Will this be a normal summer? Definitely not! The #stayhome brigades are shaming travelers but summer travel may be what the country needs. With the traditional start of the summer travel season—Memorial Day weekend—behind us, what can we expect from the travel industry?
If you choose to travel by air, expect higher fares and new procedures at the airport before you even board your flight. More than 6,100 planes are currently parked on runways from coast to coast. Many of those planes will not be returning.
Travelers should be prepared for something new at the airport: Temperature checks for every departing passenger in hopes of preventing those with COVID-19 from boarding. What’s still being decided is whether the TSA or individual airlines will conduct the checks. Either way, expect to be charged an extra fee to pay for them.
There’s also a logistical problem that will need to be addressed. If you’re going to practice social distancing, and everybody has to get their temperature taken, there are some airports that are worried that the lines might stretch more than a mile.
The warm greeting you’re used to receiving when you arrive at a hotel will likely be out the window. The idea of having contact with a bellman, or room service, or any other human being is getting withdrawn. Expect the check-in process to be done online. Some hotels already allow you to unlock your door with your phone.
For the hotels to create an image in which you feel safe and secure, they’ve put the word hospital back in hospitality. For instance, Hilton Hotels have partnered with the Mayo Clinic to create a branded cleaning process for its rooms. When it comes to housekeeping, staff will not enter your room unless you make a request. Hotels still offering room service will leave your meal outside your door for you to bring inside.
Many things you’re used to finding in a hotel room will likely disappear. Pens, paper, magazines, that extra pillow that used to be in the closet, coat hangers—kiss them goodbye. Necessary items such as the TV remote, the telephone handset, and water glasses will likely be enclosed in some kind of wrapping with a seal.
It’s hard to forget the awful stories of cruises wrecked by the coronavirus earlier this year including that of the Diamond Princess which was quarantined for two weeks in a harbor in Japan. The cruise lines have a very steep hill to climb based just on optics and public perception. They have a problem because a lot of folks think of a cruise ship as nothing more than a floating petri dish.
A no-sail order from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expires at the end of June but cruise lines are required to submit a detailed anti-coronavirus plan to the CDC for approval to sail again. Few cruises—if any—will likely happen during the remainder of this year but expect a turnaround next year as people who love cruises are very loyal.
Cruise ships which emphasize loads of shared experiences need to make major changes. Expect to see them change with limits of people in the pools and the Jacuzzis and a buffet in which you will never go near the food. You will point to what you want, and a uniformed staff member will plate it for you. Prices may not increase initially because the focus will be on getting passengers to return. But eventually, prices will likely rise.
Meanwhile, demand for recreational vehicles, whether to buy or rent, will go through the roof. Families will want to travel together and an RV gives them the opportunity to be in their own self-contained quarantine-mobile, if you will, to rediscover their own country.
Many families will stock up on groceries ahead of their RV trips so they don’t have to stop at any restaurants along the way. Camping will be big at the national and state park level. State parks will be rediscovered because the national parks will be full. You can count on that.
Wherever you live you have many options. Take a look at the map and consider a 3- or 400-mile radius from where you live. You will be surprised at what’s available that’s not crowded and will offer a wonderful travel experience at an affordable cost.
Aim for a small town that doesn’t have big high-rise hotels, theme parks, or a crowded beach. Social distancing is almost the definition of a small town anyway. You’ll learn about American history, you can go antiquing, and you’ll have a better chance of having a better experience within the boundaries of what’s acceptable social distancing.
There is nothing permanent except change.
—Heraclitus, ancient Greek philosopher