“My wife strongly feels that we should take a trip out of state this summer, that it's good for the kids’ mental health and the risks are lower than they were earlier in the year. I'm really panicked about travel, bringing the infection to a new location, all the precautions we’d need to take, and if there’s anywhere we can even go, but I feel strong-armed by my family to do this. My kids have been dying to leave the house and my wife thinks it’s time. What do we do?”
After months of social distancing, it makes sense that your wife and kids are itching to leave the state. But I also understand your perspective completely: There are unseen risks we still don’t know nearly enough about and it’s hard to go from shelter-in-place to vacation within a matter of days.
There’s a way to compromise, lay the groundwork for safer travel and communicate effectively with your wife. Here’s how to do it.
1. Talk about your core worry
You are obviously anxious about the idea of a trip, but it’s important to determine what exactly you are feeling the most anxious about. Are you worried about your family contracting coronavirus? Are you fearful about being a silent carrier and taking the illness across state lines? Do you worry that your wife won’t compromise when it comes to a safer travel schedule, or that she’ll suggest activities and destinations that will make you feel uncomfortable? These are all valid reasons to feel anxious and your wife should respect that. Get down to the bottom of your worries and then articulate them to her. Once you feel heard, it might be easier to compromise on your summer plans.
2. Brainstorm safer travel ideas
If you do decide to go on a trip, set boundaries in advance. Don’t want to go near a plane with a 10-foot pole? Want to avoid big cities where you’ll be packed closely with others? Are certain “hotspot” states worrisome? If she’s hoping for a trip to Disney World the second the gates open and you’re concerned about the health of your kids, put your heads together to find a solution that works for your comfort level but still sounds fun to her. (What about a rental house with a pool?)
Maybe you go for a scenic hike a few hours away from home. Perhaps you take a cross-country road trip, making sure to map out lodging in advance in a way that feels safe to you. You don’t necessarily have to go on a traditional, week-long vacation, either. Maybe camping a few hours from home would help you detach from the day-to-day quarantine life. If you’re close to a river, state park or other scenic nature spot, focus on checking those out—and staying six feet from others, with the right personal protective equipment (PPE) whenever you’re out of your car.
3. Be a united front with your wife
Whatever you decide, make sure that you and your wife agree before you talk about it with your kids. If your wife hypes up a plan in front of your children before you’ve figured out the details, canceling the fun will make you look like the bad guy. Make this a team effort. Plan something together, OK’ing and vetoing suggestions along the way, and then present the final plan to your adventure-starved children when it’s set.
Somewhere between sheltering in place and vacationing to a crowded amusement park, there’s fun to be had this summer. If you put some effort into planning and keep the communication open with your spouse, you and your family can work toward a safer family trip.
Jenna Birch is a journalist and author of The Love Gap: A Radical Plan to Win in Life and Love, a relationship-building guide for modern women, as well as a dating and relationship coach (currently accepting new clients). To ask her a question, which she may answer in a forthcoming PureWow column, email her at email@example.com.