It’s a crazy time all over the world, and it’s understandable that people have a lot of trepidation about travel and wonder whether or not it’s safe to vacation. We just finished a couple of back to back trips and I thought I would share our experiences to help guide others in making the right decision for them.
Travel to the Florida Keys including Key West
Our first trip was driving down to the Florida Keys for a reunion with some of my pirate shipmates and their mates from my previous days of pillaging the high seas aboard a fast attack submarine in the Navy. We had planned this reunion well over a year ago and were determined to try and meet up together if at all possible. The numbers were dwindling rapidly as the date approached, and we ended up with 11 people total in our group instead of the 30-40 we had originally expected. It ended up working out well as groups of more than 10 don’t sit well with restaurant and bar owners these days for obvious reasons. We spent one night at the Hyatt Place in Marathon and then 3 nights at the Hyatt Centric in Key West (Using points of course- Chase UR transferred to Hyatt). Both of these hotels made us feel perfectly comfortable as all employees and guests wore masks when inside public spaces, employees were wiping down surfaces regularly, and maid service was suspended unless you specifically request it. Breakfast and coffee were still available with a barista pouring the coffee and all food individually wrapped for safety. At the Hyatt Centric in KW we were able to order room service eggs Benedict one morning, delicious!
Key West itself was still busy, but not the packed crowds of yesteryear. We were always able to find seating for our group and everyone wore masks to enter bar/restaurants but you could take them off as soon as you sat down. Servers kept their masks on all the time and we never felt uncomfortable about being in a high-risk situation of catching the virus. Sunset celebration was still held at Mallory Square, but with only 2 performers who still ‘wowed’ the crowd. A Thursday night, Friday night, and Saturday night in Key West and now 2 weeks later nobody from our group has reported any symptoms so I feel that a ‘social distant’ vacation is still feasible today, just realize that things aren’t going to be the same. Everybody keeps their distance from strangers, wear your mask when in crowds, and always wear it when you’re under a roof unless you are putting food or drink into your mouth. With these simple rules I think tourism can still survive, albeit at a lower rate than before.
Our one harrowing experience was checking into the Marriott Courtyard in Key Largo on our way home. We arrived at 2:30 in the afternoon, a half-hour prior to normal check in time, and saw two employees behind the lobby desk with their masks around their neck having an animated discussion about one of the other customers in the lobby and whatever drama that involved. Finally, after about 30 seconds they acknowledged our presence and the lady slid her mask up to just under her nose and asked if she could help us. Keep in mind that Key Largo is about 20 miles from Miami, at this time the Covid-19 hotspot of the world, and that most of the employees in the hospitality industry in Key Largo live in Miami and commute every day. During the 2 minutes that it took to tell us our room wasn’t ready and that she would call us when it is, she proceeded to cough up a lung with 3 separate coughing fits into the flimsy paper mask riding underneath her nose. I don’t mean a bug-in-the-throat type of cough, I’m talking about deep, from the chest, coughing like a sick person type of cough. Repeatedly. Needless to say, we started backing up immediately and left the lobby. Fortunately, when we returned later another woman at the desk was able to check us in. But in the hallway entering our room, the unmasked maid greeted us from about 2 feet away, and then while getting ice later we saw the unmasked maids yelling down the hall back and forth at each other. A dramatic departure from the always-masked maids we saw at the Hyatts in the lower Keys.
Travel to Detroit and Back
Our next trip was a flight to Detroit with a layover in Atlanta both directions. This was not pleasure, but rather to bury a relative lost to the virus in a nursing home here in Florida. As expected the airports were mostly empty, about 10% of normal traffic in my opinion. We flew on Delta and were happy with their policy of leaving the middle seat empty. We never felt crowded or unsafe, everyone kept their masks on throughout the flight (although a small number refused to pull the mask up over their nose). Even though Detroit is no where near the virus hotspot that South Florida is, everyone seemed to follow the safety rules to the same degree that we saw in the Keys. The Delta Sky Lounge (access available with the Delta Skymiles Reserve by American Express) in Detroit was open and a great place to hang out before our flight with a bartender serving drinks and individually packaged snacks laid out on the table for us. Seating was plentiful and spaced out for adequate social distancing as we pulled our masks down while seated and eating. The emptiness of the airport was truly astounding though, and there was no mistaking that we are in a pandemic and travel is incredibly depressed at this time.
Travel and safety in the time of covid
Overall, I would say that while travel today feels a little strange, sometimes desolate, and people are a little uncomfortable around strangers it can still be done safely. The vast majority are following the safety guidelines and if we all do our part for the safety of others we can bring things back gradually, and hopefully return to international travel again soon. I really hope so because we have an exceptional points vacation booked for the Christmas holiday and at this point we don’t even know if they’ll be letting Americans in the country, so please people… be smart and be safe so we can get travel back to normal.