My husband, my daughter and I went on a road trip to Cincinnati, Ohio from our home in Troy, Michigan recently. We had not travelled for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We needed to go to Cincinnati to shop for apartments for my daughter because she starts graduate school at Xavier University in August. It went pretty well but some things were different from pre-pandemic travel. If you plan ahead, you can have a great, healthy trip.
Fast Food Restaurants
No car trip is complete without fast food. We learned quickly that walking into a fast food restaurant to use the restroom and then place an order inside is not an option during a pandemic. Because of social distancing requirements, there were lines outside of the restaurants where we stopped. Since we were on the road, we could not order on the apps for each restaurant, and most are doing order ahead and pick up. In most cases, we could not even use the restroom.
If you just need gas, you will find what you need at the gas stations along Interstate-75. But if you need to use the bathroom, or buy snacks, you will be disappointed. None of the gas station employees we encountered were wearing masks. Bathrooms were dirty. Many had no toilet paper and no soap. Snacks were expired and in one case, the employee asked us not to buy any of the snack bars because they were so old. Cheese sticks and Lunchables were all expired at one place.
We stayed at the Aloft Newport on the Levee in Kentucky which is minutes from downtown Cincinnati. We stayed here in February and really liked it. It is reasonable and close to downtown as well as Xavier University. This time, there was no coffee in the lobby, no food service, and the bar and pool were closed because of the pandemic. Despite these inconveniences, we had a great stay. We brought our own cleaning supplies and pillows. The hotel was very clean. All employees were wearing masks. Elevators were sprayed down every thirty minutes. We requested a room that no one had stayed in for 48 hours prior our stay and they accommodated our request. We only slept there so we did not really care that the pool and the bar were closed. We got up early and had no plans to eat breakfast there, so it did not bother us that there was no coffee or hot breakfast. All in all, we had a good stay and were happy they were open, clean and accommodating.
Sit Down Restaurants
We had a great meal at Sotto, an Italian restaurant in the downtown business district in Cincinnati. We made a reservation using the Open Table app. Several employees greeted us both at the street level hostess area and the bottom of the steps in the restaurant. Our waitress was wonderful. All employees were wearing masks. Menus were disposable paper. Bathrooms were clean. We wore our masks to our table and then took them off to eat. We were so happy to be dining out and really enjoyed our experience at Sotto.
At Mad Tree Brewing, all employees were wearing masks. The hostess took all of our temperatures before seating us. She explained that arrows on the ground showed traffic flow. Wandering from table to table was not allowed because they get quite busy in the evenings. Menus were available by QR code. We really enjoyed our lunch and beer there.
But not all of our dining experiences were good. One of the restaurants had no bread so it made ordering sandwiches a little difficult. In many cases, restaurant patrons were not wearing masks. Expect lines, masks, call ahead procedures, unavailable menu items due to the supply chain issues that have punctuated this pandemic.
My advice to you if you are travelling during the pandemic is to review the Centers for Disease Control Guidelines and call ahead as much as possible. Every state has different rules and regulations and they change quickly without much notice. Bring your own cleaning supplies, such as Clorox wipes and hand sanitizer, as well as gloves. The gloves are handy for putting gas in your car. Pack a cooler with ice and bottled water as well as other drinks. It was summer when we travelled and you can become dehydrated quickly in a hot car. Also, bring some hearty snacks such as protein bars, cheese sticks and jerky. You may end up eating these for lunch or dinner, as we learned. Lastly, take advantage of rest areas for using the bathroom because they are easy to access from the highway and quicker that waiting in lines at fast food restaurants.