Since the very beginning of the pandemic, there’s been a clear inverse relationship between the coronavirus curve and travel: As the number of Covid-19 cases goes up, the distance Americans are willing to travel goes down.
Pandemic fatigue is real. Many people are sick of staring at the same four walls and are looking for an escape — just not too far away, mind you.
Finding a genuinely restorative escape within a few hours’ drive from home can be easier said than done. Most hotel booking sites invite users to begin a search with a specific destination or hotel name. That’s great if you already have a place in mind. But what if you don’t?
Michelin-owned Tablet Hotels has created a “Take Me Away” feature to help stir-crazy folks find an upscale, uplifting, yet safe escape within striking distance of where they live.
Part of the Michelin Guide since 2018, Tablet’s hand-picked collection of 6,000 independent luxury and boutique hotels is the antithesis of chain hotels. “These hotels are not the gigantic cookie-cutter hotels,” says Tablet Hotels co-founder and CEO Laurent Vernhes. “Most of them are on the smaller side and independent.”
While there are plenty of hotel booking sites out there, “Take Me Away” meets the pandemic moment better than most. It was originally rolled out in June and then tweaked for the changing needs of travelers in 2020.
“It became clear that the situation would last longer than we all anticipated,” says Vernhes, who quickly recognized that travelers were looking for an even more refined search capability.
“It was not about traveling anymore. It was about ‘how can I take a break from this situation, from my house?’” says Vernhes. “Very quickly, it became clear that the main criteria was driving distance.”
So Vernhes’ team added two additional filter options for travelers: “Staycation,” for hotel options in your own backyard, and “driving distance,” which gives you a selection of places to stay within a few hours’ from home.
No matter where you live, the site delivers some dreamy possibilities.
In the Pacific Northwest, for example, you might be inspired by the Suttle Lodge & Boathouse, a stunning lakeside resort in Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest, or Captain Whidbey, a 1907 vintage lodge on Puget Sound in Washington.
Those looking for a quiet retreat in the Northeast might choose Tourists, a 1960s-era motor lodge in the Berkshire Mountains that’s been transformed into a modern boutique hotel. Or hide out the luxurious Bedford Post Inn, just north of New York City in Westchester County, where each of the eight rooms has a working fireplace.
The main purpose of “Take Me Away” is to inspire travel — if not now, then when people are ready and able to get away responsibly.
“The staycation and driving distance tools are really meant for travel where that can be done safely,” says Vernhes. “We’re not a workaround. We are not really trying to generate demand.”
“It’s not about travel at the moment,” he adds. “It’s really about breaks. People just need a break.”