A Scottsdale sunset.

After concentrating on screens nine hours a day for over four months, my wife and I recently agreed to take some much-needed time off our endless work-from-home schedule and look into traveling responsibly for our wedding anniversary.

There’s always a risk to traveling, now more than ever. But we took precautions to stay safe, traveling in our own car and packing plenty of hand sanitizer, clean face masks, and disposable gloves in our luggage. We even stayed a little closer to home than we normally would, and brought a cooler full of drinks and food, including dinners we could cook ourselves. As for our accommodations: We found that Airbnb hosts and most high-end hotel chains have COVID-specific cleaning measures, including spacing-out reservations, so no other guest is even in your room the day before. We also contacted potential Airbnb hosts to ask specifically how they clean in their space.

With all this in mind, here’s a road map for how you can stay safe and have fun if you do decide to get out of your tiny, tiny apartment like we did. Please note: this is not meant to encourage you to be reckless or convince you that traveling right now is completely risk-free. Also check individual state guidelines if you're going to travel. 

Sunset over Hueco Tanks, just outside of El Paso. 

Houston to El Paso

The drive, nearly 11 hours, is long but worth it. Stopping at gas stations means gloves on and masks on, but we ate the snacks we brought rather than going inside. We stayed at an Airbnb 20 minutes outside of El Paso and got to star gaze for hours in a hot tub all by ourselves. Magic.

Relaxing during a strenuous hike in the Coconino National Forest.

El Paso to Scottsdale, Arizona

A shorter drive than the one from Houston to El Paso at 7 hours, this one is beautifully scenic if you exit I-10 and take I-70 to pass through the Tonto National Forest and into Scottsdale. Here, we checked into the Andaz Scottsdale Resort and Bungalows, a Hyatt property with safety and cleaning measures (including staff health checks) implemented by a panel of medical and industry experts. Plus, middle-of-the-summer desert heat meant very few other guests. We enjoyed three days of barely seeing anyone; ordering food in from Andreoli Italian Grocer (their traditional Italian sandwiches will knock your American socks off) and gastropub Culinary Dropout (order some beers to go too); and lounging on our private balcony or by the pool. We also took day trips to the gorgeous landscapes around Sedona.

Rather than visit the Grand Canyon, which we knew would have more crowds than we’re comfortable with, we woke up crazy early one morning (I’m talking 4:30 a.m., people) and drove three hours north to the Coconino National Forest.

After snaking through the forest’s bumpy gravel roads (four-wheel drive is recommended, though we made it in our Civic), we parked at the West Clear Creek trailhead and headed down. And I do mean down. You’ll be using your hands a lot, as the first half mile is spent descending a canyon. It’s gorgeous and well worth the struggle, though.

You’ll make your way all the way to a stream and the water feels amazing—if you plan to swim, bring water shoes. We chose to hike down to the water, eat a snack, hang out for a while, then go back up, making this a two-hour out and back hike, and a difficult one at that. The bonus is that because we went so early and because it’s not a trail for beginners, we only saw two other people the entire time. Do wear proper hiking shoes and bring plenty of water.

Scottsdale to El Paso

This is a no-brainer. We went back the way we came, and even booked the same Airbnb property as before since we knew it was tried-and-true clean, spacious, and had contactless check-in and check-out. Plus, with a full kitchen, cooking was a breeze and immensely satisfying while watching the sunset over the bright orange Hueco Tanks rock formations.

Relaxing on the lake at a secluded Airbnb in Boerne.

El Paso to Boerne

We did make one detour to Boerne before our return home. Tucked along the backroads about an hour northwest of San Antonio, our final Airbnb was a secluded house on the shores of a small, clear, spring-fed lake. The contactless check-in went smoothly, and we spent the last two days of our vacation cooking our favorite meals (an H-E-B was only 15 minutes away), sipping drinks on the porch over the water, and roasting marshmallows over the giant fire pit at night.

Boerne to Houston

Definitely plan your road trip so the last drive is the shortest and you arrive home well-rested and ready to jump back into your 2020 life. After this short 3.5-hour leg, we came home, threw everything in the washer, wiped down our luggage, showered, and reminisced about the previous week with pride, knowing that we kept safe while also giving hospitality businesses some much needed income.

Happy road-tripping. 

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