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Staying at a hotel during COVID? Here’s how to stay safe

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Traveling can be complicated during COVID, but it doesn’t need to be off the table entirely. Whether you’re traveling for fun, business, a family emergency, or something else, staying in a hotel can be relatively safe when you take reasonable precautions.

The COVID-19 pandemic is still going strong, but with restrictions starting to be lifted around the country and the world, lots of people are ready for a change of scenery -- and you can’t blame them, after going stir-crazy in quarantine for months. 

Is traveling and staying in a hotel during COVID-19 safe? Hotels know that if their guests start getting sick and dying, it’ll be bad for business, so as they reopen, they’re implementing precautions like increased cleaning, mask mandates, plastic shields, and limiting the use of indoor common spaces. As long as you take precautions like wearing your mask, maintaining social distance, and practicing good hygiene, you can travel and visit hotels in relative safety.

Know what’s going on at your destination
These days, you don’t want to travel anywhere without knowing what’s going on at your destination in terms of community spread, changing restrictions, and quarantine policies. Don’t book anything right now that you can’t cancel at the last minute if there’s a spike in cases in your destination area or if either your area of residence or your travel destination experiences a return to strict quarantine rules and travel restrictions. Before you depart on your trip, make sure there are no restrictions in place that will stop you from traveling. 

You should also check levels of community spread in your travel destination before you go. You may want to reconsider your trip if the area you’re traveling to still has a lot of community spread, even if you’re not under any travel restrictions or quarantine rules. For example, check community spread rates and travel restrictions for New York City before leaving for your getaway in an East Village hotel.

Maintain social distancing and wear a mask
Just like you would at home, maintain a minimum physical distance of six feet from anyone you don’t live with, and wear a mask whenever that’s not possible. Mask wearing is perhaps the most effective and important thing you can do to protect yourself and others from COVID-19. Wear it when checking in and out or using common areas in the hotel, like the gym, or when sitting poolside. Don’t wear it while you’re in the pool or spa -- it’ll get wet and become harder to breathe through and less effective. 

Take extra masks with you on your trip so you can change to a clean one every four hours, or when the one you’re wearing gets dirty or damp. Cloth masks can be hand-washed in your room sink with soap and hot water and hung to dry -- use the clothes iron in your room to press them for extra sanitation. 

Keep up with your hygiene practices
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 40 seconds, or use hand sanitizer for 20 seconds. Clean your hands after exchanging money, cards, keys, or other objects with the hotel staff, before and after eating and drinking, after using the bathroom, and when entering or leaving common areas in the hotel. If you do decide to patronize the hotel bar or restaurant, make sure they’re following social distancing guidelines for indoor facilities -- there should be no more than four patrons per ten square meters, with at least one meter (or about three feet) or distance between guests seated for indoor or outdoor dining. Make sure there are hand sanitizer stations at the entrance to restaurants and bars, and use them. Wear your mask when you’re not eating or drinking.

Avoid common spaces
As much as possible, avoid spending time in common spaces in the hotel. Use room service or delivery services to take your meals, or eat outdoors. You may want to avoid the hotel gym, but the hotel pool should be okay as long as you keep your distance from other patrons. If you have the option, choose an outdoor pool.

Hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign
You want to minimize the number of people in your space, so use the “Do Not Disturb” sign and avoid housekeeping during your stay. You can ask for clean towels to be left outside your door. It’s also worth asking for the room that’s been empty for a few days, if possible. Bring your own cleaning supplies and disinfect frequently touched surfaces in your room when you arrive -- these include the phone, remote controls, light switches, and flat surfaces in the room. Remember to leave housekeeping a tip, even if you didn’t use them during your stay -- they still have to clean your room after you check out, it’ll likely be messier than they’re used to, and it’s a tough time to work in the service industry.

Traveling can be complicated during COVID, but it doesn’t need to be off the table entirely. Whether you’re traveling for fun, business, a family emergency, or something else, staying in a hotel can be relatively safe when you take reasonable precautions.

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