Is this hotel clean? Here are three (dirty) red flags to watch out for
In 2020, many holidaymakers have turned to glamping, VR and vacation rentals amid fears that hotels may not be the safest place to stay. After all, stepping into a shower that a stranger used yesterday may have already given germaphobes the jitters – even before COVID-19 became the fastest growing word in the lexicon.
So, is it safe to stay in a hotel? After more than a year since the start of the pandemic, we know a lot more about how the virus is spread. And since then, most hotels have adopted commonly accepted safety procedures while stepping up their sanitation practices, making the TV remote control cleaner than ever.
With that in mind, here are three cleanliness red flags to watch out for – and three positive protocols you should expect to see – when checking into a hotel:
Your hotel might not be as safe as it should be if you come across any of this information.
1. A musty smell or “dirty socks”
“You’ll know it when you smell it,” says Rajiv Sahay, Ph.D., director of the environmental diagnostic laboratory at Pure Air Control Services, a company specializing in indoor air quality. “It’s a pungent smell, like when you take off your socks. It is a sign of contamination, or especially bacteria. “
This smell is often a sign that your room is poorly ventilated. And poor ventilation may not inspire confidence that there aren’t also coronavirus particles from the last person left in the air. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says aerosol particles can stay suspended in the air for a few minutes to several hours.
Also see: Will we need COVID-19 reminders? More and more the wait is yes
This room is probably not the one you want to stay in, pandemic or not. But if you’ve just landed from a midnight flight and all the other hotels are booked, you might not have a choice. If so, open the windows to improve ventilation.
What to do: Get another bedroom. If that’s not possible, open the windows and doors and (maybe) turn on the air conditioning.
Likewise, another indicator of contamination is a room that appears warmer or more humid than normal.
Even if you probably aren’t traveling with a hygrometer, humidity is easy to spot with the naked eye by looking for condensation that builds up on windows. As before, you can open the windows to improve ventilation, or lower the room temperature by turning on the air conditioning.
However, if the air conditioning system in the hotel room is a system that simply recirculates the air, like a fan, then it should not be used. You can find out what type of system it is by calling the front desk.
“You run the risk of spreading particles around,” says Sahay.
Otherwise, the World Health Organization says that a well-maintained air conditioning system is helpful in increasing the rate of air change, reducing air recirculation, and increasing the amount of incoming outside air.
2. Dirt in less frequented areas
Of course, high traffic areas, like the check-in counter and bathroom sink, are likely cleaned regularly. But Sahay recommends looking at low traffic areas, such as hallway tables or side stairs, as an indicator of the quality of housekeeping services.
“Make a quick comparison between areas that are frequently affected and areas that are not frequently touched,” he says. “Compare the layering of dust in these areas. If you see any difference, it is an indicator that maintenance practices are lacking.
What to do: Ask for another round of cleaning.
The CDC said that, based on current evidence, transmission from contaminated surfaces does not substantially contribute to new coronavirus infections. So while you probably don’t have to worry about transmitting from the TV remote control, inadequate housekeeping is potentially a signal that the hotel is not taking coronavirus precautions as seriously as they are. could.
Don’t feel bad about asking for another round of housekeeping – future guests will thank you, too.
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3. The wearing of a mask is not imposed in the interior common areas
While the CDC has relaxed mask requirements, some experts recommend that the mask be worn continuously indoors because you don’t know if people around you are vaccinated.
“Hotels that fail to ensure compliance with CDC recommendations or enforce the wearing of masks in interior areas should be a wake-up call that utmost care is not being taken into account,” said Dr Jessica Shepherd, Chief Medical Officer of Verywell Health. , a medical information site.
What to do: Avoid indoor common areas.
If people are not wearing masks in areas where they are needed and you have no way of checking their immunization status, avoid lingering in the lobby. You might have been blown away by the free breakfast, but it’s probably not worth the savings if an unmasked buffet navigator has a sneezing attack.
Even though masks are not legally required indoors for people vaccinated in the hotel location, private businesses (such as hotels) may still need them. Either way, it can still be a good idea to hide indoors and even outdoors, especially if you are in a crowded space like the taxi line.
“It’s always important to be empathetic to those who still want to wear masks, have space and want to reduce interactions even as we start to open up,” Shepherd says.
However, Sahay says there’s no reason to wear a mask when you’re alone in your hotel room.
Here are some features you will need in your hotel for a safer, cleaner stay.
1. Contactless technology
Contactless technology had grown in popularity even before COVID-19, but it has become more important than ever. Look for technologies like voice-activated elevators or motion-sensing switches and water fountains.
Look for hotels that offer automatic check-in, allowing you to access your room key through a phone app so you can bypass reception altogether.
You might even find hotels that offer robotic room service. MAR by Marriott,
The Aloft brand has experimented with a robotic butler, called Botlr, which can provide amenities to rooms. Another Marriott property, the Trio Healdsburg Hotel in Sonoma County, Calif., Currently offers a contactless robot butler delivery service called Rosé.
2. Common areas redesigned
Many hotels have significantly adjusted their operations, especially in the common areas. The lounge chairs in the lobby have been spaced out and hotels have dropped breakfast buffets in favor of brown bag breakfasts.
Some hotel restaurants have traded paper menus for menus based on QR codes, and they’ve swapped silver for prepackaged utensils (so you’re sure they’re clean and haven’t been in anyone’s mouth. else). Call the hotel ahead of time and inquire about its new processes.
3. Flexible cancellation policies
Flexible hotel cancellation policies aren’t just good for making sure you get your money back if you need to cancel. They also better ensure that potentially sick travelers won’t share a hotel with you.
For example, travelers coming from areas with a peak in coronavirus cases – or who have been exposed to the virus – could go ahead with non-refundable travel. But a flexible cancellation policy could cause guests at high risk of transmitting the virus to cancel their trip.
It also gives you more options. Avoid non-refundable hotel rates and opt for flexible choices in the name of travel safety and convenience.
Lily: Vaccinated and need a vacation? CDC relaxes guidelines for Americans traveling to more than 100 countries.
The bottom line
As coronavirus cases decline in most parts of the country and more people get vaccinated, there is probably little reason to be concerned about staying in hotels that take the protocols seriously. And yes, that may be a different message than what you heard earlier, when many travelers wanted to stay in a vacation rental, a motorhome or tent was the only safe way to stay.
“The CDC said hotels were riskier than staying in a house or cabin with people from your household,” Shepherd said. “Now that has changed that we have more vaccines and now that hotels have adopted much higher standards of cleanliness. “
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Sally French writes for NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @SAFmedia.