As a travel writer for 15 years, I’m on the road as much as 3 times a month. I spent more time in different cities, countries, islands than my home in NYC, so I was significantly impacted by the pandemic that turned travel upside down — and left me locked down. Business Insider even interviewed me on what it was like from traveling every month to none at all. I’m surprised I was able to go 13 months without travel, and I recently took my first trip since March 2020 to the Berkshires.
While Covid-19 vaccinations increase across the country, and cases go down, more travelers are hitting the road in record numbers. Travel is obviously not the same as it was pre Covid-19, so if you plan to take your first trip since the pandemic started 13 months ago, I want to highlight some things that were eye-opening.
- No traffic.
Getting out of NYC has always been a nightmare. Any New Yorker can attest to the congested streets and interstates, like the BQE and West Side Highway, at any given time of day. With less people behind wheels, getting out of NYC was a breeze.
We left at 10 AM on a Wednesday, so the streets are less jammed, but I was impressed at how much less of a headache it was. When we returned on a Friday at 4 pm, there was traffic, but again, significantly less than normal.
2. Hotel check-in has changed.
My friend and I checked into Blantyre Resort in the Berkshires, a three-hour drive from the city. Due to Massachusetts law, we were required to have a Covid-19 negative test within 72 hours of check-in. We had to certify we had the tests via email before arriving.
When we arrived, all staff were wearing masks, and we were also required to wear masks in the lobby. While Covid-19 cases are going down and more travelers are getting vaccinated, indoor masks are still a requirement in most states. In the photo above, in the empty salon, Josh took off his mask for me for 10 seconds to take this shot!
3. Our vacation was a little different with staff interaction and services.
For the safety of both staff and guests, housekeeping was optional, and it was encouraged to not have it. Josh and I were glad to decline housekeeping, because we do want safety first. It was the first time I’ve stayed at a hotel where I had no housekeeping service, and it definitely felt different. When we returned to our cottage at night, the curtains weren’t drawn, there were no little chocolates on the pillow, etc. Again, travelers do have the option to have housekeeping, but not having it actually felt like we were staying in a vacation rental.
The good news is that they do bring you whatever you need (extra pillows, clean towels, etc) if you request it, as well as breakfast in bed service, if you still like those, and there was a QR code menu on the table in case we needed anything.
It will be a matter of time when typical services return not just for Blantyre, but other hotels around the world.
4. Not all places in the destination were open.
If you’re taking your first trip since the pandemic started 13 months ago, you should be aware not everything in your destination will be open. The spa at Blantyre resort was still closed (huge bummer but it gives me a reason to go back), and some restaurants were only operating dinner.
Josh and I drove through the town of Beacon on our way back, and many indoor places, including restaurants, were closed due to Covid-19.
5. Social distancing and masks in restaurants.
I have not gone inside a restaurant in one year, even in NYC. So not only was Berkshires my first trip since the pandemic started 13 months ago, it was the first time I had been inside a restaurant.
Daniel Boulud had taken over the kitchen at the restaurant at Blantyre, and we sat inside (the restaurant also offers a great outdoor space, but it had been raining). All tables were social distanced or had plexi-glass dividers, and all waitstaff were masks. We also ordered through a QR code on the table.
I’ll be writing my review on Blantyre soon, so definitely keep an eye out for it this week. If you have recently taken a first trip since the pandemic started 13 months ago, let us know what it was like in the comments below!
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