Lobster traps and fishing boats at a seaside dock

‘Maine’ priority

Sep 8, 2020
Empower Insights

How one professor is holding it together after putting family reunion on hold

For now, FaceTime calls will have to do.

With a five-day family gathering in Maine scheduled for this summer, Michael Crespin was excited to indulge in some fresh lobster rolls, walk the beach with his wife and young daughter, and enjoy the cool breeze of the northeastern coast. “You know, all that fun stuff you can do on the ocean,” he says.

More than anything, Crespin was looking forward to having “everyone” together for the first time in a long time.

In February, before the coronavirus outbreak had picked up steam in the U.S.,1Crespin reserved a rental house in Maine for what he thought would be a memorable vacation for the middle of July. Along with his wife and 16-month-old daughter, the traveling crew included his brother, who hails from New England, as well as his mom, his sister and her two children, who all reside in upstate New York.

“This was supposed to be our big trip,” says Crespin, a political science professor at the University of Oklahoma.

“It just didn’t work out that way.”

Once Crespin caught wind of Maine’s newly imposed safety regulations, which required tourists to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival,2 he decided to cancel their grand getaway until a later date. Plus, with his mom being of an older age, he insists “it didn’t make sense” to put her at any further risk.

And while Crespin was unsuccessful at recouping the down payment he already fronted to secure the property, he views swallowing the 50% deposit as a small price to pay to keep his loved ones protected.

“Being out the money wasn’t ideal,” Crespin says. “We were hoping everything would eventually get better. It’s disappointing because we don’t get to see each other that often — but some things can wait.”

Of course, Crespin isn’t alone when it comes to postponing plans because of COVID-19 concerns. Overall, 45% of Americans intend on changing their future travel arrangements amid the current pandemic.3,4

In Crespin’s case, in addition to offering a well-deserved break from the classroom, the adventure to Maine was meant to serve as a welcomed opportunity for his mom — and siblings — to create new memories with his daughter. After all, living halfway across the country has resulted in fewer chances for grandma to build an in-person relationship with her granddaughter since the toddler was born in 2019.

“We’re far away in Oklahoma,” says Crespin, whose wife is also a professor at the University of Oklahoma. “That’s why this occasion was important to us. But there’s a lot way worse going on in the world.

“We’re healthy and financially stable, so we feel fortunate.”

A father holds a baby in kitchen with mother in background preparing dinner

From a savings standpoint, Crespin was able to conserve extra cash because he hadn’t purchased plane tickets yet. (“I figured with limited travel, prices would be OK as long as I booked at least 21 days out,” he says.) Meanwhile, with the funds he had initially allocated for airfare, lodging, food and entertainment, Crespin expects to contribute some of those of those dollars to his daughter’s 529 college account.

The family has also used a portion of the amount to take two local daytrips — one to Roman Nose State Park and another to Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. With 47% of people preferring to hop in the car this season for a leisurely escape, the short drives from home still provided a much-needed reset.5

“It was great to be outside,” says Crespin, whose income picture hasn’t been impacted by today’s events.

As for the reunion in Maine, Crespin remains optimistic about trying it again around the holidays, or potentially next year at some point. “I know my mom is chomping at the bit to cuddle with her granddaughter,” he says.

Until then, FaceTime calls will have to do.

“When she wants to see grandma, all we have to do is pick up the phone,” Crespin says. “It’s not too bad.”

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1 Pam Belluck, Noah Weiland, New York Times, “C.D.C. Officials Warn of Coronavirus Outbreaks in the U.S.,” February 2020.

2 Susan Sharon, NPR, “Justice Department Says Maine's 2-Week Quarantine Rule Discriminates Against Tourists,” May 2020.

3 Dante Chinni, NBC News, “Summer of coronavirus: Out with planes, in with rural getaways,” July 2020.

4 The Empower Institute, “From Confidence to Concern: America’s Financial Outlook in the Face of a Pandemic,” March 2020.

5 Catharine Hamm, Los Angeles Times, “After coronavirus: Your next road trip may look like this,” May 2020.

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