More expert tips on what to consider when choosing a hotel
So once you are ready to travel again, what makes that first post-COVID hotel stay a good pick? Here are more tips from experts on what to look for before you book.
Health and safety
First and foremost, make sure the hotel feels safe and promotes stringent new cleaning policies and safety protocols. Also look for things like a location that embraces the outdoors with wide-open spaces, outdoor dining and amenities, and perhaps even special in-room filtration devices.
McLean Robbins, travel consultant and owner of full-service travel agency Lily Pond Luxury, said, “Today’s traveler expects far more than simply a cleaned and sanitized room and hotel staff following the proper masking and hygiene protocols; these are the expected qualifications. How are hotels going above and beyond to service their guests while still keeping safety at the fore?”
Victoria Zindell of Luxury Ventures Travel, a full-service travel agency specializing in customized experiences for leisure travelers, says many of her clients are going for secluded resorts and are especially conscious of safety protocols. “We are still receiving a ton of last minute requests for getaways that offer wide open spaces and private stand-alone accommodations, which I think we all expect will continue for the foreseeable future,” she said.
Zindell added, “I think it is clear that all travelers would be more at ease with consistent protocols and transparency while being reassured that the place where they are booking their travel plans are doing everything in their power to maintain the safest, cleanest environment possible with a specific actionable plan in place.”
Bucket list travel experiences
Once confident in a hotel’s approach to safety, look for a hotel that delivers on that wow factor we’ve all been dreaming about. Think marquee restaurants helmed by next-level chefs, an abundance of activities beyond just a pool (although a pool is a must, too!), beautiful locations, and elevated amenities.
“Our clients are going for those bucket list trips sooner rather than later, after feeling restricted for so long,” Zindell said, with clients eager for trips both internationally and across the US.
While many travelers are already looking ahead to 2022, last-minute and summer trips are also popular, with people yearning for space, alone-time, and truly special options, says Zindell.
“Escapism travel, as we have referred to it, is a trend we are starting to see. For example, parents who have been at home with their kids all year, are planning time away with those they have not been able to spend quality time with, such as close friends.”
Stay within your comfort zone
And for those travelers who remain anxious despite updated CDC directives, Robbins recommends starting small.
“Travelers must realize that the pandemic isn’t over just because they’ve elected to vacation, and I encourage my clients to only travel within their comfort levels,” he said.
“It may sound obvious, but perhaps try a drive-market staycation before hopping on that flight to Florida or Hawaii. If concerned about group dining, book a home with a chef or a large suite with a dining space. The world ‘out there’ is much less scary once you begin re-living in it, but it’s my job to walk the fine line of helping translate guest expectation and property realities to ensure that travelers are comfortable and feel secure when they arrive to their destinations.”
FAQ: Safe travel during COVID
Is it safe to travel?
The CDC recently said the fully vaccinated can travel with low risk, although they advise continuing to wear masks, social distance, wash hands, and exercise caution. Travelers should also be mindful of their personal risk level, which is bound to vary: some states have higher rates of variants and lower rates of vaccinated people, while others have increased restrictions or quarantine protocols for incoming travelers.
Regardless of your final destination, it’s important to remember that the pandemic is not over, so following all local and national guidelines is critical.
Of course, it’s impossible to completely guarantee that travel is safe.
Is it safe to stay in hotels?
While vacation rentals continue to be popular, hotels are now open and poised to make a comeback as travelers become vaccinated and feel comfortable interacting with others again.
However, you may encounter other people in hotel common spaces such as lobbies, gyms, pools, spas, restaurants, and bars. Thankfully, experts said that with added caution, it is safe to stay in hotels. Just remember to follow CDC guidelines and wear a mask in public, wash hands and use sanitizer, and follow social distancing.
And for those who are still on the fence about returning to travel, Dr. Bretsky thinks hotels are generally safe if you are two weeks past your final vaccination.
“From masks to barrier protection, plus limiting interactions with staff, and imposing restrictions on indoor bars and dining, it would be highly unlikely that one would acquire COVID-19 during a hotel stay,” said Dr. Bretsky. “I think I’d still stay out of the fitness center, but a well-deserved dip in the hotel pool at the end of the travel day is a definite yes, and using the spa would be reasonable, as would eating in an outdoor or well-ventilated setting.”
Dr. Bretsky does, however, generally recommend a more cautious approach for the unvaccinated: stricter social distancing, avoiding groups of people, remote check-in, and even ordering food into your room. And, of course, masks are a must.
“Those who are not yet vaccinated may want to take more precautions such as room service and strenuously avoiding congregate areas. One such area to avoid might be the check-in desk,” he said.
The unvaccinated should also avoid unnecessary housekeeping, Dr. Bretsky said, though, “Most of the concern about surface transmission has been debunked. Any viral particles that remain from a prior guest — gross to think about, but it happens — would be inert and not infectious.”