Making Travel Easier...
For Family and Special Needs Travelers...
As seen in Travel Insider Report 3/8/21
As COVID-19 positivity levels dip but the global pandemic persists, a recent informal survey of Facebook’s Traveling with Kids Worldwide group asked members what health- and safety-related modifications would make them more willing to travel with their children this spring.
Their answers were thoughtful and comprehensive, including such requests as providing voluntary COVID testing upon arrival and departure; isolating rooms for at least three days after guests check out; requiring mandatory and properly worn (over the nose) mask-wearing in common spaces as well as for staff; regularly testing staff; providing info on local testing; and preparing pre-made breakfast bags instead of expecting guests to visit a breakfast buffet.
Other requests included limiting elevator capacity; posting prominent signage regarding protocols; removing tables and chairs from public spaces that are “too close for comfort”; and timing guests’ use of public amenities such as pools, breakfast areas and reception space.
Said one mom: “[I’d like] having a guarantee that provides isolated/quarantined accommodations should you test positive, or low-cost insurance so if you do test positive, you aren’t stuck without options and a huge additional hotel bill.”
Another mom said: “I’d love antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer in the rooms, plus dish soap to wash non-disposable water bottles and kitchen items. Also, affordable bottled water and grab-and-go breakfasts and even lunches…even if I have to order it the night before. Then we can stay away from one more interior space while touring, [while saving] time and delivery fees.”
Hotels and resorts have been quick to implement health and safety protocols. But are they the ones preferred by prospective family guests?
In many cases, yes, according to those properties we interviewed. For example, Gaylord Hotels, a Marriott brand, is offering several Easter-oriented programs this spring with COVID safety top of mind. “At all of our Gaylord Hotels, we have redesigned our spring activities and events to deliver a fun experience for the whole family while integrating our new, enhanced health and safety measures,” says John Adams, vice president and managing director. “(Our) line-up of springtime programming provides ample opportunities for families to have a memorable spring break getaway or staycation with the confidence that their experience has been purposely redesigned to respect social distancing and an enhanced Commitment to Clean program.”
With protocols in place similar to those preferred by those we surveyed, Marriott overall require all guests and associates to wear face coverings and to limit elevator capacity. The company’s Commitment to Clean program also requires surfaces in public areas and guest rooms to be treated with hospital-grade disinfectants in common areas with increased frequency. In addition, Marriott places disinfecting wipes in each room for guests' personal use. Electrostatic sprayers also are being used to sanitize public areas throughout the hotels.
To help ease the risk of COVID-19 transmission through person-to-person contact, Marriott employs signage in its lobbies to remind guests to maintain social distancing protocols and has removed or re-arranged furniture to allow more space for distancing. The company has added partitions at front desks to provide an extra level of protection and is working with supply chain partners to make masks and gloves available to associates. Sanitizing stations are scattered throughout all hotels, including near the entrances and front desks, elevator banks, and fitness and meeting spaces. As for dining, besides enhancing safe food preparation and service practices, Marriott is modifying its operational practices for in-room dining and designing new approaches to buffets.
Similarly, many hotels and resorts outside of the Marriott family are also running Easter and spring promotions and have implemented many of these precautions, including the ability to cancel closer to departure date in case of last-minute illness. For example, Hotel Xcaret in Mexico now allows guests cancel their reservations up to seven days in advance with no penalty and has implemented 360 Xafety model to assist guests with COVID-19 detection tests at the company’s resort and parks. Guests staying at the property have access to a complimentary COVID-19 antigen test, with results delivered the same day, or a PCR test for $140, with results delivered within 24 to 48 hours. Guests with a minimum of four-night stay who test positive for COVID-19 before departing to the U.S. will be able to quarantine for up to 14 nights at no cost to them. This new initiative will be effective until March 31, 2021.
The 119-room Buenaventura Golf & Beach Resort, Riviera Pacifica in Panama offers guests the flexibility to change their reservations without any penalty or restrictions with the added benefit to reschedule for a future stay. Once there, guests have access to an on-site private clinic, Vidatec, which offer COVID-19 PRC tests for $95, quantitative antibody tests for $35, and antigen tests for $45. Results are delivered by email within 24 to 48 hours.
The Ocean Club Resorts in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos, located along Grace Bay Beach, offer a new cancellation policy where can receive a full refund up to 24 hours prior to their stay for stays between now and April 11, 2021. Turks & Caicos requires a negative test prior to arrival. The resorts also have started extending their concierge services to now help travelers with testing on-island during their stay. PCR testing is done for an additional fee of $185 per person onsite at Ocean Club East. Onsite antigen testing at the Ocean Club West location is available for $25 per guest. While the resorts’ suites feature kitchens, so families don’t have to visit the dining room, they have begun offering complimentary breakfast for those who do wish to venture out. Previously, no meals were included with their stays.
All of these resorts report that they provide ample signage regarding social distancing, mask-wearing and updated health protocols. Furniture in seating areas, pool, beaches, and restaurants has been rearranged accordingly. For travelers eschewing restaurant dining, all also offer the option to enjoy meals in rooms and suites via room service and takeaway options.
For family travelers interested in traveling this spring break, it appears that resorts are providing the precautions and testing to assure travelers are healthy and safe while on vacation.
Gaylord Hotels is unveiling some special COVID-friendly “Spring It On” family packages, valid between March 12-May 16th, 2021, to entice travelers during the upcoming Easter school break and beyond.
“At all of our Gaylord Hotels, we have redesigned our spring activities and events to deliver a fun experience for the whole family while integrating our new, enhanced health and safety measures,” said John Adams, VP and Managing Director at Gaylord Hotels. “Whether visiting Gaylord Opryland in Nashville, TN; Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, FL; Gaylord Rockies in Aurora, CO; or Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, TX, guests will enjoy the resort’s expansive water parks and pools, as well as an incredible line-up of springtime programming that provides ample opportunities for families to have a memorable spring break getaway or staycation with the confidence that their experience has been purposely redesigned to respect social distancing and an enhanced Commitment to Clean program.”
Gaylord Hotels’ inaugural Once Upon a Spring programming features live fairytale shows, magical games, artful activities and more. At each of the four resorts, kids can experience “Paint Me A Fairytale,” an interactive live storytelling adventure where Mother Goose paints to life beloved storybook favorites, including Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and The Beanstalk and The Princess and The Pea.
Little ones can also flex their culinary skills with each resort’s Cookie Decorating activity, where they can decorate and eat their own spring inspired creations. Gaylord Rockies in Aurora, CO and Gaylord Texan in Lake Grapevine, TX also encourage guests to challenge their minds with spring-themed escape rooms, including the Mad Tea Escape Room at Gaylord Rockies where guests are invited via an anonymous letter to a never-ending tea full of riddles.
In addition, from March 12 through Easter Sunday on April 4, Gaylord Hotels will present several Easter-themed experiences:
Gaylord Texan and Gaylord Rockies will present Easter EGGstravaganza with a socially distanced Easter Bunny Meet & Greet, Brunch with the Easter Bunny, and a game of Hop-and-Go-Seek during an Easter Bunny Scavenger Hunt.
Gaylord Palms will present an Eggspression Garden, an imaginative walkthrough experience featuring blossoming tulips, gigantic Easter eggs, a massive chocolate bunny and five additional spring-themed photo opportunities. On select dates through April 4, families can also enjoy a special Mr. & Mrs. Easter Bunny Character Breakfast in the newly renovated Villa de Flora.
At Gaylord Opryland, a special Delta Boat EGG-stra Fun experience will offer a themed indoor cruise that will represent a departure from traditional egg hunts. Kids are also invited to move, shake, dance and celebrate the season at a socially distanced Hop-Along Dance Party.
For those more interested in aquatics than Easter eggs, on March 1, Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, FL opens its newest extension to Cypress Springs Water Park – Crystal River Rapids, a thrilling new action river attraction that will twist and turn guests through speeding currents at three-and-a-half feet per second as they race past roaring waterfalls, crumbling limestone walls and larger-than-life leaves. The resort’s Springtime Pool Party will feature games, sing-a-longs and prizes to keep youngsters amused.
Gaylord Opryland’s Spring into Fun Getaway Package rates start at $259 for a family of four, Gaylord Rockies’ Spring It On package start at $219 per night, and Gaylord Palms’ Spring Into Fun package features rates from $199.
In separate Easter vacation news, the new JW Marriott Orlando Bonnet Creek Resort & Spa is launching Family by JW, a lineup of activities for kids and families that gives the kid-friendly Orlando travel market a luxury twist. From March to June, the resort will transform into a mystical fairy garden, with special programs focusing on magical fairies and wizards, including fairy-themed story times and interactive letter-writing; scavenger hunts and “springtime”-themed miniature golf and Spring break pool parties and barbecues at Palm Cove. For adults, the resort’s collection of events includes a variety of interactive and make-it-yourself activities involving flowers, alcoholic beverages, and body care products.
Spring events and activities for Gaylord Hotels and Marriott Hotels have been developed in accordance with Marriott’s “Commitment to Clean” and with enhanced protocols and social distancing measures. Programming will also operate in accordance with the latest local, state and federal legislation.
.My name is Dawn M. Barclay. My parents were owners of Barclay Travel Ltd. and later, Barclay International Group, and I basically grew up in the travel industry. Along with stints working with both companies and a few other travel-related firms, I've served as a senior editor/reporter at Travel Agent Magazine, a contributing editor at Travel Life, the meetings/incentive editor at Travel Market Report and now, the Contributing Editor for Family Travel and Special Needs Travel at Insider Travel Report. My articles have also appeared in the pages of Jax Fax, GoNomad, and Successful Meetings Magazine. I also write psychological thrillers and romance as D.M. Barr.