Health is on everyone’s mind during COVID-19.
Are you thinking about traveling, but not quite sure how to do it safely? Me too. I’m usually full of first-hand experiences to inform me on what’s happening in the travel world. However, I haven’t set foot in a hotel for months.
I reached out to Marriott to share the precautions they’re taking to ensure guest safety to inform this post. This is in no way an ad for Marriott Hotels. However, with their collection of properties that run that gamut from economical to luxurious, they serve as a gold standard for hospitality at all price points.
Before You Go
Be mindful with how you book.
Yes, you can find great deals on third party websites, but sometimes that leads to confusing cancelation policies and more hoops to jump through. I say if possible, connect directly with a hotel. You might even consider using a travel agent, like AAA. Full disclosure, they are a partner of mine, but make travel so much easier to manage in challenging times like these.
If you’re worried about protocols at your hotel, call them directly to get a better sense of how the hotel is taking precautions during COVID-19. Don’t call the 1-800 number, call the actual hotel you’ll be staying with directly and ask how they are taking precautions to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
It’s also worth noting that most hotels will tell you exactly what they’re doing to help combat the spread of COVID-19 right on their website. If you don’t see that front and center, proceed with caution.
If you’re worried by booking directly, you may lose out on a deal you saw on a third party site, you can always call and ask. Most hotels want to offer guests the lowest rate. If you’re booking with a larger hotel company and signed up for their rewards program, booking direct will help earn free nights, and other benefits like free wifi and mobile check-in. In general, it’s great to join a rewards program—the perks add up!
Before you book, ask about cancellation fees.
Today, a hotel stay may seem like just the ticket, but in a few weeks, you might not be so sure. That’s why you’ll want to ask about cancellations.
Most hotels are relaxing their standard cancellation fees. Many are allowing for cancellations up to 24 hours before the day of arrival without incurring a penalty. Just know existing restrictions will also continue to apply such as group bookings under contract with individual hotels.
When You Arrive
From the moment you walk into the hotel lobby, a hotel’s commitment to keeping guests and employees safe and healthy should be apparent. Here are a few things to look for:
Does the front desk have a shield or barrier?
If your hotel doesn’t have this, are there other elements in place that encourage guests and employees to keep a safe distance? For example, mobile check-in, or physical distancing between front desk and concierge staff and guests.
Are all hotel employees wearing masks?
If not, I’m going to go ahead and call that a red flag. Most hotels are requiring them for all staff as a part of the uniform. I understand people have varying opinions about masks. In this instance, it’s a simple way to visibly show hotel guests that you as a hotel are committed to keeping them safe. If you aren’t able to demonstrate this by wearing a mask, how can we believe behind the scenes practices—like cleaning surfaces, cleaning elevator buttons, door handles, rooms and dining areas– are up to snuff?
Are guests wearing a mask? Are they practicing social distancing?
Guests may not be required to wear a mask by the hotel, but even if all employees are wearing masks, the risk of contamination from a fellow guest is high if they’re lax on social distancing. It’s more something to consider as you decide how to spend your time in a hotel.
Is the furniture in common areas spaced appropriately apart?
Has the hotel removed it completely? Either of these are good signs!
Is there hand sanitizer available for guests and employees alike?
Look for hand sanitizing stations installed at the entrance, near the front desk and elevator banks. It’s also worth mentioning there should be an increased frequency of cleaning and disinfecting, with a special focus on high touch areas like elevator buttons and escalator handrails. As a guest, you should be seeing this happening more than usual!
In Your Room
Ask how the hotel is stepping up cleaning efforts in between guest stays.
Ask how a hotel is ensuring a deep clean between guests. Hospital-grade disinfectants should be used on door handles, tables and nightstands, furniture knobs and handles, light switches and thermostats, drapery pull handles, telephone and keypad, remote control, alarm clock, television, safety latch and peephole, trash receptacle, faucet handles, toilet and shower handles.
Are there nonessential items in your room, such as magazines, ice buckets, and coffee makers? You can ask to have them taken away or put them in a closet or drawer, and then wash your hands.
It’s also a good practice for hotels to provide disinfecting wipes in each room for guests’ use. If you see something similar in your room, that is a great sign.
What about hotel restaurants?
Look for eliminated self-serve buffets, modified in-room dining, and more grab-and-go items that are packaged up safely.
If your hotel’s dining seems to be functioning in the same ways it was prior to COVID19, you may want to consider eating elsewhere, or buying snacks at the grocery store to keep in your room.
What about pools and gyms?
Open gyms and pool area should be spacing equipment farther apart. There should be signage to remind guests to maintain proper distancing.
One last note about hotel stays during COVID-19.
The travel industry has taken a colossal hit due to coronavirus. If you’re looking for a great deal or extra perks, ask! Hotels and resorts need your businesses, and are typically willing to work with you on sweetening the deal.
It’s also worth mentioning working with a travel agent right now is an excellent idea. They have their finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the travel industry, and know of great deals us regular people would never have access too. If you’re not sure how that works, or where to start, read this. The gist is they usually end up saving you lots of time and money.