was wearing a mask. “It was a little scary. When my mom asked about it, all they said was that they had no cases, so masks weren’t required at all,” she added. Overall, the pandemic situation also seemed much better. “All the shops and public areas are open. In some public spaces, they still check your temperature, but other than that and wearing masks, there are not many signs of the COVID-19 pandemic in Taiwan. Everything is pretty normal,” Buff noted.

Junior Sarah Cheyney also experienced a disruption in her travel plans. She and her family had a vacation to Costa Ríca planned for this past summer, but it ultimately ended up being canceled due to COVID-19. Soon into quarantine, however, Cheyney and her family drove upstate because she had to walk her dog outside frequently and wanted to minimize the risk of bringing COVID into her building. A few weeks after that, she and her family decided to drive to Florida. “The trip was honestly pretty normal except for caution at gas stations and rest stops. It's a multiple-day drive, so we stayed overnight at some Airbnbs, which exercised extra measures [when] cleaning between each guest. I honestly felt pretty comfortable and safe in those,” Cheyney described. She returned to New York City by taking a plane after the school year ended and noticed varying levels of precautions. “Some airlines like Delta didn't exercise any kind of distancing within planes. JetBlue, which I flew, blocked out the middle seat and passed out pre-packaged snacks and drinks to limit contact,” Cheyney explained. She also went to New Hampshire for vacation. After traveling to each place, she made sure to quarantine.

Senior Leon Ma flew out-of-state to Los Angeles, where numerous tourist attractions like Disneyland and the Santa Monica pier were closed, and drove to Maine. Ma described his experience in Maine: “I went camping, so there were no special rules except social distancing. There was also a town where everyone wore masks. Out in the national park, most people didn't wear masks.” Though his initial summer plans to travel to the Arches National Park in Utah with his family were scrapped, Ma found the time to travel to his grandmother’s house in LA and camp in Maine. His experience traveling was relatively normal, with mask mandates and restaurant take-outs as opposed to in-person dining.

While many students had their summer plans canceled due to COVID, some were able to work around the disruption and do some traveling, whether it be a trip to the beach or a flight to Taiwan. Vacations looked far from normal with mask mandates, travel restrictions, and quarantine rules. Students showcased adaptability and capacity to find the positives in a global pandemic while following necessary health and safety procedures—especially quarantining when necessary. “I would say it definitely made the whole process much more tiring and tedious than travel before, where you could just pick up and go, but I also understand why it's necessary,” Cheyney expressed.