Editor’s note: As America slowly begins to open up, here’s our next edition in our series of “Pandemic Road Diaries,” situation reports on first travels away from home during the Covid-19 crisis. This report is from Seth Goldman, Vice President of Production at Peter Greenberg Worldwide, who is based in Los Angeles.
My wife and I have been working from home since the pandemic shut down Los Angeles in March. We have four children, ranging between the ages of 9 months old and 10 years old. We desperately needed a little breather before another round of homeschooling, which is scheduled to begin in late August. Getting on a plane this summer was not an option, as it would be even more stressful these days traveling with an army of kids, warning them every other minute not to touch anything at the airport, making sure they don’t take off their masks, etc.
My wife has been very cautious during the pandemic, so I had to help her build the guts to go away for a quick road trip. Rental houses within driving distance from Los Angeles were either already booked or outrageously expensive. We decided at the last minute to stay at a hotel we have been to before: Palm Springs’ Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Resort & Spa. The reason: it was reopening the day we were planning to arrive, so we figured it would be super clean and not crowded. We opted to spend the extra money and booked a villa, which was isolated from the rest of the hotel rooms — it made my wife feel much more comfortable to be able to social distance from other guests.
It took about two hours to pack, and then another half hour to pack the Toyota Sienna with everything, from suitcases to scooters. But that’s pretty typical, with or without a pandemic. However, the first noticeable difference took place right when we hit the road: the lack of traffic driving from LA to Palm Springs. It only took about an hour and 45 minutes. With traffic, under normal circumstances, it can take twice as long! No need to pull over for gas or bathroom breaks. And no need to pull out the digital devices to stop the kids from fighting. Just some sporadic snack distribution. The Gods were on our side.
When we arrived at the hotel, all of the employees were wearing masks, which was strange to see during a vacation, but reassuring that the hotel was taking health protocols seriously. When we got to our hotel room door, there was a sticker seal (see photo), to prove that no one had entered the room prior to our arrival other than the housekeeper. Still, my wife assumed nothing and immediately broke out her own disinfectant wipes, to clean some surfaces.
The villa had its own small pool for the kids (see photo), as well as a barbeque, which allowed us to make our own meals without interacting with other people. The day the hotel reopened was a Thursday. It was only at 10% occupancy. It was bizarre to see the hotel so desolate during the summer peak, but at the same time, refreshing to know we basically had the entire resort to ourselves. In fact, the hotel even allowed our kids to use the adult pool that first day, because no one was there. The next few days, the hotel occupancy increased to 30% capacity, so we then could only use the family pools. The hotel told us we had to wear our masks within the pool area. We could only take our masks off when we were physically in the pool. When we broke out the beach ball in one of the family pools, a little girl asked if she could play with us. We unfortunately told her that was not a good idea for her to touch the same ball as us, due to Covid-19. Other than that though, there were no major issues at any of the three hotel pools. But the restaurants at the hotel and food service at the pool were still closed… another reason why we brought our own food to barbeque.
Since we didn’t send our kids to camp or take a vacation this summer, we had the extra money to cover the villa, which thankfully was discounted. A year ago, the same one bedroom villa would have cost $800 a night, with a reservation needed months in advance. This time it cost $500 a night, and was immediately available. (The other option we had been considering in Palm Springs was a small, three bedroom house rental with a pool. But that price tag was double what we were quoted for the hotel villa.)
While the price was right at the villa, important to note that there were some renovations taking place at the hotel, and that affected the noise level during the day. We did complain to the hotel, and they then waived the $30 resort fee and $30 parking fee each of the three nights. On balance, a successful, affordable trip with few surprises or incidents, and perhaps the biggest surprise for Southern California — no traffic.