The pandemic has meant polarized politics — are polarized vacations next?

To say America is a divided country is an understatement. Will we now have polarized travel?

polarized vacationsAs our country emerges from a large shutdown year, will we now face polarized vacations? Will two different types of vacations prevail? One for those who believe in masks and vaccines, the other for those who think the virus has been overhyped?

Many Americans are not following COVID rules, willingly.

Even during the worst of the pandemic, some people did travel. And, controversial big events like the Sturgis Bike Festival still happened. People drove their bikes to the event from all across the country

Irritated by hotel resort fees?Now, all airlines and public transportation have federal mask mandates. And as a United pilot said on a recent flight, “You all need to keep the masks on except while eating and drinking.” He then continued, “No, that does not mean putting a bottle of water in front of you for four hours and claiming you are drinking.”

Newspaper headlines shout stories of passengers removed from flights for being obstreperous. Now, I hear that air travelers generally behave. I had a family cancel a trip to Hawaii last Christmas after they read about another family being kicked off a plane. They told me their youngest son, age three, wouldn’t wear a mask, and asked about an exception. And I told them, there aren’t any. (And the airline in question certainly didn’t want to risk someone making a video of the kid running in the aisles with no mask and posting it on social media.)

If you drive, there are no federal mandates, but local regulations may be in effect.

Driving trips, of course, are a different matter. And mask rules vary greatly even within the US, which can lead to polarized vacations. In Hawaii, masks are mandatory in public, and police can arrest violators. On the other hand, in Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis outlawed mask mandates. That is one example of extreme regional differences.

Some businesses in Florida still require facial coverings and certain cities remain at war with the Governor over the issue. Also, federal law supersedes state law on mass transit and at airports, so there are some places where masks must be worn.

However, a friend’s son recently moved to the Miami area. He reports while chain restaurants and businesses often require masks, many independent “mom and pop” places do not. So people have the option of which kind of establishments to patronize.

But compare this to Hawaii. As of the time of this writing, they not only require masks but are limited in capacity. Similar rules are in place in California, although California does seem to have more establishments where state COVID rules are not stringently enforced.

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Are American vacation decisions based on restrictions?

One has to wonder: Will Americans planning a vacation within the US increasingly use restrictions or lack thereof to determine their destination?  Depending on your views, tight regulations could be either reassuring or a check on your freedom.

For the workplace, we have to do what our employers tell us or switch jobs. However, nobody forces you to go to a particular location for vacation. Thankfully, our vacation choices are made based on for the most part non-partisan reasons.

Personally, for the most part, I’ve almost never made the voting history of a destination within the US a determining factor in choosing to go there or not. Plus, until COVID, people’s political choices often weren’t obvious from their appearance or behavior, buttons, t-shirts, and hats aside. But this changed in a big way as well. Polarized vacations may be on their way.

So, quite frankly, controversy and the political choices of COVID-19 are beginning to worm their way into the vacation decision-making process. I guess that many Americans will also want to be around people who reinforce their own beliefs and behavior. I hope that polarized issues do not end up as a factor in vacation destination choices.

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