Many hotels have remained open throughout COVID-19 because they are considered essential businesses. Think of those who must travel for work, like drivers who take our produce across the country, doctors called from one city to another to offer their expertise, and the many, many souls who – for better or for worse – still need to live out of a suitcase during a pandemic for many reasons. I have friends who have wanted to be near their parents to help them during this time, but didn’t want to stay in their parents’ homes, for fear of accidentally infecting them. So they are staying in hotels, near their parents’ houses, and running errands for their families, only spending time with them in the yard or outside. If you find yourself needing to stay in a hotel right now, you may be experiencing a lot of anxiety surrounding that. The room in which you sleep and bathe is a very intimate space. And you know that hundreds if not thousands before you have stayed there. How do you know they weren’t sick? But you can get through staying at a hotel while greatly minimizing your risk for infection. Here are tips for safely staying at a hotel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Inquire about sanitation practices
Call the hotel and ask how they’ve been handling sanitation and cleanliness during this pandemic. It’s a good sign if they can immediately answer you with a clear and detailed description of the methods they’re using, and can tell you that their cleaning staff has been trained on safe practices like wearing masks and gloves while cleaning rooms. If they fumble in their answer, and don’t seem to understand what you mean, or don’t state that any special practices have been put into effect, don’t stay there.
Though having your car valet parked is a luxury, keep in mind that it means allowing several strangers to sit in your enclosed vehicle, breathing on your steering wheel and gear shift, every time you have your car parked, or brought to you. It’s best to just use the self-park option at the hotel.
Bring disinfectant wipes to your hotel room. When you arrive, disinfect the door handle, remote controls, telephone, door handle to the balcony if there is one, levers on the sinks, and levers on the shower and/or bath. Give major surfaces where you may eat or place your toothbrush a wipe down, too.
Use your own pillowcases
This one may seem a bit extreme, but you put your face directly on your pillow. Your mouth and nose – two avenues for the virus to enter your body – go right there. So just in case the staff that cleaned your room was infected and didn’t take the right precautions to cover their hands and face, it could make a huge difference to just use your own pillowcases.
BYO Face cloths
I know that these measures seem extreme, but if you were to become sick with COVID-19, the consequences could also be extreme. So these are small steps to take in order for a major upside. Just bring some face cloths from home. You put your face cloth right up to your face (obviously) and using the ones provided by the hotel could be an issue if the person who did the laundry were sick.
Ask for a room that’s been vacant
One great way to minimize your chances of staying in a room where an infected person has stayed is by simply asking the hotel for a room that’s remained vacant for a long time. Since travel has seriously diminished during this pandemic, there is a good chance that they have a room that fits that description.
Avoid a crowded elevator
If the elevator doors open and you see the elevator is packed with people, wait for the next one. You simply don’t want to be in an enclosed space with a lot of people right now. Your best bet is to stay on the second floor of a hotel – it’s more secure than the first floor, but not so high up that you can’t just take the stairs.
Wear a mask in public spaces
Treat this as if it’s your home, meaning, you don’t wear a mask when you’re in your room, but when you leave it, you wear your mask. Wear it in the lobby, in the hotel gym (if it’s open), in the restaurant when you aren’t eating, and any place that isn’t your personal room.
Eat on the patio at the restaurant
If the hotel restaurant has an outdoor seating area and if the weather allows it, simply eating outside when you want to enjoy the on-site dining option. The more you can minimize the time spent inside public spaces, the better.
Avoid any sort of buffet
Many hotels have shut down buffet options due to COVID-19, but some may still offer things like a complimentary breakfast that includes a tray of pastries and yogurt left out – which is basically still a mini buffet. Packaged goods are fine, but do not eat from buffet trays of food made on site.
Have some meals in the room
Pack a cooler or ask for a mini-fridge in the room so you can keep some items on hand. Try having breakfast and lunch in the room, or as many meals as you can tolerate having in your room. It’s not only a good way to save money, but it also reduces the number of times you eat in a public space like a restaurant.
Avoid the jacuzzi
The pool areas may be reopening at many hotels. And you may find yourself wanting to go soak up some rays. That should be mostly safe if it’s an outdoor pool, since you aren’t in an enclosed space with strangers. But do not go in the Jacuzzi, as the steam created in it creates an efficient vehicle for germs.
The misters that you find around outdoor areas of resorts and hotels help keep you cool, sending out chilled water droplets just when you need them. But these, too, can quickly carry bacteria, if there is bacteria in the air. So don’t sit beneath these at your meal, and avoid them at all costs.
If you use the business center
If you must use the business center at the hotel, take precautions. Bring wipes. Wipe down keyboards, fax machines, copy machines, and any appliance you may have to use. Do not enter if there are too many people to keep six feet of distance. Wait until the area clears.
Walk outside when possible
Always look for ways to minimize your time spent indoors, in the public areas of the hotel. If you can walk around the hotel, outside, to get to the elevator or stairwell closest to your room, do that instead of going through the lobby. If there are several entrances to the underground garage, stay above ground as long as possible, and walk around to the entrance closest to your car.