After months of closures and restrictions, some travelers are starting to get back out and explore. Washington, DC is slowly but surely reopening tourist sites and attractions. However, it’s extremely important to set realistic expectations and research every detail of your trip. You don’t want to be disappointed or caught of guard once you arrive the nation’s capital.
In this episode Rob is joined by Mark and Jocelyn Wolters. They are half of the Wolters World traveling family. Keep up with their travels on YouTube, Facebook and their website. Or follow Jocelyn and Mark on Instagram. Pick up some cool merch (including face masks) at the Wolters World store.
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Washington DC Covid Travel Tips Show Notes:
First things first – it’s OK if you don’t want to travel right now! This is a personal decision and there is nothing wrong with waiting until a better time. That said, if you do feel OK to travel and are willing to take the proper precautions, this episode has plenty of Covid travel tips to help you plan the best possible experience.
Advance Planning is Key
What’s open? What’s opening soon? Are the hours the same or shorter than before? These aren’t questions you needed to ask on a past trip but are critically important now. In Washington, DC sites are slowly re-opening, but not everything is back yet.
Understand that re-opening dates are usually estimates and not guaranteed. This makes it hard to plan a trip, admittedly. The Wolters suggest not planning a detailed itinerary but rather planning multiple possible things to do per day. That way if plan A falls through you still have other options.
Set Realistic Expectations
Traveling in 2020 will not be the same as traveling in previous years. It just won’t. The good news is that if you adjust your expectations to the current reality then it’s possible to have a fun trip.
The biggest difference from previous years is mandatory mask usage. In Washington, DC, at least until the end of 2020 (and probably beyond) masks are mandatory anywhere outside of your home or hotel room. Make sure to pack plenty of face coverings so that you have them available for the entire trip. If you like the cloth face masks rather than disposable ones, make sure to pack enough clean masks or make a plan to wash and dry them in your hotel or Airbnb.
When it comes to the sites and attractions, understand that some things might not be open during your trip. Things that are open may have limited hours. And some things open while you’re planning your trip may close before you arrive! Flexibility is absolutely critical for traveling right now.
Hotel vs. Airbnb
We’ve covered tips for Airbnb in a previous podcast, but there are even more things to consider right now. There is some evidence that travelers prefer Airbnb over hotels during the pandemic – but is it actually safer? There are pros and cons to both options that you should consider.
Hotel Pros During Covid
- Big brands have strict cleaning/sanitizing policies
- Low room rates in cities like Washington, DC since there is very limited business travel happening
- Hotels located near sites minimize local travel
Hotel Cons During Covid
- Interactions with hotel staff and other guests inside the hotel
- Probably have to use an elevator to get to your room
- Freebies like continental breakfast on-hold
Airbnb Pros During Covid
- Potentially less human contact
- Easier to cook/eat in the accommodation if you don’t want to eat out at restaurants
Aribnb Cons During Covid
- Very hard to know how thoroughly the host cleans
- May be farther from the sites and require local transportation to get around
Restaurant Tips During Covid
Small businesses, especially restaurants, are struggling. Eating at local restaurants during your trip is a great way to give back as a traveler. In Washington, DC there are three options at the time of posting: indoor dining, outdoor dining, and takeout. Not everyone is comfortable with indoor dining and outdoor dining can have limited capacity. But don’t forget about takeout! It’s a great way to try some tasty food.
While it can be tempting to order via an app like Grubhub or UberEats, those apps take huge commissions from restaurants. In many cases the standard commission is 30%! If you are staying near restaurants, the best way to support them is to order directly from their website (or even pick up the phone and call) and then grab your mask and pick it up yourself.
Museum Tips During Covid
In Washington, DC, all museums shut down in March and have slowly started reopening. At the time of posting most museums have re-opened at least some of their exhibits. But several museums are still closed entirely. It’s extremely important to check before your visit. Don’t rely on Google Maps! Individual museum websites are the only place for reliable information right now.
In addition, almost all museums require timed tickets. For free museums, like Smithsonian and National Gallery of Art, these tickets are distributed without cost, but they go fast! Don’t wait until the day you want to visit to look for tickets. Ideally, start looking as soon as you can to see how far in advance they typically released them.
Tips for Washington DC Sites During Covid
At the time of posting, many Washington, DC sites are still temporarily closed, including the Capitol, Library of Congress and National Archives. However, others, like the monuments and memorials (including the inside of the Washington Monument) and Ford’s Theater are open again. No matter what you want to do on your trip, you have to check each site individually beforehand to confirm its operating status.
And remember, things are changing quickly and regularly, so these Covid travel tips might not be 100% accurate by the time you’re ready for your trip.