Home About Destinations Contact Guides
Home About Destinations Contact Guides

Facebook Instagram Twitter Pinterest Bloglovin'

Monthly Archives: September 2020

My Trip During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Update December 2020: When I took this trip back in September, we had been averaging about 20k new cases a day in the U.S. for months. As of late, every day has seen no fewer than 100,000 cases, and many days have at least 200,000 new cases. In short, cases have gone up about 10 times since I took this trip. I do not advise travelling at all. Even with masks and social distancing, the virus has permeated our communities too much, and travelling can put you and everyone you come into contact with at risk.

I’m keeping this article up because I anticipate cases will go back down, we’ll have a vaccine, and we’ll transition into normal life while still being cautious. But again, I am saying do not travel at this time because these numbers are insane. We have a responsibility to keep everyone safe.

Hope is just around the corner. Please hang in there and stay safe, everyone!

I’m not here to debate whether or not people should travel. As long as you follow guidelines outlined by medical organisations (most notably wearing a mask and staying 6 feet from others), it is possible to travel with relative safety. I’m here to tell about how my domestic trip during the COVID-19 pandemic went, for those who are considering travel themselves.

But I want to start off by saying that consent of your living mates is vital. I’m currently living with my parents who are obviously older. They go out pretty frequently. I wouldn’t have gone had they expressed concern over my trip. The risk of contracting coronavirus is low but the stakes are as high as death, so if someone physically close to you is worried, that is completely valid and you should probably respect their wishes. Ask them before booking any trip and of course be careful for the duration of the trip, so as not to bring the Rona back to them.

Decisions, Decisions

For starters, I was looking for a place in the continental United States. Since it was my first real trip since March, I wanted to go someplace a bit easier. International travel is tricky and constantly changing. I also decided to go for a long weekend instead of a long trip. If the trip ended up being unenjoyable, I didn’t want to be stuck for a week or even longer. It was all about easing myself back into travel because this is the lifestyle we’ll have for a looong time to come.

The most important aspect of my trip was research, research, research. I started out by looking at what was open to see what locations would be enjoyable. San Francisco is closed down. Mesa Verde is closed. No way I’m going to Atlanta while it’s a hot spot. But then I found the perfect destination: Chicago.

The first step was finding out that a majority of the things I’d want to see there were open. They were. The second step was finding out if I could visit from Maryland. I could visit without a quarantine or test. Though a lot of people have been breaking the quarantine rule, seeing as it’s not enforced, it’s important to recognise that COVID-19 is often asymptomatic. So if you’re coming from a hot spot, at least entertain the idea that you might’ve picked it up. The third step was checking the local stats. COVID cases in Illinois were fewer than those in Maryland, which has a lower population. It all looked good to me!

Flying During the Pandemic

Flying Southwest

Car travel is a great way to get from A to B without contact with others, and also to see the environment. But I didn’t have time for that. Since I often fly with and trust Southwest Airlines, I decided to book with them. It surprisingly wasn’t any cheaper than it usually is. I checked in easily online and to do so, I had to agree to their terms of service regarding coronavirus changes. In effect, nobody can fly without agreeing to these terms. They also made an announcement that fees of $5,000 would be put on any passenger who did not comply with the rules.

When I got to the airport, everyone was wearing a mask. A lot of people were eating, which means they had their masks off. Both Baltimore and Chicago airports were less full than usual but only by about 20%; they were pretty crowded and it was near impossible to find a seat that wasn’t near someone else. Southwest eliminated the use of middle seats, which means that flights operated at two-thirds their full capacity. Both flights of mine were at capacity. I didn’t see any issues with people not wearing masks, or coughing, or anything like that during my flights, but it was off-putting that the airports and planes were as crowded as they were.

Staying in a Hotel

Usually I like to stay in hostels to save money and meet new people. No way was I going to share a room with others. As always, I used Booking to search for accommodation. I made sure to filter out shared rooms and only looked at rooms with an 8 or 9 rating. This is not the time to stay in a condemned hotel.

Eating and Tourist-ing

Eating takeout on the streets

Cases skyrocket where bars and dine-in restaurants are open so eating amongst others is a no-go for me. I was able to get some delicious takeout and bring it back to my hotel room, or eat it outside. This was easy since Chicago has parks laid out all over the place. It’s also a rough time for the restaurant business so if you can, tip generously.

As I said, the first thing I did was make sure that the attractions of Chicago were open. It’s important to note that during this time, many activities and museums are operating on first-come, first-serve ticketing systems as well as timed entry. Planning your vacation to a T isn’t exactly ideal but since I needed to choose a date and time for many tickets, that’s what I had to do. Giving yourself ample time to enjoy one space and then move to another is key in planning a trip to such an extreme.

Mask Up Mask Up
Mask up! Masks from GUA Embroidery.

Like with many areas of low infection, masks were required every place I went to, even in outdoor spaces. I originally ordered dozens of masks for the trip but they were too large for me. So, I packed a different mask for each day and washed each one after use. It’s difficult to always stay 6 feet from other people but can be done as much as possible. I practiced these doctor-recommended guidelines not only in establishments but outdoors as well.

Also bring hand sanitizer with you as sanitizing stations are never as common as advertised. Of course, get a smaller bottle for carry-on bags.

The Final Line (TL;DR)

My trip was successful but I have to attribute that to all the work I put into planning it. A lot of work went into making sure my destination was relatively safe, and Chicago indeed was. There was no point during my trip where I felt uncomfortable and like I might contract the virus. My only complaint was that air travel wasn’t as sparse as I’d previously heard.

If you’re looking to take a trip, use your brain but also follow your emotions. Do you feel comfortable going on a trip? How does your fear of getting and spreading the virus rank to going places? But no matter what, follow the advice of health professionals and be mindful and courteous of others. We can’t live exactly like we did before the pandemic but even with the virus, we can make the enjoy the world safely by being careful.

Safe travels, everyone.

This post was quarantined for two weeks before publishing.

Highlight: Los Angeles & Hollywood

Los Angeles is debatably the poster child of America. Hollywood culture is one of the ways we’re put on the map. I myself love a good movie and am amazed by what people in the filmmaking industry have been able to create and accomplish. But I had no idea what Los Angeles was like or what to expect when I first visited.

Los Angeles, California

There are so many fun things to do and see in Los Angeles. My focus was in Hollywood. One place you have to visit is the TCL Chinese Theatre, which opened in 1927 as cinema was taking off. Over its almost 100-year lifespan, it’s been known for red carpet releases with celebrity guests and the concrete outside its front doors. Concrete’s a weird tourist attraction, but this has the hand, foot, and other type of prints from celebrities across the ages. You can go inside for a tour, which includes a history of the theatre, but you can also go inside to see a movie. It’s about twice as much as a normal movie theatre but it is possible. At least stop to see the outside because this place is iconic Hollywood.

TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California TCL Chinese Theatre, Los Angeles, California

Harry Potter Golden Trio Concrete Handprints, Los Angeles, California

Speaking of iconic, another place to head to is Hollywood Hills where the Hollywood sign stands. This is actually a residential area but it’s worth going to have a look at the sign and the rich people houses. What I particularly liked is the desert nature, filled with dry-climate plants like cacti. What was recommended for me to see in this area is the Wisdom Tree, which is a small hike that leads to a tree. The tree is noted because it’s survived lots of natural disasters over its 40 or so year lifespan. Another popular thing to do in this area is the Griffith Observatory, with sweeping views over Los Angeles.

Hollywood, Los Angeles, California

Hollywood, California

If you’re into movies and TV at all (which you probably are), then you need to stop by Warner Brothers Studio Tour. An alternative or additional option is the Paramount Pictures Studio Tour. A blog post comparing the two is coming soon, but they’re fun ways to gain insight to the secrets of Hollywood. As so much is filmed here, you can even be part of a live audience for a show you’d like to see. Look into some of your favourite talk shows to see if they host any guests.

Warner Brothers Studio, Los Angeles, California

Paramount Pictures Studio, Los Angeles, California

Another popular option in this area is to spend a day at Universal Studios Hollywood. I haven’t been to this one but I love the one in Orlando! Disneyland is another theme park option.

Some other places to visit in Hollywood include the Walk of Fame, which is really not super exciting. That area’s very dirty. You can also see famous graves at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. The Museum of Death is located in Hollywood, too, but I didn’t enjoy it much. I did learn a lot but it was more of a murder museum.

Walk of Fame, Hollywood, California

Of course, I couldn’t go to Los Angeles without seeing art. The Getty Museum is one of the most famous in art. Oddly enough, I didn’t really enjoy their collection, though they did have magnificent views of downtown L.A. I felt it was sparse compared to places like the Met and the Louvre, though it does of course have notable artwork. However I would like to go back and visit the Getty Villa. The Broad contemporary art museum is another popular one. This is where I tell you that the worst thing happened to me in L.A.: I was super excited to see the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and they did not say on their website that they were closed for renovations. I was so bummed because their online collection looks incredible. If I go back, I’d need to visit them and also see The Huntington art collection and gardens.

LACMA, Los Angeles, California The Getty, Los Angeles, California

Some things I didn’t get to do in Los Angeles but would like to one day include the Grammy Museum and the newly-opened Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. I’d also like to explore downtown LA more and see its famous Chinatown.

It’s also a universal truth that you can’t visit Los Angeles without visiting one of its neighbour beaches, Santa Monica and Venice Beach. This area has a beautiful coastline and there are lots of places to eat and shop, as well. Though Venice has more of a town feel, I liked Santa Monica because there is more to do. I also enjoyed the peer. Rides and games on an ocean pier during sunset is my idea of a good time!

Venice Beach, California

Santa Monica Beach, California

Los Angeles is very, very big. There aren’t many skyscrapers but as it’s such a populous city, the area spreads out several miles. For perspective, I walk everywhere in New York City but could not do the same in Los Angeles. Apparently LA has a bus and metro system but I saw one metro station and zero busses when I was there. I was prepared for this since some of my friends in Los Angeles had often complained about the public transit system there. Besides the LAX shuttle, I used Uber to get around. It was not ideal and very expensive, but at least I benefitted locals looking for extra cash? Yay? Just be prepared.

Safety is also another issue that people worry about when they visit LA. Since I stayed in tourist areas, I felt pretty safe. Unfortunately the city is very dirty and there’s an obvious disparity in wealth.

Los Angeles, California

Overall, I actually didn’t enjoy Los Angeles that much. I felt there was so much urban development there but not enough people to fill it. The places I went were dirty. I described my experience as being in a Grand Theft Auto game. I hadn’t even told one of my friends this when he said he went to Los Angeles and it “felt like a Grant Theft Auto game.” So funnily enough, I’m not the only one who used those exact same words to describe my experience! I wouldn’t go back unless the specific opportunity rose again. But my experience wasn’t all negative. I really enjoy film and there was a lot to see in this area that exhibits the Hollywood industry. The nature there is beautiful and the residential architecture diverse. I loved the beaches. There are a lot of vegan restaurants and specialty stores. I’m sure there are plenty of hidden gems to be found with more time. Maybe I just need more time there to understand the city.

Los Angeles, California Los Angeles, California

My word of advice is go to Los Angeles downtown and spend some more time looking in shops, choosing where to eat, that type of thing. There’s a lot to see for tourists but when all’s said and done, I felt separated from actual Los Angeles life by focusing on tourist things since there seemed to be a geographical barrier. Be sure to find a good balance that works for you and you’ll have a great trip to Los Angeles.

Have you ever been to LA? What did you think?

Pin This for Later

Los Angeles, California Los Angeles, California

Facebook Instagram Pinterest Twitter Bloglovin'
© I Travel for the Stars, 2018-2021
Website design by I Travel for the Stars. Logo design by Ellen Hafer.