by Karen Rubin, Travel Features Syndicate, goingplacesfarandnear.com
With concerns for the coronavirus pandemic still a key factor in travel planning for 2021, trips are most popular that focus on outdoor activities in scenic destinations like national and state parks. Trips that afford opportunities for skiing, snowshoeing, biking, hiking, rafting, kayaking, camping/glamping/RVs, ranch vacations, small-ship river cruises and boat charters (or our favorite, a houseboat); small groups of families or pods of people who are connected will likely predominant.
Early bookings will be more important than ever because maximum demand will fill up limited capacity quickly and travel companies – tour operators, airlines and lodgings and such – are being flexible in terms of cancellations and refunds. There may even be some discounts and incentives for booking early.
Every travel provider has made serious accommodations for the health and safety of guests in light of the ongoing COVID-19 concerns.
With the outlook for international travel still up in the air, here are some suggestions within the United States:
Gene Kilgore: New Interest in Guest Ranches
SONOMA, CA – The quest for travel experiences that maximize outdoor activities way off a beaten track as the antidote to COVID-19 are bringing many newcomers to ranch vacations.
“In lieu of traveling outside the country for a winter vacation this year, guests who embrace the relaxing routine of life on a ranch may well wonder why they waited so long to discover the joys of ranch vacations,” says Gene Kilgore, a leading authority on vacations ranging from cattle wrangling to fly fishing to spa.
Kilgore assists travelers locate dude, guest, working and luxury ranch vacations, their activities, through two ranch-driven websites www.ranchweb.com and www.top50ranches.com and by offering free concierge services: Ranch vacations ideal this winter include:
In Arizona, horseback riding reigns:
• At Rancho de los Caballeros in Wickenberg, AZ, in the Sonoran Desert activities include golf, horseback riding, tennis, nature hikes, bird watching and skeet shooting. https://ranchweb.com/ranches/rancho-de-los-caballeros
• Circle Z Ranch in Patagonia, AZ, is all about riding horses on 100 miles of riding trails nestled in southern Arizona’s Sky Islands; also tennis and guided tours with naturalists. https://ranchweb.com/ranches/circle-z-ranch
• At White Stallion Ranch on the Sonoran desert bordering Saguaro National Park, practice at the shooting range, go rock climbing, fat tire E-biking, hiking and horseback riding. https://ranchweb.com/ranches/white-stallion-ranch
Snowsport fans can enjoy the winter at guest ranches in Colorado and in Montana.
• Latigo Ranch, Kremming, CO, averages over 200 inches of snow a year, ideal for cross-country skiers and snowshoers who take advantage of 50 miles of cross-country trails and 200 square miles of backcountry powder. Tubing, sledding and fat bikes add to the fun. https://www.top50ranches.com/ranch-vacations/latigo-ranch
• At Vista Verde in Steamboat Springs, CO, ski at nearby Steamboat Ski Resort, or stay on property for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, fat bikes, snowshoes, sleigh rides, dog sledding, ice fishing and winter horseback riding. An indoor heated arena offers a comfortable space for winter riding, lessons and clinics. https://ranchweb.com/ranches/vista-verde
• In Big Sky, Montana, Lone Mountain Ranch guests enjoy proximity to Yellowstone National Park, cross-country skiing on 85 kilometers of woodland trails, snowshoeing, snowmobiling and winter fly fishing, plus alpine skiing at Big Sky Resort. https://ranchweb.com/ranches/lone-mountain-ranch
Bike and Camp the White Rim Trail in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park with Escape Adventures
Las Vegas, NV —Escape Adventures guests spend most of this 4-day mountain biking and camping tour riding the famous off-road route, 100-mile White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park, Utah, while detouring to explore secret passages, hidden slot canyons, natural rock arches and ancient Puebloan ruins.
The program includes all transportation, food preparation, most meals, snacks, non-alcoholic beverages, group supplies and community gear (portable chairs, large awnings, coolers, utensils) are included.
The trip features modern amenities, a custom support truck, gourmet meals, top-of-the-line camping equipment. Backcountry permits, licenses, park fees, reservations, and accommodations are also included, along with at least two professionally trained trip leaders, a mobile first aid and mechanic station, spare bikes, and a support vehicle.
Rates start at $999 per person. E-bikes are available upon request. Tours run March-May and September-October. For more info, visit https://escapeadventures.com/tour/utah-white-rim-mountain-bike-tour/ or contact Escape Adventures at 800-596-2953.
Escape Adventures also operates multi-day bicycle tours down the Oregon Coast and the Grand Canyon.
Holiday River Expeditions Accommodates Adventurers With Their Own Private Travel Pod
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – Holiday River Expeditions has retooled its offerings to take any lingering fears away from being out and about in nature with family and friends. Among the COVID-19 accommodations to make it easier to travel in confidence is encouraging “pod” travel or teaming up with a small group of friends and family who share pandemic protocol wave lengths.
New 12-person minimum for private rafting charters in 2021 apply to:
• Westwater Canyon (two and three day) and Cataract Canyon (five and six day) trips,
• Specific (six day) Desolation Canyon dates: Aug 23-28; Aug 29-Sep 3; Sep 6-11; Sep 13-18; Sep 20-25,
• San Juan River trips in May and June (three, four or five day).
• Minimums for other itineraries have been reduced to 16 on Lodore Canyon (three and four day) and Yampa River (four and five day) trips.
Just eight people is the minimum required for small group, private charter backcountry mountain biking itineraries:
• The White Rim Trail, (three or four days) in April–May and September–October
• Moab-Westwater Combination trips, (four days total: two biking/two rafting).
Considered by enthusiasts to be Utah’s ultimate multi-day mountain bike trip, The Maze, deep inside Canyonlands National Park, is naturally a small group trip with a maximum capacity of just 7 guests. Private charters can be arranged on two available dates; May 18-21 and September 7-10, 2021.
For more details, see https://www.bikeraft.com/what-your-2021-trip-will-look-like-2/ and https://www.bikeraft.com/custom-charter-trips/.
Other Covid related adjustments and protocols the company has adopted and will carry into 2021 include:
• a 4 to 1 guest to guide ratio (to increase social distancing while in a raft),
• decreased capacity in vehicle transportation with masks required,
• a mandatory “Statement of Good Health” a week before departure,
• temperatures taken at meeting point,
• meal service change from buffet to served, with guides wearing masks and gloves during preparation and service,
• always-available sanitizer,
• create a “culture of care” that addresses comfort zones.
(Holiday River Expeditions, 800-624-6323, Holiday@BikeRaft.com, www.bikeraft.com/.
Grasshopper Adventures Introduces New Multi-Sport Tours in North America for 2021
DENVER – Grasshopper Adventures is bringing its 15 years of experience with eco-friendly tours across Asia to the U.S. and Canada with three new multi-sport programs: Alaska & the Yukon, Coastal Maine, and the Everglades to Key West.
Exploring the outdoors by bike, kayak, canoe and foot, the tours’ active elements are both non-intimidating and achievable for a wide range of fitness levels. The small group size offers guests a sustainable alternative to traditional bus or cruise touring and the opportunity to spend time with experts in local communities. The new tours feature visits to artisan’s studios, indigenous villages and include interaction with local experts who are change makers in their fields.
Tours are scheduled from February 2021 through the fall; for a limited time, you can book with a $100 deposit. (844-874-3720 www.grasshopperadventures.com/)
Adventure Cycling Association Takes to the Islands
MISSOULA, MT- Because of limited access, biking in an island destination can be the perfect getaway. In 2021, Adventure Cycling Association is offering active tours to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket (https://www.adventurecycling.org/guided-tours/self-contained-tours/cape-cod-the-islands/), the San Juan Islands, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico.
Of the four itineraries, only Cape Cod and the Islands still has availability. Spend a week cycling along the beautiful Atlantic Ocean shoreline, viewing seaports, glacially formed kettle ponds, and lighthouses of southeastern Massachusetts, visiting historic sites from the days of colonial America, and exploring quaint shops on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. Attractions of special interest include Cape Cod National Seashore; a full-scale reproduction of the Mayflower; the preserved village of New Bedford, once the whaling capital of the world; and the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center. Every day on this tour is spent within 15 miles of the Atlantic, and each night close to a large body of freshwater or saltwater.
This level 1 tour is suitable for all riders and is a great choice for anyone looking to learn the basics of self-contained touring, or for an experienced bicycle traveler looking for a week of relaxed cycling. The riding is relaxed, services are plentiful, and the campgrounds are outstanding. (Sept 11-18, 2021 8 days, $1349, https://www.adventurecycling.org/guided-tours/self-contained-tours/cape-cod-the-islands/)
Adventure Cycling Association, with 52,000 members and 50,000 miles of mapped routes, has great articles on trip planning at its site (www.adventurecycling.org, 800-755-2453).
Ride & Seek Introduces Epic 28-Day Appalachian Trail Maine to North Carolina Cycling Adventure
(Provence, France) — Ride & Seek is bringing its epic, historically-themed cycling adventures to North America with a new 28-day, 1,377-mile cycling tour from Maine to North Carolina. Split in two distinct stages, the route takes riders through 12 US states from Bethel, Maine to Cherokee, North Carolina, with the Appalachian Trail providing the thematic backdrop.
Starting with the rural and rustic splendor of Maine, cyclists will search out the road less travelled, exploring the states of New England and skirting around New York City before completing the first stage in the historic town of Gettysburg, PA. The scenery of the ride is enhanced by numerous National Parks and the second stage includes two of the best bike routes in the USA – Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Slated for May 30 – June 26, 2021, prices range from $5,590 to $11,200 per person double. The tour, in collaboration with Cycle of Life Adventures, is slated for May 30 – June 26, 2021; prices range from $5,590 to $11,200 per person double.
For more info, visit https://www.rideandseek.com/tour/appalachian-usa/.
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