Is it safe to stay in a hotel? What you need to know to stay healthy
Wondering if it is safe to stay in a hotel room because of the coronavirus? No one wants to catch COVID-19 and certainly not from a hotel stay. Hotel associations as well as many hotels, motels, inns and bed and breakfasts have created guidelines to ensure guest and employee health and safety when staying in a hotel.
Many are beginning cautiously to travel again, even as the coronavirus pandemic marches on. But travelers wonder, is it safe to stay in a hotel? The answer is yes, but with a caveat … do your homework and, even then, be prepared to stay vigilant to stay healthy.
Find out if it is safe to stay in a hotel before you book
It used to be all you really worried about with hotel safety was how secure the hotel was and what safety protocols you needed to protect your valuables and yourself. But times have changed. With the pandemic, staying healthy during your stay is just as important of a concern.
Look at the hotel, inn, or B&B website and read what procedures have been put in place to keep guests AND hotel staff safe. At a minimum, all should be following basic protocols established by the American Hotel & Lodging Association which follow CDC guidelines. If a hotel does not have clear guidelines published on how it is dealing with coronavirus, then do not stay there.
Don’t just take the hotel’s website at face value, however. Call the hotel or inn to ask pointed questions about what the hotel is doing: What are its cleaning rituals? How often does it disinfect common touch surfaces like door handles, light switches, handrails in public areas? What is the room-cleaning procedure following a guest checking out and before another guest checks in? Some hotels are keeping rooms empty for at least 24 hours – and up to 72 hours — between guests and are conducting a thorough sanitizing – think UV wands and wipe downs. If a hotel is not doing this, and perhaps even if it is disinfecting the room, you should arrive prepared to use disinfecting wipes on all common touch surfaces in the room – doorknobs, toilet flushing handles, toilet seats, faucets, light switches, remotes … anything and any surface that is frequently touched.
Ask how the hotel is managing social distancing, check-in, elevators, restaurants or breakfast, or its public spaces. Does it have touchless check-in and mobile keys? Does it have hand-sanitizing stations throughout the hotel? Does it require face masks for employees AND guests? If not, we would not advise staying there.
Ask too about amenities. Has the hotel removed pads of paper and pens from its rooms? How about magazines? They should be removed, too. No decorative pillows, blankets, and, sorry to say, in many cases, robes. Because the less items there are in the room, the less there is to have to clean and sanitize and the less opportunities there are for a surface to be contaminated.
If you can, choose a hotel with a breakfast option. It won’t be a buffet these days, but it will mean you will have one less place to travel to and one less opportunity to expose yourself to coronavirus.
Checking in and staying safe
When you arrive at the hotel or inn, look to be sure the hotel is doing what it promised it would do. And look for additional signs that where you are staying is taking your health and the health of its employees seriously. Are there barriers at the check-in counter and physical distancing signs and reminders in the lobby? Are employees and guests you see all wearing masks and wearing them properly? Are there sanitizing stations – and face masks perhaps — available in the lobby? If not, ask for a manager before you decide to check-in. If your concerns are not promptly addressed, it might be time to find another place to stay.
Keeping exposure to germs at a minimum during your hotel stay
Ensure the hotel or inn you are staying offers no-contact service throughout. By that, we mean hotel staff do not enter your room unless you request it, period. For example, room service will leave food outside of your door and will not enter your room. And when you want the dishes taken away, you will place them outside your room. Housekeeping will only enter your room upon request and only after you have left the room. And if you need more amenities, you ask and they are delivered outside your door. Indeed, breakfasts included with your stay may be delivered to your door, but with distancing and sanitizing could still be offered on a deck or in a dining room.
It is important to determine, as well, what the housekeeping protocols are. Be sure the housekeeping service personnel are instructed to wash their hands before they enter your room and that they will be wearing a mask at all times when in your room.
Always take the stairs instead of an elevator if possible. Limit the amount of time you spend in a hotel’s common area. Use touchless payment systems, if available, or ensure cards are wiped down. If you must sign something, ensure that there are “sanitized, unused” pens for use and then you put a pen elsewhere to be cleaned again before another uses it (or better yet, just use your own pen). Open doors that are not automatic with an elbow or use a tissue to turn a knob and then toss the tissue. If you do travel in an elevator, use a pen, cotton swab, or other objects to push the elevator buttons, not your finger.
Learn many more techniques to fighting off germs in public spaces in our story “Travel hacks for fighting germs in public spaces – updated March 2020“
Your hotel room is a safe zone, keep it sanitized
Once you are inside your hotel room, you are certainly safer than in the lobby, but this is no time to just let down your guard.
Immediately after entering your room, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, as per CDC guidelines. Then, use disinfectant wipes to wipe down faucet handles, door handles and anything else you may have touched upon entering your room.
Be sure to occasionally clean the face mask you have been wearing, if a fabric one. Soak the mask in a sink full of water and then scrub with laundry detergent. If you didn’t pack laundry detergent, use a bit of shampoo or the bar of soap. Rinse the mask well, wring out the excess water, and then hang it to dry. It is a good idea to pack several spare masks so you always have a clean and dry one to put on.
You have a responsibility to keep everyone safe too
Even if the hotel you are staying in does everything correctly, it will not help if you are not a good travel citizen, too. Do not travel or check into a hotel unless you know you are free of coronavirus symptoms and are in good health. Be sure that for at least two weeks prior to traveling and checking in to the hotel, you are not engaging in any behaviors that may result in unnecessary exposure to the COVID-19 virus – at a minimum adhering to CDC mandated social distancing guidelines, frequent hand washing, and always wearing a mask when out in public. And if you do start to feel ill once you check-in, be sure to immediately notify the hotel management.