For the 50+ Traveler

RVing during a pandemic sounds surreal -- like a bad sci-fi movie, but here we are. I live full-time in my RV and had major travel plans from now through June. Just about all of those have been scrapped.

While I can be very mobile, I’m now wondering where I should go and what I should do when I get there. RVers all over social media are asking the same questions. Those with a sticks-and-bricks residence are returning home. For the rest of us, it’s a game of musical chairs, and no one wants to be caught without one.

An RV park.
Robyne Stevenson

Deciding Where To Go

The biggest concern I have is that my go-to places like state and county parks are closing. The first round of notices said that park offices would be closed to visitors, that visitors should pick up reservation tags outside the offices, and that most programming would be suspended. Now a number of parks are closed to camping entirely.

Campendium put out a list of closures that is very comprehensive and regularly updated. North Carolina, Florida, New Mexico, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have closed all of their parks. Pennsylvania has also closed its highway rest stops!

My favorite parks, the ones run by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, are closing too, at the discretion of each district. The National Park Service is leaving closures up to individual parks, so check frequently at the NPS site for each park. Some parks have closed visitor centers and suspended programs while keeping campgrounds open.

Making A Plan

An ugly incident was reported by a full-time camper at a campground in Utah’s Arches National Park. Locals came through with a bullhorn, shouting at people to get out and that Moab did not have enough supplies or medical facilities for all the tourists. The Moab branch of the Southeastern Utah District Health Department just closed all hotels to out-of-town visitors. People are overwhelmed and worried about resources.

Vulnerable campers like me who are over 60 and/or have preexisting health conditions should not be traveling anyway. I’m a full-time RVer, however, so what’s my plan? I have a reservation at a park where I can stay for a month or more. I have already put in an order for a large supply of groceries. I will have full hook-ups, and I will stay put in my wonderful self-contained RV. I will arrive at my destination at the end of this week, and I know I will feel much better when I get there.

Meanwhile, I’m staying at a park a few hours away but haven’t been out at all except to walk. It’s a bit surreal to know that the world is operating out there -- but in what state, I’m not sure. I hear and see the traffic, and my neighbors seem to be going about their daily business. The office did say they’ve had a lot of cancellations.

I’ll be staying at a private, commercial park, and I know it will be a different experience than what I’m used to. Parks are closing clubhouses and recreation rooms, and social programming is going dark. I got lucky and made a reservation before the park closed its doors to new visitors. It was like getting into a country before the borders closed down.

Big RV events around the country are being cancelled or postponed. I had two smaller rallies on my calendar for April and June, and poof -- they’re no longer happening.

RVers are used to designing itineraries featuring the places they’ll visit and when. I’m left at loose ends to wait this out when I thought I would be out exploring. But it’s good to roll with the changes, and RVers are pros at that.

Finding Creative Ways To Spend Time

A number of major cities have closed their restaurants, bars, and entertainment venues. Full-time RVers will need to entertain themselves and feed themselves, all within the confines of social distancing.

Consider these options to weather the coronavirus storm:

  • Find a place to stay for a month and then reassess as conditions change.
  • Stay somewhere that is near a major medical facility, since the onset of the virus can be very quick.
  • Keep plenty of food and medical supplies onboard so that you don’t have to spend lots of time shopping and being around people.
  • Enjoy the serenity of nature by yourself or with your traveling companion. This is not the time for parties or gatherings, although people in Europe have found unique ways to engage each other from afar by having balcony dinner parties and sing-alongs -- each family on their own balcony. Get creative in your own campground, but be sure to keep your distance.
  • If you have a library card at your home library, try downloading e-books or even videos to amuse yourself.
  • Unfortunately, there are fewer opportunities to go to places like coffee shops for Wi-Fi, which can be frustrating if your park’s service isn’t great. Try the parking lot of a McDonald’s or Starbucks. You can head to the drive-through for refreshments and surf the net and eat in your car.
  • Follow all the CDC guidelines for self-care, including washing your hands as soon as you get back to your rig and wiping down all surfaces you touch, including in your car. Don’t touch your face -- eyes, nose, or mouth -- unless you are home and your hands are clean. Wipe down your keys, credit cards, door handles, phone, keyboard, and counters regularly, and then wash your hands. Keeping germs at bay is crucial.
A nearly empty grocery store.
Robyne Stevenson

The Future For RV Camping

While officials are saying this self-isolation could go on through the summer, we really don’t know. I’ve decided that I will enjoy and be present in my daily moments, whether I’m sitting outside in a camp chair or at a picnic table, walking in the campground park (or, if possible, driving to a park for a day-use area walk), reading, or watching a movie.

I am in frequent communication with friends and family by phone, text, video chat, and email. Keeping up contact is important for our mental health when we have to avoid in-person contact.

I’ll keep apprised of what changes are going on in my park and of official notices of closures, curfews, and other restrictions in the area. We all want to get back to “normal,” but normal may look different by the end of the spring or summer.

My concerns are that the panic and fear I saw in the grocery store will increase as people who didn’t take the virus seriously suddenly find themselves without gasoline, food, or medicine. I hope it doesn’t come to that. We take so much for granted and are so surprised -- and even angry -- when things change.

RVers are good at making the best of whatever comes up. Let’s do that and be resilient.