The pandemic is far from over, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still suggests staying home for your own safety as well as for those you may encounter upon leaving the house. However, if you do decide to travel for any reason and stay in a hotel, local laws permitting, you’ll want to take as many safety precautions as possible.
So, if you decide to book a hotel stay, here are 10 tips to maximize your safety during your trip.
1. Pick your destination wisely.
If you can, avoid destinations that are seeing spikes in coronavirus cases, lest you become the latest statistic. If you’re going to a hotel where the incidence and prevalence of infection is very, very low, that’s obviously going to be safer because you’re less likely to run into or interact with someone that’s infected, but it’s no guarantee. In a hotel, people are coming from different parts of the country and the world.
2. Before booking a stay, research the hotel’s plan to protect guests and staff.
While you can’t control the actions of others, you can find out what a hotel is doing to encourage safety among guests and staff. Are masks required? Will the hotel provide masks for guests who don’t have them? What kind of social distancing measures are in place? Are there signs posted to educate guests on their policies? Are alcohol-based hand sanitizers readily available throughout the hotel? How often are public areas being sanitized? Is there contactless check-in?
And if you don’t find your answers online, pick up the phone and ask directly — a hotel should have answers to all these questions readily available.
3. Find out what the hotel’s plans are for guests who fall ill during their stay.
Worst case scenario, you’re suddenly not feeling well. You’re not in your hometown where you might know exactly what to do. Does the hotel have procedures for you to follow? You can ask the hotel if it has a resident physician, or if it has information on the nearest medical facilities.
4. Wear a mask and stay at least six feet away from others.
Whether or not your destination requires mask usage or social distancing, you should adhere to all pandemic safety policies suggested by the CDC. All the things that you have been doing to protect yourself still apply when you are staying in a hotel, we are still in the midst of a pandemic, and being on vacation doesn’t change that. Wear a mask when you’re in public spaces, and stay at least six feet apart — this applies to the elevator, too.
5. Ask for a room that has not been occupied for a few days.
According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the coronavirus can live on some surfaces, including plastic and stainless steel, for up to 72 hours. This means that there is a higher risk of coronavirus if the previous guest stayed in the room right before you check in. For maximum safety, ask to stay in a room that has been vacant for three days.
That said, if the room has been properly sanitized by hotel staff between stays, the risk of contracting the virus from a previous guest is pretty small. But better safe than sorry.
6. Sanitize your room upon arrival.
Although hotels should be properly sanitizing rooms between guests, it doesn’t hurt to double down and do a quick clean yourself, especially on high-touch areas like doorknobs, light switches, TV remotes, the bathroom, and any flat surfaces like tables or countertops.
7. Open your windows for ventilation.
If you’re worried about the virus traveling through the HVAC system, don’t be — at least for now. Right now, there isn’t any proof that that’s the case, but data is limited. If it can occur, it’s going to be a relatively minor mode of spread compared to not wearing a mask and keeping physical distance.
But if the windows in your hotel room open (many don’t for safety reasons), you should let that fresh air in anyway. The risk of airborne transmission is higher in indoor spaces with poor ventilation, so it’s a good idea to open windows and doors and increase the fresh air in the room. Good ventilation can help reduce the risk of coronavirus spread.
8. Decline housekeeping services to reduce the number of people in your room.
If housekeeping staff enters your room wearing a mask, they likely won’t spread the virus to the air or surfaces. The real risk of exposure comes from being around others, so someone cleaning your room would pose little risk to you. But there’s always a slight risk that improper mask usage — or no mask usage at all — could lead to the virus entering your room through housekeeping. If you’re worried, skip out on housekeeping altogether. You can always ask for fresh towels to be dropped off outside your door.
9. Order room service rather than dine out.
Given that you can’t eat or drink with a mask on, you’re best off avoiding the hotel’s restaurant and bar and instead ordering room service. Dining in your room will limit your contact with others, so room service would be a safer alternative than going to a restaurant.