I made a huge mistake. Austin in the Covid summer. Help.
August 8, 2021 6:57 AM   Subscribe

I impulsively made flights to join my husband on a business trip with my kid the end of August. Now Covid cases there are rising and I took a look at the temperatures. Oof. Looking for help to find a great hotel with a great pool and good location and see a site or 2.

(We are all vaxxed but will be masked)

I typically love planning travel but I'm a bit stumped here. Austin has never been on my radar.

Kid is in junior high so nightlife isn't of interest but I know Austin is famous for live music (I think?). Not sure if there is a relatively non-covidy way to enjoy that aspect. We love history and nature and are interested in showing my son anything Texas-y since he's never been to the state. I'm interested in a hotel in an area that has lots of restaurants nearby so we don't have too far to walk, masked up in the heat. There are so many neighborhoods I don't even know where to start.

Any suggestions are welcomed! (Boston to Austin Last Friday/Sat/ Sunday of August)

I do not believe I'll have a rental car - well, unless you all tell me it's a must.
posted by ReluctantViking to Travel & Transportation around Austin, TX (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The way things look now, COVID numbers are going to be, at best, peaking around then if not still rising. Texas is full of antivaxxers. Can you cancel your tickets for credit or a refund?
posted by Alterscape at 7:32 AM on August 8, 2021 [13 favorites]

I visited Austin without a car, and stayed right off of South Congress Street -- around Monroe, maybe? This was really great because we could walk to the capitol (which felt very Texasy) and also all the cool stuff downtown and on South Congress itself. I stayed in an airbnb, but I see a lot of hotels with pools on that stretch.

As a teacher, if you're bringing your kid to a covid hotpsot right around the start of school, please make sure you wait a few days and have a rigorous testing protocol before you send him back into the building.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 7:46 AM on August 8, 2021 [11 favorites]

Response by poster: Alterscape. I wish. Tickets are nonrefundable. I had glanced at Austin's 2020 voting record before I booked and NYT's Covid numbers. Knowing that White Republicans were the most Covid vaccine resistant and seeing 70% of Austin voted Biden I felt like it might not be a terrible idea. And now the Covid numbers have shifted higher in Texas. Now it seems like a bad idea.
posted by ReluctantViking at 7:46 AM on August 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

You would still need to Uber over but Barton Springs is really the best place to go swimming in Austin. Staying on South Congress would be close by and there’s plenty to do in that area.
posted by raccoon409 at 7:48 AM on August 8, 2021 [7 favorites]

The top covid story at the New York Times right now is The authorities in Austin warn residents that the city’s Covid situation is ‘dire.’ I would cancel the trip.
posted by caek at 7:49 AM on August 8, 2021 [25 favorites]

Frankly, right now I'd rate "lose a grand to an unused ticket" as a more desirable outcome than "travel on an airplane to Texas." YMMV but that's where I'm at.
posted by Alterscape at 7:51 AM on August 8, 2021 [40 favorites]

A lot of people lost a lot during the pandemic and continue to lose. The cost of two flights is not fun to lose, but please, please, just don't go. Chalk it up to an expensive mistake. It is just not a good idea to take a vacation at the site of a natural disaster as it is occurring.
posted by twelve cent archie at 7:51 AM on August 8, 2021 [21 favorites]

The NY Times has a piece about the severity of the covid situation in Austin on the front page. The concerning aspect to me would be the hospitals working at full capacity -- even ignoring risk of covid, that means that having an accident and needing to go to the ER is a much more fraught and difficult situation. It would suck to give up nonrefundable tickets, but personally I'd be considering cancelling the trip until a later point.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:53 AM on August 8, 2021 [10 favorites]

Covid aside, the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower center is known around the word. A lovely place with several types of gardens including a very Texan Oak woodland.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:00 AM on August 8, 2021 [5 favorites]

I visited Louisiana about 6 weeks ago, no one masked in the hotels, including staff (I stayed in a Hilton owned hotel chain). In fact in most places acted completely rude if I wrote a mask and outright pretended they couldn't hear me. I got more complaints in two weeks about not being heard than I have in the last 18 months in Chicago.

Also it is so miserably hot. I, who am from where I vacationed, had lots of difficulty with the heat with my own car. We definately planned things for the morning and evenings and had to be very very careful about hydration especially for my three year old.

You'll definately be able to find uber's or taxis in Austin, but I highly doubt you will want to walk further than a block .

Eating outdoors would be fairly miserable until after dark, and indoors I would not recommend at all period.

I would really really concider loosing money on this trip.
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:13 AM on August 8, 2021 [12 favorites]

Response by poster: OK people. I got caught up in the we're vaccinated and we'll mask and we've been isolated for sooo long. I'm on hold with AA now canceling.

Thanks for bringing me to my senses.
posted by ReluctantViking at 8:23 AM on August 8, 2021 [38 favorites]

Austinite here. The situation in Austin is getting bad right now, pretty much going back to the levels of the disastrous third wave this past winter. Austin has been fairly well vaccinated compared with the national averages, but COVID appears to be hitting the under-40s especially hard; the narrative seems to be that many younger people were not vaccinating due to a perceived sense that it was less of a risk to them, but the intensity and rapid spread of Delta has changed the equation. I also think that while Austin was good at masking during the first waves, there has been a substantial resistance to re-masking in the recent past. I don't think this fourth wave is limited to Austin by any stretch of the imagination, but Austin is certainly very much affected by it, and I think visiting would be a big risk.

While Austin has historically been a fun-as-hell place to visit, I don't think Austin's going to be much fun late this month if you're looking for events or indoor activities. While live music events started happening again a few months ago, there still hasn't been all that much going on compared with 2019 and earlier. If you like Tex-Mex and BBQ, the Austin food scene is fantastic, and there are patios and outdoor areas to eat in at many restaurants, but honestly, I think it's hard to justify eating at all but the most outdoor, spaced-out restaurants right now if you have any concern over spread. (We had a great time safely sampling Austin's many restaurants via curbside pickup over the past year and a half, but that sounds like it isn't much of an option for you.)

Austin is a car-centric town, but the place to stay for a quintessentially Austin experience that would still be walkable would be the Austin Motel on South Congress, which has an outdoor pool, is surrounded by fun and quirky restaurants and shops within just a few blocks, and is also a quick scooter/carshare ride to more things to do downtown and on the east side (or Zilker Park/Barton Springs, as referenced above). It will be hot, though!

Honestly, if you were uncomfortable traveling during the third wave around Christmas, I would be just as uncomfortable about visiting Austin now. The tickets may not be refundable, but they may be able to be banked for a travel credit later in the year. Do visit Austin some time, but right now really isn't the time to do it.
posted by eschatfische at 8:24 AM on August 8, 2021 [8 favorites]

Honestly, if you’re alll vaxxed, I’d go and swim and enjoy.
posted by david1230 at 9:50 AM on August 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

Second Austinite thanking you for staying home, and urging anyone else who comes across this to do the same for now. Even vaxxed, we are masking and doing carryout for everything possible. I work downtown, there are loads of unmasked tourists right now in from who knows where, so you aren't just dealing with Austin's vax rates in the tourist areas. If you have a non covid related accident on vacation, there is NO SPACE IN THE ER. I haven't been to a public swimming hole in a year and a half and I live here. Abbott is straight up not allowing cities or counties to take any responsible restrictive measures. Please please stay away and leave us to deal with our mess.
posted by theweasel at 11:18 AM on August 8, 2021 [11 favorites]

Even on a nonrefundable ticket, you may be able to cancel & receive credit applied to a future ticket (AA's policy is that the future trip is within a year of the original ticket, I believe). Make sure to check into that as a way to be able to possibly still use the money you spent in the future.
posted by augustimagination at 1:23 PM on August 8, 2021 [3 favorites]

Former Austinite n’thing stay home.
posted by spitbull at 3:08 PM on August 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

.... I had glanced at Austin's 2020 voting record before I booked ... Knowing that White Republicans were the most Covid vaccine resistant and seeing 70% of Austin voted Biden ....
posted by ReluctantViking at 7:46 AM on August 8
People are just flat out not taking it serious here. I have been ongoing astonished, as this thing has unfolded, it has taught me a lot about Austin. I had bought into the party line, Austin a blue dot in a sea of red. Nope nope nope. On this issue -- and I'd bet now on any other issue that causes even the slightest bit of discomfort -- Austin it is at best a deep purple dot.
posted by dancestoblue at 3:14 PM on August 8, 2021 [4 favorites]

When you eventually go, and depending upon your views on R-rated comedy with your junior high student, I can recommend Esther's Follies. It was a lot of fun
posted by TimHare at 3:16 PM on August 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't know if you're still on hold, but I have found that AA has been extremely flexible about letting you change dates with no or minimal fees, by contrast with how things worked pre-COVID. If you want to go to Austin, why not just change the dates for you and kid to December or January when the weather will be more conducive to being outdoors? If you're not happy with the situation then, you can always cancel and you won't be out the money and more than you would be if you outright cancel now.

I would also remark that there's no compelling reason to think COVID prevalence in Austin at the end of August will be higher than COVID prevalence in metro Boston. It might be, it might not be.
What probably is true, though, is that it'll be sufficiently hot to make outdoor sightseeing kind of a drag.
posted by escabeche at 3:56 PM on August 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Non-refundable means you don't get cash back, not that the tickets lose all value if cancelled ahead of time. If you cancel, you should be able to use the tickets as credit against a future ticket, less whatever the applicable change fee happens to be.

If you paid $500 apiece for AA tickets and the ticket has a $250 change fee, that means each ticket is worth $250 toward a future AA ticket. Do note that you have to rebook within a year (or whatever time period the fare rules for your particular tickets state) of the original purchase, not the flight date. I got caught out by that once.
posted by wierdo at 4:34 PM on August 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

Another Austinite here, Austin is fixin to be in a world of hurt. Today's new says there are only 6 ICU COVID beds available. Yesterday I received a phone call from the City of Austin notifying us that we have moved into Stage 5 status. City leaders are asking all people to again mask in all public places and to STAY HOME. Meanwhile our ignoramus governor and lege has removed local authority to mandate mask usage.

There have been several mass events in the last couple of weeks and we're looking at an explosion of Delta cases.I was at Barton Springs on Friday and the water was not very clear and had lots of algae.It wasn't as crowded as usual but it was difficult to maintain a good distance from other swimmers. Even though I try to swim 3-4 times a week, I'm not going back until COVID numbers have fallen way down.

This past week I made 3 trips to 3 different grocery stores and noticed the rate of unmasked customers was very much higher. You have made a wise decision to cancel.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 7:49 PM on August 8, 2021 [2 favorites]

Smart and thoughtful to cancel. If you do make it to Austin in the future, I enjoyed the LBJ presidential library, walking around UT Austin, and the Bullock Texas State Historical Museum. The trails along the river were nice too.
posted by Red Desk at 11:22 PM on August 8, 2021 [1 favorite]

I think you've made a wise decision. Even if Austin is more reasonable than more rural Texas, more rural Texans who get sick will fill Austin hospitals. And Austin may be less anti-vax, less pro-disease than some of Texas but it's not great as people have mentioned above.
posted by jclarkin at 11:15 AM on August 9, 2021 [1 favorite]

« Older is this a reason to go to an emergency vet?   |   What are some good f2p Android ccg? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.