Meet Tracy. She loves traveling all over the World and decided in June it was time to get back to it! She's visited Universal Studios and Sedona/Grand Canyon in the last month, so come along to learn how covid-19 did and didn't impacted her travel experiences.
First for the Grand Canyon...
I stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott in Sedona in July. Check out this amazing property (photo credits to the hotel website).
Some of the adjustments to expect:
Must wear a mask at all times outside your room. Many places even outside do require a mask.
There is no concierge, so you be sure to research eating places and things to do before you go.
I didn't get elite status benefits like usual - no suite upgrade, etc.
No breakfast, but I was given a $20 voucher.
They do not clean your room during your stay, and you just ask for more towels.
The pool is open for a limited number of people. Make reservations for an hour of time.
Gym is closed.
Also, you cannot eat at hotel restaurants other than yours.
We flew with Southwest since they are very flexible and let you cancel on the app up to 10 minutes before your flight.
In the Birmingham airport, gift shops were open. No Starbucks though. Lounges in the other airports were closed - not sure about the Delta lounges.
Before we could board, Southwest asked us to confirm we didn't have symptoms and aren't sick. No temperature checks.
They still loaded the plane with preboarding for those in a wheelchair, and then 10 passengers at a time. A 1-10 lines up at designated spots 6 feet apart, and then another 10 line up after that.
Southwest is still keeping middle seats open (unless it's your family), but pretty much all the other seats were full. The flying times aren't the best with the schedule consolidations, but we got there.
They poured water and gave us snacks. Flight attendants wore gloves and masks, and I've never seen the plane so clean before.
You must wear a mask the whole time except for eating and drinking. I find the N95 easier to wear for the flight and you can just pull it up or down. The Birmingham airport sold N95 masks for $8 each.
I also saw many people wearing face shields for extra protection. You can get those on Amazon here.
I rented from Enterprise and the experience was actually faster than usual. This time we were met by someone, and everything was done on an iPad. Person had a mask, hand sanitizer and car was already sanitized.
We drove about 2 hours from Phoenix airport to Sedona. The next day we took a Pink Jeep tour and hiked several trails. Pink Jeep tour was great because it's just private tours or with your family. It was $100/person.
Sedona to the Grand Canyon South Rim is about a 2 hour drive. Grand Canyon was good. Pretty much everyone wore masks and things were open since it's outside. I recommend a Gaiter instead of a mask for outdoors. Get a 6 pack here. We also walked around Mather's Point.
I recommend getting to the Park around 5:30 or 6 am (like we did) so it isn't too hot. It's $30/car to get in.
We hiked the Sedona Airport Vortex, Chapel of the Holy Cross, and Cathedral rock (which was the most difficult) trails. We hiked part of the Bright Angel Trail until it was too hot. This trail goes deep so be prepared.
If you have time, you can check out the Slide Rock State Park in Sedona. The water was freezing, and you pay $30/car on the weekend to enter. It's a neat experience.
I really enjoyed staying in Sedona because it's peaceful, and there are a lot of trails to hike. It was a nice change of scenery from Alabama, and hot without the humidity.
Now for Universal Studios
We flew Southwest in June and had the same experience as mentioned above. It was mostly full except middle seats.
Since the park occupancy is reduced, we stayed at one of their resorts to guarantee park entrance. At the resort, they did daily temperature checks and then gave us an arm band.
Because that gave us early park access, we hit all the rides early in the morning with no lines. I wouldn't recommend buying the Express Pass while occupancy is lowered.
You must wear a mask except when eating and in the water park. Since the crowd was much less, that made up for the inconvenience of wearing a mask in the heat.
Universal Studios pumped hand sanitizer in your hands before going on the rides, and they did a great job of constantly cleaning things people touch.
All the rides were pretty much open and the outdoor theatres were as well. The indoor theatres were closed, and you couldn't get close to the characters for meet and greets. That could be a bummer for small kids. Biggest thing we missed was the teenager seeing the nighttime show. All in all it was a pleasant experience.
Tips to Prepare
Have hand sanitizer readily available. I have it hanging from my bag.
Have clorox wipes in a ziploc bag to wipe down your tray table, etc.
Take several masks in a ziploc bag. If you drop one, you won't want to reuse.
Biggest Advice on Booking Travel Components
Know your refundability rules. If you are unsure of something, wait to book it until you get there. For Grand Canyon, I booked flights and hotel 4 days before flying.
My experience was slightly altered with covid-19 safety guidelines, but it was pleasant and I'd go again.