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Small Hotels Vs. Large Resorts—Which is the Better Option for a Post-Pandemic Vacation?

I stayed at a small, boutique-sized hotel and a larger-scale resort in California and these were the main differences in my experience while visiting

Across the United States, travel restrictions are relaxing and businesses are reopening–and summer vacations are quickly approaching. I wanted to investigate whether it feels like there’s a difference in atmosphere and cleanliness practices between large-scale resort property versus a smaller, boutique hotel. I traveled to two major cities in my home state of California to compare and contrast the on-site overnight experiences between a smaller property, the San Francisco Proper Hotel, and larger resort property, Town and Country Resort in San Diego.

The San Francisco Proper Hotel

San Francisco, California

The San Francisco Proper is a design-focused boutique hotel located in the busy Bay Area tech hub of San Francisco in the Mid-Market neighborhood. It’s housed in a historic early 1900s flatiron landmark building that was redesigned by Kelly Wearstler, with a modern and artistic interior. This property officially opened in the fall of 2017, so it’s relatively new.

It houses 131 guest rooms across seven floors and features luxe amenities including a fitness center, chic rooftop restaurant, and boutiquey feeling atmosphere. Upon walking into the lobby I could sense this is a hotel that makes each of its guests feel truly special.

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As soon as I stepped through the door an employee took my temperature before I could check in. There were signs stating that masks must be worn inside the common areas at all times. There was hand sanitizer just feet from the door, on the table in the lobby, at the lobby’s front desk, outside the elevator–everywhere.

The property offers a “keyless entry” opportunity in which you can download an app on your phone and use it to get into your room. I signed a waiver stating I haven’t come in contact with anyone with COVID-19 symptoms and that I understood the risks of travel right now (I’m vaccinated, but San Francisco County was still extra precautious at the time of my spring visit).

Access to the fitness center was extremely limited due to indoor space capacity restrictions. You could only visit any of the three on-site restaurants with a pre-booked reservation.

I enjoyed the opportunity to visit Charmaine’s, the SF Proper’s rooftop restaurant, to enjoy appetizers and cocktails. I was impressed when we exited the elevator and immediately encountered an unmissable sign that stated guests had to put their masks on whenever their server approached (not just when they weren’t eating or drinking!). And of course, the servers were masked and gloved up. The tables were adequately spaced out, and there was ample fresh air flowing into the outdoor seating area.

There was a time limit at the table to encourage guests not to mingle for too long and to allow more visitors to have the chance to dine with the capacity restrictions.

The next day I enjoyed having afternoon tea at Villon Restaurant & Bar downstairs, where the servers and staff were following the same practices.

Overall I was very impressed with the San Francisco Proper’s ability to create an enjoyable visitor experience. Even though it was a smaller hotel, it seemed like a luxurious escape from reality. The hotel itself felt clean and safe and there was enough to do at the property itself to keep me entertained for the entirety of my weekend stay.

Town and Country Resort

San Diego, California

Town and Country Resort is located in the Mission Valley neighborhood of San Diego and has been a part of the local community’s history for over 60 years. This resort is enormous. So enormous, in fact, that there are directory map signs scattered throughout the grounds so guests won’t get lost.


The resort hosts 675 rooms, three restaurants, a 10,000 square foot pool complex, a three-acre Riverfront Park, multiple volleyball courts, and 258,000 square feet of space for hosting large-scale events like conferences and weddings. This includes San Diego’s original convention center, which is right on-site just steps from the pool.

Town and Country recently underwent a multi-million dollar design renovation. The resort feels like somewhere you could go for a whole week, and never have to leave the property because anything you’d need from food and drinks to necessities you might have forgotten at home is accessible right on-site.

Upon arriving at the resort I immediately observed just how expansive the property really was. I didn’t have to worry about making a conscious effort to distance myself from other guests because there was so much open space, which was refreshing.


When I checked in, there were plastic barriers separating me from the employee activating my room key card. When I immediately wandered over to grab a snack after check-in, there were also plastic barriers between me and the cashier at the MRKT, the fast-casual grab-and-go cafe adjacent to the lobby.

The pool complex is large enough to offer adequate distancing between groups–and when I dined at the restaurant, ARLO, the tables were well-spaced out. There were hand sanitizing dispensers everywhere (in the lobby, outside the elevators) and signs that reminded people to keep their distance from other guests.

The swimming pool had a sign hanging on the door listing out the California Department of Health guidelines. These rules stated people must remain six feet apart from guests not in their party, and must wear face masks when they’re out of the water. I didn’t encounter any problems with guests who wouldn’t wear a mask.

The hot tub remained closed as part of the state distancing guidelines but there were plenty of cozy fire pits to hang around outside on the lawn by the pool to keep warm in the evenings.

Overall, Town and Country felt to me like somewhere a family, a couple, or a group of friends could spend a relaxing vacation together in California and not have to worry about how they’d keep busy during their visit.

There are activities for children of any age from 17 months old to 17 years old to keep entertained (and the 150-foot four-story “Twister” waterslide and craft cocktails from the “Monkey Bar” are fun for the adults, too). The property emitted a fun atmosphere offering an authentically laid-back “Southern California” vibe.

Which Should You Choose?

Both properties felt safe to me overall, with friendly employees and more than adequate cleanliness and sanitation measures. The San Francisco Proper definitely felt more geared toward adult travelers who want a luxurious boutique vacation experience, while Town and Country felt more like a destination where a family or a couple could enjoy a laid-back, beach-adjacent escape.

The large-scale resort experience comes with the space and the freedom of movement that an urban, boutique destination hotel just can’t–but that’s not to say that both aren’t enjoyable options for a safe summer getaway in California.