In episode 7 MAST President and COO John Werner sits down with World Travel Jacksonville owner Sherry Blair. Sherry has been in the industry for almost 4 decades and details her account of a recent trip to Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina. If you are looking for good food, a little southern charm, and a great domestic travel location this episode will give you great details about traveling to the south right now.
Key Points Mentioned In The Podcast
#1 – Renting a car at the Charleston airport is very easy
“The car rental facility you just you get your bags and walk right outside, and we got our Hertz rental car right outside the door. And it was very easy.”
#2 – The drive from Charleston to Savannah is quick and easy
“It was about two to two and a half hours. Very easy drive, very pretty.”
#3 – Mask wearing is mandatory, though not all complied
“The staff at the hotel had masks on. Every time I saw them, they had masks on. I would say guests were 50/50, 50 had the masks on 50 did not.”
#4 – Charleston and Savannah are fully open
“Everything was open that we attempted to go to. I didn’t see anything that was closed.”
#5 – 5 days is the minimum for enjoying these two cities
“If I only had five nights, I would not want to do less than five nights because I feel like you would be cheating yourself out on one city or the other.”
Full Podcast Transcript
Welcome, everyone to the seventh of the series of the MASTers of Travel advisors. My name is John Werner. I’m the President of MAST Travel Network. We’re a network of about 1000 travel advisors, all with expertise of planning trips around the world. Today we have with us Sherry Blair, who is one of our experts in the network. Sherry recently visited Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia, back in the middle of October. We’re going to talk today about Sherry’s trip and her experiences there. So, welcome, Sherry.
Thank you, John. Happy to be here. Happy Veterans Day. It was my birthday trip. Normally I go to Jamaica every year for my birthday. And this year, I actually had planned to go on a European river cruise. I have never been to Savannah or Charleston. So, I decided that would be an area to go visit.
There’s such beautiful cities and great places to go. What airport did you fly out of?
We flew out of St. Louis and flew on Southwest Airlines. When in St. Louis that’s the East terminal, which is normally a smaller terminal. And we flew into Charleston.
It was a nonstop flight. Correct? And how did you find the TSA process getting through security? What was that like?
Very easy. We had TSA precheck. So, we went through that line, but actually the other line was just as short as the TSA precheck line. And going it was nonstop. But coming back, we did have to change planes in Dallas Love Field.
TSA was fine. I would say that the airport was less crowded than normal, but it was certainly more crowded than when I had traveled in late August.
Okay. It is good to hear that because I know the TSA has been reporting each week, they’re screening more passengers than they were screening in the prior week. People are definitely traveling. And so, it’s really good. When you arrived in Charleston, did you notice anything different there? What was that like?
I have never been to Charleston, so I didn’t really have anything to compare it to. I was surprised at how small the airport actually was there. I was expecting it to be a larger airport. I mean, it was very efficient. We got our bags very quickly. The car rental facility you just you get your bags and walk right outside, and we got our Hertz rental car right outside the door. And it was very easy.
Yeah, I love airports like that where the car rental is right outside if you are indeed renting a car. You already answered the question about having been to these destinations before and you have not, but what was it about the lure of Charleston and Savannah that made you decide to go there when you had originally intended to go to other locations? What lured you to Savannah and Charleston other than the fact that you hadn’t been there before?
I have not been to the east coast area very much at all. I wanted to go and explore this area. I’ve sent several clients there and I wanted to go and check it out for myself. I love the history of the two cities, the architecture of Charleston, those beautiful, gorgeous homes. It was an area that I’ve always wanted to go to, and I just decided to go for it.
Yeah, they are beautiful. Mentioning the architecture, I know when you’re in Charleston at the waterfront and you look back at those beautiful Queen Anne style homes facing the water. It’s a whole row of them. And that’s probably one of the most photographed sites in the country. I think it’s beautiful. You know, those cities are very much a natural combination. When people go there, whether they’re taking a tour, like a guided tour, or maybe they’re doing a self-drive, they have a tendency to want to combine the two cities and you drove in between them. So how long was the drive between the two cities?
It was about two to two and a half hours. Very easy drive, very pretty. When we came back because we drove to Savannah and stayed in Savannah first and then when we drove back to Charleston, we stopped along the way, we stopped at Hilton Head and stopped some other places that I kind of wanted to go visit and see as well. Very easy drive.
I’m glad you mentioned Hilton Head Island, because that is also a big draw for people. Especially from the Midwest, I think a lot of people like to go there. So obviously, you used a car rental to get around and what type of hotels did you stay in, in both cities because they’re really famous for small boutique hotels, but they have such a lot of different style of accommodations.
They do. In Savannah, we chose Spring Hill suites, which it really wasn’t a typical Spring Hill suite, it was very lovely. It was in a great location right across the street from a park. It was well within walking distance of everywhere that we needed to get to, we never took the car out. Easy walking distance to the waterfront and the restaurants down there. We did do one day hop on hop off trolley tour that took us around to the areas that we would have driven to, but it was so much easier to do the trolley. I had pre booked that with Viator Tours and that I definitely recommend doing that trolley tour. It was wonderful.
Yeah. Now those are good, very convenient, and very worth it. What was your first impression when you stepped into the Springhill Suites? You know, as far as how they were handling all the health and safety protocols?
The guests, some had masks on, some didn’t. They did have signs that said, “please wear a mask”. The staff at the hotel had masks on. Every time I saw them, they had masks on. I would say guests were 50/50, 50 had the masks on 50 did not. The people there were very accommodating, there was no service so, your room was not cleaned. They never did enter into your room. If you needed fresh towels, you could just go down to the front desk and get them if you had trashed, you could just set that outside your room, and they would take that.
John Werner 8:15
They did have complimentary breakfast. I wouldn’t say it was a grab and go bag because you could sort of pick and choose what you wanted. The first morning that we were there, there was no hot food service. And they told us that the next day they were going to try a hot food service. And they did have that the next morning. And again, in the breakfast area 50% had masks on, 50% did not.
Yeah, was it like that in Charleston as well, would you say?
In Charleston, we did stay at a boutique hotel. And again, staff had it on, but most of the guests did not have the masks on, but it was a very small property.
Those kinds of things do vary across the country. Besides being able to walk around to see the sights, you took the trolley tour and what other kinds of activities did you do there?
There is Wormsloe Plantation outside of Savannah and that was maybe a 25-30-minute drive and that is well worth the trip. It is gorgeous out there. When we got there, it wasn’t raining yet, but by the time we drove down the mile and a half path to get to where the actual plantation presentation was it just poured rain. I still walked around in the pouring down rain because I wanted to see it. It was gorgeous. A lot of weddings are held there. It’s so pretty. There were people there getting family pictures and kids were trying to get senior pictures. It was well worth the drive.
Oh, that’s good. That’s good. Any other plantation tours because I know there’s a lot of plantations in the area.
There are and that is the only one that we actually went to. There was another one. Magnolia Plantation. We went the last day, we probably got there about 10am. There were two big plantations and the other one is closed on Mondays. This was the only one that was open. You had to have reservations for the different attractions, and they were all full until like 430. So, we didn’t stay because we were headed back to Charleston.
I know Savannah, being on the waterfront, on the Savannah River, did you take a boat tour by any chance?
We did not do the boat tour. We were down on that Riverfront and we only stayed in Savannah two nights. We stayed Savannah two nights Charleston three, and I wish it would have flipped it. I myself love Savannah more than I did Charleston. I wish I would have done three nights there. We went down to the waterfront all three days that were there. And we ate at Tubbies on The River down there. It was an outdoor dining, and you were right on the river. It was very, very nice. We did not do the boat ride. We just didn’t have time to do that.
I know Savannah is, I think a little larger city than Charleston, but I think one of the interesting features about Savannah are all the squares. And the way the city is laid out and the squares are definitely such a beautiful part of the city. Did you say Tubbies was the restaurant?
Yes, Tubbies on the River. We loved it there. Since we’ve been home, I’ve been wanting to go back and eat it tubbies
Is it like just a single restaurant or is it chain or anything?
As far as I know it’s a single restaurant, someone actually had recommended it to me. And I said, “sure I’ll go there”.
I know it’s always fun to discover those kinds of places wherever you go. What did you eat there? What was your favorite food?
It was a salmon sandwich. I love salmon. I was all about trying to get as much seafood as I could.
Why not? When you’re on the sea like that. Oh, yes. Did you find throughout the city, most bars, restaurants, things were open?
No, no, everything was open that we attempted to go to. I didn’t see anything that was closed. And you are so right about all those squares. Savannah reminded me a lot of New Orleans. And even though it’s a large city, it was very well laid out. It was easy to get around, even on foot you could go into the different squares and it was kind of cool how they named them. It was very easy to maneuver the city.
Yeah, beautiful gardens throughout the city, and they probably had carriage rides there. I’m sure that’s a probably a big thing.
Yes, they did.
You said that staff at the hotels and at the restaurants were all wearing mask, but not everybody else was. With so many places still having limited capacities and so forth. Nothing made you uncomfortable?
Correct. I was totally comfortable with everything that we encountered. There were no situations that I felt that that we were crowded or in an unsafe environment. Leopold’s is one of the popular places to get ice cream. And I don’t know if you’ve been to Leopold’s there, but it’s famous all over the United States. They even had this six-foot social distancing things to stand on, which made their line very, very long. At times, they said it was up to an hour and a half. So, they would bring out glasses of water for you waiting outside because it was very hot. But you know, everybody wanted to get their ice cream.
Gosh, yeah, no, I didn’t when I was there. I didn’t know about that. But now I have to go back.
Absolutely. And the pink house restaurant. Have you heard of that? That’s amazing, too.
Okay. And that’s also in Savannah?
Yes. Yes. Very, very, very good. Write that down.
And it’s much more of a higher end than Tubbies was. Pink House, you would want to dress up for, it was very nice.
Okay. So, both cities have a lot of southern charm, a kind of a very genteel kind of atmosphere, culture in a way. But the cities are different, in many ways. When you went back to Charleston, what did you do there? And how different really is that city from Savannah?
In Charleston, we stayed at a boutique hotel, hotel Bella Grace. It’s a part of the Marriott chain. And it was in an okay, location, it wasn’t as easy to maneuver Charleston. We did do the horse and carriage ride in Charleston. And we did walk the city. But we found that we took our car out much more when we were in Charleston to get to the places that we wanted to go to. And we drove to Isle of Palms and ate there probably two out of the three nights that we were in Charleston. I didn’t feel like Charleston was as warm, I guess is the word that I would use as what Savannah was.
I just didn’t get that vibe in Charleston. It wasn’t as welcoming of a city as I felt Savannah was.
yeah, yeah, it’s interesting you say that. And I do feel like in Charleston, even though it’s a smaller city, it is harder to get around and things seem to be more spread out from where the main downtown area is. Some of the shopping is not where some of the other historical sites are located. You do have to do quite a bit of more walking, I felt when I was there. I think some of neighborhoods where you want to really see the architecture and the gardens and everything that also requires another walk-in kind of a different direction. So yeah, I can see that.
One day we probably walked easily six miles because we walked down to the water where you’re talking about the gorgeous scenery. And of course, I love all that architecture. I was taking pictures of all the different houses, but I know that we walked at least six miles that day and I love to walk, just take in the sights and stuff too, but it just wasn’t as easy to get around.
I’ve heard of the Isle of Palms Resort. That’s a resort, right?
It’s actually a city.
You drive over the bridge to get to the city of Isle of Palms and there’s several restaurants over there. The Acme Low Country is over there. We ate at Tavern and Table for my birthday dinner night and that was right on the water and very pretty. There’s Morgan Creek Gill grill over there. They have a beach area over there as well.
Right? Yeah, no, I didn’t when I was there. We didn’t cross the bridge to, I think you’re talking about north of the city. We didn’t cross the bridge, but I was aware that there was more to see on the other side. Did you get any shopping in either city or both cities?
You know I’m a huge shopper. But we had limited time and I didn’t do a whole lot of shopping. They had the big open shopping market, craft area, down by where we did the horse carriage ride. We kind of looked through there, but I didn’t dedicate a lot of time to shopping. But it’s available.
Yeah, I know. It’s one of the things to do there.
Yes. And actually, in Charleston, I would say that if you’re wanting to shop and have more high-end shopping, it would be in Charleston. Charleston.
What other suggestions do you have for people who want to visit both cities?
Definitely do the hop on hop off tour in Savannah that was well worth everything. Again, if it were me, and everyone has different tastes, but if it were me, I would have stayed three nights in Savannah and two nights in Charleston. If I only had five nights, I would not want to do less than five nights, because I feel like you would be cheating yourself out on one city or the other. I wish I would have flipped it. Do a little bit of research before you go as to what sites that you might want to go see. Because that saves time when you’re there. If you have an idea of what you want to do before you get there, and go with an attitude of you know, of it was nice to just kind of stop and savor the small things. Just like the walk that we did and seeing all the gorgeous houses, we are so busy and so caught up in our lives, it’s just kind of nice to have a look at how gorgeous this world really is.
And that’s an excellent tip and great advice. All of us need to do more of that. When you travel you want to always take it all in. You think you have such a limited amount of time. You got to do it all. It takes some discipline to slow down a little bit and enjoy. Well, Sherry I appreciate it very much for your time today. Where’s your next trip by the way?
Probably back to Mexico. I’ve been to Mexico twice already since March. And I am planning to go there again in December.
Oh, good. Where in Mexico, Cancun or elsewhere?
Riviera Maya. Yes.
Oh, wonderful. Oh, that’ll be a great trip and a good time of the year to be there for sure. Well, thank you again, Sherry. We appreciate it very much and enjoy talking about your trip to Savannah and Charleston and happy belated birthday.
Thank you so much, wonderful to be able to talk to you today. Thank you. Take care
You as well.