Vacations can function as a restorative measure for taking a break from our regularly scheduled lives. So, if the absence of the ability to safely travel to essentially anywhere amid the pandemic has been weighing on you, it makes sense. That time and space away can be crucial for preserving a sense of well-being, replenishing energy stores, and providing us with the opportunity to spend quality time with loved ones.
And as it turns out, even amid the pandemic, it’s possible to meet those needs responsibly. While no travel option is completely risk-free right now, one lower-risk strategy—for those able and willing to spend quite a bit of money—is taking a bubble retreat with your quarantine pod. A bubble retreat is a private, exclusive wellness-oriented getaway designed specifically for small “guarantees” that have agreed to only mix with members of the group in order to mitigate the risk of infection.
“Your quarantine pod can take over the whole property so that you’re not staying with anyone else.” —Beth McGroarty, director of research, Global Wellness Institute.
“Almost as soon as the pandemic started, we began to see wellness destinations—the smaller ones, in particular—offer buyouts,” says Beth McGroarty, director of research at the Global Wellness Institute. “You and your family, or your quarantine pod, can take over the whole property so that you’re not staying with anyone else.”
When you buy out a boutique hotel, you get a hyper-clean, very contained environment, where contact with other guests is eliminated. Without the need for constant vigilance, you can unwind and fully savor the restorative benefits of vacationing.
But, again, you certainly pay for peace of mind, with costs upward of $25,000 for eight people to stay four nights. On a note that’s more financially accessible, McGroarty adds, certain destinations offer options like villas, which are naturally better equipped for quarantine, without needing to shell out for a property buyout. (Even more budget-friendly is camping, which still lets you get away in a low-risk way with precautions taken.)
Curious what a bubble retreat actually entails? Check out 6 luxe options below.
1. Paws Up (Montana)
At Paws Up, a luxury resort and working ranch situated on 37,000-acres of Montana wilderness, you’ll never want for personal space. Although many of the accommodation options here are social distance-friendly (think plush glamping tents), Paws Up’s Wilderness Estates—three-bedroom ranch homes with working fireplaces and cozy cabin decor—are ideal for groups of up to eight who wish to spend their days hiking the property’s fragrant forests and enjoying private yoga lessons under Montana’s expansive sky.
Cost: $26,855/group of eight for four nights
2. We Out Here (North Carolina)
Earlier this summer, Linea Johnson and Ronald Griswell—a couple based in Elizabeth, North Carolina—hosted a much-needed break for their close friends. The trip was designed to be a group mental-health break and ended up being such a “joyful and healing” experience that Johnson and Griswell began offering the same service to other travelers.
We Out Here includes a three-night stay for up to six people at a bed and breakfast; six secret outdoor activities informed by CDC and WHO guidelines (think: kayaking expeditions, outdoor movies, boat trips, and frolicking with wild ponies on the beach); food and drink, all provided by Black-owned restaurants; transportation (excluding airfare); and a thermometer for daily temperature checks.
Cost: $1395/person for three nights
3. The Ranch Malibu (California)
Earlier this year, The Ranch Malibu introduced a socially distanced, small group-oriented version of its original program. The Ranch Private is intended for pods of one to four people and includes six nights of accommodation, private hikes and fitness programming, daily massages, and plant-based meals made from locally sourced produce—all enjoyed at a safe distance from other guests.
Cost: $10,000/person for six nights
4. Lotus Retreats (various destinations)
Lotus Retreats normally offers sold-out trips to places like Cuba and Bali, but in light of the pandemic, it’s shifted to offer bubble retreat options based in the U.S. Upon customer request, the Lotus team plans small-group retreats to destinations that are possible to reach via road trip, like Sedona, Lake Tahoe, and Mount Shasta—an idyllic alpine town in California. Daily yoga classes in compliance with physical distancing standards, plus outdoor hikes and excursions, are provided throughout the week.
Cost: $450 to $1450 per person for the week
5. Mountain Horse Farm (New York)
Located in the Finger Lakes region of New York, you’ll find Mountain Horse Farm, a five-bedroom bed and breakfast that’s now available for buyouts. A bubble retreat here includes yoga and meditation, a copy of Modern Mindfulness, a journal with writing prompts to encourage introspection during your stay, and a cow-cuddling or equine-therapy session (yes, it’s exactly what you’re picturing), said to help lower blood pressure, release endorphins, and reduce stress.
Cost: $2,375/night for a property buyout of all five rooms (sleeping 10 guests)
6. Within the Wild (Alaska)
A luxury adventure lodge Within the Wild, guests glide in on a float-plane before checking into either the Winterlake Lodge (a mountain retreat) or the Tutka Bay Lodge (a coastal abode). Outdoor activities are abundant in the Alaskan backcountry, from fly fishing and hiking to whale watching and sea kayaking. As part of Within the Wild’s new buyout option, dubbed Your Own Private Wilderness, the spa team provides distanced wellness offerings, including meditation, sound therapy, yoga on the deck, and Ayurvedic self-massage workshops.
Cost: $60,000 to buy-out for a minimum of three nights