Learn the rules, prepare to adapt on the road this summer
Editor’s note: Seasoned traveler Jeff Fishbein and his family recently returned from a trip that included stops in Williamsburg, Virginia Beach and Annapolis.
If you are planning to hit the road this summer, expect changes — some good, some not — as you make your way around.
Probably the biggest positive is that hotel rates are lower than they’ve been in years. The hospitality industry was in a booming expansion for much of the past decade, leaving a glut of unfilled rooms in many places — and that forces the cost of a stay down.
It’s not universal, though — oceanfront and luxury hotels will still set you back a few hundred dollars per night, and the cost for isolated hotels may not drop that much. Remember, like a lot of businesses, the hotels have been running on empty for a few months and still need to make up that loss.
A number of hotels are no longer offering daily housekeeping service. Because it would mean a greater possibility of contact with COVID-19, you may find that the best you can do is pick up new towels every couple of days — and carry them yourself. Long-term occupants — usually those staying more than seven days — will probably get one visit from the staff.
That free hotel breakfast you’ve become accustomed to is changing, too. Our recent week-long adventure included stays at three hotels representing two different brands and each — even within the same brand family — was slightly different in this particular amenity. Only one offered anything hot, an egg and cheese sandwich less exciting than a convenience store special. Two had chilled yogurt and juice available. One limited guests to a brown-bag breakfast of a banana or orange and a cereal bar.
The 24-hour coffee became morning coffee and they had to serve it.
Heading out to dinner? Expect a longer wait to be seated due to government-imposed occupation limits. And plan on a reduced menu as the restaurants try to work with a limited staff in the kitchen as well. More outdoor dining addresses some of that, if you’re willing to brave the elements. Of course, you can always pick up and take dinner back to the room.
Planning on an amusement park? That’s iffy at this point. Nearby Knoebels and Hersheypark, as well as Great Adventure in New Jersey, are planning to open this weekend — and Allentown’s Dorney Park, Kennywood in Pittsburgh and Cedar Point (Ohio) a week later — but other East Coast parks have yet to reveal an opening day.
Kid-themed Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster and Sesame Place, near Philadelphia, are among those, as are Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion.
Disney will begin to open its Florida resort on July 11.
Shopping? Don’t be surprised if you have to wait in line to enter a store. Many businesses are restricting the number of guests who can enter at one time — and enforcing it.
Learn state laws and the meaning of their coronavirus conditions. We were in Maryland and Virginia as well as Pennsylvania. Each of these states has a counterpart to our Red-Yellow-Green system.
Expect to spend more time outdoors. Most Virginia museums, for example, are opening just this week. But, along with the beach, we were able to visit the botanical garden in Norfolk and Colonial Williamsburg — as long we didn’t want to tour the inside of the buildings. Many places in Richmond were closed — even some outdoor venues — although it was never clear whether that was COVID-related or because of the riots that broke out there in the wake of George Floyd protest marches.
Crowds at Virginia Beach were surprisingly sparse — we definitely could keep six feet there.
Observance of mask rules was at best haphazard — if you are looking for others to help protecting you from the coronavirus, you’ll be unhappy most of the time. The one place we found compliance to be high was in Annapolis, Maryland, our one-day stop on the way home.