2020 – San Diego Zoo & Safari Park Trip Summary

San Diego Visit (Saturday 10/17/20 – Monday 10/19/20)

It has been a long time since I ventured anywhere due to the ongoing pandemic.    My last Disneyland visit was March 5 a week before the parks closed.  Since March 16th I have been working from home.  So that means except for some local trips for food, etc.. I have driven/gone no where.   To put this in perspective in the 7 months since the closures I have racked up less than 100 miles on my car where usually I travel more than that in an average workday.  So the nearly 400 miles round trip for this weekend was going to be the furthest and longest I have been out of the house in months.

My posts from this trip:

San Diego Zoo Weekend – Thoughts & Observations:

After being shut in for months we decided to venture out for my nephew’s 4th birthday.  The original plan was naturally a Disneyland trip but with the parks still closed and nothing on the horizon we looked around for an alternative and decided to head south to San Diego and the Zoo & Safari Park.   An outdoor experience was within all of our risk tolerances.   We are all healthy with no underlying health conditions that would put us at a higher risk.

Since we drove our own cars there was not much of a concern with the travel experience.  Traffic on the LA Freeways felt about average and the drive from Orange County to San Diego was jammed up heading there as normal too.  So much for the hopes of lighter traffic.  Coming home we opted to swing around Orange County and Los Angeles on the 15 to try to avoid some of the traffic.   There were quite a few cars and a couple backups but it moved better than Saturdays drive down.

We decided to stay at a hotel with larger rooms and kitchens.  That way we could get food and bring it back to the room plus have space to spread out in the room as needed.  We had 2 children and 6 adults in the group staying in a 2-bedroom and a 1-bedroom room.

We opted to stay outside of the city in Mira Mesa to split the difference between the Zoo and Safari park since we were going to spend a day at each. It also saved some money on the hotel vs staying closer to the city.   We were also hoping it would be less crowded due to being outside the tourist area.  We were wrong.  Saturday night the hotel parking lot was almost full and the front desk said they were pretty busy.  Sunday night the parking lot had a lot more spaces so it seems the weekend/tourist crowd was the reason.

Masks were required in all common areas of the hotel.  The hotel had temporary plexiglass around the front desk.  There were signs everywhere warning about masks and frequent hand washing.   The hotel had reduced or restricted offerings.  For example the pool was by reservation only (I did not look to see how booked it was but did hear/see people out there).  The most noticeable change was the breakfast offerings were heavily reduced, they still offered some choices if you went to the breakfast area.  There was a hot offering(biscuits and gravy one day and sausage the other), bagels, coffee, juices, etc.. available but instead of a normal buffet type experience you queued up and asked for what you wanted and someone assembled a tray for you to take back to your room to eat.  The evening reception/beverages have been cut from where we stayed.  The room itself felt about what you would expect.  You could smell cleaning product so you know they did something.

For meals at the hotel we opted to walk to near by mini mall to pick up fast food and eat outside or back in the room and augmented that with eating breakfast in the room and our own snacks we prepared in the kitchen in the room.  At the parks we only ate one large mid day meal and opted for Fast food eaten outside.

Tourist Activities:
The San Diego Zoo was crowded.  It was a Sunday and a kids visit free promotion is going on, plus extended hours for Halloween event on weekends.   The weather was mild on Sunday too adding to the crowd.  The only substantial wait we encountered was to get to the health screening and into the park.   The health screening was required and consisted of someone in your party answering questions about having any symptoms, being in contact with anyone with covid and agreeing to wear your mask.  There was no temperature check.    As we walked around most of the day the park had a lot of people and a very large majority had their masks on properly and were trying to keep some distance.  The six foot rule was nearly impossible to follow in many places due to narrow walkways and needing to pass people but most guests were managing ok.

On Monday at the San Diego Safari Park the same screening questions were asked but while in your car as you entered the parking lot.   With the much lighter crowds in that park due to the park as well as it being a weekday it was much easier to keep your distance. Mask compliance was about the same.

The Zoo and Safari Park share a common app and of course it crashed on my phone each time I tried to use it. It worked on everyone else’s in the group.  I was unable to find any Wi-Fi in either park as we roamed around.

This was my first experience traveling during the pandemic.  Everything went more or less as expected. It was a little odd to be out and around people again after home for so many months.  I had not been anywhere comparable in over 7 months which is a long time for me.  Overall I did not feel nervous about the trip.  We had planned to take our time and see how things looked as we moved through our our days.  Also planned on only a few meals in public settings to try and minimize that aspect.  We all wore our masks when in common area and outside and almost everyone we encountered was doing the same.  Would I go out again is a question I have been asked and the short answer is it depends.  Depends on the circumstances and the venue.