Labor Day weekend during a pandemic: Travel, restaurant trends to expect

A man wearing a face mask walks past a restaurant in Washington, D.C., on Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. (Photo by Ting Shen/Xinhua via Getty)

It has been a difficult summer for many D.C.-area restaurants and tourist spots due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but there’s still hope the Labor Day weekend could bring an increase in business.

“We’ve been very mindful, as our restaurant owners have been, around thinking that anything is typical,” said Kathy Hollinger, president of the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington.

Hollinger said that many of the summer promotions will continue in an effort to encourage more people to order out or dine at their favorite spots.

“I encourage that diners just look at all the various ways that they can be creative in supporting their favorite places, knowing that we are really a foodie town,” she said.

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For those looking to dine outside of the region, Delaware officials will allow some beach bars to reopen for the holiday weekend with strict social distancing measures after being closed since July. It’s an option many travelers may choose due to the easy drive.

Mel Dohmen, the senior manager of communications with Expedia Group, said road trips will be a major preference over flights this year.

“We’ve seen that largely because of state and local travel restrictions,” she said. “I think travelers do want to stick closer to home. If something were to happen, they have this sense of safety and control.”

When it comes to overnight stays, more travelers are likely to take advantage of the work from home schedule by extending the holiday weekend into a holiday weeklong vacation getaway.

There’s also been an increase in vacation rental bookings, “like cabins, cottages, inns, and I believe that you can really attribute that to more people wanting more social distancing-friendly lodging options,” Dohmen said.

She added that due to a jump in last-minute bookings, it’s important to secure your plans sooner rather than later.

For those hitting the road, local travel expert Troy Petenbrink advised them to make sure they’re monitoring all the COVID-19 guidelines at any destination they go to.

“Pack plenty of your personal protective equipment, and have it handy when you’re out doing your car ride and you’re driving to a destination, so when you stop at gas stations, sanitize your hands after you use the pump,” he said.

Some road-trip destinations he recommended were Roanoke, Virginia — for the outdoors — and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, which has a delicious cider trail.

Petenbrink also advised making reservations for restaurants and activities now because of the limits from restrictions, such as limited indoor dining.

But, for those planning to stay in D.C., Petenbrink said the holiday weekend would be a great opportunity to check out some high-end hotels: The Mandarin Oriental just reopened, and it’s close to The Wharf, which has outdoor dining, and the International Spy Museum. There’s also The Watergate Hotel by the Georgetown Waterfront, and the Yours Truly hotel in downtown D.C.

“There are some deals to be had out there. Great opportunities to also support the local economy, support the hospitality industry, which desperately needs it right now,” Petenbrink said.

WTOP’s Dick Uliano contributed to this report.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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