Travel turns terrifying

Typical summertime travel plans anything but normal

By Barbara Pierce


Nothing is normal this summer — including our summer vacation travel plans. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention strongly advises against all nonessential travel, warning that travel increases your chances of getting COVID-19.

Airports, bus and train stations, and public rest rooms are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus, whether it is airborne or on surfaces. To make matters worse, these are places where it’s hard to social distance.

Most of us don’t feel comfortable getting on a plane these days. As for a car trip, making stops for gas, food and bathroom breaks puts us at risk.

Checking into a hotel or motel is very different these days, and we’re not sure it’s entirely safe. As for the home-sharing company Airbnb, its cleanliness standards are reportedly inconsistent. The CDC even advises against camping or traveling in an RV.

Yes, travel is dicey this summer. It’s unsafe.

However, there are so many benefits from taking a summer family vacation. Research shows travel is good for your health.

Relationships become stronger when a couple or a family travels together; the benefits exist long after we return home.

Travel makes us happier; even the planning makes us happy.

People who take a regular break from the grind of daily life are healthier. Travel helps reduce stress and taking time to relax is so very valuable. People who regularly travel are less likely to die from heart-related issues.

And travel helps keep our minds sharp. When we get away from our usual environment, our brains become more active and that’s very good.

Travel is especially good for keeping the mind sharp because it implies change. It takes you to new places and introduces you to different people and novel locations. It forces your brain to adapt and remain flexible.

Experts advise us that to achieve the greatest effect, our vacation should be distinctly different from our day-to-day environment — especially the stressful parts.

So, the question is how can we get all these great benefits and stay safe?

The only answer: Explore on a day trip. We have many adventures and experiences that may be new to you right here in our local area. Play tourist right here.

It’s not how far you get that counts. It’s the stimulus of the new.

We asked local travel expert Sarah Foster for suggestions.

“We have itineraries — amazing itineraries,” said Foster, director of media relations, meetings and conference marketing manager for Oneida County Tourism. “We have world-class experiences in our area.”

Our area is packed with attractions that offer a variety of opportunities- check this content for further details. Walk or bicycle our trails to experience breathtaking natural beauty; immerse yourself in history; get away to a beach for swimming and sunbathing; watch the sun set; or sample cheese.

The great outdoors

  • Outdoor trails: This is a beautiful area to explore, with lots of great trails.

“I’ve been taking afternoon walks, and it’s helped give me peace as well as quality times with loved ones, while allowing me to see the area I live in differently,” said Foster.

“This inspired me to put together a list of outdoor trails,” she added. “Our main push has been getting people outdoors while maintaining physical distancing. We encourage people to explore the trails.”

“We have a unique park system in Utica,” said Foster. “My personal favorite is the South Woods Switchbacks located at Valley View Golf Course,” added Foster. “They go around the course and have beautiful views and quiet, dog-friendly trails.”

“South Woods is a world unto itself. With zigzagging trails and a canopy of trees, it’s a beautiful place to walk,” said Philip Bean, executive director, Central New York Conservancy.

The South Woods Switchbacks can be reached from Steele Hill Road or Master Garden Road. This path is peaceful and retains areas of vegetation much like what early settlers would have seen.

For a complete list of trails, visit

  • Cheese trail: Cheese makers combine forces so we can appreciate the diversity of our area’s rich cheese-making heritage. Be a part of the flourishing and re-emerging cheese community. From goat farms to butter churns to cheese curds and chocolate, you’ll want to visit them all.

For a list of participating cheese companies, see:

  • Beverage trail: Breweries and wineries have re-opened. Our local breweries, distilleries and wineries come together to invite you to visit. Area tourism advocates are urging residents to be a part of the flourishing, fast-growing beverage community.

“I especially love Brimfield Farm,” said Foster. “It’s a winery in Clinton that has a huge patio with stunning views, and great local wine and cheese. There’s also an amazing driving range on site.”

  • Bicycle trails: “Oneida County is a road cyclist’s dream,” Foster said. “There are hundreds of miles of state highways and well-maintained local roads with low traffic that connect welcoming small towns and villages. Some of the best riding is along the historic Erie Canalway Trail.”

For details, visit .

For more ideas on local experiences, see or call 315-724-7221.

Happy adventures!