Yes, you can take a vacation this summer
by Katie McElveen
You’ve mastered the perfect sourdough loaf, Zoomed your way through yoga classes and happy hours, completed a plethora of puzzles and (finally) reached the end of Game of Thrones. But summer, even one sadly affected by Covid-19, seems to require a vacation.
If you’re ready to get out of town – but not quite ready to hop on a plane – the southeast has you covered with cool green mountains, ocean breezes and, if you like, decadent amenities – all within easy driving distance of home. And, to make planning a close-to-home vacay just a little more tempting, we’ve uncovered a huge array of safe-space lodging options packed with so many fun activities you might forget that you’re still social distancing. Just remember to plan ahead: thanks to reduced capacity at restaurants, spas and outdoor venues, securing a spot may mean reserving when you book your vacation.
Old Edwards Inn
Highlands, North Carolina
This Relais & Chateaux inn has instituted a number of thoughtful and interesting procedures designed to help keep guests safe and comfortable during their stay. One is providing staff members with special eye and facial expression training, which will facilitate communication (and, hopefully, reduce miscommunication) between masked individuals. Another innovation: Personal Pods, strategically placed groupings of furniture that accommodate smaller groups of two to four people in both indoor and outdoor public areas (including the pool). Although room service is not operating, the kitchen will prepare gourmet picnics to go; guests can also have food delivered to the resort from local restaurants.
Treatments are available at resort’s pampering spa, but note that steam, sauna and plunge pools, as well as the expansive fitness center, are all closed. Taking its place is a schedule of outdoor fitness classes, guided hikes and the option of having sterilized workout equipment brought to your room.
Located in the heart of the town of Highlands, Old Edwards Inn is surrounded by boutiques, restaurants and cafes; there are also city parks, a dog-friendly botanical garden and a 5-mile greenway network of paths and sidewalks that weaves through the town and surrounding areas. Further afield, hiking trails climb mountains, meander along old logging roads, and lead past tumbling waterfalls. The resort’s private golf course is also open.
For more information, visit oldedwardshospitality.com
Kiawah Resort | The Sanctuary
Kiawah Island, South Carolina
Set within a massive compound where you can stay, eat, golf, play tennis, cycle, kayak with dolphin, wander through a marine forest and hang out on ten miles of beach, Kiawah Resort makes staying safe almost a no-brainer: the resort’s comprehensive Covid-19 response protocols were the work of a 12-member team of infectious disease and global health professionals from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, who performed a full evaluation of the resort. For the foreseeable future, employees will be required to wear masks at all times (except when in their individual offices); the free vans that shuttle guests throughout the resort will be limited to one family group per destination and will be disinfected after each trip, and a comprehensive cleaning program – think elevator buttons, room keys and light switches – that also emphasizes employee work areas, offices and entrances, will be in effect. The resort also provided free serum testing to all full-time residents of the island. Lodging options abound and include rooms and suites in The Sanctuary, the resort’s 255-room luxury hotel as well as a vast selection of private homes, villas and condos located on the beach, within the shady forest or adjacent to golf or tennis.
Restaurants, the resort’s famed golf course, the spa, shops and amenities like tennis clinics, bike and kayak rentals are all operational, as are the myriad recreational and naturalist programs that make Kiawah Resort so much fun for families.
For more information, visit kiawahresort.com
Great Smoky Mountain National Park
By its very nature, camping seems custom-made for a Covid-era vacay, but unless you’re a veteran of the woods, purchasing the necessary equipment could make your first foray into the wilderness an expensive endeavor. Enter Under Canvas, where 40 or so oversized, safari-style tents are scattered about a pine-rimmed glade just minutes from Great Smoky Mountain National Park. But these aren’t just any tents: set on wooden platforms with covered decks, the canvas creations sport windows, plush king beds, full bathrooms with showers and flush toilets, wood stoves and chic furnishings from West Elm. Besides any special adult beverages you might want, everything is taken care of, including power for your devices; food, which is available for purchase in the dining tent (due to Covid, you’ll be asked to enjoy your meals in your tent or at one of the site’s picnic tables); bath products and daily housekeeping. There’s a concierge on site, too, who can recommend the best hiking trails and help make reservations for park activities like fly fishing, ziplining and white-water rafting.
For more information, visit undercanvas.com
TurnKey Home Rentals
No matter the destination, the biggest vacation trend of 2020 is a long-term rental that will keep your family out of the fray for several weeks. To make it work, particularly when you’re traveling with kids and may not be able to take advantage of many of a location’s available diversions, having a place to stay that’s fully kitted out with powerful wifi, multiple televisions, a decent kitchen and plenty of bathrooms is key. But unlike years past, when a little sand in the corners of the beach house you’d rented was nothing more than an inconvenience, these days, you need to be confident that the home you’ve rented has gotten a thorough scrubdown. That’s where TurnKey comes in. Using a stringent set of cleaning standards that was developed in response to Covid-19 and is unique to each property, housekeepers move through each property with a checklist in hand, making sure every surface is clean. The process also includes special cleaning products and requires housekeepers to utilize an app to confirm and photo-validate their work. To further ensure a germ-free environment, properties sit empty for 24 hours between rentals. Once you arrive, keyless locks accessed via an app enable check in and access without the need to stop at a registration center.
For more information, visit turnkeyvr.com
Daufuskie Island, South Carolina
When you really want to get away, rent one of the gorgeous homes (or even a 19-century lighthouse) within Haig Point, a beach and golf community located on Daufuskie Island, a tiny spit of land across the sound from Hilton Head that’s only accessible by boat. Here, amid the island’s 9-or-so square miles, you’ll find empty, sunsplashed beaches; quiet marshes perfect for kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding; several restaurants and two golf courses (one of which was designed by Jack Nicklaus and the other recently refurbished by Davis Love). The island is also rife with history: grab a map, hop on a golf cart (the island is car-free) and take in some of the oldest – and largest – live oak trees in the state, the school house where South Carolina author Pat Conroy once taught; the artifact-filled Gullah Learning Center; vintage Gullah homes, each trimmed in the shade of blue said to scare away evil spirits; the circa-1884 First Union African Baptist Church and the Mt. Carmel Baptist Church No. 2, where well-informed, friendly staff members share Daufuskie’s story. A thriving arts community and community farm round out the island’s wonderfully diverse offerings.
For more information, visit haigpoint.com