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How to be a better Bend traveler in 2021

Shopping during the COVID pandemic in Bend, OR

Anyone else dreaming of travel in 2021? An Oregon road trip, or some exotic international vacay?

As a mom forced to cancel our family’s long-planned Europe trip last spring, I know the frustration of itching for adventure, but knowing it’s safest for family and community to stay the heck home.

San Simon happy hour Tawna

Blogger Tawna (back) enjoys happy hour with colleagues in a COVID era, which looks a bit different from our pre-pandemic travel days.

But brighter days are ahead. Vaccines are rolling out, and flickers of hope are igniting everywhere from the Les Schwab concert schedule to a planned new wine bar to the upcoming rollout of a revamped Bend Ale Trail.

In the meantime, I’ll plan and dream and ponder how to use my pandemic lessons to be the best traveler I can be when it’s time to hit the road again. For those in the same boat, I offer five tips for being a better adventurer in a post-COVID era.


There’s weird stuff in my luggage

Even after everyone who wants a COVID-19 vaccination has that magical shot in the arm, things will look different for travelers.

Besides packing socks and snacks for ravenous teens, I’m expecting a few oddities in my travel bag. Masking up will be a thing even once the pandemic passes, since I’m conscious of the need to protect folks who can’t get the vaccine (and seriously…teenagers? Who knows what germs my sweet monsters carry, despite our family’s caution). A bag full of masks will be right there between my toothpaste and travel shampoo.

I’ll also be toting extra bottles of hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, and even a roll of TP (roll call: who thought a year ago you’d ever pack toilet paper for vacation?)

Odds are good that masking up will be part of post-pandemic travel.

Safety and personal-responsibility will be more important than ever, and I’m cool with that if it means safeguarding the health of someone’s sweet Italian grandma or an immunocompromised kid on the Oregon Coast.


Who knew fresh air was so scrumptious?

If there’s one perk to pop out of this pandemic, it’s the number of formerly indoorsy folks discovering a whole new world outside.

We’ve seen surges in folks trying mountain biking, hiking, snowshoeing, and canoeing for the first time to cope with quarantine stir-crazies. Odds are good at least a few will keep their healthy appreciation of the outdoors once this is over.

But with outdoor recreation comes a need for personal responsibility. Things like picking up trash, packing reusable water bottles, and sticking to marked trails are more crucial than ever as more of us seek solace in the great outdoors.

For tips on recreating responsibly, check out this blog post. You can bump your conservation commitment to the next level by taking The Bend Pledge or supporting local trail maintenance with a donation to Pledge for the Wild.

Wherever your future plans take you, commit to making it your most sustainable vacation ever.


Look out for Mom and Pop

Small businesses have taken hard hits throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Restaurants have been closed or operating at reduced capacity, while theaters and performing arts have had their schedules wiped completely.

Once it’s safe to do so, plan your vacation meals at smaller, family-owned establishments struggling to keep their heads above water. You’ll find oodles of ideas on our restaurants page.

Supporting small businesses is crucial now as well as once the pandemic is behind us.

Already a Bend resident hoping to keep these businesses afloat? Plan a takeout date night or grab that next birthday gift from a local retailer instead of an online big box store. 

It’s the Bend way to look out for neighbors, so do it by funneling your hard-earned dollars toward restaurants and retailers you hope to see standing at the end of this.


Dare to dream

Countless studies have shown psychological and physical benefits to deploying optimism, positive thinking, and dreams for the future. 

Even if you can’t travel now, why not generate positive energy by entertaining fantasies for future adventure?

Check out Visit Bend’s Pinterest page or Instagram to get inspired by beautiful Bend images.

Use our website’s plan a trip feature to build your own customized list of things to do, places to stay, attractions to visit, and goodies to fill your belly once it’s time to book that vacay. You can even share your list with others to spread joy and optimism.

Want to go a step further? Buy gift cards for a canoe adventure with Wanderlust Tours, a whitewater raft trip with Sun Country Tours, or a bike trip with Cog Wild. Those businesses will benefit from a much-needed cash infusion, and you’ll reap the reward of knowing there’s new adventure on your horizon.


Hope ahead

For months I’ve urged folks to plan ahead as attractions like Mt. Bachelor and the High Desert Museum shifted to reservation-based systems.

But after nearly a year of having plan after carefully-laid plan derailed, I’m trying a new mantra: Hope ahead.

Here’s to a brighter future for travel!

Do I know when things will be back to normal? Nope. At this point I’m not sure my family’s little homegrown snowmobile trip can happen next week.

But I hope it will.

Do I know my favorite Bend businesses will make it through the worst of this, or that I’ll dance my pants off this summer at the Les Schwab Amphitheater’s first concert on their new stage? I don’t know that either.

But I’m buying gift certificates and takeout meals and hoping like mad we all make it through this thing.

Stay safe out there, folks. Most of all, keep hope alive.


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