The pandemic made a notable impact on travel in 2020 and even early 2021. But if you’ve traveled anywhere in the last month, it’s easy to see that summer travel is in full swing, even with the subtle threat of a variant virus looming.
In the last six weeks, I’ve flown round trip from Chicago twice and have also taken one very long road trip to Georgia and South Carolina. And it’s been during these recent trips where I’ve seen some elements of travel return to near normal while other aspects still have a ways to go.
Here are just a few early travel observations I’ve made as we begin to transition to a post-pandemic world
Crowds are back – And they are back in full force. Whether you are at a beachside resort, outdoor malls, a restaurant in the city, or simply at a rest area – travelers are everywhere! Three years ago, I might have been irritated by the crowds. However, given the year that we’ve all just experienced, seeing these types of crowds makes me feel hopeful and a little relieved that the world has shifted back to normal. This time next year, I may not be so happy.
Traffic is terrible – I knew it wouldn’t last. Those easy drives to the lake, the in-laws, or even Target seem to be over. Being stuck in traffic is once again my new normal. It’s inevitable…like death, taxes and another Fast and Furious sequel.
Masks are (mostly) off – Unless you are in a healthcare environment, airport, or school, it has now become totally acceptable to NOT wear a mask, regardless of your vaccination status. However, it appears we are in the awkward in between phase where hotels, stores and restaurants still have social distancing signs, stickers on the floor and plexiglass partitions but do not require masks nor do they enforce social distancing.
Hotels are full, but provide limited cleaning – During the height of the pandemic, it made sense for hotels and resorts to limit contact with guests for safety reasons. One way to do this was to operate at a much lower room capacity, which meant fewer people congregating with staff and each other. Another way was to provide fully cleaned and sanitized rooms to travelers upon check in, but then not providing daily room cleaning. This not only provided a seemingly safer option for travelers, but I’m sure it allowed hotels to save a little money given they would not need as many staff. Now, as hotels significantly relax their COVID policies, many are able to book rooms at full capacity, yet still do not provide daily housekeeping or housekeeping at all beyond your check-in day – which happened to me at two separate hotels. I understand that hotels may still be understaffed; however, I also wonder if this is the new trend – which has the potential to save hotels money in the long run.
Restaurant reservations can be challenging – It’s not that you can’t get a reservation, but rather if you wait until the day of or even the day before your desired reservation, you may just be out of luck. Restaurants appear to be having a hard time finding and retaining quality staff, making it difficult to keep normal hours and take the same amount of reservations. As a result, there are fewer reservations to be had. Or even worse, restaurants may be booked to the max, but do not have enough staff to cover the crowds, resulting in tired, overworked, and frustrated employees not to mention poorer customer service.
Even with these transitional, post-pandemic growing pains, I would much rather practice patience as the travel industry plays catch up than have to endure another year of the pandemic-driven alternative.