Planning to stay close to home this summer?
You’re not alone.
The coronavirus pandemic has caused many families and individuals to cancel or postpone their vacation plans this season. While some aren’t willing to venture outside of their homes except for absolute emergencies, others are willing to consider day trips or even multi-day trips to drivable resorts, parks, historic sites or beaches.
“I’ve encouraged people to push [international travel and cruises] back a year,” says Baltimore-based travel advisor Adam Wolf of Adventure Horizons LLC. “My mantra is, ‘Don’t cancel — postpone.’”
Wolf is also a strong proponent of “drive-to destinations.” He says Virginia Beach, Deep Creek Lake in Western Maryland, Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg, Jamestown, Va., and “even day trips to Gettysburg” are all good options for this summer.
While many people are concerned about the safety of flying or taking cruises, Wolf says some clients have inquired about rail trips to national parks out west.
“I’ve also had several clients recently take the Amtrak auto train that travels between northern Virginia and central Florida,” says Wolf, who says that travelers may feel safer with rail travel since they can reserve sleeper cars with private bathrooms.
At this time, Wolf says he urges travelers, regardless of their destinations, to always purchase travel insurance due to the volatility of the pandemic situation.
Do It Now!
In typical years, Ron Abrams, owner of Abrams Travel in Burtonsville, says 80 percent of his business encompasses tourism to Israel.
But this summer, he says he is advising clients to “go local.” At the same time, Abrams says now is a great time to start booking travel for later this ye
“Things are just starting to open up, so people are starting to make plans,” Abrams says. “All the airlines and hotels have [safety] protocols, and there are great deals out there for later in 2020.
“If the price is right and if it’s refundable, do it now,” he says. “I don’t think things are going to get much better.”
Vacationers who simply cannot imagine summer without a trip “downy ocean, hon” will be happy to know that the Ocean City and Delaware beaches and businesses are open, albeit with safety measures in place.
“We are excited to keep Ocean City moving forward while continuing to follow the rules and guidelines outlined by the State of Maryland and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention],” says Jessica Waters, acting tourism director and communications manager for the Town of Ocean City, Md.
Those guidelines include requiring all visitors over the age of 9 to wear face masks “inside the enclosed area of any retail establishment or food service establishment,” says Waters. “Outdoor activities and amusements such as park rides, miniature golf, go-kart tracks, arcades and casinos are open and swimming pools, gyms, stores, banks, salons and restaurants are open at 50 percent capacity.”
In “The First State,” Liz Keller, director of the Delaware Tourism Office, says, “Face coverings are required in all public settings, and we prefer you wear a mask on the beach as well. Beach ambassadors will be out reminding people to wear masks and keep their distance.”
Keller encourages beachgoers to travel at off-peak times, such as during the week. “It’s better for safety, but also for businesses that are just starting to get up and running,” she says.
Besides Rehoboth, Dewey and Bethany beaches, Keller reminds tourists to check out other Delaware attractions, such as the historic and cultural sites in the Brandywine Valley and the state’s wildlife and nature sites. In addition, Delaware’s museums and restaurants are open, with capacity limits. Reservations may be required, says Keller.
In this new normal, she recommends that tourists map out their Delaware vacations just as they would plan a vacation to Disney World or overseas.
“It’s so fluid [and] the situation is constantly changing,” Keller says. “Call ahead, don’t just show up. We’re excited for people to come rediscover the state safely.”
For those seeking out a different type of environment, The Greenbrier, a world-class resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., might be just the ticket and is “fully operational,” says Cam Huffman, director of public relations and content.
“There are some limitations, such as 50 percent occupancy at the restaurants, limited numbers at the pool, smaller numbers at some of our activities, but we are able to accommodate all of our guests,” he says.
For those unfamiliar with The Greenbrier, the resort – which is approximately four-and-a-half hours from Baltimore — has more than 55 indoor and outdoor activities. They include golf, tennis, off-road driving, falconry, hiking, biking, fishing, a gun club, indoor and outdoor pools, bowling, movies, escape rooms, a private casino and mineral spa. There are also 20 restaurants, lounges and bars, as well as 38 retail shops.
“Not much has changed in light of the pandemic as far as what is offered,” says Huffman. “We have strict guidelines in place for team members and guests, but it doesn’t take away from The Greenbrier experience.”
Meanwhile, the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina located in the Eastern Shore town of Cambridge reopened as of June 23.
“The 342-acre property will continue to provide outdoor activities including hikes through our onsite Blue Heron Rookery, kayak and paddleboard rentals, socially-spaced golf, and more,” says Joel Bunde, the resort’s general manager.
Bunde stressed that the hotel has implemented a variety of extra safety protocols in light of the coronavirus, including the installation of glass barriers at the hotel’s front desk, keyless entry passage to rooms, enhanced cleaning procedures, regular staff temperature checks and mask wearing. Guests will also be required to wear masks in public spaces at the resort.
“Social distancing guidelines will be followed throughout the resort with increased signage and floor decals to signify the appropriate space between other guests,” says Bunde. “Additionally, lounge chairs on the pool deck and restaurant seating have been rearranged to provide six feet of space between other parties.
“We are thrilled to reopen Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay in time for the summer travel season,” he says. “Our team is working diligently to implement several updated safety procedures in an effort to ensure the health and well-being of our guests and colleagues.”