I Traveled during a Pandemic
And only because I really, really had to.
Charm City (aka Baltimore) holds a special place in my heart. My family and friends frequent the city for its seafood, harbor-views, art, history, seafood and…did I say seafood twice? Sorry.
It was our go-to hangout spot, with each visit bringing something new that we hadn’t discovered before.
Of course, that was all before the pandemic.
After months of my job only needing me to work safely and comfortably from my computer at home, I suddenly received a request to travel to my beloved Charm City for a “very important business weekend.”
My first thought was, “can’t this just be an email?” I even asked if we could attend virtually…you know, like we’d been doing for the last six months. I got a response along the lines of, “No.” Oop!
When you’re the youngest person on the team, and the only woman of color, and it’s your first job out of college, you kinda feel obligated to attend. Is this an example of one of the negatives of corporate Capitalism? Absolutely. But anyway…
Baltimore has a Black population of over 60%, and as we know that Black and Brown communities are disproportionately affected by Covid-19, I was extremely hesitant to travel to the inner city.
I spent the next few weeks trying to schedule ways to make 9am and 9pm meetings in Baltimore while traveling back and forth from DC over the course of two days. But after looking at gas prices, my “gently used” car, and considering sleep deprivation, I very soon accepted that wasn’t going to happen. I would need to stay overnight, and I wasn’t about to ask to stay with my at-risk relatives in the city…which meant I’d have to book a hotel.
A symbol of Baltimore’s historic past, Sagamore Pendry Baltimore is the reinvention of one of the city’s most storied properties, perched on a pier in the center of Fell’s Point neighborhood. The hotel was renovated with a creative vision rooted in its historic Charm City allure. Yes, I am a history and architecture buff.
The hotel is also home to the Italian-influenced “Rec Pier Chop House” and a seasonal pool bar and grill. As far as accommodations go, all of the 128 guest rooms and suites combine Baltimore’s heritage and history with modern amenities and design. Marble bathrooms, large bay windows, and plush, comfortable beds bring an air of luxury and historical taste.
But room rates are pricey.
I traveled to the Pendry with certain privileges because of my job. And while the rate I received was lower than what others might pay, I can very confidently say that the Pendry is worth the higher cost and 4+ star reviews. I would recommend the hotel for comfortable business travel, a romantic getaway, or even just a solo trip if you really want to treat yourself.
And, to answer the question I know you must be thinking:
The hotel staff goes above and beyond to keep guests safe and comfortable during the pandemic.
From providing health kits equipped with masks, hand sanitizer, cleansing wipes and health information; to enforcing mask-wearing and social distancing in common areas for hotel staff and guests, I felt very secure and able to work comfortably knowing that efforts were being made to keep myself and others safe.
The hotel was also not overly populated, and I frequently took advantage of the room service option to avoid eating inside the restaurant. Higher-end hotel privileges and amenities like these may not be what you’d find at smaller, cheaper hotels operating at this time.
For the purposes of my travel and my desire to remain pandemic-conscious, the Pendry exceeded my expectations when it came to keeping guests and attendants safe. Surrounded by local culture, architecture, and minutes away from the inner harbor, there is an abundance of things to do while remaining socially distant. To put it simply: if you can afford it, I highly recommend the Pendry.
Whenever I review a hotel, I have to talk about the surrounding area. Remember that point about traveling consciously, especially when it’s to Black and Brown communities?
Luxury hotels and resorts often have the negative of being surrounded by neighborhoods suffering from gentrification and tourists — often called “tourist towns” or “resort towns.”
The Baltimore Pendry is located in historic Fells Point, one of Baltimore’s oldest neighborhoods. Fells Point’s prosperity largely comes from immigrants who flowed to the area to fill the jobs being created in the late 1700s. However, the professional class moved north to higher ground and lower densities, leaving behind the area’s more diverse working class.
But in recent years, more boutiques and restaurants have opened in Fells Point to serve the growing professional class in the area and participated in its gentrification. Development of the city’s posh Harbor East community has replaced aging brownfields and warehouses and served as a bridge, connecting the touristy Inner Harbor with the Fells Point community. This is great for tourists, but not so much for working class locals who aren’t benefiting financially from the influx of visitors.
I remember inviting some (white) friends from up North to visit Baltimore, and their first response was, “no, too many criminals are there.” Huh? First off, many of the city’s Black communities are over-policed, horribly underfunded, and suffering from decades of discrimination and gentrification. But in spite of that, Charm City is one of the most lively, cultured, beautiful places I’ve ever been to (and in my opinion, it has hella more interesting museums than DC).
There are still tons of small business (many Black-owned) in Fells Point and outer Baltimore that you can support, like Saturday Morning Cafe, Everyone’s Place, and Keepers Vintage. And the plethora of history and art museums in the area are some of the best in the country (in my humble opinion).
Acknowledging the effects of gentrification — especially in a tourist city — are important, and it should influence the way we approach travel in that particular area.
It gives room for research and learning more about sustainable places to eat, shop, and enjoy our time…and this extra research often leads to a more unique and authentic experience.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
No one can predict what the COVID-19 pandemic will do this fall, or even into 2021. Due to that unpredictability, shorter and more economical trips may be the answer.
If you do travel, expect to see new policies for social distancing and sanitation at airports, on planes, with tour operators and at hotels. You’ll likely notice hand sanitizers and masks at check-in points. You’re also likely have more luck booking flights to major destinations globally, as there are so many more variables to factor in for remote locations.
Take it from a frequent traveler — it probably isn’t worth the risk. But if you really, really have to: research.
What safety measures are hotels taking? How is the pandemic affecting that particular community? What restrictions are in place? How can you actively keep yourself and others safe while you’re traveling?
As a United States citizen, international countries accepting my passport are few and far between (and for good reason, unfortunately). If I have to travel, it will likely be locally or domestically, at least for the near-future. Thus, I always stick to these four rules:
- Can I make it a day-trip instead? If not:
- Go with contactless check-in/payment when available
- Anticipate your travel needs (masks, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies)
- Opt for outside dining and activities
This may seem like a fairly simple list, but it’s only a baseline to the guidances we should be taking when risking travel. I’m not here to discourage you from travel. I just, personally, would not do it right now.
After my first travel experience during a pandemic, I can say that I was confident in the safety measures I took. Would it have been safer to take a day trip or commute back and forth? Yes. But did I enjoy sitting in the lap of luxury for two days? Also yes.
So, you do you. But, like, an even safer version of you.