Majorly Instagrammable estates, world-class culinary hotspots, a relatively mild year-round climate, luxury spas, and, duh, the wine. Obviously. Napa has it all and is a dream destination that we could never get enough of. Whether you’re traveling for a minimoon, bachelorette party, birthday celebration or just a weekend getaway, Napa is the ideal destination for any occasion and with any combination of travel partners. As obsessed as we are with Napa, it does take a little bit more planning and research than your average domestic weekend trip and isn’t one that we’d recommend doing on a tight budget—although it can be done. Read on for all of our tips, tricks, and recs for pulling off the perfect Napa trip. Cheers!
A NOTE ON COVID-19:
If you do choose to travel right now, it is important to do so as safely and responsibly as possible. A few notes about how Napa in particular is managing the pandemic.
Napa and Sonoma counties have a mask mandate in place, and a mask should be worn in all public areas, except when eating and drinking. This includes when walking outdoors any time that 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained. We would suggest continuing to wear your mask when your server comes to your table as well. Wearing a mask primarily protects the other person and it’s important to show your server the same respect and caution that they are showing you.
All restaurants and wineries must operate exclusively outside at this time. This may change your experience slightly. For example, you may not be able to partake in all of the standard tours, such as any cave experiences or barrel tastings, but you will still have a wonderful time! In addition, your host may be less hands-on than normal in terms of walking you through the wine making process, tasting notes, etc.
From our experience, hotels were thoroughly sanitized and housekeeping services did not take place during a stay to minimize the number of people entering and exiting a room. In addition, efforts are being made at some hotels to allow a few days between guest stays in a particular room.
Lastly, we are advocates for taking any additional precautions that you can prior to traveling. While we did not have any symptoms, we tested both before and after our trip and quarantined while awaiting results each time. We recognize that we could be asymptomatic carriers.
Between the compounded effects of both COVID-19 and the recent wildfires, Napa Valley’s businesses need our support more than ever, but please visit as responsibly as you can!
How To Get There
If you live in the Bay Area, Napa is the perfect weekend destination! If not, you’ll most likely be flying to get to Napa. With three local airports, you have a lot of options depending on what your priority is—ease or price. No matter which airport you fly into, though, expect a bit of a drive.
If you’re looking to get as close as possible to wine country, you’ll want to fly directly into Santa Rosa (Sonoma County Airport). Flights here are less frequent, more expensive, and depending on where you choose to stay in wine country, could still require a 20-40 mile drive. One bonus of this airport, though, is that you can check up to a case of wine for free when you’re flying home! Love that.
For the average traveler, you’ll want to fly into SFO (San Francisco International Airport). As one of the busiest airports in the country, you’ll have no problem finding flight options and a great flight deal. Hello, more money for wine tastings! From SFO, you have about a 1 hour drive into Napa. We’d recommend either renting a car or, if you’re celebrating a bachelorette, renting a limo or party bus for the ride. Pro Tip: If you’re landing earlier in the day and choose to rent a car, take the Golden Gate into Sausalito on your way to Napa and stop off for a bite to eat or glass of wine with killer views of SF and the Bay.
Lastly, Oakland is a third option for flying into Napa. Technically, Oakland is a little bit closer to Napa than SFO, but could be more challenging to find flight deals depending on where you’re coming from. We recommend setting flight alerts on Google Flights and Hopper for all three airports (Santa Rosa, San Francisco, and Oakland) and booking whichever comes back as the best value between price, arrival/departure times, and flight route.
Where To Stay
One of the most common misconceptions when planning a Napa trip is that you want to stay in Napa proper. When most people say they want to go to Napa, they are referring to Napa Valley or the entire wine country of Napa and Sonoma counties. It is a HUGE area, and choosing which town or area to stay in is so important to a successful and enjoyable trip. We’ll break down the options, high-level, below:
Napa – As the biggest town in Napa Valley, Napa is the most lively area that you could stay with restaurants and bars within walking distance of one another, most of the larger hotel chains (Westin, Embassy Suites, Marriott, etc.) and is a pretty centrally located spot for whatever you choose to do in the area. Plus, the Napa River is a pretty cute spot to walk along.
Yountville to St. Helena – These towns are technically 10 miles apart (about 20 minutes), but for the ease of writing this guide, we’ll group these towns together (along with Oakville, Rutherford, and the other small towns between these two.) In our opinion, these towns are what people typically dream of or imagine when they think of wine country and visiting Napa. Slow-paced, romantic, a vineyard view from your room, etc. These towns are also where all of our favorite wineries and restaurants are located.
Calistoga – Calistoga is often considered the end (or beginning) of Napa Valley and offers a similar wine country feel to Yountville and St. Helena, but in a much quieter and relaxing way. Calistoga would be a perfect area to stay for a honeymoon or anniversary trip. Super charming, secluded, understated, and laidback.
Sonoma – Sonoma is technically in a completely different county, but we think it’s still worth mentioning when planning a Napa trip. Sonoma is, in our opinion, much less commercialized and touristy. Think of it like Napa’s laid-back little sister. Sonoma is an incredible place to visit and actually grows more grapes than Napa, and it’s a stunning area with some of the best Pinots in the world. We ultimately do prefer Napa Valley, but always say that Napa is not a trip to do on a tight budget. Sonoma can be a more affordable option for hotels, restaurants, tastings, and still a very fun place to visit.
There are so many insanely beautiful and luxurious hotels, resorts, and Airbnbs in the area. For the purpose of this guide, we would recommend Silverado Resort. While it’s not in the heart of any of Napa Valley’s towns, its location is central enough to allow you to plan activities in most of the spots around the valley. It’s an expansive and beautiful resort property with multiple pools, two golf courses, a spa, and plentiful restaurant options, all while being a surprisingly affordable option—by Napa standards, that is. For any Real Housewives super fans like us, the OC wives stayed at Silverado on their Napa trip (season 10, episode 3, to be exact). If it’s good enough for Heather Dubrow, it’s more than good enough for us.
How To Get Around
Unless you have a DD in your group (unlikely since you’re in wine country), we’d recommend hiring a driver for your day of wine tasting. Napa Valley is a huge area and the wineries stretch out along a highway, so walking just isn’t an option. Ubers and taxis are harder to come by and because Napa is a place where reservations are definitely required, you won’t want to waste any time between appointments waiting around for an Uber. If you’re traveling with a group, hiring a driver is actually very reasonable. Definitely plan ahead for this and don’t wait to figure it out upon arrival. Drinking and driving just isn’t the move.
Where To Eat
Our second favorite part of the guide! Napa Valley is a foodie mecca. So much work and research goes into pairing wine and food, so of course, in a world-famous wine region, there is no shortage of good food. Napa Valley is overflowing with some of the best chefs in the world ready to feed you after you’ve drunk your body weight in wine. It does, however, mean that many of the restaurants are at a slightly higher price point than you’re probably used to—we promise, they’re worth it!!
We recommend doing RH Wine Vault (yes, another of the highly Instagrammable concepts from Restoration Hardware) for pre-dinner drinks or wine tasting and then following up with dinner at Bistro Jeanty. They’re both in the heart of Yountville. RH Wine Vault has an incredibly Instagrammable aesthetic with string lights, outdoor couches, and a backdrop of a vine-covered building. Bistro Jeanty is all things French, and who doesn’t love some steak frites and cocktails with names like La Vie en Rose? You literally can’t go wrong, and they’re currently offering cocktails to go.
If you’re staying in Napa proper and love sushi, we’d recommend Morimoto in Napa. This will not be cheap, but it’s so worth it if you love sushi. You can sit inside or outside on the river, and the vibe is exactly what you want: very cool and modern. We’d stick with the sashimi and nigiri because the fish quality is so fresh. We’ve never had so much sushi delivered to us at once—a true dream. They also have great cocktails and an amazing wine list. There are a few locations around the world, so it’s not exclusive to Napa, but we still have to recommend it.
If you’re on your honeymoon or truly ready to ball out, The French Laundry is a must. We’ve never had the chance to eat here, but it is often regarded as one of the best restaurants in the world. A multiple course fixed menu with wine pairings for every course and each person has his/her own waiter. What we can only imagine to be a once in a lifetime experience.
Other wine country favorites include:
The Bistro at Auberge du Soleil – Perfect way to break up your day of wine tasting if you’re in the Rutherford/Yountville area. We could never afford to actually stay here, so lunching is the perfect alternative to get all of the chic French vibes at a fraction of the cost.
Farmstead Restaurant – A farm-to-table concept that somehow blends Southern comfort food with a signature light, fresh California flair.
Goose & Gander – A St. Helena staple famous for its burger and cocktails, as well as a signature Sunday brunch. Brunch runs from 11am-3pm, though, so it usually cuts into our wine tasting schedule. It’s a great option if brunch is your last plan on your way out of town on Sunday!
Ad Hoc & Addendum – Neighboring restaurants from Thomas Keller. Ad Hoc serves a renowned family style meal that changes daily. Addendum is famed for its legendary upscale fried chicken.
Oxbow Public Market – Centrally located near Napa proper, this is a great stop for groups with a variety of tastes or dietary needs. It’s an easy, casual spot to grab everything from Hog Island oysters to banh mi to pasta—with drinks, of course.
Where To Drink
Napa is all about the wine, so now let’s get to the good stuff! There are so many wineries in Napa Valley that you could visit every weekend for a year and still not hit them all. Here are our favorites to get good wine and a good ambience.
Del Dotto is one of those wineries that’s a can’t-miss. They have three tasting rooms, which makes it an easy stop no matter where you’re staying, but currently, only the Piazza is open due to COVID. You may recognize it from a recent KUWTK episode—Kylie’s first wine-tasting trip—but we’ve loved it before we were influenced by our favorite family. We highly recommend the barrel tasting (if you’re there during non-COVID times, you’ll actually get to taste from the barrel in their wine cellar). The tasting is $80 for 9 wines and includes a wood-fired pizza and tomato appetizer—a must to avoid getting white girl wasted.
For a casual lunch stop where you can still wine taste, V Sattui is a must. They offer a number of different types of wine tastings, and their marketplace and deli is full of yummy bites for lunch. Instead of doing a wine tasting here, you could also grab a few bottles from their marketplace and enjoy a picnic lunch. Honestly, the wine here is good (I mean, it’s Napa), but not out of this world. We stop here on every Napa visit though, because the food is good, easy, and convenient, and you don’t have to stop your wine tasting fun.
We are champagne and sparkling wine lovers, but, regardless, we always recommend the first tasting stop of your day to be for a sparkling tasting flight. We love wine, but 10am still feels a little aggressive to start exploring some bold cabs. Domaine Carneros is our favorite stop for this (you’ll feel like you’re actually in Champagne, France with the incredible tasting room) or Mumm Napa if you’re looking to taste some champagne that’s exclusive to the winery, and not what you’ll find at your local grocery store. For a bougier champagne experience, we recommend Schramsberg. Domaine Chandon is another option for sparkling that is super popular, but if you’re choosing between one or two options, it wouldn’t be our top choice.
For anyone staying in Sonoma, SIGH. is a must stop when you’re done with wine tastings, but not ready to end your day of drinking. A highly Instagrammable champagne bar. They’re currently set up in Sonoma Square due to COVID and offer a variety of frozen cocktails, their usual champagne offerings, as well as apps.
Other wine country faves:
HALL Wines – A must for any cab lovers in particular
Inglenook – Stunning property owned by Francis Ford Coppola
Castello di Amorosa – A literal castle
Artesa – Stunning, expansive views of Napa
Opus One – Luxurious experience, but with a somewhat more formal, exclusive vibe. Would not recommend this one for a bachelorette party.
Stag’s Leap – Iconic spot in Napa Valley that some would say put the region on the map in terms of international acclaim and respect.
Tips & Tricks For Planning A Successful Trip
Plan ahead!! Napa is absolutely a place that requires advanced planning. Make reservations for all the wineries and restaurants that you plan to visit. You may be able to just walk into some of the tasting rooms at the end of your day, but for the actual wineries and acclaimed restaurants, you absolutely need reservations and we’d recommend starting to book at least a month out.
MyMaps will be your best friend. When you first decide to plan a trip to Napa, you will be inundated with opinions and recommendations. There are just so many stellar spots. In the last two years alone, we’ve spent 13 days total in Napa and still feel like we’ve just scratched the surface. As you begin to compile all of your recs, plot them all on a map. See where things seem to naturally group together location-wise and plan each day around that. The towns can take a significant amount of time to travel between and, if you’re on a tight schedule, you will want to minimize your driving time.
Be realistic. We are obsessed with wine tasting and there are certainly some destinations in the country where it’s possible to squeeze six or seven tastings into a day if you’re ambitious. Napa is not one of those places. We wouldn’t recommend more than four tastings in a day. Most wineries open for tastings at 11 (10 if it’s sparkling wine) and most start their last tastings at 3:30 or 4. Plan for each tasting to last 60-90 minutes.
Budget accordingly! As we’ve mentioned several times, Napa is not a great place to do on a budget. Accommodations can be pricey, there are many world-renowned (aka expensive) restaurants, and the tastings are not cheap. Most of our previous wine tasting experiences were for tastings ranging from $15-30 with the tasting waived with the purchase of one bottle. In Napa, however, the average tasting fee is about $60 with some going well over $100, and the tastings are waived with the purchase of upwards of six bottles or joining a wine club. You can absolutely still visit Napa or Sonoma and find spots for less, but just know that it may not be the full wine country experience that you’ve imagined.
Perfect First Time Itinerary
Friday, Day 1
If you land in the morning/afternoon, drive over the Golden Gate + stop for lunch in Sausalito on your way to wine country.
If you land in the late afternoon/evening, head straight to RH Wine Vault for a tasting
Dinner at Bistro Jeanty
Cocktails to go + check into The Silverado Resort (or your accommodation of choice)
Saturday, Day 2
Breakfast at Bouchon Bakery (Expect a line here, but it’s worth it! You can easily take your food to go, so waiting to order is the longest part here).
Champagne Tasting at Mumm Napa (If you want to get in as many tastings as possible, book your tasting as soon as they open!)
Tasting at HALL Wines (You’ll have to skip this one if your champagne tasting starts any later than 10AM)
Lunch + Tasting at V Sattui
Tasting at Piazza Del Dotto
After changing and freshening up, grab pre-dinner cocktails at Sky & Vine Rooftop. If you’re running late, be sure to stop here after dinner!
Dinner at Morimoto
Sunday, Day 3 – Option A if you’re heading home on Sunday/just doing a weekend trip!
Brunch – Napa is famous for their Sunday brunches. We’d recommend: Goose & Gander, Brix, or Auberge du Soleil depending on which is closest to where you’re staying!
Champagne Tasting at Domaine Carneros
Late lunch in Sausalito if you didn’t get the chance to stop on your way into town
Sunday, Day 3 – Option B if you have an extra day to spend in Napa Valley!
With an extra day in Napa, you’ll have time to explore Calistoga, an area many people miss on their trips!
Brunch at Sam’s Social Club
Champagne Tasting at Schramsberg
Tasting at Castello di Amorosa
Late lunch from Oakville Grocery on your way out of Calistoga – Easy to go sandwiches, apps, etc.
Pool time at Silverado Resort (Napa has pleasant, sunny weather most of the year)
(Tasting at Stags’ Leap Winery if you’d rather do another tasting or are visiting in a cooler time of year!)
Dinner and drinks at Ad Hoc
Monday, Optional Day 4
Late breakfast at Grace’s Table
Drive back to San Francisco and fly home
If you have a late flight, this would be the perfect day for the spa!
Images: Michael Warwick / Shutterstock; Giphy (2)
Traveling during a global pandemic is a sensitive and very hot topic right now. Full disclosure: I travel for a living, so it’s part of my job to take to the roads and skies as much as possible, despite the pandemic. As someone who has recovered from COVID-19 and has recently started traveling again, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly sides of travel in 2020.
There are some really great improvements to travel this year, and there are some not-so-great behaviors out there. For the most realistic picture of 2020 travel, I want to share all aspects with you so you can make an informed decision about whether traveling right now is right for you. Make sure you also check out the CDC’s recommendations for travel before you go, which include tips like checking your destination’s COVID cases and travel requirements or restrictions.
Travel precautions have improved A LOT over the course of the pandemic, and airlines and hotels are doing everything in their power to keep travelers safe. One upside is that even the worst travelers are mandated to adhere to certain safety guidelines on planes, trains, and hotels.
Everyone is trying to figure out what’s acceptable during these times, but getting on a plane isn’t the pandemic red flag that many think it is. In fact, a recent study by United Airlines in partnership with the Department of Defense indicates an airplane is the safest indoor public space. It also details why the risk of exposure while onboard (even on a full flight) is almost non-existent. However, the CDC notes that spending time in airport terminals and security lines can put you into close contact with other people and contaminated surfaces, which can introduce risk.
Masks have been mandated by most governments and large industries, so that’s non-negotiable when you board a plane or enter a hotel, and there’s no arguing about it with the staff on hand—don’t even try, Karen.
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10 Tips For Staying Safe While Flying During the Pandemic: No matter your reason for travel, flying can be scary these days These 5 tips will help you stay as safe as possible on your journey. If you don’t want to be traveling now, that’s okay! But, you can travel responsibly IF you take proper precautions & use common courtesy 📍Be sure to save this post for your upcoming journey 1) Wear a mask! This seems simple but there’s more to it. Get N95 masks. These are the best masks for protecting YOU. Most masks are generally to protect other people from you, but an N95 will be your best chance to protect you from others 2) Avoid Eating on plane. Additionally, you will want to eat and drink prior to leaving your house, put your mask on and it’s best if you DO NOT break the seal while onboard. If you have to take a sip of water, know you are breaking the seal around your mask and be careful not to touch your face 3) Wear a face shield. Face shields add an extra layer of protection, and also will cover forehead and eyes. They also prevent you from touching your face 4) Wipe your seat, and entire area prior sitting down with disinfectant wipes. @lysol has just been confirmed to kill Coronavirus, so use those if possible. Additionally, you can tag @passengershaming in your seat wiping and may even get a re-share. 5) Stay away from people in boarding area and walking through the airport. 6) Wash your hands like your life depends on it, because it does. 30 seconds! 7) Instead of Uber, use a black car service like @blacklane to get to/from the airport. Blacklane is taking extra cleanliness precautions to ensure safety of customers 8) Keep checking the seating chart to make sure you are socially distancing your seat if your flight isn’t full Perhaps that means giving up your first class upgrade for an empty economy like @mommypoints recently did, or flying an airline like @delta which is operating at 60% 9) Shower in hot water as soon as you get home & put your contaminated mask and clothes in a garbage bag or straight into laundry 10) Pick a hotel that is taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of their travelers. Look at last vid of @conradnydowntown
Major hotel brands like Marriott and Hilton have each come out with their own new safety standards that include PPE for employees, and new sanitization procedures for hotel rooms. I have recently stayed at both the Conrad New York Downtown and the JW Marriott Cancun Resort and Spa. Both properties are going above and beyond to make COVID-conscious travelers like myself feel safe and protected. These include measures such as extra sanitizing, mask requirements, and even waiting 24-48 hours to turn rooms over between guests, so that the cleaning staff is less likely to be exposed to germs.
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Social distancing at its finest. 🧍🏻♀️. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .🧍🏻♀️ Did you know that Cancun was certified as a safe destination by the World Travel and Tourism Council? Basically the WTTC will give a Safe Travels stamp of approval to certain destinations where new safety measures and global protocols have been so adopted to help protect travelers. Life was good in Cancun at the @jwcancun — I was able to let myself almost forget about the stress of the pandemic for a little while because it was SO safe there! Some of the measures they took to protect me were utilizing a car service that is also following guideline, where you have a temp check, and your hands, shoes, and luggage sanitized before getting in, plus the obvious a mask! Additionally, all staff wears masks, masks are encouraged to be worn by all guests, but will be mandatory beginning in August whenever inside. Also, hotels are maxing our at 30% capacity, which means there’s plenty of room to stay away from other guests and social distant at the resort! More details to come on TrustedTravelGirl.com soon! What would make you feel safe while traveling? #jwmarriottcancun #jwcancun ——— #seaturtle #seaturtles #cancun #mexico #rivieramaya #tulum #visitmexico #mariottcancun #prettylittletrips #cancunmexico #southoftheborder
Some destinations are being recognized by the World Trade and Tourism Council for their commitment to keeping travelers safe and healthy. The Phillippines just became the 100th destination to receive the “Safe Travels Stamp” of approval from the WTTC. Other “safe” destinations include Aruba, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Indonesia, and parts of Mexico. Destinations are even limiting the number of guests allowed in a hotel. When I was in Cancun, the state of Quintana Roo was limiting properties to a maximum of 30% occupancy.
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😳Why the hell did I wear this? Because you can travel without being part of the problem and while protecting yourself, and I want to make a point. Today, I am traveling through TWO of the most infected states in the United States of America COVID. But, I’m on a mission to share with you what exactly international travel looks like right now. I’m working closely with my destination to learn everything they are doing to keep guests and staff safe… and it sounds like it’s nearly fool-proof. So why didn’t I dress this way on my last flight? My last trip was a nearly empty 3 class (Flagship First, Business and Economy) flight with a business class seat, and no one next to me. Also, I was leaving a city and state (New York) with almost no COVID cases. But, here… my own city (Los Angeles) tested for nearly 4300 new cases on Tuesday alone. The city of LA— Not the entire state. That’s MASSIVE. And don’t even get me started on Texas (DFW). I want to show you that you CAN travel (if you need to or want to). You can travel and be safe, and you can travel and not be part of the problem. I don’t go to grocery stores, I wash my groceries, I have only seen 1 friend in semi close proximity since March 5th. I am careful. So if I’m going to expose myself, it’s going to be for travel— not for a party, or a trip to the grocery store, or anywhere else. It’s all about limiting contact as much as possible. You can be home and be more of a problem than someone who travels safely. But, a traveler travels. It’s essential to my sanity and my career. The other reason I’m wearing my space suit is my Antibodies… I feel safe having SOME low level antibodies left, but I just had A LOT of testing done and they are slowly going away. Although, long term immunity is looking likely in T-Cells, we just don’t know! Better safe than sorry, and better a trip to Mexico than a trip to the grocery store! It’s all about being RESPONSIBLE. See you in the skies soon… because travel always comes back! —— #backtotravel #traveltheworld #wearetravelgirls #girlovetravel #glt #traveldeeper #indtravel #prettylittletrips #beautifulplaces #travelisback #traveldeeper #travelstories #hazmatsuit
As with anything, though, there will always be a loud minority who can ruin it for the rest of us. I’ve seen some pretty bad behavior during my recent travels. Unfortunately, we live in a world with a lot of entitled people who care more about their “personal liberties” than the safety of others. Guidelines are just obstacles to them, and they don’t give a sh*t about endangering your health or making things difficult for those who have to enforce the rules.
Even when rules are in place, there are people who will look for the loophole. For instance, you are allowed to remove your mask while eating or drinking, so I’ve seen people nurse the same drink over a period of several hours in airport lounges and on planes. Some will take a sip whenever someone approaches them; others don’t even bother to pretend. You can bet I’ve sent in a few submissions of these maskless jerks to @PassengerShaming.
In some areas, those entitled people are actually a majority, and certain states and cities have refused to put mask mandates in place. As of today, 34 U.S. states require masks in public. You can bet I won’t be promoting or visiting the other 16 states that don’t care about the health and well-being of their residents or visitors. In my opinion, it is a necessary burden of traveling to do the research on destinations and support those that are taking this pandemic seriously.
The Future of Travel
The sad truth is, the travel industry is forever changed. We’ve seen huge downturns before with 9/11 and the 2008 recession, so it’s not hopeless—travel always comes back. But there are businesses that survived those downturns that won’t survive this pandemic. Landmark hotels like the Hilton Times Square and the W New York Downtown are closing for good. Closures like this mean fewer options for travelers. We will have fewer hotels to choose from, fewer airline routes, and fewer destinations open to Americans than ever before.
Also, a U.S. passport used to be a golden ticket to nearly any destination, but that’s no longer the case, as we’re not managing this crisis as well as other countries. In fact, we are only welcomed into approximately a dozen countries at the moment, which would have been unthinkable before this year.
On the bright side, cleanliness will never be taken for granted again. Passengers won’t settle for crusty airplane seats or dirty lavatories ever again. Fastidious cleaning procedures are here to stay, and that’s a “new normal” we can all embrace.
It’s not all doom and gloom in the travel industry. While urban destinations like Chicago and New York have suffered greatly, other destinations are booming. Mountain resort towns like Aspen, Park City, and Jackson Hole are seeing record numbers of tourists escaping the restrictions of urban environments for fresh air and outdoor adventure. Hotels, restaurants, and tours are booming with summer visitors, and many people are already planning their annual ski trips.
So, this isn’t the end of the travel industry, but a definite shift for everyone. By traveling safely and responsibly, we can show our support for the three-trillion-dollar industry that so many families rely on. Getting COVID tests and donning PPE is a bit of extra work, but it beats watching our favorite places slide into bankruptcy.
If you’re about to travel, hopefully you have a greater understanding of what to expect when you catch your next flight. If you’re not ready, that’s okay too; we’re all figuring this year out as we go.
Image: averie woodward / Unsplash; trustedtravelgirl / Instagram
It’s no secret that travel in the time of COVID-19 is a polarizing subject. While some of us can no longer resist the urge to escape and resume some semblance of normalcy, others are wary about resuming travel as usual. I’m still hesitant to get on an airplane, so for my recent Labor Day getaway, I focused on locations within driving distance of NYC. And I’m so glad I did, because it gave me the opportunity to explore a place I’d always meant to check out but often put off in favor of more exotic spots: Kennebunkport, Maine.
Kennebunkport is a shipbuilding and fishing village in southern Maine known for its beautiful beaches and delicious seafood, and is also the summer home of the Bush family (#TBT). Dock Square in the center of town is chock-full of adorable shops, fantastic restaurants, and incredible views of the Kennebunk River.
Maine is a great option for travel right now because it’s one of the states with the lowest number of COVID cases, and it takes safety precautions very seriously. All of the restaurants we visited spaced out the tables and took down names and phone numbers of diners for contact tracing purposes. Almost everyone walking around Dock Square wore masks (I even spotted a mailbox with individually packaged, free masks), and shops encouraged visitors to utilize their hand sanitizer while limiting the number of shoppers that could be inside at the same time. It’s also worth noting that, as of September 13, Maine requires out-of-state travelers to quarantine for 14 days or show proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR collected no more than 72 hours prior to arrival, excluding New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York.
How To Get There
Travelers from exempt states can easily get to Kennebunkport by car. The trip from NYC took just over five hours (with a short stop for food). We left on a Wednesday night and hit virtually no traffic. Coming back on Labor Day took us somewhere between five and a half to six hours. If you’re not within driving distance, other options include flying into Portland International Jetport, which is about 30 miles away, Manchester NH Airport, which is about 75 miles away, or Logan International Airport in Boston, which is about a 90-minute drive from Kennebunkport. Amtrak also offers a route to Wells, Maine, which is just ten minutes away from town.
Where To Stay
There’s no shortage of great options for accommodation in Kennebunkport at a variety of price points. Some hotels are right on the water near the center of town, while others are in slightly more residential areas that are just a short walk or drive from the action.
After some serious debate, we decided on Captain Lord Mansion, a charming bed and breakfast, which was at one time the home of sea merchant and shipbuilder Captain Nathaniel Lord. What really stood out about Captain Lord Mansion was the combination of its charming Federal-style architecture with all the modern amenities of a luxury hotel. It was great being just a five-minute walk from town—removed enough that it felt like our own home, but close enough to all the spots in town we wanted to check out. The hotel was also meticulous about safety. Instead of the traditional sit-down communal breakfast, each morning we were sent individualized and pre-packaged breakfasts that were home-cooked and delicious. I’m still thinking about the freshly baked muffin with melted chocolate inside that I ate the first morning.
If you’d like to be right in the middle of town, The Kennebunkport Inn is a popular choice with an unbeatable location in the heart of Dock Square. If you’re a beach bum, The Tides Beach Club is the only waterfront hotel on Goose Rocks Beach, which is one of the most gorgeous beaches in the area. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll be five to six miles from Dock Square, so unless you’re going for a Cast Away vibe, having a car will be key if you choose this hotel and want to explore the heart of Kennebunkport. Each hotel’s webpage details its safety precautions, so you can compare and decide where you feel the most comfortable.
How To Get Around
One of Kennebunkport’s selling points is its walkability. Almost all of the most popular spots are within walking distance of each other. That said, it was useful to have a car when exploring Goose Rocks Beach and some of the more remote restaurants. Though we didn’t have the need for an Uber or Lyft, they can be difficult to come by.
One popular alternative to a car is to rent a bike. It’s so popular, in fact, that when we tried renting bikes for fun for a half-day, Coastal Maine Kayak and Bike had none left! We did snag two of the few remaining bikes at Kennebunkport Bicycle Company, though, but if you’re committed to biking, it’s best to book early on during your trip or possibly make a reservation in advance.
Where To Eat
One of the main reasons I travel is for food, and my favorite part of planning any trip is mapping out each night’s dinner. Kennebunkport did not disappoint. Not only are the lobster and seafood options incredible and fresh, but you can also find places to eat that range from a casual shack to a multiple-course prix fixe dinner.
Our favorite spot was Mabel’s Lobster Claw. The ambiance was quaint and casual, with two large outdoor dining sections under tents. Mabel’s is a favorite of the Bush family and other famous names. I overheard a waitress telling another table that Martha Stewart and Patrick Dempsey were there earlier that week. After eating there myself, I can attest that the food is definitely worth the hype. The New England clam chowder was creamy and loaded with clams, and the lobster was perfection. For dessert, Mabel’s offers a blueberry pie featuring Maine wild blueberries, which are smaller and more flavorful than your typical blueberry. I’m not normally a huge fan of blueberries, but after this pie, I am a wild blueberry convert! FYI, they close for the winter starting September 27th, but they should open back up in April.
For a splurge meal, it’s worth checking out The White Barn Inn Restaurant. They offer a four-course prix fixe dinner that combines local ingredients with the inventiveness of a Michelin star restaurant. The service was impeccable and worthy of the hefty price tag, which is more than I can say for some of the other expensive restaurants in the area (ahem, Earth at Hidden Pond). This was one of our only indoor dining experiences, but my concerns were assuaged when I saw how far apart the tables were.
For lunch one day, we went to Arundel Wharf, which has a large outdoor seating section on the water. The seafood was fantastic, the vibe was casual, and the service was outstanding.
There’s an ongoing debate about where to get the best lobster roll in Kennebunkport. Perhaps the most widely touted spot is The Clam Shack, which is a literal shack in the center of town that has a long line of patrons at seemingly every hour. We enjoyed our rolls, but didn’t really understand the obsession. (I actually preferred the half-pint of fried shrimp we ordered as an appetizer.) A more underrated roll, absolutely loaded with generous chunks of lobster (an important consideration given the price), was the one at Arundel Wharf. But if you’re like me and prefer a hot, buttered Connecticut-style lobster roll to the traditional Maine style that’s cold and mixed with mayo, this won’t be your jam.
While some places are casual and seemed to have availability for walk-ins, it’s best to make dinner reservations in advance, especially if you’re looking to catch the sunset at waterfront spots like Alisson’s and Hurricane.
Last, but certainly not least, you must brave the line and grab ice cream at Rococo Ice Cream in town at least once. Rococo has a selection of 14 artisan flavors that rotate daily, unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. With flavors like Goat Cheese Blackberry Chambord to Sweet Avocado Cayenne, you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how good something so seemingly strange tastes in the form of ice cream. It’s also a woman-owned business, so we have no choice but to stan.
What To Do
Kennebunkport is a popular summer destination, especially for New Englanders, so the town was bustling with people when we stayed there. Whether you’re looking to simply lounge on a beach, or get more active, there’s plenty to do within and outside of town.
Maine has a number of beautiful beaches. If you’re looking for something close to town, Gooch’s Beach and Mother’s Beach are one and two miles respectively from Dock Square. Because of their proximity to town, they are popular and can get a bit crowded. For our beach day, we opted to drive the five miles to Goose Rocks Beach, which is a beautiful sandy beach that, though also popular, was a bit less congested than those close to town. We did do a quick trip to Mother’s Beach one night before dinner to catch the incredible sunset. Parking at the beaches can be a bit of a pain and you’ll need a pass from one of the nearby kiosks, so it’s best to get there either early or later in the day so you can find a spot without contemplating murder.
Maine also has a number of beautiful national parks, with one of the most famous being Acadia National Park. However, that’s another three to three and a half hours north of Kennebunkport. We didn’t want to make that kind of a drive, so we opted for a more local and off-the-beaten-path option for our dose of nature: a forest therapy guided walk. Forest therapy is inspired by the Japanese practice of “forest bathing”, or shinrin-yoku, and encourages participants to activate all of their senses and immerse themselves in the natural world. Some of the benefits of forest therapy include a boost to the immune system, lower blood pressure, and relaxation. It was just the escape we needed after living through six months of the dumpster fire that’s been 2020.
For casual drinks and a fun, lively outdoor patio, we spent a couple of hours one afternoon at Old Vines Wine Bar. The service was great and they had fun, live music.
In case my food obsession wasn’t already apparent, we spent one afternoon doing a foodie walking tour, which was a great way to get to know the town and familiarize ourselves with the local cuisine. We sampled clam chowder, the aforementioned Federal Jack’s lobster roll, tried local mead (also known as honey wine), had hand-roasted coffee and macaroons, and capped the day off with whoopie pies, the official state treat of Maine. How I’d gone 30-plus years without ever trying a whoopie pie is a shame that will stay with me for years to come.
Dock Square has a number of cute shops with local provisions. One of our favorites was Maine-ly Drizzle, which featured a number of unique infused olive oils and vinegars that you could sample (the stations were frequently cleaned and refreshed and only a few patrons were allowed in at a time).
☆ Check into hotel
☆ Explore the town, either on your own or with the foodie walking tour
☆ Catch the sunset at Mother’s Beach
☆ Dinner at Arundel’s Wharf
☆ Spend the day at Goose Rocks Beach
☆ Late afternoon ice cream at Rococo’s
☆ Dinner at Mabel’s Lobster Claw (car needed if you’re staying near Dock Square)
☆ Forest therapy guided walk (car needed if you’re staying near Dock Square)
☆ Rent bikes and ride alongside Gooch’s Beach
☆ Late afternoon drinks at Old Vines Wine Bar
☆ Dinner at White Barn Inn (car needed if you’re staying near Dock Square)
Images: Amanda Reiss
We may be living through a pandemic, but we’re still feeling the urge to travel (safely). After canceling trips that had been planned pre-pandemic, booking new trips we assured ourselves would be “totally fine” by the time they came around, and then having to cancel those, too, we’ve all come to accept that the pandemic has changed the travel game in 2020. Luckily, there are plenty of local places to safely explore that will give you just as much fun and relaxation as traveling abroad to somewhere dreamy, like St. Tropez. Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit—but to be honest, I did get a genuine feeling of being a world away when I traveled to Provincetown, a seaside town on Cape Cod.
There’s always something happening in Provincetown (which often goes by the nickname “P-Town”), even during a COVID-19 summer. If you Google “Provincetown”, you’ll instantly find all the historic info about it, like how it’s home to where the Mayflower landed in 1620. But what really makes this coastal town feel different from the rest is its free spirit and high energy. It’s a top LGBTQ+ destination, a haven for artists of all kinds, and it’s f*cking fun. Storefronts down the main street are decorated with signs that solidify the town’s strong message of love and acceptance. Commercial Street is a vibrant and easily walkable strip that serves as the town’s main street where you’ll find tons of stores, restaurants, and hotels.
One of the greatest benefits of traveling to P-Town during the pandemic is its mandatory safety measures. Social distancing is practiced at every establishment, with tables six feet apart at all restaurants and stores only permitting specified capacities. And mask enforcement is no joke here. You can’t walk around Commercial Street without a mask on. There are signs deeming it a “mandatory mask zone”.
It might sound like walking around a summer town with a mask on is a drag, but TBH, it really made me feel safe and put my mind at ease. And FYI, as of August 4, 2020, Massachusetts requires out-of-state travelers to quarantine for 14 days or show proof of a recent negative COVID-19 test, excluding New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Hawaii.
How To Get There
Except for Hawaii, all exempt states whose travelers can visit Provincetown without quarantining are a manageable distance away by car. We drove from New York and clocked in a five-and-a-half-hour road trip there, but it was an enjoyable drive with almost no traffic. If you want to ball out, you can also get there by boat. If you don’t have a casual private yacht at your disposal, you can hop on a Boston Harbor Cruise (which leaves out of Boston, duh). The ride is 90 minutes each way, and round-trip tickets cost $94.
Pro tip: If you’re driving to P-Town, you *must* make a pit stop in Northwest Harwich to grab ice cream at a glorious place called Sweet Izzy. It’s pretty much on your way there and only 50 minutes outside of P-Town. It’s a full vegan ice cream shop, and all of its products are made in-house with only organic ingredients. We loved it so much we stopped once on the way there, and once on the way home (calories don’t count on vacation, right?). It’s also located directly next to a trampoline park, a local staple that’s been around for over 60 years. Definitely pay them a visit too (tickets cost $8 for 10 minutes), but remember to jump first and enjoy your ice cream second.
Where To Stay
Provincetown is a compact, small town, so here’s an easy rule of thumb for finding a hotel: if you want to stay on the main strip of town (which could be loud), look for hotels on or right off of Commercial Street. This street is adjacent to the water, so many establishments have water views or are waterfront hotels. If you want to be somewhere with a little less noise, but a short walking distance away from town, look for hotels on Bradford Street.
We opted for Eben House, a bed-and-breakfast on Bradford Street, so we were close to the action but also got a quiet night’s sleep. The grounds have great communal spaces, like a porch with an Insta-worthy hammock and a nautical-themed saltwater pool area. It’s also a 60-second walk to town, making it super convenient.
Other options are Pilgrim House, a “centrally-located, year-round” luxury hotel that is also home to The Landing Bistro and Bar; there’s also Salt House Inn, a fully renovated bed-and-breakfast located right in the center of town known for its signature house-made rustic breakfast.
Pro tip: Upon booking your reservations, ask your hotel what safety measures are in place. It’s nice to get away, but what good is a vacation without peace of mind?
How To Get Around
One of the many things that make P-town so great is that everything is pretty much walkable. The furthest distance we ever walked during our stay was 12 minutes, and it was a fun stroll through town. Having said that, if you need a taxi or Uber for any reason, they’re available.
Where To Eat
No matter where you choose to eat, you’re pretty much guaranteed to have a fun and safe experience in Provincetown. Restaurants and cafes cater to all cuisines, but given that it’s a coastal town, you can’t miss out on the fresh seafood.
Our favorite restaurant was Strangers and Saints, an innovative eatery in the art gallery area of town. The cocktails are top-notch, and each dish was better than the next. There are even three different outdoor areas to choose from upon making a reservation. We picked the front patio (which we loved), but the herb garden and back patio looked equally impressive.
You won’t be able to miss The Patio when walking through town. The outdoor deck is decorated with huge blue-striped umbrellas and string lights. The vibes are better than the food here, but it’s worth a visit, although it’s on the expensive side. Reservations are required with a credit card, and there’s a table limit of one hour and 45 minutes.
The historic Red Inn restaurant is “all about old-world charm and new-world pleasure”. It’s the town’s classiest place to eat and has a raw bar and cocktail happy hour from 2:30pm to 5:00pm daily.
For true P-town beach vibes, you need to hit up Canteen for drinks and lobster rolls. This beach shack is filled with tables painted with seafood puns like “Oh My Cod” and serves excellent pre-mixed cocktails and quick bites. There’s also access to the beach, making for a great photo backdrop after a few cocktails.
Pro tip: Since social distancing is practiced everywhere, reservations are a necessity during dinner hours. Aim to make your dinner reservations as late as possible, since most things shut down by 11 pm. Because you can’t go out to bars during this time, a late reservation will allow you to enjoy your day to the fullest and give you a table to enjoy cocktails later in the evening over dinner. Be sure to call ahead and ask if there’s a time limit for your table reservation.
What To Do
It was crowded during our weekday stay in town, but given it was the week of Carnival (P-town’s biggest celebration of the year), we heard it was actually pretty empty compared to a normal year. Since the parade was canceled, this was to be expected, but there were still people out and about. No matter when you choose to visit, manage your expectations knowing that you won’t get a 100% genuine experience in any town you travel to during COVID (for obvious reasons). I personally thought we wouldn’t be allowed out of our houses until 2021, so I’m just grateful to be able to travel at all, even locally.
Enjoy a day poolside and let your rainbow flag fly at the Boatslip waterfront resort. Their bread and butter is their famous “tea dance” happy hour, but it’s unfortunately canceled for the 2020 season due to COVID safety restrictions. There’s a $12 cover charge that gets you a lounge chair and towel (cash only), and be sure to get there early as it’s first come, first served. They’re famous for their Planter’s Punch cocktails, and after getting lit from just two of them, I can certainly see why.
There’s an abundance of ice cream shops and candy stores in town. ScottCakes, Provincetown Fudge Factory, Cabot’s Candy Factory, and Ptown Scoop are some of the best spots to indulge.
Rent bikes from Provincetown Bike Rentals and put in that cardio work on one of the many bike trails throughout the area. Given that it’s a coastal town at the cape’s tip, the beach options are endless. Pack a beach bag, and don’t forget the SPF.
Weed is legal in the glorious state of Massachusetts. All you need to score some goodies is a valid ID showing you’re over 18 years old. The lines can seem long at the town’s only dispensary, Curaleaf, but they move pretty fast. Also, make sure you have cash or a debit card on you, because they don’t accept credit cards.
☆ Make an ice cream pitstop at Sweet Izzy
☆ Check into hotel
☆ Explore Provincetown
☆ Pre-dinner drinks at The Canteen (Note: they do not take reservations, but you should be fine without them)
☆ Sunset dinner at The Patio (the reservation table limit is 1 hour 45 minutes and a credit card is required for reservations)
☆ Spend the day lounging poolside at The Boatslip
☆ $12 cover charge with lounge chair and towel (cash only)
☆ Come early (first come, first served. No reservations)
☆ Open 10am-4pm
☆ Pre-dinner drinks at Aquabar
☆ 9pm dinner reservation at Strangers & Saints
☆ Check out of hotel
☆ Grab coffee and treats to-go at the famous Provincetown Portuguese Bakery
☆ GTFO of P-Town and head home
Images: Joana Mascioli; James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com
Your European vacation is canceled and your shoe-box sized apartment is sitting at an unbearable temperature of 105°. If you’re one of the lucky ones who still has a job, Mondays are basically indistinguishable from the weekend and your vacation days feel pretty much useless. At least we’ve made it to summer, and halfway through this dreadful year.
The CDC still advises against travel, and the best way to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19 is to stay home and limit your interactions with other people. However, being around people—particularly in enclosed spaces—is what spreads coronavirus, not the actual act of traveling. This means that there are still ways to take a vacation and plan ahead to ensure you stay as safe as possible this summer. As every company’s email newsletter informed us back in March, these are unprecedented times. So take precautions when allowing yourself to decompress, safely take a vacation, and try to dull the pain of 2020 with tequila sodas.
Travel, But Make It Local
Travel, both internationally and domestically, has obviously taken a serious hit due to the pandemic, with a low point on April 14th of only 87,000 fliers, according to the TSA. Since then we’ve seen a gradual increase in travel both in the air and on the ground as states rushed to open. Memorial Day weekend seemed to be the turning point when everyone just thought we could forget about the pandemic and get on with our lives, with a 48.5 percent increase in road travel compared to the previous weekend. Unfortunately, this jump and people’s general unwillingness to socially distance resulted in a huge spike in coronavirus cases. Anddd this is why we can’t have nice things.
The moral of the story: don’t be that guy! If you’re going to travel this summer, now is the time to keep your group exclusive and spend your money on fancy sh*t rather than just flocking to the hottest vacation spot (or literal COVID hot spot). Forgo the crowded Lake of the Ozarks pool party and show off your bikini body via Instagram from a private pool in an Airbnb instead. Skip the long flight and treat yourself to summer loungewear or dinner on a socially distant street-side patio. We’re always talking about how we want to be where the people aren’t, so let’s take advantage of this opportunity and built-in excuse for getting out of plans.
It also helps to limit your groups, wear a mask when social distancing isn’t possible, and avoid peak travel times. Before booking and going on a trip, be sure to monitor the number of cases in the area you are visiting, follow travel recommendations, and definitely don’t ignore some states’ 14-day quarantine mandates and get arrested.
“Help Me, I’m Poor,” -The Airline Industry, Probably
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While your pink Away luggage set collects dust, your preferred airline has gone into a tailspin and the remainder of 2020 is looking increasingly bleak for the industry. American Airlines may furlough 20,000 employees starting October 1st when the federal bailout expires. United said they could lose 36,000 jobs in the fall. That said, should you be rushing to give them your money? While before, you would probably book flights based on what was cheapest, now you might want to choose your airline carefully.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, airlines have claimed to be doing all they can to prevent the spread of coronavirus. However, as the economic pressures loom and lockdowns are lifted, there has been a gradual abandonment of precautions. Flights have become increasingly full, and airlines like American are booking back at full capacity. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) called his jam-packed connecting flight to Texas “incredibly irresponsible” and “high-risk.” Meanwhile, airlines are not prioritizing cleaning, according to a recent Association of Flight Attendants survey where only 44 percent of flight attendants said their planes were thoroughly cleaned and disinfected between flights. A worker from American Airlines’ evening shift also stated that she and a few colleagues had only ten minutes to clean some incoming flights before they had to board more passengers. Considering I spend double that amount of time just on my nighttime skin care routine, I don’t think ten minutes is enough time to sanitize a whole plane’s armrests and tray tables.
As we know from collecting air miles (remember those?), not all airlines are created equally. Delta will continue to not sell middle seats through the summer, and United will allow you to switch to a different flight if the one you are booked on becomes too full. While most airlines have policies advising all passengers to wear masks during flights, some airlines (you can guess which one) are not enforcing them.
Not Feelin’ Fly Like A G6
Air travel is risky due to the increased time around large numbers of people in enclosed spaces, but if you must travel by plane, be sure to take the necessary precautions. Take the time to disinfect your seat, area, and hands, and opt for shorter flights without layovers to help reduce your exposure. Dr. Farley Cleghorn tells National Geographic, “Choose a window seat as far from the restroom as possible. Keep the overhead vent open and toward your face—continuous airflow creates a small, invisible ‘wall’ that restricts (at least slightly) the exhaled air from other passengers.”
If international travel is essential for you, be aware that some airlines are prioritizing business class seats, which currently can cost as much as some people’s annual salary. While on July 10th American Airlines told flight attendants that “for now, it’s OK for customers to move to different seats in the same cabin,” that policy isn’t always the case. For one couple trying to get home to Australia from the U.S., their only option might be a $24,000 USD business class ticket. Somewhere out there an out-of-touch, super-rich person (Ivanka, is that you?) who only flies private thinks that must be the normal cost of a seat in economy…must be nice.
Trains: Bad And Bougie, Or Just Bad?
Trains can conjure two types of imagery: relaxing on a humming passenger train in comfortable seats like you’re on your way to Hogwarts, or being shoulder-to-shoulder on the subway with a guy who smells as you try to drown out someone’s argument with a podcast on your daily commute.
Doesn’t the first option of train travel just feel so European? While you may just be chugging upstate, it feels like you could be making your way through the Italian countryside. Even though European travel is off the table this summer, trains remain a safer option during coronavirus. Amtrak offers flexible bookings, limited seats for sale, and even private rooms. If your train travel is a little less “martinis in the lounge carriage” and more “essential commute on the L in Chicago at 6am”, you definitely deserve a vacation. Even though cities like New York have gone to great lengths to clean and sanitize their subway systems, transit employees have been heavily impacted by coronavirus with many deaths in the early stages of lockdown. Regardless of the type of train you’re taking, be sure to stay six feet apart when possible and wear a mask.
Roadtrip > Eurotrip
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Ok, fine, an Aperol Spritz in Positano is probably better than Bud Lights from a cooler by a murky lake, but traveling by car is likely the safest way to vacation this summer. It allows the least contact with other people and the most control of your surroundings, plus gas is at record low prices. If you’ve ever dreamed of being Britney Spears in Crossroads and driving down the highway in a convertible with your besties, now is the time!
“Traveling by airplane is much higher risk than traveling by car with your family,” Carl Fichtenbaum, an epidemiologist with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and Infectious Diseases, tells CNBC. If you don’t own a car, renting one is fairly easy, or upgrade to a camper van and convince your boyfriend that you are the next Caelynn and Dean, without having to meet on Bachelor in Paradise. Once you rent the vehicle, clean and sanitize it, then download Britney’s full discography for when there’s no cell service. (That last part is just a personal recommendation, not the CDC’s.)
Before you leave, pack a COVID tool kit with hand sanitizer, masks, and wipes. While on your journey, try to limit interacting with others as much as possible: bring your own snacks to avoid going into convenience stores, pay at the pump rather than inside, and limit your number of stops—particularly in public bathrooms, as they can be cramped, and flushing a toilet can stir up aerosol particles. (If we weren’t germaphobes before this pandemic, I’m pretty sure we are now.) Once you’ve completed your road trip checklist, you’re ready to hit the open road like a suburban family in a minivan.
Drinks Well Alone
2020 is certainly a wild ride, and America continues to be the world’s Florida. We won’t be getting drunk in the airport lounge this summer, and Maine is the new Greek Islands, but at least the panhandle state stays consistently wild. Plus, on the bright side, you can delay buying another millennial pink bridesmaid dress for your cousin’s destination wedding for at least a year.
With things looking so depressing, it’s definitely time to salvage what’s left of summer 2020 and book a vacation or even a long-term stay to take advantage of working remotely. Being safe doesn’t mean you have to stay in your apartment alone, but it does mean you have to take precautions and limit your interactions with groups of people. And remember, drinking alcohol doesn’t act as an internal sanitizer, but multiple White Claws can help you forget the terrible Zoom dates you went on in April and make summer feel a bit more normal.
Images: Anna Shvets / Pexels
As coronavirus cases climb in the United States, American passports appear to be losing their value. But America is GREAT AGAIN, haven’t you heard? Thanks, Donny! As if a raging pandemic, lack of accessible healthcare, and systemic racism weren’t enough, you can say au revoir to your European summer holiday, as well as vacations in a bunch of other places around the globe. Great. As the European Union prepares to reopen, U.S. travelers did not make the 15-country safe list and have officially been blocked from entering. So, where else can Americans travel right now? And better yet, should they travel or cancel trips this summer?
“You Can’t Sit With Us”—The EU, Probably
When the EU closed its borders in March, it was no small decision. The same goes for continuing the ban for Americans, considering the fact that 15 million U.S. travelers visit Europe each year, and the industry creates jobs for 26 million people. Clearly, the bloc’s economy will take a substantial hit as the travel industry’s normally bustling summer season comes and (likely) goes without its usual international visitors. The decision was based on epidemiology as opposed to the economy, with the New York Times reporting that the EU “sought to balance health concerns with politics, diplomacy and the desperate need for tourism revenue.”
Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan are on the list of approved countries, and that list will be reviewed every two weeks. However, it seems that the U.S. will have to make a serious reduction in new cases in order to be reconsidered, so we won’t be holding our breath. Unlike Americans, travelers from the approved country list will be permitted access to all EU member states, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. So if you had hoped for some thirst-trap pics for your grid in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon this summer, you’ll have to keep your posting closer to home.
There’s good news for some Americans, as the ban pertains to your residency rather than your passport. This means if you’re an American living in one of the approved countries and can prove your residency there, you may be able to enter. Congrats—it’s like a get out of jail free card!
Cruel Summer—The Countries Americans Can’t Visit
In addition to the EU, there are also a number of other countries not allowing Americans in. Canada’s
regulation hottie Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently announced the continuation of its border closure with the U.S. until August 21, with the possibility of another extension. Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and China’s borders also remain closed to all international arrivals.
honestly it’s surprising that the Bahamas are just now banning Americans when Fyre Festival was like three years ago
— Betches (@betchesluvthis) July 20, 2020
As of July 22, the Bahamas has once again closed its borders to the U.S. due to the recent rise in cases stateside. However, if you’re bougie enough to have a private plane or yacht, you can keep planning your vacation as long as you can provide a negative COVID test… but you may get roasted by the internet for being a covidiot if you do.
Countries Open To American Travelers
Dreaming of the beach? You might be in luck, as a number of Caribbean countries are open to visitors. Belize, Barbados, and Jamaica are all open to international travel, as well as St. Barts, St. Lucia, and Antigua. However, each country or territory has its own COVID restrictions upon entry. Some include providing a negative COVID-19 test no more than a week old, or temperature and health checks upon arrival.
Mexico is also an option, even though the land border between the country and the U.S. remains closed. You can still arrive in certain areas by plane, but keep in mind that states are opening in varying degrees, so not everywhere in the country is ready for visitors.
Despite the ban, Europe is not completely off-limits to Americans this summer; the open countries just might not be the places you have at the top of your bucket list. Albania and Serbia are European countries not yet in the EU that are currently allowing international travelers, so start your research on their tourist destinations if you really want to book a trip. Apparently Serbia has a killer wine region—who knew? Additionally, Croatia has decided to issue its own travel requirements outside of the EU’s restrictions, allowing for non-EU citizens to visit, but requiring proof of pre-booked accommodations. Meanwhile, in the UK (no longer an EU member, as you may recall), international travel is permitted; however, all American arrivals must quarantine for 14 days upon entry.
“Just Because You Ameri-can Doesn’t Mean You Ameri-should”
I hate to be the Debbie Downer here, but even though some countries are open doesn’t mean you should be booking the first flight out. The CDC and the U.S. State Department still have travel advisories that warn against non-essential travel. You know what sucks more than wearing a mask during your staycation? Being on a ventilator.
As much as you’re eager to take new travel Instagrams, we are still amidst a pandemic, and there are still a lot of risks associated with travel. Air travel may increase your exposure to the virus due to difficulties with social distancing and being near people indoors for an extended period of time. If you do decide to fly, take the common-sense precautions we’ve been talking about for the last five months: wash your hands regularly, wear a mask, cover your face when you cough or sneeze, and stay six feet apart when possible.
Travelers should also consider the practical risks, like obtaining health insurance. Some travel health insurance becomes void when there is a government travel advisory, so be sure to always check to see that you will be covered in case you get sick or injured during a vacation.
Many countries are not as lax as the U.S., with nations like Canada and New Zealand still keeping their borders completely closed to visitors even though they have drastically fewer cases and deaths than the U.S. The countries are also enforcing mandatory 14-day quarantine to anyone who enters the country. Additionally, countries like Australia have issued a complete ban on overseas travel, and any exemptions must be approved by the government. Given that the success of flattening the curve in these countries has far outweighed the efforts (or lack thereof) of American officials, it might be wise to take a page from their book.
Party In The USA, Because You Won’t Be Going Anywhere Else
Yes, 2020 has indeed been a horror show, with the U.S. as its main character. For now, let’s hope that next year gets a whole lot better and we can resume our partying in Mykonos in 2021. On the bright side, where other than America can we see a Karen go postal in a Trader Joe’s because her CoNsTiTuTiOnAL rIGhTs are being violated? Plus, there’s still an election that could go horribly wrong! Seriously, just so much to look forward to this year.
Do everyone a favor and find a friend with a beach or lake house, and just stay the fuck home/in said vacation house and drink margaritas until Florida feels like Florence. Good luck.
Images: Anna Shvets / Pexels
There’s a certain feeling that comes with the arrival of summer. As an adult living in New York, summer may not have brought three months of total freedom from work and responsibilities, but it did bring Summer Fridays, day-drinking on rooftops, and most importantly, weekend trips away from the craziness of the hot, humid city. But, as we head into our fifth month of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s clear that summer 2020 won’t and shouldn’t be what it once was. Most rooftops and pools are still closed, working from home means that every day could be a Summer Friday, and travel seems to be all but canceled. But while an escape to Europe or even a flight to California might not be in any New Yorker’s future, there are still plenty of nearby destinations that make for the perfect weekend (or mid-week, since there’s no real difference these days anyway) getaway.
The Catskills, New York
If you’re anything like the rest of us, you probably fell in love watching the second season of Amazon’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel—not with Dr. Benjamin Ettenberg, the impossibly handsome doctor who catches Miriam’s discerning eye, but with the beautiful, mountainous lake where the whole thing unfolds. The glamorous environment that surrounds Midge and the gang may seem like the ultimate 1960s throwback, but the Catskills are in fact alive and well, and with breathtaking scenery and one-of-a-kind hotels just three hours from New York, the region is the perfect place to head to this summer.
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Where to Stay: There’s no shortage of great hotels and resorts in the Catskills, and, whether you’re after a lakefront stay filled with water activities or a woodsy oasis, there’s a great option for every type of traveler. If you’re looking for the quintessential mountain lodge experience, look no further than Scribner’s Catskill Lodge. The bespoke hotel boasts the rustic-chic aesthetic that’s so synonymous with the area, and there are 20 acres of mountains, perfect for hiking and exploring, just outside the door. In response to COVID-19, Scribner’s is operating at reduced capacity and will be closed every Monday and Tuesday for deep cleaning, but the large property is in many ways a natural fit for social distancing, and guests can still enjoy its best offering: the hotel’s stunning surroundings.
If you’re seeking a little bit more quirkiness in your summer getaway, the recently-opened Starlite Motel is the ideal fit. The boutique hotel is the brainchild of three veterans of the art and design worlds, and the attention to detail in the property’s colorful look, which is basically straight out of a Wes Anderson movie, is impossible to ignore. Located in the heart of the Borscht Belt, the pink motel is actually less than two hours from New York, and don’t let the name fool you—this place is nothing but luxury.
For those deadset on recreating the magic of the Mrs. Maisel Catskills, it seems only fitting to visit Scott’s Family Resort, where the show was filmed. The lakeside retreat dates back to 1845 and is steeped in history, and the allure of the refreshing Oquaga Lake is as strong as ever. Stay in one of the hotel’s charming guest rooms, or follow Midge’s footsteps and opt for one of two stunning lake cottages, and then head to the Playhouse for all sorts of indoor fun, including a four-lane bowling alley.
How to Get There: The easiest way to get to the Catskills is to drive, but since most New Yorkers don’t own a car, and renting one isn’t always an option, there are alternatives. Amtrak and Metro-North both have several stops along the Hudson River, and from there, you can simply take a taxi or car service to get to your hotel. Depending on where in the region you’re going, it can take between two and four hours to get there.
COVID-19 Guidelines: New York currently has a travel advisory in place for 31 states. If you are traveling to New York from any of these states, a 14-day quarantine is mandatory.
Newport, Rhode Island
If you’ve ever dreamed of living in the wistful world of Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Bing Crosby, you’re probably already familiar with Newport, Rhode Island, the coastal town where the three stars’ 1956 film High Society takes place. Opening with a scenic flyover of Newport and its Gilded Age mansions, the majestic architecture and seaside not only set the tone for the high-class love triangle plot to unfold but also makes Newport itself a deeply alluring character. More than six decades later, the New England town remains as glamorous as it was when High Society’s star-studded cast graced its historic homes and properties, and it continues to be an obvious destination for New Yorkers looking to escape. Once the summer home of the Rockefellers, Vanderbilts, Astors, and even Edith Wharton, Newport is chock full of history, but it also boasts some of the east coast’s most inviting hotels and resorts, unparalleled fresh seafood, and gorgeous beaches. And just over three hours from New York, it’s easy to see why it’s such a popular getaway for urbanites to stretch their legs and enjoy the coast.
Where to Stay: Named one of the 15 best hotels in the Northeast by Travel + Leisure, Castle Hill Inn has been a star of the region for more than a century, and it was in fact where Grace Kelly stayed while shooting High Society. Nestled on a 40-acre peninsula overlooking Narragansett Bay, the hotel strikes a balance between old-world elegance and modern hospitality, and guests can stay in one of seven rooms in the original 19th-century mansion, or in one of 26 private waterfront accommodations. The hotel’s stunning grounds include a private beach, the Castle Hill Inn Lighthouse, and the Grace Kelly Beach and Gardens, and the natural distance and seclusion ensures that guests can still enjoy them all in the COVID era.
Another great option, and a little less well known, is The Wayfinder, a new boutique hotel created by a group of local Rhode Island artists, bartenders, chefs, designers, and entrepreneurs. If you want an authentic feel of Newport, this is the spot. Spend the day relaxing at the pool or walk just a few minutes into town, plus the hotel is dog friendly so don’t worry about finding a sitter. Located in Newport’s North End, the hotel is running a grand opening special with 20% off your stay and two complementary specialty cocktails from on-site restaurant Nomi Park for travel through August 30th. And realizing the uncertainty of the world right now, you can cancel your stay without penalty up to 24 hours before you’re supposed to check in.
For a waterfront option with a more contemporary feel, check out Gurney’s Newport Resort & Marina. The sister hotel of the ultra-trendy Gurney’s Montauk, the Newport resort overlooks the town’s colorful marina and features ample outdoor space that makes social distancing easy. The hotel is coated in beachy minimalism, and between Scarpetta, The Pineapple Club, and The Lounge and Fire Pit, you won’t even have to leave the property to enjoy first-class dining.
How to Get There: Although Newport is, like the Catskills, easiest to visit by car, the New England town is accessible via public transportation. Climb aboard the Amtrak Northeast Regional Train to West Kingston, Rhode Island, and then take the RIPTA Bus 64 to Newport Gateway Center (about an hour away) in downtown Newport. There are also buses available from New York to Newport through Adventure Northeast Transportation Service and Peter Pan Bus Lines.
COVID-19 Guidelines: Rhode Island currently has travel restrictions on 34 states. Travelers from these states must either quarantine for 14 days, or present a negative COVID-19 test from less than 72 hours prior to traveling.
Adirondacks, New York
The Adirondacks is one of those areas that New Yorkers often take for granted, dismissing it as just another place upstate. But in actuality, the mountain range region is one of the most beautiful places around, and with 2,000 miles of hiking trails and 3,000 lakes and ponds, it’s the ideal destination for anyone looking to get a taste of the wilderness after months stuck in the city. From Lake Placid and Lake George to Glen Falls, the Adirondacks stretch from just four hours north of the city all the way to the Canadian border and offer basically every outdoor activity imaginable. A visit to the area is ideal for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers, but don’t let the hiking fool you—staying in the Adirondacks can still be luxurious.
Where to Stay: Sitting on the southern end of Green Island on Lake George, The Sagamore Resort has been welcoming visitors to its luxury accommodations and seemingly never-ending grounds since the 1880s. On its more than 70 acres, the hotel features breathtaking views of the lake and its many islands, a championship golf course, and five outdoor tennis courts. Guests can stay in newly refurbished lodges or The First House, a recently updated private rental that’s perfect for families or groups. Aside from normal social distancing measures, The Sagamore remains fully operational, and all of its many amenities can still be enjoyed.
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If you’re in search of the true outdoor experience but don’t want to sacrifice the luxuries that come with a hotel, glamping at Camp Orenda might be the solution. Located in Johnsburg in the southern region of the Adirondacks, the camp offers canvas cabins filled with rustic furnishings but surrounded by nature. Guests can take advantage of hundreds of nearby hikes, rivers, and lakes, and unwind with Orenda’s all-inclusive dinners every night.
How to Get There: Depending on where in the Adirondacks you’re heading, the drive can be anywhere from four to six hours. The Amtrak route from New York City to Montreal includes seven stops within the Adirondacks, so you can find the one nearest your destination and take the Amtrak Thruway Shuttle or a taxi or car service from the station to your accommodations. You can also take the Adirondack Trails bus from New York to Syracuse and transfer to the bus to Lake Placid, Keene, Keene Valley, Schroon Lake, or Saranac Lake from there.
COVID-19 Guidelines: New York currently has a travel advisory in place for 31 states. If you are traveling to New York from any of these states, a 14-day quarantine is mandatory.
Kennebunkport may be best known as the place where President Bush spent his summers, but with several gorgeous beaches, excellent dining, and many charming hotels and inns to choose from, the coastal town is one of Maine’s most popular destinations for even the non-presidential among us. Situated between the Kennebunk River and the Atlantic, it’s the perfect spot for beach fun, be it kayaking, fishing, paddleboarding, or boating, and the picturesque town boasts great shopping, dining, and a burgeoning arts scene.
Where to Stay: For the essential rustic luxury stay, check in to Hidden Pond, a private resort nestled among 60 acres of pristine forest. Part retreat, part summer camp, this hotel is steeped in nostalgia, but unlike Camp Walden, where Annie and Hallie met over fencing and poker in The Parent Trap, Hidden Pond is also the ultimate refuge. The hotel provides a relaxing and private escape for couples and families alike, and Hidden Pond’s signature bungalows and cottages are joined by 10 new Treetop Lodges, bringing your childhood treehouse dreams to life. All accommodations are currently functioning as high-end vacation rentals, available for a minimum of five to seven days, depending on the accommodation type.
The newly renovated, waterfront Yachtsman Lodge and Marina offers the other end of the design spectrum, coated in bright colors and beachy finishes. A 10-minute walk from the center of town, the hotel offers an unobstructed view of the Kennebunk River and marina, and every room features a private patio for guests to take in the sights. And this summer, the Yachtsman has partnered with popular boating brand Sperry to create the ultimate getaway package that builds on their shared nautical aesthetic.
How to Get There: Although in other years, flying from New York to Boston or Portland may have been the easiest way to get to Kennebunkport, you’d now be wise to avoid air travel given the current risks. If driving is an option, the trip is straightforward and should take around five hours. There’s no direct train or bus service to the town, but you can take Amtrak to Boston and then the Downeaster train to Wells Transportation Center, which is just a few miles from downtown Kennebunkport.
COVID-19 Guidelines: Maine currently has travel restrictions for 44 states. Travelers from those states must quarantine for 14 days, or show a negative test result no more than 72 hours before traveling to Maine.
Greenport, New York
While the Hamptons are an obvious choice for New Yorkers looking to get away from the city, essentially becoming Manhattan with a beach in the middle during the summer months, there are plenty of other parts of Long Island that are often overlooked—or at the very least, underrated—and Greenport is no exception. Located on the North Fork, the town is known for its lush wineries, fresh oysters, and seaside village, and even though it’s one of Long Island’s northernmost points, it’s still just two hours away.
Where to Stay: Nestled in the heart of Greenport Village on the North Fork, The Menhaden is a small boutique hotel that opened its doors just last year. The 16-room property boasts a crisp black-and-white design palette, and because the resort is so small, it’s basically like staying in someone’s (very nice) guesthouse. There’s something for everyone, with several quiet beaches, wonderful restaurants, and some of the region’s best vineyards all within walking distance, and you can travel there in style with the Menhaden’s complimentary bikes or the Menhaden Moke, the property’s famous Jeep.
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Also in Greenport is Sound View, a charming beachside hotel with a 14,000-foot private beach that rivals the Caribbean and certainly tops the overcrowded nearby Hamptons. The retro-chic design is a throwback to the region’s mom-and-pop days of yesteryear, and the hotel’s 55 beautiful rooms are complemented by enticing amenities and top-notch dining, including a summer residency from world-famous bar Death & Co.
How to Get There: There’s no shortage of ways to get to the North Fork, and nearly every city and town is accessible by car, train, bus, and even boat. Many New Yorkers opt to drive to the region, but often, taking the short train ride on the Long Island Rail Road is even easier, as it services 124 different stations in the area, including Greenport. Bus is also a popular option, with the Nassau County NICE Bus, Hamptons Jitney, and Suffolk County Transit all offering routes throughout the area.
COVID-19 Guidelines: New York currently has a travel advisory in place for 31 states. If you are traveling to New York from any of these states, a 14-day quarantine is mandatory.
Shelter Island, New York
While any mention of Long Island’s South Fork immediately brings to mind images of South Hampton beaches and crowded Montauk bars, the region is also home to Shelter Island, a beautiful destination that’s slightly more off-the-beaten-path. Only 90 miles east of Manhattan, the small island strikes a perfect balance between modern sophistication and old-fashioned charm, and its peaceful shoreline and colorful harbors offer a much-needed break from the craziness of New York City.
Where to Stay: The Ram’s Head Inn has been welcoming guests to its gorgeous grounds for nearly a century. The tranquil Shelter Island hideout features a rolling lawn and four acres of land that has been painted with 12-foot squares, each six feet away from the next, to ensure optimal social distancing. Overlooking the water, Ram’s Head Inn has tennis courts, paddleboards, a bar, a highly-acclaimed farm-to-table restaurant, and nightly performances from local musicians, all of which can still be enjoyed whilst observing new precautions.
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How to Get There: Although Shelter Island is only accessible by ferry, getting there is no more challenging than the rest of Long Island. If you’re looking to go by train, take the Long Island Rail Road to Greenport’s North Ferry Station, and then hop on the eight-minute ferry ride to Shelter Island. If taking the bus is more your speed, climb aboard the Hamptons Jitney to Greenport, and take the ferry from there. Both options, as well as driving, will take slightly under three hours.
One of the oldest towns in Connecticut, Greenwich is full of history and culture, and it’s less than an hour away from New York. Known as one of the wealthiest cities in America, it should come as no surprise that much of 2004’s Stepford Wives was filmed in Greenwich, or that Bobby Axelrod’s insanely over-the-top mansion from Billions was on the town’s coast. The Connecticut town has plenty to see and do, with as much shopping and dining as the best parts of Manhattan but without the crowds, and the sandy beaches and celebrated mansions make it a hotspot for visitors around the globe.
Where to Stay: Located alongside Greenwich Harbor, The DELAMAR marries Meditteranean-style luxury with New England charm. The 82-room boutique hotel is steps from the Metro-North station, where New Yorkers can take a direct 40-minute train, and local beaches and Greenwich Avenue’s famous shopping (nicknamed “The East Coast’s Rodeo Drive”) are both within walking distance. Operating under new precautions that satisfy CDC guidelines, the DELAMAR is one of only a few hotels to reopen all dining and spa services, though slightly modified.
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With brightly colored shrubbery, stately green shutters, and art throughout the property, The Homestead Inn looks like something cooked up in a romance novel. Set on Connecticut’s coast, central Greenwich’s shopping, dining, and train station are just under a mile away from the 18th-century mansion, but the beautiful grounds and Thomas Henkelmann restaurant make the Homestead Inn a destination in itself. After reopening earlier this month, the hotel is implementing strict health and safety precautions, but all of its amenities can nonetheless be enjoyed by all visitors.
COVID-19 Guidelines: Connecticut currently has a travel advisory in place for 31 states. If you are traveling to Connecticut from any of these states, a 14-day quarantine is mandatory.
Images: Starlite Motel; Castle Hill Inn; Gurney’s; The Sagamore Resort (2); Hidden Pond; Read McKendree / Menhaden; DELAMAR; scribnerslodge, camporenda, soundviewgreenport, theramsheadinn, homestead_inn / Instagram