It’s officially Fall! If you are anything like me, you are ready to say goodbye to the four walls of your house. As soon as my home state opened up after COVID-19, we were out eating at restaurants and getting our hair cuts. We also bravely traveled outside of our state for long weekend summer vacations. Normally, I am very big on planning ahead but due to the current state of the world, I waited until May to book a trip for whitewater rafting in June and the beach in July. I wanted to take a few minutes and share my experiences with traveling during the pandemic.
At my house it is a family tradition to go camping and whitewater rafting in Bryson City, NC. I grew up learning how to paddle down the Nantahala River and I was very interested to see how the wonderful folks at the NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center) were handling the current situation. Since NOC is like a second home to me, I knew I would definitely notice any changes. North Carolina, during the time we were there, required a mask to be worn in all public areas but children under the age of 11 were exempt from the requirement. The only time we didn’t have to wear a mask was when we were actually on the river. Check in time was pushed back an hour so they could have time to really clean the cabins in between guests. The children's playground was closed and the outside games were put away. Tables at the restaurants were spaced out, only a certain number of people were allowed in the stores, and plastic dividers were at every check out counter. Yes, NOC was a different experience this year, but still had the same level of fun and customer service I have come to expect over the years.
Later at the end of July beginning of August, we made our way to Gulf Shores, AL for some beach walking and fresh seafood. Unlike Bryson City, our family had only been to Gulf Shores once before but it hadn’t been so long that we didn’t recognize it. The cleaning crew for Brett Robinson’s beach condo rentals pushed check in back 3 hours to ensure that everything was clean top to bottom. If you have stayed at a beach condo before, I’m sure you remember that you need to take just about everything with you. But you could rest easy knowing the cleaning crew had worked their magic scrubbing all the germs off of everything that was nailed down. In Alabama, their mask policy was to have everyone over the age of 6 wear a mask in all public areas. Swimming pools and the beach were exempt. Normally when you go to the beach, going out to eat means yummy fish, fun restaurants, and long waits. Because every restaurant had limited seating, the wait times were even longer than usual. Needless to say we were heading out to dinner at 3:30-4pm to be seated by 5pm. Other than having to be aware of the importance of good time management, we had no problems and thought Gulf Shores handled everything very well.
Finally our last trip was to Universal Studios in Orlando, FL for WizardCon 2020. This year's conference was in September and Universal had only been open since June. During those three months however, they really had a good handle on how to run things safely. Wearing a mask 24/7 was not fun but because crowd levels were low, it wasn’t so bad. We learned not to get mad at the employees working the rides as they corrected our mask wearing style. They were just trying to follow the rules allowing the park to remain open and to keep their jobs. The parks were even cleaner than usual. I was very pleased with their response to all the new rules and regulations. I’m sure you will be too.
I hope after reading this article, it gives you more confidence in thinking about traveling again. Things are getting better. People are learning how to live and travel safely. When you are ready to travel, the wizards are here to help plan that dream vacation just for you.
Remember, Friends don’t let Friends book alone! Call your favorite Vacation Wizard today!