Many states have seen the number of COVID-19 cases drop to the point that they are allowing people to visit for a much-needed vacation.
But tourists will still want to keep safety and cleanliness in mind when choosing and visiting a hotel – a topic University of Delaware Professor Sheryl Kline has been studying for years. She's compiled from this work a list of six important tips to keep in mind for those staying in a hotel this Labor Day weekend in the midst of a pandemic.
1. Check the destination before you travel.
Before traveling, check the CDC’s website for travel health notices. This includes COVID-19 hot spots. The CDC also has tool kits available depending on your mode of travel. Then, find out if there are any restrictions in place at your destination due to the pandemic. For example, are restaurants open for dining? If you are going to a beach area, are there limits on activities or experiences that are normally available due to a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases? You can also contact your destination’s local Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) to see what is open for tourists and what limitations are in place.
2. Select your hotel carefully.
Visit the hotel’s website or contact the hotel and find out what they are doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The questions to ask include: Does the hotel follow the recommendations of the CDC? Are they following the American Hotel and Lodging Association’s Safe Stay Practices? The major hotel chains have agreed to follow these practices, and they’ve created training programs and hygiene protocols that are similar to what you would find in a healthcare facility. If the person you’re talking to doesn’t know about these guidelines, get specific instead. Ask them: Is the staff is required to wear face coverings? Are they practicing social distancing, and if so, how? Does their signage note six feet of separation? Do they limit the number of guests in the lobby and public space areas? Are there Plexiglas screens at the front desk? Do they offer no-contact services such as automated check in and check out? Is sanitizer readily available in the lobby? You can also ask about cleaning practices and the frequency of cleaning. Your hotel should be using cleaning products that not only clean but also disinfect surfaces.
3. Use fewer in-person services when possible.
Whenever possible, opt for low-touch or no-touch services to reduce the need for you to have contact with others. This includes automated or online check in and check out when possible. You may have to download an app to do so, but it’s worth it to make you safer. Skip the daily housekeeping service so you limit the number of people who enter your room. You can also use room service or order take-out so that you don’t need to eat in public spaces, especially indoor restaurants.
Avoid using the hotel’s gym, indoor pool or workout room. Avoiding any spaces that are enclosed where you can have close contact with others will reduce your chance for exposure to the virus.
4. Keep things as clean as possible.
When checking in, ask for a room that has been previously vacant for at least a day or, better yet, up to three days. Although the risk is lower by contracting the virus through a surface, this will reduce your risk even further. Ask for a room where you do not need to use the elevator and/or where you can limit your use of an elevator, since that is enclosed space where you travel with people close together.
You can also take the extra step and disinfect the guestroom before you use it. Bring your own cleaning supplies and sanitizing products and re-disinfect high-touch areas. High-touch areas include doorknobs, light switches, telephones, remote control devices, tabletops and bathroom fixtures. The EPA has a list of approved disinfectants that work against COVID-19. To be effective, you must follow the instructions and be careful not to harm the surfaces you are cleaning. In addition, always wear shoes or slippers when walking around the room, as it is not always practical to thoroughly clean the floor.
5. Be a partner in stopping the spread.
Taking a vacation doesn’t mean taking a vacation from the safety practices we’ve all been following this year: Wear a mask when in public (especially indoors) and wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water. Do not touch your face and practice social distancing. Don’t gather in public indoor spaces and avoid large crowds. While traveling, bring extra facemasks so that you have an adequate supply throughout your trip. In the hotel, don’t use other people’s pens — bring your own. Use a tissue when touching elevator buttons or opening and closing doors and throw it out after using it. Finally, if you are sick or if you think you have been exposed to some with COVID-19, don’t travel. This is especially the case if you are showing symptoms of COVID-19. The CDC has a list of the symptoms to look for in case you think you have the virus.
6. Always consider the refund policy.
If your plans change due to the virus, will you get a refund, or do you need to reschedule? In these uncertain times, you should always ask about your hotel’s cancellation policy. You’ll want to know what will happen if you get sick or if you choose not to travel due to an increase in COVID-19 cases at the destination.