The New Normal in Travel

The new world is now opening its doors back to travelers, so we need to be ready for what is in store for us. In the midst of the limited openings in Northern California, I took the chance to go on a road trip with my furry friend to experience first-hand the changes that we should expect as a traveler. 
A cool night in Blue Sky Center, New Cuyama
Glamping Away from the Crowd
Little House on Wheels 
For the adventurer at heart, transversing to smaller towns is the best place to social distance whether through glamping or bringing your own tent. At campgrounds, such as Blue Sky Center in New Cuyama, which has a population of around 500,  amenities have been cut back, but the host, Melanie, was highly communicative before and during my stay via text. Unfortunately, I was only informed one week before my check-in date, when I was already on the road, that the communal kitchen will no longer have any shared kitchen utensils. Note that within New Cuyama, there are only 2 restaurants opened with limited services and offerings and only 1 convenience store, which doesn't have the most competitive pricing. 

Tip: If you visiting a very small town, come prepared with your own kitchen utensils and food. 

Blue Sky Center
Blue Sky Center has 5 huts total and is dog friendly. My shiba is on the Quonset hut.
Summer in the California desert also means that outdoor activities, such as hiking, would not be highly recommended during the day time since most trails, which are 20 minutes to an hour away, don't have shade or trees. The temperature rises to 100 Fahrenheit degrees mid-day. Therefore, it is imperative that you plan your own entertainment, such as board games or go for a day trip to a bigger, more bustling town. 

If you opt for a hut in Blue Sky Center, it is now operating only during the weekends with a minimum of a 2-night stay. I was able to book through Hipcamp with a $10 discount (use my referral code "CHRISTINEL5C18ED" for new customers). 

Shiny Airstreams
Airstreams are shiny RVs that are eye-candy-- even more so when they are properly designed and equipped inside with a private bath, bed, and kitchen. The best way to find where you can rent one is through Hipcamp or Airbnb.  

Kimpton Goodland's decorated Airstream
Sanitation at Hotels and Restaurants 
Sanitation Kits
Depending on which county you are in, some hotels and restaurants are now opened in a limited capacity. I was glad to find out that my favorite pet-friendly hotel, Kimpton, is opened for business. Upon check-in at their Goleta location, I was provided the same level of customer service expected of the Kimpton brand. The receptionist was wearing a mask and gloves and provided me with the sanitation kit below. My room also had another pack waiting for me. 
sanitation kit
Kimpton Goodland's sanitation kit includes a face mask, hand sanitizer and anti-septic wipes.

Say Goodbye to Breakfast Buffets
Hotel buffet breakfast is now a thing of the past. At La Quinta Inn & Suites by Wyndham in Paso Robles, the bar station was set up with the usual breakfast suspects. With a glass division between the customer and staff, I verbally picked out the items I wanted, and the friendly staff put everything in a to-go bag. Guests are not encouraged to eat at the lobby/restaurant tables. After a pump or two of the hand sanitizer provided at the counter, off I went to go about my day with my to-go breakfast in tow. 

Say Hello to Patio Dining
At most restaurants, outdoor seating is now available for patrons-- which is particularly beneficial for furry friends. I also observed that higher-end restaurants are now matching their staff's face masks with their uniform. Bonus points go to Paso Robles' Thomas Hill Organics, where the packaging of the hand sanitizer in black and white is in sync with their staff's uniform. 

Matching that hand sanitizer packaging with Thomas Hill Organics' staff uniform
Timed Reservations
Apart from hand sanitizers in each table, wineries, such as Eberle Winery and a few others in the wine region of Paso Robles, are now enforcing timed reservations to better control capacity and plan out seating arrangements ahead of time.

Cheers to wine and hand sanitizer
Paso Robles
Socially distanced in Eberle Winery's outdoor area
Stricter Policies for the Indoors
I was able to visit indoor-only venues, such as Eleven Twenty-Two, which is rated as one of the best speakeasies in the world 2018, during their soft-opening post-COVID. They are currently operating at half capacity and enforcing a strict policy for customers to wear masks at all times when they are not seated. Of course, a hand sanitizer is provided at each table as well. Since I was enclosed in a small, air-conditioned room and needed to take off my mask to sip my cocktail, I was skeptical of how safe indoor venues really are at this time. 

Eleven Twenty-Two
Mojito and a pump of hand sanitizer, please
Car Rentals Disinfected
Renting a car doesn't have to be daunting in this new normal. Upon opening my Avis rental car, I was greeted with a red sticker that stated that the vehicle was cleaned with EPA-certified products. Happy to report that the interior of the car didn't smell since I'm always wary about chemicals or strong odors triggering my migraines. 
Thanks, Percy!
Prepare for the New Normal 
Whether you're planning for your first trip post-COVID or the next, you must prepare yourself for the new normal. Besides bringing your own hand sanitizer, pack your own disinfectant spray (I made a DIY alcohol solution with lavender and tea tree essential oils) for your accommodations and car plus extra masks, sanitizer and wipes. 

In a week's time, I tried more than 2 dozens different hand sanitizers provided to me at restaurants and retail shops. What I noticed is that some sanitizers caused white patches on my leather bag although I was able to clean it easily with water. Please be aware of the ingredients in the sanitizers you're using. 

Don't forget to research the COVID policies of the counties and the venues you would like to visit -- what was ok to walk-in before may require advanced reservations now, for instance.  

Most importantly, find the silver lining in the new normal we're now living in. I, for example, thoroughly enjoyed a drive-through July 4th fireworks viewing experience since I just comfortably waited inside my car without any obstruction to my view of the perfect skies. 

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