Staying at a hotel during COVID-19: What to Expect

Staying at a hotel during COVID-19: What to Expect

For frequent travelers and explorers like us, we are all wondering what to expect when staying at a hotel during COVID-19.  Is it safe? How do we know? What will be different?

As businesses begin to re-open, travel for work and leisure are becoming an option again. Families can take that vacation trip they have been postponing. Kids (and parents) who have been cooped up inside for months can finally have a change of scenery.

Of course, staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from getting sick. However, if a trip is required for work, or simply to regain some sanity, then there are a few things you should look for. This article will outline some of the changes you can expect when staying at a hotel during COVID-19

A clear policy

The first thing you should do when booking a hotel during COVID-19 is to confirm their health and safety protocol. Because the state of the pandemic is completely different around the world, safety policies will vary widely among countries, states, and companies.

On a recent trip to West Virginia, we realized that the state no longer requires the use of face masks in public. We avoided those public places like the plague. Luckily, our hotel maintained a strong health and safety protocol. Staff are required to wear masks at all times and guests are encouraged to do the same.

It is essential that hotels adopt additional measures to protect against Coronavirus transmission. Looking for a hotel’s policy is the first step in ensuring that the company is taking a responsible and CDC-informed approach to protecting guests. An effective policy might include some of the measures listed below.

Increased sanitation

When an infectious disease is running rampant across the globe, there is nothing more comforting than walking into a room that smells like Lysol and disinfectant. Some higher-end hotels are using electrostatic sprayers and testing out ultraviolet light technology to clean guest rooms and public areas. Commonly used items such as tv remotes, ceiling fan remotes, and in-room tablets are disinfected and sealed in vacuum packaging.

While the intensity of cleaning has increased, the frequency has decreased. To minimize contact with guests, staff no longer provide in-room housekeeping to make beds and refresh amenities. Should a guest require additional towels, staff leave the requested items at the front door for no-contact delivery. Only after guests have checked out, will the cleaning crew come in to do a deep clean.

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Social distancing

Social distancing is perhaps the first and most obvious difference that you will notice. Some hotels are installing large plexiglass barriers at front desks for added separation, however most are doing away with the traditional check-in process altogether. Contactless self-check-in and digital keys are the new trends. Similarly, face-to-face concierge services are being replaced by text messaging software.

A few items which guests might miss are the valet, bellhop, and turn down service. The goal is to minimize as much interaction between staff and guests as possible to maintain social distancing and prevent the potential spread of COVID-19.

According to Manager Becky Corcoran of Hillbrook Inn and Spa, finding the appropriate balance between hospitality and safety remains both a challenge and a priority. The reduced hospitality is indeed noticeable, however a necessary sacrifice to ensure the safety of guests.

A new dining experience

Continental Breakfasts delivered to room during COVID-19

Many hotel restaurant are choosing to remain closed and opting instead to offer room delivery service. Others are offering pre-made boxed meals for a sort of “grab-and-go” type situation. Those who have decided to reopen, are removing and rearranging table settings to operate at a reduced capacity. The fate of buffets certainly looks grim, but only time will tell.

Hotel bars are no longer the place you go to get lost in a crowd and mingle with strangers. Bars (if they are open at all) are spacing stools a sizeable distance apart to discourage crowding.

Limited amenities and facility usage

Hotels are downsizing the contents of guest rooms to reduce opportunities for contamination and spreading of germs. This means that the “luxury” items often included in hotel rooms may now be difficult to come by. So long non-essential decorative throw pillows. Goodbye fancy glass cups and microfiber bathrobes. Minibars of snacks, sodas, and booze are likely to be replaced with personal care kits of hand sanitizer, masks, individually packed tissues, and bottled water.

Related Content: Hillbrook Inn and Spa: Where American History meets European style and Southern Charm

Restricted communal access

Many sports and recreational areas are closed or operating at limited capacity. This includes fitness facilities, pools, and spas. In some cases, guests may be able to make a reservation in advance to ensure social distancing and that there is adequate time for disinfecting between users.

Staying at a hotel during COVID-19: Bottom line

When in doubt, follow this safety checklist released by AHLA, the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

AHLA Guest Checklist; Staying at hotel during COVID-19

Safety is your responsibility and yours alone. It is likely that you will notice some big changes, but make sure they are the right changes. Check hotel guidelines, wear a mask, and minimize your contact with others. Hotels can be a safe place to stay if they are following CDC guidelines for COVID-19, but it is your responsibility to do the research and make an informed decision.

Have you stayed at a hotel during COVID-19? We would love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

Cecilia is a bubbly Filipino-American with an affinity for constant change...that or a 10 second attention span. Refusing to sit still, she travels the world, in pursuit of adventure, excitement and meaningful experiences. She holds a Masters degree in International Development and Public Policy, and a BA in Business Management.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. We have done day trips but not stayed overnight yet. So it was great to read about your hotel experience. Great to read your hotel enforced strong protocols even when masks weren’t required in West Virginia. Food options have been something I worried about with so many hotels shutting down food service – especially breakfast. I hate having to go out and search for food as an early riser. I like that you reinforce that we are responsible for our own safety. Sadly, we can’t always count on others to take our best interests to heart. We will see how our planned fall hotel stay goes.

    1. Will be thinking about you all! Hope you have a safe and enjoyable hotel stay with some tasty (yet safe) food options. 🙂

  2. I have been thinking of booking a staycation for the sake of change of scenery but I am not really sure what to expect. Thank you for sharing this. It is very helpful in managing our expectations. Too bad I would have to skip my favorite breakfast buffet.

    1. We were in the same boat. We were in dire need of some relief from staying in one place. Since it was our 2 year anniversary, we decided to take a staycation. We were happy to stay with a hotel that put the safety of its guests first. We did miss that hot breakfast though!

  3. Really good to read a bit more about the kinds of measures hotels are taking. Less house keeping and less contact suits my travel style anyway so I’m good with those kinds of changes. I think the dining is the biggest change, especially for hotels that used to run breakfast buffets! Likewise, use of shared facilities like pools and gyms.

    1. We feel your pain. Breakfast buffets were always such a treat when staying at a hotel. During a recent stay with Hillbrook Inn, they delivered a boxed breakfast to our doorstep the night before. While it was not a warm endless buffet, we still felt cared for and more importantly we felt safe.

  4. Really great information! We are taking a short trip to Connecticut, and there are certain experiences and museums that I have already deleted from our list because they phrase their protocols as optional. I’m giving my money to businesses and places that are taking the health of their guests seriously. As you said, it’s important to check out the protocol because we can’t assume that every hotel or museum for instance follows the same procedure – that point is key!

    1. Unfortunately, many businesses at this time are placing a higher value on quantity and profit than on the safety of their clientele. I applaud you for choosing to support companies that take the health of their guests seriously.

  5. This is a great guide and I appreciate that you included the AHLA guide for safety. I’ve stayed in a few hotels since the beginning of the pandemic and had similar experiences as you. The hotel stays I enjoyed the most are the hotels that put my safety first. They took the time to make sure I was able to enjoy breakfast safely, they limited the number of rooms that were occupied at one time and even had no-contact check-in. One hotel even made sure that rooms were vacant more than 36 hours before your arrival. Though I do miss some of the “fluff” of the decorative pillows and such, I feel so cared for when a hotel is upfront about their COVID-19 cleaning routines and how they plan on keeping their guests safe. That’s excellent customer service in my mind!

    1. Very well said. While putting the safety of customers first might mean a decrease in face-to-face service, this gesture is in fact a display of excellent customer service. It shows where their values lie and that is something we can certainly appreciate.

  6. Your post is very helpful to the world that we are unfortunately living in today. I never thought about the state laws varying with the masks and policies. I’m glad you mentioned that in your blog!

    1. It can be shocking if you are in one state that strictly enforces masks, and then drive 1 hour into another state where social distancing and masks are no longer enforced. Fingers crossed we can all stay safe and well until this passes!

  7. I haven’t stepped out for overnight stay but this looks like future and things that we will get to see more and more. Increased hygiene and sanitation will be the need of the hour. Looks good that hotels are encouraging social distancing and making efforts to curb the spread. In India, the food delivery has begun but I am not sure what will it be like to go and stay in hotels. Limiting the occupancy, reminding with checklists and ensuring change in seating arrangements during breakfast buffets look assuring.

  8. I honestly, have not yet ventured out but these are the very things that cross my mind when I think of hotels. Do they sanitize everything? What are the norms followed etc? It is good that you have listed down this checklist. I will be sure to look at them once I decide to venture out. Thanks for the same.

  9. I don’t know if I would be comfortable with staying at a hotel at this point. For some reason, I still feel like home rentals are still a bit safer. But I really love hearing about some of those measures, they sound like great ways to keep everyone safe

    1. There are definitely perks to staying at a home rental like an Airbnb. It is a sure way to avoid crowds and enforce social distancing for you and your family. Some of the measures mentioned in this article could still apply to assess the safety of a home rental, for example, checking into the renter’s safety/sanitation policy. Stay well!

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