Almost a year into this Covid pandemic, there are many things that should be second nature by now, wearing a mask, social distancing, and washing your hands. On the flipside, there are many that now seem alien to us coupled with anxiety and apprehension over what use to be normal, like dining out and traveling. For some it may require baby steps like learning to walk again.
Research, Research, Research
I cannot stress enough how important it is to research beforehand. Reading reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor has both convinced and deterred me from staying and dining at certain establishments. Even different regions within the same state may have stricter rules so educate yourself before you go.
Do Not Choose Hotspots
It seems like it that should be a given but you will be surprised how many people still do. With the internet at our fingertips, you can easily get an idea of how fast the cases are surging in the area you plan on visiting. A good rule of thumb is do not go towards areas with higher rates than you have at home and instead choose destinations safer than home. Please be respectful that if you live in a hotspot though, take the necessary safety precautions to keep them safe as you are a visitor in their home.
Outdoor vs. indoor dining
Outdoor dining is significantly safer than indoor dining due to the amount of air flow and the volume of air that can dilute any viral load if it exists. My first outdoor dining experience was on a Monday lunch right when they opened at 11AM, almost a month after outdoor dining opened, in a county that had low number of Covid cases, choosing the last table furthest away facing the ocean with the nearest 2 tables 10-15 feet away from us.
|First time dining out, there's our table at the end|
|First meal out post SIP|
Remember I did say baby steps. Since then, I have gotten more comfortable
dining outdoors although I still implement the following two tips when I
Off peak times
If having too many people around you make your uncomfortable these days, off peak times and weekdays are a good bet to not only have a choice of tables to choose from but not have diners in the neighboring tables or in some cases, at all. If you are traveling during the week, weekday happy hours are a great option to not only possibly have the place to yourself for unrushed service but drinks and food at a discount to boot.
|Second time dining out|
|Monday HH at 3:30PM, Just Me, Myself, and I, and my husband|
|Tuesday lunch at normally packed Giovanni's|
|Last time outdoor dining on 11/11 before second lockdown|
Choosing the right table
Even choosing the right table has become strategic these days. Avoid tables by the door or with high foot traffic. I tend to choose ones at the end so I only have one or two possible neighboring tables vs. 3-4 in all directions and without other guests or staff passing by to and from their tables.
|End table furthest from everyone else|
Not only is it a more relaxing experience dining out with a view of an ocean, lake or wide-open spaces than sitting in a parking lot or sidewalk with high foot traffic. With open spaces you tend to have better air quality and air flow like fresh air off the ocean instead of exhaust fumes.
Generous Cancellation Policy
Aside from reading those reviews, places I have stayed at for road trips often had more generous cancellation policies than their norm with one allowing cancellations 24 hours in advance vs. the normal 72 hours out and the other offering credit to use within the year if guests had to cancel within their normal 48 hours. In other cases, a one-night penalty for cancelling within 24-72 hours is reasonable as this lowers the chance of guests showing up sick to avoid losing their money.
Advertised safety protocols
I also chose hotels that has detailed Covid safety protocols listed on their website over ones that just say masks are required. By listing it in print, there is more accountability of misrepresentation if not followed. For chains, having their own personalized safety protocols advertised vs. the generic one from up top also allows me to feel like they have thought things through for their specific property as amenities vary per property.
All places we stayed, it was possible to avoid elevators, one by staying on the first floor and the others since it was only 2-3 floors total, most used the stairs unless transporting luggage.
Balcony or entrance from outside vs. a hallway
Upon check in anywhere, the first thing I do is air out the room to reduce the viral load if any. By choosing a room that enters from the outside, as long as there is no to little foot traffic, I leave the door open to air it out while sanitizing the room. When I stayed in a room that enters from an indoor hallway, I chose ones with a balcony overlooking the ocean so I can open the door from that direction. If you are unable to do either, make sure the room at least has windows that open and bring an air purifier. I have stayed in all 3 scenarios.
|Monterey Bay Inn Balcony|
|Activating our air purifier|
|Windows that open in this Apple Farm Inn room|
|Octagonal Signature King Suite at Apple Farm Inn with extra windows|
Even though housekeeping is expected to do a thorough job of sanitizing and cleaning these days, during Covid times, I prefer to wipe down high touch areas like light switches, faucet, toilet lever, remotes, door handles and tables for eating with antibacterial wipes upon check-in so I do not have to remember to wash my hands after touching them. For anything else that is not wipeable but I feel needs a little additional sanitizing, I go over with a UV wand.
Avoid stay over housekeeping
So far, every place I have stayed at suspended stayover housekeeping which I actually prefer to avoid additional contact within the room after we have sanitized and aired it out to our liking.
Room with a view or a more spacious one
I anticipated on doing a lot of takeout so getting a room with a view, a fireplace, or a more spacious suite so you can bring your bike along is worth the extra money. Eating on your balcony overlooking the ocean in a robe or PJs, you will definitely feel like you’re on vacation like our Monterey Bay Getaway - Around the Bay and Away: Monterey Bay Getaway.
|Monterey Bay Inn Harbor/Oceanview|
|Room Balcony View|
|Breakfast with a View|
|Takeout in front of the fireplace at Apple Farm Inn|
|Signature king at the Seacrest Hotel Pismo Beach|
|Takeout Taco Tuesday from Luna Red|
|Moroccan Takeout from Oasis|
Who minds eating in with this 180 degree view from our balcony
Implementing everything on this list is in no way a requirement but one you can pick and choose from as everyone has their own comfort level. Just like taking baby steps, after your first step, your second is easier, getting more comfortable with each subsequent step until it becomes second nature again. But just like walking, you cannot plow through full steam ahead with tunnel vision, you must be aware of your surroundings, stop once in awhile and adjust accordingly to avoid falling. Stay safe, stay healthy.
Please do be aware that there is no 100% safe situation short of staying at home but these are tips that are within our control to minimize the risk if you choose to slowly get back out there.