I Took a Trip To Miami During COVID – Here’s Everything You Need To Know
The only thing more polarizing than our recent presidential election is COVID-safety practices. Some people have been hunkering down since March, barely seeing anyone other than their cat, and searching for at-home remedies for cabin fever. Others have taken the government’s stance with gusto (or gone far beyond). As soon as restaurants opened, they went. Same goes for gyms, planes, hotels, and even “socially-distanced” parties.
Whether you’ve been on COVID’s nice or naughty list this year, it’s safe to say that you could probably use a vacation and maybe are wondering how that works in this six-foot-savvy time. So, I did it and am reporting back.
To get the full experience, I took a trip to Miami, where Florida governor Ron DeSantis has been accused of manipulating the COVID numbers to make the pandemic look less devastating and has gone full-speed ahead with the state’s reopening.
Spoiler alert: I did not come back with COVID.
What You Should Know About Flying:
I flew two airlines for both legs of my trip: Delta and Spirit. Delta is currently blocking out middle seats, and will be until 2021 so you’re not shoulder to shoulder with a stranger, Spirit is not (shocker).
Delta, like most airlines, has replaced their food and beverage service with a ziplock bag that consists of a water bottle and a few snacks. You can get beer and wine if you’re in first or comfort class on Delta because rules don’t apply to rich people, apparently. You’re also given a little sanitizer packet as you board. Spirit says BYOE (bring your own everything). Honestly, whichever airline you’re flying, I recommend bringing your own food at least. Many airports are open at half-capacity, which means many restaurants (even Auntie Anne’s!) are closed so dining options are limited. If you can survive on Biscoff cookies and pretzels, good for you, but I can’t.
Of course, you are required to wear a mask on the entire flight unless you’re eating or drinking. Compared to flights I took early on in the pandemic, people seem to be a bit more cognizant of how to properly wear a mask, which is good. I’m pretty sure they’ve decided bandanas are no longer good enough, and you need a real mask for your flight. BTW, if you think Coronavirus is a “hoax” and refuse to wear a mask, most airlines will give you a strike that bans you from future flights and will probably kick you off the one you’re on, too.
If you get cold feet, most airlines are offering no change fees into 2021, but be advised this does not mean you can cancel your flight and get your money back like you could back in March. This also generally does not apply to any airline’s “saver” (or, cheapest) fare, you would have to book at least the main cabin.
What You Should Know About Hotels:
When I checked into the SLS Brickell, I noticed a seal on the door of my room. SLS properties are placing these seals on room doors once they’ve been inspected by supervisors to confirm that nobody else has entered the room since it was sanitized.
Both SLS properties (they have locations in South Beach and Brickell) have added many new measures to their usual cleaning process to ensure the safety of guests and staff members. This includes incorporation of digital menus, disinfectant wipe + sanitizer stations throughout the property, and daily temperature checks for SLS team members and new guests of the hotel. They also informed me that they’ve purchased certified cleaning chemicals, fogging machines (not the party kind, the sanitizing kind), new air filters, and UV devices to provide elevated cleanliness.
The Novotel, also in Brickell, was even stricter with their temperature policy. Every time I entered the hotel, my temperature was checked. They also provided stickers in the elevators to signify where one should stand to be six feet away from other guests. I’m no math whiz, but I’m pretty sure the stickers weren’t six feet apart. A for effort though.
Like many places, the SLS is also limiting the number of people allowed at their common areas and restaurants. The gym at the SLS Brickell was closed completely when I visited, but both SLS properties are open again as of now. If you’re looking to get some luxury pooltime while staying six feet away from everyone else, I highly recommend the SLS Brickell. The rooftop pool includes three impressively-sized pools (1056, 2157, and 3154 square feet, respectively) with tons of lounge chairs (plus tables and cabanas, too), so you can almost feel like you’re at your own private pool. I was there on the weekend, and the space to person ratio was very, very good.
In terms of getting your room serviced, it seems like most hotels are providing service every few days unless you request otherwise. Oh, and room service is probably going to be limited. The kind front desk woman at the SLS South Beach did bring me some hot tea after room service closed, but the next morning when I ordered it I was charged nearly $20 for it. One day I will write a manifesto arguing that tea should always be provided in rooms along with the coffee, but that day is not today.
Lastly, most hotels have amended their cancellation policies so you won’t totally get screwed if you get cold feet. The SLS has changed their 72-hour cancellation policy to 24 hours. So, if you cancel 24 hours before your reservation, you can still get a full refund or credit for the future.
What You Should Know About Restaurants:
In Miami, indoor dining is open, which means things look pretty normal inside of a restaurant other than your server wearing a mask and you having to peruse the menu from your phone.
Of course, the weather is generally nice enough in Miami that you can eat outside if that feels safer to you, just make sure to request an outdoor table when you make a reservation and wear something light because it might still be pretty hot.
What You Should Know About Going Out:
An outdoor bar/deck party-type place called The Wharf apparently re-opened on the Friday night that I was in Miami, 11/14. It’s a large, waterfront space with multiple bars, corn hole, ping pong tables, and foot trucks/stands. While bouncers and bartenders were wearing masks, nearly nobody else was. People were dancing with strangers on the dance floor and randos were offering to buy me drinks. It was an extremely fun COVID nightmare. Miami-Dade still has a curfew of midnight, but The Wharf, which is in Brickell, did not adhere to the curfew and was open into the wee hours of the night, until at least 2 am (possibly later, but I wouldn’t know because I left).
In fact, as of late September, nearly all “going out” spots in Florida can be open if they wish, according to Florida’s Governor. This also included Mr. Jones, a bottle service only nightclub in the heart of South Beach. While it felt very strange to be in a nightclub during a pandemic, I actually didn’t really feel any more unsafe at a table at the club than I did at a table at a restaurant. There wasn’t a dance floor or any place for you to really converse with strangers, unless you were going to table hop. If you were standing too far away from your table, a staff member would ask you to put your mask on.
There’s also the curfew, which seems a little questionable in terms of how many people follow it, but it did mean that we hit the club at 8 PM and it was basically full, which the grandma in me low-key loved.
For a slightly safer-feeling but still fab evening experience, you might want to try a lounge. SLS Brickell’s SAAM lounge has a rustic-chic and classy COVID-safe vibe with indoor and outdoor terrace seating. Tables (and couches) are far apart and although they’re in Brickell, they adhere to the midnight curfew. They also offer light Italian bites along with drinks so you don’t get too drunk and forget to wear your mask on the way out.
The Final Verdict: Should You Take a Trip?
As my therapist has told me multiple times, I cannot make your decisions for you. Ultimately, anything you do during COVID carries some amount of risk, especially if it involves taking off your mask.
What it seems most people have been doing since March is picking their battles. When I visited family this summer, my father made me wear a mask around the house until I got my test results back, but happily visited his massage therapist in her home once a week. My friend’s employer has been making them go into the office since June, but randomly is deciding to make all employees that go home for the holidays quarantine upon their return (this will be unpaid, naturally). All I am here to do is give you the facts, so that if you are someone who says, “Fuck it, I need a vacation,” you know what to do and what to expect. Bon voyage—whether you’re headed to Mexico or to your couch.