Three Pandemic-Era Vacation Trends That Are Here to Stay

From private pools to socially distant resort sports, here are the pandemic-era vacation trends that are likely to stick around.
Splash time at a family resort (Photo: Shutterstock)
Splash time at a family resort (Photo: Shutterstock)

It should come as no surprise that many of the best family resorts in the U.S. that remained open during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic were forced to find creative new ways to entertain guests in safe and socially distant ways. But what may be a surprise is that many of those COVID-safe family vacation ideas look set to become new resort-staple activities in the post-pandemic world, too.

COVID-Safe Summer Activities That Are Likely to Stick Around

From socially distant resort sports to water-based activities to private pools, here are the pandemic-era resort sports and summer vacation ideas that are likely to stick around as travel slowly returns to normal for American families. 


If golf isn’t your game, but you still love those nicely manicured golf courses, you might be interested in a game of FootGolf. Enjoyed all around the world since 2001, and officially introduced to the U.S. in 2011 (where it is regulated by the American FootGolf League), FootGolf emerged as one of the top COVID-safe resort sports on the past year. Considering that there are more than 500 U.S. FootGolf courses in 48 states, it’s easy to see why.

To play FootGolf, all you need is a soccer ball and a golf course—no golf ball or clubs required. The goal is to sink the ball in the goal using the fewest number of kicks. As you can imagine, bunkers and water hazards make FootGolf especially fun and challenging.

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The oldest and most recognized foot golf course is at The Wigwam, a historic resort located 45 minutes from downtown Phoenix. The sprawling destination was built in 1929 on 440 acres, with oodles of room options for families, multiple restaurants and pools, and acres of landscaped gardens and walkways. 

FootGolf, which is played on shortened holes using a 21-inch diameter cup, is located on the course closest to the clubhouse at The Wigwam. Hours are typically after 11:00 a.m. Friday through Sunday. A round is $15 per person, and kids under 15 pay their age. Soccer ball rentals are $3, and a $20 cart rental is available if booked in advance. The standard FootGolf uniform is straightforward: golf apparel with indoor turf soccer shoes. 

Rafting Vacations

With demand for outdoor equipment at an all-time high during the pandemic, things like rafts, boats, SUPs, and kayaks were in short supply at many retailers. If you weren’t able to score a watercraft of your own, you might be interested in trying a guided trip with the family to see if water sports are indeed right for you and your kids. Many outfitters allow children as young as four years of age to enjoy the roaring rapids and incredible scenery of America’s most sensational waterways. 

OARS, an outdoor adventure company with focus on rafting and America’s Western rivers, was founded in 1969 by river pioneer George Wendt. He was a visionary entrepreneur and one of the adventure travel industry’s trailblazers who left a legacy of river conservation and stewardship for future generations. OARS offers more than 100 excursions through the western United States (as well as countries as far and wide as Mexico, Fiji, Morocco, Cuba, Croatia, and beyond). 

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Keep it stateside and explore one of the hottest family vacation spots in the U.S. for 2021—Idaho! The Snake and Salmon Rivers are legendary, and ideal for ages 12 and older during high water, and ages seven and older during regular rapids. 

In calmer sections, the Snake River serves up great Idaho fishing opportunities. Hells Canyon’s watery bliss is matched by its stunning rockscapes and the intriguing remnants of past inhabitants, creating a rich river adventure that’s hard to beat. Warm weather, warm water, and fun rapids make this a great multigenerational family vacation for kids, parents, and grandparents.

Snake River Rafting through Hells Canyon can either be a three-, four-, or five-day trip. The Snake River has the deepest gorge in North America, marking the border between Idaho and Oregon, where Idaho’s Hells Canyon plunges to depths of nearly 8,000 feet between the Seven Devils range to the east and Oregon’s rim country to the west. Through this tremendous gorge, the Snake River’s warm, clear waters yield some of the best big waves and whitewater rapids in the Northwest. 

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The Main Salmon River and Lower Salmon River rafting combo has the same age requirements as above, but this adventure lasts 12 days. The Wild and Scenic Rivers have free-flowing Class III Idaho whitewater rapids, plus sandy beaches perfect for camping and playing, beautiful mountain scenery, abundant wildlife, and a natural hot spring. Riding in an oar boat one day and a wooden dory the next, then challenging the whitewater in a paddle raft or inflatable kayak, families get a diverse and exciting Idaho river adventure they’ll never forget

Resorts with Private Pools

Summer’s on the horizon, and so is the heat! Kids need to splash, but with concerns about COVID extending into the warmer months, why not ensure splash time with safety and enhanced precautions? In addition to indoor water park resorts like Great Wolf Lodge and the always-popular outdoor Orlando water parks, resorts with private pools are totally on trend this summer. From the Florida Keys to sunny Los Angeles, kids will get their swim time in, and families can be assured of a more controlled water environment.

The Penthouse at The Setai, Miami Beach

Available exclusively upon request, The Penthouse at The Setai, Miami Beach, is located on the 40th floor overlooking Miami Beach and offers a four-bedroom, four-bathroom, 10,000-square-foot sanctuary for families. In addition to a private rooftop pool with panoramic city and beach vistas, the suite includes a gourmet kitchen, dining room for 10 guests, and separate music room—proving once and for all that Florida is more than just Disney hotels and Orlando theme parks.

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The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee

Offering Southern charm, class, and elegance at its finest for a group up to 12 people, the Ritz-Carlton Reynolds at Lake Oconee offers a transformed three-floor private house with large living room with fireplace and a private outdoor pool. The posh space includes four bedrooms with full bathrooms and game room, spacious private patio and pool overlooking Lake Oconee, fully stocked kitchen with marble countertops and modern appliances, and a Great Room.

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Enchantment Resort, Sedona

The 220-room Enchantment Resort in Sedona, nestled at the base of Boynton Canyon, spans 70 acres and offers distinct pool suites featuring insane views, a private pool, viewing deck, fireplace and outside patio. The suites feature a bedroom with king bed, a viewing deck, a sitting area outside and inside, and bathroom with a tub, shower, double sinks, and a skylight. 

Conveniently connecting to the bedroom is a living room that has another viewing deck with a sitting area outside and inside, as well as a sofa, gas fireplace, bathroom, and kitchenette with a two-burner stove, microwave, small fridge, cooking utensils, and dining table. To accommodate additional guests, the living room also has a queen pull-down bed located in a closet if needed.

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Julie Bielenberg
Julie Bielenberg is an award-winning journalist and photographer based in Colorado. She is a national leader in agritourism and publishes more than 50 editorial assignments annually for over a dozen outlets.