Travel During COVID19: Safely Planning a Beach Weekend

After three months of pandemic quarantine, all I could think about was getting my toes in the sand. The team at Bali Hai Beachfront Resort* on Anna Maria Island offered me a stay and my heart surged. That's my favorite beach near my home town. Could I do that and do it safely? And, if I could... could I have any friends join? Here are the parameters and protocols that made it happen:
Beach Walkway at Bali Hai Beachfront Resort
Open Conversations
If you're planning on travel, have the uncomfortable conversations with the hotel staff - and with any friends or family that are joining you. Everyone needs to be on the same page with their risk threshold. If someone has pre-existing conditions especially, you need to make sure that safety parameters are in place. For instance, Bali Hai staff did not wear masks. I wore my mask in to pick up my keys, but that was my only interaction in an inside space with staff. And that was pretty low risk for me.

Two-Week Quarantine Pre-Arrival
A few weeks before the stay, a few of my friends (we kept it to less than 10 to reduce risk) who knew I was coming down also booked rooms at the Bali Hai. We had a conversation in advance and discussed what the two week period was before we would be together. We set a date and texted everyone to remind them that we were two weeks out and they needed to lock down their own personal and family health protocols in order to not put anyone else at risk. Everyone agreed to masks in public places and sticking to outside dining/beach time. If possible, have everyone coming on the trip get a COVID19 test five days before you arrive so that you can cancel if you test positive.
Lots of open, outdoor space at Bali Hai Beachfront Resort
Open Air
Speaking of outside, I think adequate outside space is crucial to safe travel during COVID-19's reign. One of the things I liked about the Bali Hai was that, like many older Florida motels, the doors all open outside (as opposed to an interior hallway.) That led to both heat and breezes, which reduce risk. I chose a room that was beachfront, and yes the view was gorgeous, but also, that meant that I could air out my room and spend a lot of time sitting outside.

Our group also agreed that any dining would take place outside. Spots like The Sandbar Restaurant, Rod & Reel Pier and Ginny's and Jane E's all had outdoor seating. And favorites like Eat Here and Vinny's Italian Kitchen had great takeout options where we picnic'd on the beach.
Sunset Picnic by Eat Here
Limited Touch
I declined cleaning service for my room to ensure that it had as few points of transmission as possible. When I needed new towels, I just let the office know and piled them outside my door. The cleaning team knocked and brought me new ones stacked outside.

I should also mention that normally, girls weekend looks a bit like all of us crammed into two rooms. I insisted on having my own room. (Partly for pandemic protocol, partly because I just like my own space.) Anyone who joined was on the hook for getting their own room. This drastically limited cross-touching or breathing in an enclosed space. We almost exclusively hung out on the beach, at outdoor tables and on our patios. Because the reality is that while community spread is a risk, it's a very low risk outside in the heat of a small, not-crowded Florida beach town.

Contactless Delivery of Groceries
Another great thing about the Bali Hai was that my room had a full kitchen. This allowed for making most of my meals at home and reducing the risk. I ordered groceries twice during my stay, from Publix via Instacart delivery. Both experiences were seamless (except for the 8 shallots I wanted instead became elephant garlic. NBD... but what do I do with elephant garlic?)
Dinner made at home, ingredients via Publix Instacart
Social Distance Sunbathing
Before I even booked my trip, one of the things that stood out to me was that Bali Hai had reduced the number of pool and beach chairs to ensure there was enough distancing for guests. Had that not been the case, I would have rethought a stay. But the grounds and space had enough room for everyone to feel like they had enough distance between groups and families.
Well-distanced beach chairs and umbrellas at Bali Hai
Get the Balcony
Sunsets on the Gulf of Mexico are amazing, but everyone has the same idea so they can get crowded. Splurging for the beachfront balcony ensures you have a private perch for the show.

Bali Hai Beachfront Resort is located at 6900 Gulf Drive in Holmes Beach, Florida. I drove to get here from DC, but you could fly into Tampa or Sarasota airports if you felt safe doing so.

* In return for a complimentary stay (with additional days/food and beverage discounts,) I provided social media coverage on my accounts and here. As always, I disclose when things are in-kind or paid, and strive to still give you an authentic account of the experience.

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