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US Pools Closing Amid Nationwide Lifeguard Shortage 

According to reports, a nationwide shortage of lifeguards in the US is forcing local pools to close for the summer. 

Major cities throughout New York, Chicago, New Orleans, and many others are announcing reduced hours of operations for public pools, or just shutting down entirely due to the shortage of lifeguards. 

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Experts are estimating that a third of the pools in the US will be affected by overall staff shortages. The American Lifeguard Association estimated that by September half of the pools in the US will be impacted by these shortages. 

“The shortage is real, it’s a crisis.” said Bernard Fisher, the director of health and safety at the American Lifeguard Association. 

According to the New Orleans Advocate, city officials in New Orleans said that the municipal government would only open five of its 15 pools, and may be able to open up three more if the city can recruit more lifeguards. 

Chicago typically opens up their pools to the public on June 24th, but missed the deadline this year due to a lack of lifeguards and staff overall. City officials are reassigning lifeguards from local beaches to hopefully open up more pools as the summer progresses. 

New York currently has half the number of available lifeguards when compared to pre-pandemic levels. The state announced last week that they would be increasing the starting pay for lifeguards and developing a training program to staff more of the city’s pools. 

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Experts have stated that they’ve feared a lifeguard shortage for years prior to this summer, but the Covid-19 pandemic and an unstable labor market has made those fears a difficult reality. 

YMCA water safety expert Lindsay Mondick said a “lack of available US student visas has worsened the shortage, because many lifeguards in the country are foreign students. The slow release of more visas is having only a limited effect on the staffing shortages.”

 “We have been concerned about this potential lifeguard shortage for a number of years now. But I would say that Covid and the current tight labor market has really exacerbated this issue.”

Fisher said “simply increasing wages may not solve staffing issues because not enough people are training to be lifeguards.” 

“If cities cannot find ways to recruit more trained lifeguards and open up local pools, people may seek out unmonitored and possibly more dangerous swimming options in order to taste relief from the summer heat,” Fisher stated. 

“It’s such a crisis that if we don’t start resolving it this year, it’s going to be even worse next year, which I just can’t imagine,” Fisher said.

Airport TSA

TSA Warns Of Travel ‘Hiccups For Very, Very Busy Summer’

David Pekoske, the nation’s TSA chief, and airport and airline leaders throughout the nation have stated that there will be inevitable “hiccups” this summer, as the agency is expecting the largest airport passenger crowds since the Covid-19 pandemic first began. 

Pkoske said that labor shortages and an increased demand for travel have already begun to overwhelm airlines. The agency is gearing up to deploy as many as 1,000 TSA agents and K-9 units to the nation’s busiest airports to ideally counter any potential delays at security checkpoints. 

“We expect the summer to be very, very busy. That’s not to say that there will not be some hiccups along the way — those things will happen, but we’ll do everything we can to recover quickly.”

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Some expect airport crowds surpass 3 million passengers per day on the busiest travel days for the summer. The increased demand for travel has also led to pilots complaining about fatigue and flight cancellations heading into the summer at airlines including American Airlines, Southwest, Alaska, and Delta. 

 “Everybody is facing labor shortages; airlines and TSA are no different. At just about every level you can think of in the airline industry we can speak of we’re having labor shortages,” said Paul Doell, vice president for the National Air Carrier Association.

Airline restaurants and car rental companies have also been dealing with labor shortages. Customer service call centers for airlines and passengers who need wheelchair assistance, as well as ground airport employers, have also been struggling to maintain a steady supply of workers to deal with the demand for flights. 

Airlines themselves are cutting thousands of flights from their schedules as a means of helping scheduled flights run on time. This also means that TSA agents and other airline workers will likely have to work harder to get travelers to their flights on time.

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“But regional air carriers, which fly about 43% of all scheduled flights in the U.S., say they are facing labor shortages as employees such as pilots are being poached by the larger airlines. That could create issues connecting smaller destinations to larger hub airports,” said Kevin Burke, head of Airports Council International-North America.

“The pilot shortage is impacting the regionals, and we expect to see the small communities hit the hardest. We expect this to continue to be a trend, but those pain points will assert themselves at hubs as well.”

Pekoske warned that “many travelers this summer could be getting on a plane for the first time in three years, especially as masking and Covid-19 restrictions have fallen in many parts of the country and international travel restrictions are being lifted.”

“The amount of people that worked concessions prior to the pandemic are not there now, they’ve come back, but they’re nowhere near where they need to be,” Burke explained. 

“So we really ask that we try to have patience and understanding when they are dealing with employees at the airport. Everybody’s trying to do the best job they can to make sure this is safe, secure and also as comfortable as it can be under normal circumstances but especially when you have those tough days where you have storms that are disrupting the system,” Doell said. 

Airbnb

Airbnb Cracks Down On Memorial Day, Fourth Of July Parties With Restrictions

If you were hoping to rent a house and throw some parties during the upcoming summer holidays, Airbnb just put a pin in those plans. The vacation rental company has announced that they’re instituting strict-anti party measures for the Memorial Day and Fourth of July weekends in order to cut down on unauthorized parties.

Guests without a history of positive reviews on Airbnb will be prohibited from making one-night reservations, while two-night reservations will see more “stringent restrictions,” which include certain local or last-minute bookings by guests without positives reviews. Guests with positive reviews won’t be subjected to these guidelines.

“Anti-party attestations” will also be introduced, meaning guests making local reservations must attest to understanding the guidelines and will be subject to legal action from the company should they break the rules.

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It isn’t the first time Airbnb has instituted a crackdown on sizeable get-togethers. The company attempted similar plans during Halloween and New Year’s Eve of 2020, as well as during Memorial Day and Fourth of July in 2021. Airbnb claimed their attempts succeeded, with 126,000 guests without a history of positive reviews being impacted by the anti-party system.

Certainly, Airbnb’s system — while effective — also runs the risk of losing customers that don’t plan on throwing a party, yet don’t have a history of reviews on the company’s site. They acknowledged the dilemma, saying they don’t take these measures lightly and that it’s a necessary business decision in order to promote safety.

“We also understand that the simple fact of not yet having reviews does not mean that a guest is trying to throw a party — this is a trade-off we are willing to make in the interest of trust and safety.”

Airbnb has had a long history with parties, with some tragic instances included that have emphasized the dangers involved. In April, 11 people were shot, along with two children killed, at an Airbnb party in Pittsburgh that saw around 200 attendees. Many of those guests were minors.

Airbnb condemned the shooting and announced they permanently banned the renter from hosting. In 2019, meanwhile, five people were shot during a Halloween party in California that saw a crowd of 100. “We must do better, and we will. This is unacceptable,” CEO Brian Chesky stated following the tragedy.

Airbnb’s current party and events policy prohibits gatherings of 16 or more people regardless of host authorization, along with all “disruptive” parties and events that create disturbances — such as loud and excessive noise and damages — within the community. In order to ensure those policies were enforced, Airbnb launched a 24/7 neighborhood support hotline.

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These kind of changes haven’t hurt the company’s outlook, however. Airbnb’s second quarter revenue forecast of $2.03 to $2.13 billion growth surpasses Wall Street’s ($1.97 billion) as travel is set to ramp up following two years of intense COVID-19 restrictions.

There’s reason for optimism, as Airbnb is coming off a first quarter increase that saw 120.1 million nights and experiences booked, 1.23 million more than analyst predictions. Chesky also noted they’re seeing “higher than historical demand” for the fourth quarter of this year, a sign that travel will continue to be boosted beyond the summer months.

Dog Flowers

Pet Safe Flowers To Brighten Up Your Garden This Summer 

As the summer quickly approaches, many of us are gearing up to beautify our gardens and homes with flowers. For those of us with pets, it’s important to know which flowers are safe to have around the house in case our furry friends decide to do what animals do best and eat something they shouldn’t. 

To ensure all the flowers you buy are non-toxic to your pets, it’s recommended to buy individual bouquets rather than the ones that are pre-assembled. Pre-made bouquets don’t normally have every flower in them listed when you purchase, so it can be hard to tell if everything is safe. 

Like most plants, if ingested, flowers can cause your dog or cat to have an upset stomach, so it’s important to know the least harmful ones you should be reaching for at the garden store. 

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Roses are a classic and safe option for both dogs and cats. Fallen petals that can be accidentally ingested by your pet won’t make them extremely sick, and they come in a wide variety of colors to brighten up any space. If your roses have thorns, try placing them in the least accessible place possible.

Gerber Daisies are some of the most popular flowers among pet-owners as they are both beautiful and safe to have around. Make sure that when you buy these flowers you’re purchasing Gerber Daisies specifically, as other flowers within the daisy family, like chrysanthemums or mums, can be toxic to pets. 

Sunflowers are a classic and safe option for summertime. If the petals or seeds are ingested by a dog or cat, it’s likely that they will experience mild stomach discomfort, but they won’t have any serious health issues. 

It’s vitally important to note that if you notice your pet has a habit of eating plants and/or flowers that you stop them immediately and try to reconfigure your space to give them little to no access to the flowers themselves. 

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Orchids are another beautiful option that pet owners can feel confident about having in their home. Like most flowers on this list, if your pet ingests a petal or leaf they’ll likely experience an upset stomach, but they’re non-toxic overall. 

Freesias are a tall and funnel-shaped flower, which makes it even harder for pets to reach if they’re in a vase. They are, however, lemon scented, which could be tempting for any furry friend. These flowers are non-toxic to dogs and cats though, so an upset stomach will be the biggest concern if they do ingest any part of the flower. 

Beyond the safe flowers, it’s important to know of the ones that you should absolutely never have around a dog or cat, as they’re toxic if ingested. 

These toxic flowers include lilies, mums, tulips, azaleas, daffodils, foxgloves, hydrangea, baby’s breath, peonias, iris’, lavender, and eucalyptus. To be absolutely safe, always do your research before bringing any sort of plant or flower into the home.

Small Pets Are At Risk Of Heatstroke As Temperatures Rise

If you’re a small animal owner, it’s important to remember as we transition into warmer seasons in the coming months that your furry friends are at risk of heat stroke, depending on where you live, their setups, and how easy it is for them to cool down. Animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets, chinchillas, and others need to be protected from extremely hot and humid environments.

Researchers have said that there needs to be an increase in public awareness of heatstroke, and the risks that different animals have to experiencing it. Climate change is making it even harder for small animals to remain cool during the summer months. 

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The most common symptoms that researchers found across every species include abnormal breathing, lethargy, collapsing, and stomach issues like diarrhea. Caged animals like rabbits, guinea pigs, and ferrets are at risk of heatstroke because of their confinement in their cage set ups. Make sure you have the largest and safest set up for your small animals and allow them to get free time every day to stretch. 

Dr Anne Carter, a researcher at Nottingham Trent University, said: “There is a misconception that heatstroke in pets only relates to dogs in hot cars and we need to do more to raise awareness of risk factors not only for dogs but in the wider pet population.”

“Owners of small animals such as rabbits, ferrets and guinea pigs may need to review their pet’s housing and take steps to keep their pets cool in the warmer months to reduce the risk of heatstroke.”

If you have a flat-faced rabbit, typically lop-ears have flatter faces, it’s important to know that they are more susceptible to heatstroke.

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Emily Hall, a researcher and vet, said: “Heat-related illness can affect all pets and is likely to become more common as global temperatures rise. Our findings highlight the need for better public awareness of heatstroke and the risk to all animals.”

“The fact that brachycephalic [flat-faced] dogs and rabbits were overrepresented in our study suggests that owners of these animals should be particularly vigilant during hot weather.”

The data from the study observed a relatively small number of pet patients, so the researchers made it clear in their findings that the overall figures for heat stroke among small animals, dogs, and cats is likely much higher than any reported numbers. 

Lack of awareness from the owner can be the biggest cause of death from heatstroke. In general, when you commit yourself to an animal, no matter how big or small, it’s important to do the proper research and make sure you’re doing everything you can to keep them comfortable and healthy throughout the warmer months.

Why Experts Believe Gardening Is Good For Both Your Physical And Mental Health 

There’s been a growing amount of research surrounding what we can do for ourselves at home to continue to practice good physical and mental health habits. After the last year, we’ve all had to adapt our lives to make sure that we’re constantly stimulating our brain, and moving our body to ensure that we remain as healthy as possible. 

Gardening has become one of the most popular pandemic activities and for good reason. A growing amount of research has proven that gardening is not only great for your physical health because it gets you up and moving, but your mental health as well, due to the fact that it gives you tasks to focus on, while also adding beauty to your space. 

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James Wong is a botanist and journalist who recently looked into this concept more deeply, and found that gardening has actually helped a lot of people cope with the isolation of the past year. 

Wong explained how in general, “research has shown that mindfulness exercises that focus one’s attention on the here and now and stop our minds wandering to the past or worrying about the future are an important therapeutic tool.” So gardening has always acted as a form of therapy for many people. 

“Gardening is a classic example of such a mindfulness exercise, where you clear out extraneous thoughts and focus on what is in front of you, especially given the seasonal nature of gardening.”

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“In fact, many Eastern cultures that have a long tradition of mindfulness are fixated on the beauty of seasonal plants, such as cherry blossom, precisely because of their transience, not in spite of it. So, in my opinion, fake plants and a green fence are unlikely to provide the full benefit,” Wong explained. 

There’s also a major social aspect that comes with gardening that Wong explained has motivated many individuals to go out of their way to talk to others. 

“Studies conducted at community gardens found that gardening in such places has a significant positive impact on one of the key factors behind poor mental health – loneliness and isolation.”

Wong recommends putting energy into your front lawn garden, or whichever part of your house is closest to your neighbors if you want to attempt to branch out and get to know the individuals you share a block with. 

“Each of these benefits appears to play only a small part in a much more complex puzzle, and the relative importance of each piece is likely to vary enormously for each person, to the point where they are often contradictory. When it comes to horticultural therapy, the best advice is it doesn’t matter how you do it, just do it the way that works best for you,” Wong explained.

Couple Camping

Why The Travel Industry Thinks Glamping Will Save The Tourism Sector This Summer

Bookings for camping and glamping locations all around the nation have been reaching record levels, as more people are ready to get back to some level of safe travel this summer now that more people are being vaccinated. 

Mike Bevens is an MD at glamping specialist company Canopy and Stars; a glamping business that assists travelers with all their travel needs and luxury wants. Bevens recently spoke about the increase in business that he’s endured, along with the rest of the industry. 

“We’ve had the busiest winter in terms of bookings, but there’s also been a huge increase in the number of new sites wanting to advertise. We’re up 200% on bookings from last year and have around 100 new sites coming online for this summer.”

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Derry Green is a UK resident who spoke with the local press about how he knew he had to do something to motivate his kids to leave the house with restrictions easing up this summer, however, he didn’t think his personal quarantine project would lead to a great new business opportunity.

“My kids were watching Love Island all the time, so when I got done building my back deck (my personal quarantine project) I put up a pod with a fire pit and lights, inspired by the show. Then people started asking me if they could come and stay in it so I put it on Airbnb and it sold out for two years in advance in five days,” he boasted.

Green quickly went viral on Facebook, so much so that now he has six more glamping units currently under construction that will be made available in the coming months. He personally owns four acres of woodland, so there’s plenty of room for his new business to thrive. 

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Green is not the only one who’s taking advantage of this new glamping trend. For those who are able to set up camp sites on their larger properties, renting out these spaces on Airbnb, and other rental services, have helped them immensely in terms of making an income during the past year of economic turmoil.  

“I believe in the transformative power of camping. It’s perfect for the situation we are in. Campsites can appear quickly in a way that cottages and hotels can’t, and they tend to benefit other businesses around them.”

Mojo and Kizzy Fell joined the glamping industry by necessity, after the pandemic halted all business for them last year. Originally, the two ran a successful rental business for Airsteam caravans that they would use mainly for film locations and music festivals. So when the pandemic shut down all of those activities, they needed to rethink their business model. 

“Our income just disappeared. We had to diversify, so we put five Airstreams on our 40-acre farm and called it The Wells Glamping. The caravans sold out immediately and now we have applied to increase the number to 12, hoping to be ready for bookings by the end of April. Luxurious vans that used to accommodate stars such as Will Ferrell and Kenneth Branagh will be repurposed for family holidays – and create up to 20 new jobs at the same time,” Mojo explained.

Some Of The Most Breathtaking Places To See Wildflowers In The US

With the Covid-19 pandemic finally beginning to reach it’s long-winded end with the release of multiple vaccines, many are ready to return to their normal lives. Many aren’t going to be rushing to the airport anytime soon, however, a lot of people are ready to begin traveling across the country in a safe way as more and more people get vaccinated. 

Below is a list of some of the most spectacular locations to see a variety of vibrant wildflowers throughout the United States. Many individuals are opting to go on road trips as the weather gets warmer and the country begins to reopen, here’s some of the most popular destinations that US residents will be heading to in the coming months: 

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Texas: From March to May Texas is known for having spectacular fields full of colorful spring flowers. Texas Hill Country is one of the most famous parts of the state for flower viewing due to its prominent Indian paintbrushes, pink evening primroses, daisies, winecups, prairie verbenas, and golden eye phlox populations. The 80-mile loop from Brenham to Chappell Hill is also known for its intense and vibrant meadows full of purple coneflowers, verbenas, beardtongues, skullcaps, prairie parsley, yellow wild indigo, blue-eyed grasses, blanket flowers, and more.

South Dakota: South Dakota offers a wide variety of wildflower destinations alongside the multitude of other national monuments present in the state. Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, and the Crazy Horse Memorial all contain some of the nation’s most spectacular views. The Badlands National Park is known for having some of the country’s most natural scenery in the spring and summer, including the prairie coneflowers, Woods’ roses, and Rocky Mountain blazing stars.

Florida: According to travel journalist Skye Sherman, “while they’re not exactly wildflowers, South Florida’s tabebuia trees (also known as trumpet trees) are still a sight to behold. Each spring, the trees erupt in clouds of yellow — sunny as the state itself — or a light pastel pink that perfectly captures the spirit of springtime. Head to Palm Beach starting in March to spot these colorful blooms.

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California: California is constantly blooming, it just depends on where you go and what the time of year is. February through April is known to be the best time to find the state really covered in wildflowers and other exotic plant life. The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and Carlsbad Flower Fields are the best places to take in the golden state’s beauty. 

Colorado:  Colorado is ideal for a summer hiking trip because not only is the weather glorious, but trails across the state are surrounded by a rainbow of wildflowers. Head to Crested Butte, considered to be the “Wildflower Capital of Colorado,” for the Crested Butte Wildflower Festival and great hiking opportunities, or Steamboat Springs to spot the Colorado blue columbine and red Indian paintbrush on the trails,” according to Sherman.

Montana: Prairie and Alpine wildflowers saturate the grounds of the Glacier National Park every year from June to July. The one month residency makes Montana one of the most popular summer travel spots in the US. In general more than 1,000 breeds of wildflowers grow in the Glacier National Park throughout the summer, so you’re guaranteed some of the most beautiful views you’ve ever seen should you take the trip.

Camp Tent

Things To Keep In Mind If You’re Planning On Going Camping For The First Time

With the Covid-19 pandemic hindering everyone’s summer plans, many are turning to alternative means of travel to itch their vacation scratch this year. Camping has become one of the most popular modes of vacation this year as it’s one of the only ways that individuals can get out of their house while remaining socially distant from others. For those of us who have never been camping before but are ready to finally try it out given the circumstances, there are some things we must avoid in order to ensure we have a fun and safe time in the wilderness. 

First and foremost, do your research, especially if this is your first time. Luckily the internet has millions of resources one could use to find the perfect spot to camp. Apps like Campspot have grown in popularity within the past few years. Campspot specifically makes it easy for users to find campsites that fit their budgets while also listing all the surrounding amenities in the area you’re planning on travelling too. The app also helps individuals with disabilities find more accessible campgrounds so they don’t have to worry about getting around complex terrains or running into any seriously dangerous wildlife. 

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For your first time camping it’s also important that you don’t choose a location that’s too far from your home. Being relatively close to your house will make you feel more secure if you’re a little nervous about your first night in the great outdoors, and you’re more likely to find private campgrounds as opposed to more open ones that are popular in National parks. 

CEO of the app Campspot, Caleb Hartung, recommends going no further than 130 miles from your home for the first time. This way you’re still distanced enough to feel like you’re in a completely new environment, but are close enough to leave if you feel so inclined. 

“I wouldn’t recommend a national park for a first-time camper.  There’s just a lot more staffing on a private campground, and these private campgrounds are also more common, meaning they’re within an hour to an hour and a half from home.”

Campot operates in 47 states and some parts of Canada, so Hartung is referring to a majority of America when he says private sites are more common. When it comes to actually preparing for your trip, don’t over-pack/over-invest in new camp gear. It’s easy to feel pressured to buy everything at a camping store when it’s your first time because you don’t know what to expect and want to be prepared for everything, but it’s just not necessary.

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Again, do your research on the area you’re planning on camping at and look up other more experienced campers testimonials of their experiences at the same sites. Listen to what they brought and read up on recommendations for the specific campsite, it’s likely if the grounds have a website they’ll have a section that tells you what you should be bringing. 

Make sure you pack a variety of clothing for your trip as well. This is yet again dependent on where you plan on camping, however, in most wilderness areas the temperatures drop heavily at night. Pack a lot of layers and also plenty of light clothing for during the day in case it gets really hot. 

Make sure you’re packing enough water and food provisions for yourself as well especially if the area you’re heading to doesn’t have a lot of convenient store establishments around. This is the part of packing that Hartung always encourages campers to over-pack on. 

To that same extent you must also over-pack on things that are meant to protect your skin. Sunscreen/SPF lotions, bug spray, and closed-toed shoes are all necessities anywhere you camp. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and to reapply it every two hours, maybe even every hour depending on how much time you’re spending in the sun. 

Do your research, read up on where you’re going and get organized. Camping can be a fun spur-of-the-moment experience, however, for your first time it’s best to be as prepared as possible.

Summer Vacation

Planning A Summer Vacation During A Pandemic

Now that summer is officially here, many are trying to think of alternative ways to scratch their vacation itch without breaking Covid-19 health and safety restrictions. Luckily, many home rental and hotel services are still offering ways for you and your loved ones to travel this summer with updated guest policies to ensure everyone has a healthy and fun time. 

Home rental services specifically will be seeing a major influx in business within the next few months, and they may receive even more business then they’re used to, according to Sean Breuner who’s the CEO of AvantStay, a short-term home rental company. 

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“Usually we average about three to four days per stay and now that has increased dramatically. You might see four couples get together to work from home in Scottsdale for a month at a time… people looking for control versus going to a hotel. Generally, people are booking in two windows: they’re either looking to travel immediately or scoping out a trip for late summer,” he explained. 

Home-rentals also offer a change in quarantine scenery. As stated by Breuner, many adults who have been working from home for the past few months are using rental services to change up the spaces they live out their lockdown days in. 

Major hotel chains across America have also begun implementing new health and safety procedures to ensure every guest feels comfortable staying there. For example, Marriott International has adopted new hygiene technology that includes electrostatic sprayers with hospital-grade disinfectant for all rooms. Hyatt Hotels have hired “Hygiene Managers” for all of their locations to oversee proper disinfection protocols; Hilton Hotels are doing something similar and also employing a “CleanStay Room Seal” so that guests are guaranteed their rooms haven’t been touched since its cleaning. 

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There’s expected to be a major influx in road trips this year, as that genuinely is one of the safest ways to vacation in terms of Covid-19; especially if you’re driving an RV or trailer. 

“People are really embracing the road trip. We’re seeing a lot fewer people book island trips and flights… people can still get away to the lakes, the river, the countryside, and have that bigger space,” Jeff Hurst, the president of Vrbo, a summer rental company, said.

John Staff is the CEO of Getaway, which offers tiny home rentals that are located within driving distance of major cities in America, and in a recent interview he claimed that his company saw a 400% increase in bookings for this summer once president Trump officially banned travel to Europe. 

Obviously, the main concern with all of these options is cleanliness, health, and safety. Major home rental services like Vrbo, Getaway, Airbnb, etc. have all made their new disinfecting/cleaning procedures public online to ensure all guests know they’re walking into a covid-free space. If you’re planning to go the home rental route, call the owner regardless and ask them to take you through what their process is, remember, this is their property, so they likely are going to want the space to be just as clean as you do. 

You can do the same with any hotel you’re planning on staying at, or even campsite grounds if you’re deciding to do that as well. Regardless, make sure you’re prioritizing your health, as that’s what we all should be doing in general right now.