The CDC is recommending against non-essential travel this summer, but you’d be surprised how much you can bend the definition of “essential travel” once you’ve been in quarantine for a couple of months. Or maybe you do have some essential travel, and you’ll need to stay in a hotel at your destination. Or maybe some bad summer weather has forced you and your family into temporary accommodations. The question is: is staying in a hotel right now even safe?
Well, there’s good news — as long as you take the right precautions, staying in a hotel can be a low-risk activity. Make sure the hotel you use follows appropriate sanitization procedures, mask up, and keep your six feet of distance, whether on vacation or at home.
Ask Before You Book
Any reputable hotel will be taking measures to keep guests safe. Before you book a room for your trip, research the hotel’s cleaning and COVID-19 safety policies. Look for a hotel that:
- Sanitizes rooms between guests
- Sanitizes common areas, like the lobby, hotel bar, and restaurant, multiple times a day
- Provides sneeze barriers for staff and guest safety at areas like the check-in desk
- Requires staff to wear masks
- Remove unnecessary items, like pens and paper, from the rooms
- Provides alcohol-based hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes throughout the hotel
- Uses ultraviolet light to sanitize room keys, or offers contactless room entry
If you can’t find the information on your hotel’s website, call them up and ask. The receptionist should be able to answer your questions easily. You’re better off choosing well-known hotels in desirable areas — treat yourself to that nice hotel in downtown LA, for example, instead of that dodgy one on the outskirts. If that’s just not an option, at least choose a large chain — either type of establishment should have the money and the motivation to keep guests safe.
Maintain Social Distancing
Yes, it’s technically possible to catch COVID-19 by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your mouth or eyes. But the experts say that’s not the most common means of transmission. No, it’s usually spread by person-to-person contact, via respiratory droplets that an infected person breathes out. So stay six feet away from people you’re not quarantining with, including hotel staff and other guests.
Don’t use the hotel gym — other guests will have been in there touching things with their sweaty hands, and they may have taken off their masks to work out. Stay away from the bar, and avoid the hotel restaurant unless you can be sure that you will be seated at least six feet from other diners and that the tables are sanitized between uses. It’s best to get room service instead, and ask if contactless delivery is an option. That way, they can just drop it off outside your door when it’s ready.
You might be on vacation, but keep wearing your mask every time you leave the room. You don’t need to bring a fresh mask for every day of your stay, although you certainly could. You can hand-wash masks in your room in delicate laundry soap and hot water, then hang them to dry. If there’s an iron in your room, you can iron the dry masks for extra sanitation, although that’s not necessary.
Avoid Travel to Highly Impacted Regions
If you can, avoid traveling to areas currently experiencing a high rate of community spread. You’ll need to research the area you’re traveling to before you set off, of course, but you’re less likely to be exposed if you travel to a place where the rate of infection is lower. Of course, people from all over could be staying in the same hotel, so you should still be careful to keep your distance from other guests and staff.
Skip the Housecleaning
The more people come into your room during your stay, the greater your chance of becoming infected. Skip housecleaning service during your stay. You can get clean towels from the front desk as you need them, or ask for them to be dropped off at your door.
Sanitize the Room Yourself
Housecleaning staff should sanitize each room between guests, but you should still disinfect high-touch surfaces yourself upon entering your room. Wipe down the light switch, doorknobs, faucets, toilet handle, TV remote, phone, alarm clock, and horizontal surfaces with a bleach wipe.
Of course, if your room was cleaned recently, you might be worried that the cleaner’s or last guests’ respiratory droplets are still lingering in the air, as they can do for up to three hours. You can always ask for a room that has been empty at least that long when you check in.
You can’t avoid travel forever, and maybe you don’t want to, but we’re still experiencing a pandemic, and that means you have to take precautions, especially if you choose to stay in a hotel. Sanitize your room, maintain six feet of distance, wear your mask — and don’t forget to have a great trip.