I try to travel, despite the difficulties due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While I haven’t gone far or often, I’ve had some opportunities to explore my own country over the past year with various travel companies. Some of these trips were successful, others were a bit challenging. The reason for this, ultimately, came down to the travel companies I booked with and their COVID policies and procedures. Because of this, I wanted to dedicate a post to travel companies that impressed me in their handling of COVID-19.
First and foremost, I would like to give a shout-out to the first of the travel companies: Delta airlines. Prior to the pandemic, I flew with them often and I enjoyed their service. However, this summer, I was unsure what to expect when I boarded my flight home to New York.
Booking & Ticketing
I had only flown with one other airline since COVID-19, and that company didn’t particularly impress me with their procedures. (Read the story here). All flights had free cancellation, with either fully refundable or changeable options.
In addition, there was online check-in, including baggage check, prior to take-off. Tickets are available on your phone after you check in. You may print a copy at a self-serve kiosk as well (which agents come to wipe down in between users). These kiosks are where you print your baggage tag, which you place yourself. Then follow directions to drop your bag on a moving belt nearby. While this process promotes safety and social distancing, there are Delta representatives standing around the area, should you need assistance.
Boarding/Unboarding & In-Flight Procedures
At the gate, Delta has committed to boarding the plane from back to front. This is to limit contact, and work to ensure there is space between each individual during the process. Travel agents don’t touch your phone (or paper ticket if you choose to go that route); you scan it yourself. When you board the plane, they hand out pre-packaged sanitizing wipes.
The middle seats are empty for social distancing purposes. Everyone is required to wear a mask. Prepackaged food and bottled water were available during the flight as well. Debarking procedures mimicked boarding, with the front of the plane leaving before the back, and spacing maintained between passengers.
Hilton is a favorite of mine, particularly because of its lucrative reward program, adjusted recently, on account of COVID-19. I hoped that Hilton would continue to impress when I booked with them both during my trip over this past summer, and for a short trip I took over Columbus Day weekend. (Read about my summer trip here).
Hilton’s website boasts precautions such as online check-in and the use of a digital key (through the app). They guarantee “Hilton CleanStay,” which is a commitment to fully sanitize the room, specifically high touch areas like door handles. Lastly, they state that their food and beverage services have been changed to promote social distancing and contactless service.
Online Check-in & Digital Key
The fully sanitized Hilton hotel rooms live up to their expectations. Paper or plastic covers are on the remotes, television buttons, handles, and a lot of different surfaces in the bathroom. Stickers across the front door state that “this area has been cleaned for your protection.” All of this combined offers a degree of certainty that the room was, in fact, sanitized appropriately.
The food situation varied from hotel to hotel. I was traveling through the United States, and each state had different regulations for food service during the pandemic. It was due to these variations that the service differed across the Hilton’s I stayed at.
Some hotels only offered “to-go” food. Other hotels offered a sit-down restaurant service, where I was allowed to remove my mask at the table. Other hotels had buffets, with servers wearing masks and gloves. One hotel, which usually has a free continental breakfast, opted to have a grab-and-go brown-bagged breakfast.
Regardless, I always felt the hotel was doing its best to make do with an unfortunate situation. One thing that was consistent across all hotels I stayed with was that the bars were all closed. Any type of food service that was available was limited when compared to what the accommodation was used to serving.
One last thing to note about Hilton is in regards to booking. Changes and cancellation policies have become extremely flexible. Almost all bookings are free to cancel and fully refundable until 48 hours prior to your trip.
It is one of the most flexible policies out there, and it is one of the many reasons I love this travel company. For more information on Hilton’s COVID-19 safety policies and procedures click here (link will direct you to hilton.com).
I absolutely love how Amtrak is choosing to handle the pandemic. I’m sure what they are doing is not easy, and likely cost them the opportunity to make more money. However, seeing that always gives me hope because it says a lot about a travel company’s values.
First and foremost, Amtrak allows complete flexibility for all trips booked between now and the end of March. You can change your booking without fees if you need to move your trip due to COVID. Additionally, bookings are very limited to allow for complete social distancing. If you are traveling alone, the seat next to you will remain empty. However, you are still able to sit next to your travel companions if you happen to be traveling with others.
You are also able, on a number of routes, to reserve a private room to maximize distancing and safety! I tend to have a difficult time putting up the additional money to upgrade my travel class on trains or planes. My theory is that the more money saved, the more trips I can take in the future! However, especially with the pandemic happening now, I may have to try it if I take more than just a short trip between Manhattan and Philadelphia (which is the typical trip I take using Amtrak).
Additional COVID Protocols
Social Distancing and masks are a requirement at Amtrak stations and on the trains. The website states there are cleaning protocols at all stations and an air filtration system onboard.
Ticket purchasing (as well as all onboard purchasing) has become cashless, as you can purchase tickets in advance online or on the app to limit contact with Amtrak travel agents. E-tickets scanned prior to boarding require no one touching your device.
Doors aboard the train activate by movement to limit touching, and boarding and disembarking encourage social distancing. Lastly, food and beverage services are a takeaway service, with the exception of a few long-distance routes where sit-down services remain with safety and social distancing protocols in place.
Enterprise's "Complete Clean Pledge"
The Rental Pass
Other protocols include easy online booking and free cancellation. In addition, advanced online check-in is now available to help streamline the rental process and minimize in-person contact with others. You are able to provide your information and enter payment details to receive an online “rental pass.” This rental pass is brought to the rental counter in order to obtain the keys to your car. Curbside pickup, or even delivery, to allow for even more social distancing is also available at many different locations. Check out the rest of Enterprise’s COVID-19 policies here (link will direct you to enterprise.com).