Dear Explorers! 9/1/20
It may not seem like it, but there’s a world out there still worth exploring. The question is how to do it safely? For many, the car is the answer. With that in mind, I put my husband behind the wheel and set out on a new adventure!
By: Anne Heintz
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Quite a few of you have expressed a pent-up desire to travel but are also uneasy about dipping your toes into the water. I truly do understand that each individual has a unique set of concerns based on so many factors.
More of my clients are traveling. They definitely feel a sense of relief and freedom in doing so, whether it be by air or car. As I believe I mentioned before car vacations are definitely preferred for the majority of my clients. The younger ones more readily take to the air.
For purposes of this post, let’s keep our feet on the ground and explore traveling by car!
Some of you are asking for properties within a four-hour drive, others are willing to drive up to eight. I can push that time frame a bit…. so I did!
I haven’t done a real long-distance road trip since my days as a “soccer mom” traveling to tournaments across the country. It was time ! Mind you we didn’t get as creative as we could have. Frankly many of the small, unique and upscale properties that are near and dear to many hearts were full. It just means we will get back out there again!
You should keep this in mind when you decide to travel again. It is not an original idea, which I know from other bookings I’ve made. That said, I’m here and ready to help.
Now back to our adventure at hand!
My husband Les took on the opening 11-hour drive. Our first stop was northern Florida to visit family. This was really a “stopover” as our ultimate goal was further south.
Our real destination, Palm Beach was a short 3-hour drive away after an overnight stay with family.
Palm Beach is a “chicken soup” sort of place for us. We’ve taken many family vacations there over the years, so we know the lay of the land. Plus, our research indicated that this was a community that, while eager to welcome back visitors, was also being smart about the current state of the country.
We spent three safe and restful nights at The Breakers and two at the Eau Palm Beach. We also visited two smaller properties: The Brazilian Court and the soon to open White Elephant.
All of these properties will be profiled in separate posts on this blog. But for now, I can report that we felt safe and comfortable during this visit.
On our return to northern Virginia, we split the drive into two 8-hour increments. We spent the weekend in Charleston at the Wentworth Mansion.
The Wentworth Mansion is a charming property in an historic mansion a few minutes walk from the center of Charleston. We’ll feature a full profile in the future!
As for the city itself, we found Charleston a bit crowded. Granted we were there over a weekend and the College of Charleston was re-opening, but not every restaurant or bar followed state and local safety guidelines. A bit more consistence would be helpful. That said, we will return… just perhaps not on a weekend!
Now to how to the road trip itself. Here’s how we planned and what we learned.
First, we packed a small cooler with water, soda and sandwiches. Our strategy was to limit the amount of stuff we needed to purchase along the way. This made the stops shorter and added to our peace of mind.
As to the re-fueling stops themselves, we started by looking for our gas card stations, but at least twice opted for something else that looked cleaner and had a store attached to it. I am happy to report that maybe one in ten people were not masked, so it was easy to steer clear of them. For the most part the bathrooms were very clean and everyone was polite. You did see hand sanitizers and of course we would re-apply from our own stash once back in the car.
Besides having vacation time, I wanted to experience first-hand varied hotel cleaning and safety protocols. These are the things that are forefront in everyone’s mind. Front desks have plexiglass in place. The touchless check-in/out experience with credit card numbers exchanged before check-in is most common.
Text messages from the concierge asking for assistance with any needs while on property was another way of assisting remotely. Valet parking only happened if you requested it. Otherwise it was self-park which was great as you weren’t charged the exorbitant price for the privilege of parking on site! One of our hotels was sanitizing suitcases upon arrival.
There were signs everywhere requiring masks coupled with hand sanitizer stations. There was a sign outside of elevator banks requesting no more than 2 people per elevator unless it was a family. One hotel would allow bellman to deliver to the door and not inside the room. Remote controls were sanitized and sealed inside plastic. The Breakers even gave you a nice zippered pouch with sanitizer and wipes. You were given the option to have in room maid service or not.
Wentworth Mansion told us that no one was allowed in your room once you checked in. If you wanted more towels and toiletries they would leave it in a basket outside your door. A turndown boxed sweet was in a sanitized pouch hanging on your doorknob. Rooms would have to be taken out of inventory for at least one night so that they could be properly sanitized before the next stay. In most hotels now maids are assigned to the same area/floors/room numbers to keep things simple and safer.
At the Breakers, we found that the pool area was well set up with social distancing in mind as were the many restaurant options. Again, lots of hand sanitation stations were around. I also watched attendants cleaning pool chairs right away after someone left. You were asked to wear a mask getting to the pool but once you sat down you could take it off. Same was true once you sat down for a meal. We saw both pieces of paper with QR codes to download and paper menus with one-time usage.
At no time did we feel unsafe whether dining inside or out in Palm Beach. I will say that we did walk out of two restaurant/bars in Charleston as they were clearly not following distancing even though they require you to be masked while outside in the city.
The upshot is that I know now that I can travel safely. Common sense and practicing what we all are used to doing since March can go a long way. You can still have a good experience and still get that vacation feeling which many of us crave!
Connect with your favorite travel advisor today!
**Anne Heintz is an independent travel advisor based in Washington, DC who loves her work and always has her bag packed. She believes travel creates lasting memories and connections and is grateful to be able to share that with her clients. She is affiliated with Worldwide Travel Associates and Tzell Travel. She is the co-founder & namesake of TravelAnne.com. Reach her directly at Anne@TravelAnne.com.