While it’s not ideal to travel right now, some circumstances may require you to do so. If you have to travel, the tips below will help you to prepare for staying in a hotel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent trip required me to stay in hotels in Pittsburgh, Toledo, and Chicago. In general, I felt the hotels were taking as many precautions as they possibly could to protect their guests and employees. While I still felt a little anxious, I was comforted by my experience during the trip.
I’m sharing my experiences below in the hopes that it’ll ease some of your anxiety if you need to stay in a hotel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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Hotels are relatively inexpensive right now
Because fewer people are traveling (especially business travelers), hotels are relatively inexpensive right now.
I don’t recommend booking a hotel right now just because it’s inexpensive. But if you’re required to travel, lower hotel costs provide you with more hotel options.
With more options, you can select hotels that are in better neighborhoods, closer to your destination, and have more stringent cleaning and safety protocols. All this will help to reduce your risk of exposure to COVID-19.
Hotels are publicizing their cleaning and safety protocols
Before you click “reserve” on that hotel room, research the hotel’s cleaning and safety protocols.
Many hotels are publicizing what they’re doing to protect the safety of employees and guests staying in a hotel during COVID-19.
Read through these cleaning and safety protocols to make sure you’re comfortable with the steps the hotel is taking to protect you and their employees.
Some hotels are encouraging contactless check-in and check-out
Many hotels have had contactless check-out for years. Your bill is slid underneath your door or emailed to you, you drop your hotel keys in a drop-box as you exit, and you go on your way. All without any interaction with hotel employees. This was the case with all the hotels I recently visited. I didn’t interact with any hotel employees when I checked out of the hotel.
Contactless check-in is relatively new. In some cases, you’ll get a digital code on your phone that you’ll scan to open a hotel room door. In other cases, a hotel might email you a code to enter on a door keypad. None of the three hotels I visited during my recent trip had the option of contactless check-in.
However, I still felt relatively safe while checking in. All of the hotel employees were wearing masks and stood behind plexiglass when checking me in.
While I would have preferred contactless check-in, I appreciated the precautions that the hotels did take to reduce COVID-19 exposure during the check-in process.
Face masks are required in common areas
The hotels I stayed in while in Pittsburg, Toledo, and Chicago all had signs posted on the front door, stating that face masks were required in common areas, including the hotel lobby.
You may not find this to be true in all hotels you stay in. However, I made sure in advance that this was a requirement in the hotels I booked. This gave me a little advance comfort that the other hotel guests and hotel employees would be wearing face masks around me.
Pro Tip: If possible, avoid waiting around in common areas like the lobby. I’d recommend standing outside or staying in your room if you need to wait for any reason. This will help to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure to you and those around you.
Many amenities are not available
In the hotels I recently visited, many amenities were not available. Pools and gyms were closed. Some of the cafes and restaurants inside the hotels were closed. Spas and saunas were also closed.
If you were hoping to take advantage of a particular amenity at a hotel, I’d recommend calling ahead to the hotel to see if that amenity is available. Corporate hotel websites may not reflect the current operating status of individual hotels.
Pro Tip: If a hotel has re-opened one of their amenities, like a pool, gym, or spa, find out what the hotel is doing to reduce the risk of COVID-19 specifically in those areas. It’s much better to be prepared than surprised.
Social distance markers are everywhere
If you’re staying in a hotel during COVID-19, you’re likely to see lots of social distance markers on the floors throughout the lobby and other common areas.
I also saw social distance signs and markers in the elevator. The elevator signs encouraged people to ride the elevators solo or only with people in their travel party. There were also social distance markers on the floor in opposing corners, encouraging people to stand as far apart as the elevators would allow.
Pro Tip: Try to avoid riding the elevator with others. While the risk of exposure may be low, you may find that sharing the elevator greatly increases your anxiety.
Dining and room service may be adjusted
Do you love the large breakfast buffets that many hotels offer? Well, I’ve got bad news.
Breakfast buffets were closed at each of the three hotels I visited. However, there was a silver lining. The hotels provided a pre-packaged to-go breakfast with things like yogurt, fruit, and granola bars.
In the hotels I visited, the hotel breakfast or kitchen area that was just for hotel guests was closed. The externally-operated restaurants were closed in two of the three hotels.
In addition, room service was severely limited. Only a limited menu was available and room service hours were reduced. You could request contactless room service with the tray left outside of your hotel room.
Pro Tip: Because of the limited food options at the hotels, I’d recommend getting carry-out or curbside pickup from a nearby restaurant and eating in your room. This approach worked out really well for me.
Mid-stay room cleaning might be discouraged
Some hotels are encouraging guests to forgo room cleaning services during their stays. In some cases, hotels are even offering a discount on the stay or some other perk if the hotel guest forgoes mid-stay room cleaning.
I only stayed one night in each of the hotels I visited, so I didn’t have to make this decision. If I had been staying longer, I would have chosen to forgo room cleaning.
Pro Tip: If you’re staying longer than one night and choose to forgo room cleaning, you can ask for things like extra towels and water be brought to your room. Then you can have some of the benefits of room cleaning without the risk of COVID-19 exposure.
Additional sanitation may be required
Before I traveled, I made sure that I was satisfied with the cleaning and safety precautions at each of the hotels I planned to visit.
However, I still brought disinfectant wipes with me. I wiped down the door knobs, bathroom hardware, TV remote, light switches, and all other surfaces I planned to touch. It may have been overkill, but it made me feel more comfortable.
At one of the hotels I visited, the TV remote was in a disposable clear plastic bag, which I thought was genius. You could still see and push the buttons without contaminating your hands. You better believe I’ll be traveling with clear plastic bags for TV remotes from now on!
Pro Tip: Bring your own sanitation kit with you while traveling. Not every place you visit will be as stringent with their cleaning requirements as you’d like them to be. Read this article for ideas on what to include in your COVID-19 travel sanitation kit.
You may want to consider leaving a big tip
If you’re financially able to do so, consider leaving a big tip for the hotel’s cleaning staff in your hotel room when you check-out.
The cleaning staff may be in a tough situation to balance their ability to financially provide for themselves and their families while also staying safe. Plus, the cleaning staff may have reduced hours right now due to fewer hotel guests.
Even if your tip isn’t a lot, it may go a long way to support the cleaning staff and their families.
While it’s not ideal to travel right now, I hope the tips above help you to feel less anxious and more prepared if you have to stay in a hotel during the COVID-19 pandemic. May you have happy, healthy, and safe travels!