Of all things that have been restricted, one of things we miss the most is travel. Even leaving our homes for a target trip seems like a luxury after a year of staying home!
As guidelines change, Vaccines are received and schools requirements change, families are ready to travel again. Along with many other decisions we’ll make right now, when to travel is a personal one. We respect that! We hope you can respect that it’s our job to put the information out there to make parents searches easier- for when the time is right! Not to mention that EVERYONE has the travel bug now that the CDC has approved travel for people who have received the vaccine. That means the planning needs to start now… It’s going to be a very busy 2021 for travel! We hope this helps prepare you for what to expect when the time is right for you.
Did you know that I, Shawn, work with the luxury travel group Glass Slipper Concierge?While I decided to hold off on booking clients since last March as a personal choice, I’ve stayed up to date. Not only with industry news, but with real life experience through my colleagues at GSC! This spring I made a point to fly a few times, visit Disney World and a few resorts, and touch base with leaders in the industry to be up to date and what to expect. By having a tight knit group at GSC, I have first hand information on not only my own experience, but 100s of resorts that have reopened and their protocols. Below, I’m sharing a few tips for when you’re ready to embark on your next adventure- and watch for our travel section re-vamp too! I’ve narrowed down some favorite family destinations!
Tips Before You Book-
Do Your Research!
Until the day you leave, stay up to date with restrictions and requirements in both the state you’re traveling to and from. Most states with a good amount of tourism have continued to update their websites, along with the resorts and local online news have sections as well. It’s confusing and ever changing, so stay on top of it!
Book With Confidence… That You Can Cancel!
Be sure that the resort you are booking has a very generous cancellation policy through the day before arrival. Restrictions can change day to day and you don’t want to be stuck paying a hefty fee for cancellation- or worse off for the entire stay. My advice- don’t book anywhere with cancelation policy of more than 48hrs, and have it in writing in your confirmation.
Confirm What’s Open. Multiple Times!
Many resorts are taking advantage of low capacity to renovate sections of the property. Double check what’s open when you book, and again the week before arrival. One resort that we love decided to renovate a section of the family pool for 2 weeks and close the water slides without any notice to arriving guests. We only found from a colleague staying at the property. As a past guest who visits often, that closure would have really impacted our stay.
Another area we’ve found to be inconsistent are restaurants. The industry has been hit hard & because the resorts are at a low capacity, they aren’t able to staff all restaurants at all times. If you don’t want to eat at the same place for an entire stay, make sure you have a kitchenette or do your research! That said, also be sure groceries are near or can be delivered! We have used Instacart both trips and have been able to eat many meals in the room.
Be Prepared- Things are Different.
Does it feel amazing to be in warm weather and doing something “normal”, absolutely! Does it feel different than it did before March, absolutely. Don’t have the mindset that because you got on a flight and walked into a resort that you’re on vacation from the pandemic- restrictions are still in place and many amenities aren’t available. Be sure your expectations are set or you may be disappointed.
Also, be understanding and empathetic. The industry has been hit HARD. There have been closures, layoffs, and low capacity caps. Resorts are likely still operating with less staff. Be kind and tip well.
Airports & Flights
I’ve personally felt more comfortable on the two flights that we’ve taken than I have in Target or Homegoods- and definitely more comfortable than I did sledding at local hills last weekend. That’s the honest truth.
Masks are required in the airport, and enforced, as well as on flights. I noticed a pretty big difference in people complying without complaint on my flight two weeks ago. The threat of being on a no-fly list seemed to do the job. Lol.
Everything is more efficient… at O’Hare. I can’t vouch for what some of the airports across the country will be like, but O’Hare is efficient, quick and better than ever before. One of our flights was into Orlando & in my opinion, that airport is a hot mess ALL of the time, and still is… See below how to combat this situation.
-Book on an off day, at an off time if possible. Airports are quiet Tuesday & Wednesday. This may change the weeks of spring break obviously, but a Tuesday or Wednesday will always be less busy than any other.
-Sign up for TSA Precheck or Clear to breeze through security. Not only do you spend less time in the airport, but less time in lines in general. My family has Clear and we spent less than 20 min total printing boarding passes and walking through security for both flights since March.
One more tip if you’re on the conservative side like we are- Take short flights! We prepared our children for very little snacking on the plane. I packed sugar-free lollipops and tiny pretzels that they could pop under the mask. Research has shown that chance of transmission on the actual flight is extremely low because of the air filters, but we felt more comfortable leaving our masks on. Be prepared to see people eating and drinking with masks off while you are on the flight though. This freaked me out on our first trip.
Many resorts are offering online or mobile check-in. Some are even meeting you at the gate and doing check in through your car window. This has been the case both times we’ve traveled and it’s pretty amazing. One resort even had a welcome bag with sanitizer, restaurant menus, maps and bottles of water to eliminate the need to visit the front desk!
One big difference you may find is that hotel staff is likely not assisting with bags, valet may not be available and house keeping is limited. This is for the safety of both guests and staff.
Both times that we have traveled we’ve simply had coffee and new towels dropped off, and left our trash outside of the door. You may not have daily house keeping. Not only for safety measures, but because resorts have had to cut staff with lower capacity limits. So you may not have someone making the bed for you daily, but it’s a small price to pay for safety measures!
Resorts are trying to balance guests demand for the typical experience with the demands for safety… and to be very honest, that’s just not possible. This is not a typical time. With this in mind, luxury resorts are able to do this better. It’s just a fact. They have more amenities, space and resources to make social distancing happen in a way that still very much feels like vacation. Here’s what to keep in mind.
-Look for properties with multiple pools and outdoor spaces. This way if one feels crowded, you have options.
-families and groups are typically spaced 6 ft or more apart around the pool and beach. Many resorts even put “reserved” signs on chairs between the open seating.
-Pool & beach cabanas are clutch during a pandemic! When I took my son to visit my parents for a weekend, we rented a cabana both days and felt extremely safe. The private space allowed us to eat lunch, snack & drink while feeling comfortable- yet still enjoy being outside of our room. It also gave a private area for play & rest when out of the pool. My dad watched golf, we dined & between swimming played games.
-Warm weather equals outdoor dining! Choose a resort that offers at least one outdoor table service option & you won’t regret it- but check ahead to be sure it’s open! Our last resort only offered the poolside restaurant for outdoor dining. This was fine because it was a quick three day trip, but it would have gotten very old had we stayed longer!
-Outdoor activities like golf, swimming, yard games, basketball, shuffle board, kayaking, and even renting a small boat or paddle boating, just to name a few, are all very socially distanced. Being at a resort with multiple activities and plentiful space makes for a great stay with family. We did all of those things and more, and rarely were within 6ft of another group.
Masks are required at most restaurants and pool areas when walking to and from your space, in hallways, elevators, shops and sometimes when ordering. This also varies by company and county.
Indoor or outdoor, both options are offered within most states right now. That doesn’t mean it will be easy to secure a spot though! When visiting my parents this month, we reserved through an app, an outdoor table. When we arrived at the restaurant for the reservation there was still a 20 min wait because people are very excited to be dining again- and lingering. Be flexible. Indoor dining wasn’t something we were comfortable with, so we left & ate at the pool- and it was great! Go in with the expectation that things may change and you won’t be disappointed.
A few more noteworthy items-
-Dining out may not be as fancy! Paper plates, paper menus, etc. may be used! Think take out style, but at a restaurant.
-If traveling with a large group, you may have to split up to dine. Typically groups of 8 or less is what we’re seeing.
-Buffets are likely nixed OR served by staff members.
-Reservations are tougher to get because of reduced capacity and wait staff.
Apps are Utilized!
Many resorts are putting all restaurant ordering and communication on apps for less in person interaction. Plan ahead! Download everything you need before arrival because even your room key may be mobil now! This was convenient once we got into the habit of really thinking ahead. Walking up to get an ice cream may not be possible any longer! The above photo was waiting on a mobil order for a cone and drink. Set expectations that many things may take a few extra minutes- and enjoy the time while waiting! Kids can make any situation an adventure.
Reservations through an app (or online) may be necessary for pool time, skiing and activities like tubing, skating, ping pong, tennis, etc. This adds more planning ahead, but also makes for a better experience.
This is a biggie as far as vaca-bummers, but absolutely understandable & necessary. Most resorts have paused kids clubs, and even some of the amenities like play-sets and organized group activities. This is week to week within each state so check with the resort before booking if these extras are important to you!
We have found that activities like bags, ping-pong, giant checkers/square four, and many water sports are still available. There are typically hand sanitizer stations near and signs to encourage use of and social distancing between other groups waiting. It honestly hasn’t been an issue for us at the 3 resorts we’ve visited and we’ve felt very comfortable. Mask wearing is encouraged with all activities outside of being in the water and most people comply.
Tip- Again, go at off times, for all situations! If you want to encounter less people, do things when less people typically would. Go to the beach or pool early, then switch up your activities and go again in the evening when most families are having dinner. This is always our agenda and we typically have good luck. This may be difficult during busy travel times, but if you’re flexible it will make for an easier day. (Also, it will make for easier and empty dining! We normally have an easy breakfast in the room, lunch as soon as it’s available, then either snack & late dinner or early dinner & snack after the swim/ski! Schedule to eat at off times and everything else will be quieter when you’re there!) We went putt-putt golfing with my parents mid day when the sun is the hottest and most people were swimming, napping or at lunch. We didn’t come within 20 feet of another player- and the sun to chicagoans felt good!
Sending you Off
We hope this helps you plan for when you feel ready to travel. Again, this isn’t meant to encourage, but to educate and inform, when the time is right for you.
As someone in the travel industry, but also very strict with distancing, this has been a tough situation, but one I felt I needed to have a first hand experience in. I can honestly say that I’ve felt very comfortable flying, and semi comfortable on our stays- which I thought would be the opposite! The key is, when we felt uncomfortable, we made a change. I think the biggest trick to traveling safely right now is to be flexible! If you’re able to go with the flow and make changes when necessary, it will feel wonderful. If that alone gives you anxiety, it might tough.
I should also note that we went at really off times and that definitely made a difference in the experience. We took our children out of school between Thanksgiving and Christmas break because we know if would be too busy for our comfort during both. The other trip was mid week in January. Historically, both are extremely slow times to travel. With schools out through April, keep it will be busier. That said, I have first hand information from colleagues and can probably answer most questions you have through our multiple experiences. I’m always happy to help!
Stay tuned for family friendly resort recommendations and reviews later this week!