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Travelling during the Pandemic

Have you been wondering how people are travelling and whether it is truly safe?  I know quite a few people that have continued to travel throughout the pandemic.  The biggest thing that most experts point out is that the safest thing to do is to stay home.  If you must go, then remember that the biggest risk is person to person contact.  Many hotels have adopted new cleaning procedures and standard social distancing practices to ensure a safer environment for those that do travel.

If you asked me before I counted the hotels I visited during this pandemic, I would tell you very dramatically that I haven’t been anywhere.  Maybe, one or 2 short trips but I’m severely struggling in this monotonous routine of staying home.  Yes, even I am rolling my eyes at that nonsense, but it is how we feel sometimes.  It turns out, that in these past 8 months, I somehow managed to visit 11 hotels.  I am shocked, I could’ve sworn I’ve just been sitting at home cooking and eating.

Most of the hotels did well except for one. 

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So how did I choose the hotels?

Price is always an important factor but mostly, I choose based on brand loyalty to Hilton and Marriott.  I’m not much of an AirBNB person, although, I have read that may be a better option because of the lower risk of having a person to person encounter.  A few other things that I am usually looking for when I travel:

Spacious room, usually a suite. (especially good when the weather changes and you’re stuck inside with kids)

Fridge & Microwave, if not a full kitchen. (makes meals and reheating easier)

At least 2 Queen beds, doubles are awful to share (my honest opinion according to my back after sleeping with kids)

What am I looking for from staff and the hotel in general?

  1. Masks on staff, not under the nose or a chinstrap but actually wearing a mask.  They meet almost every single person that checks in, has a question, or has a delivery.  I understand that making guests do it can be difficult, so I keep my distance from them no matter what.
  2. Online check-in that works without me stopping by the desk is preferred.
  3. Contactless food deliveries or in-room dining.
  4. All surfaces appear to have been wiped, not just sprayed.
  5. Organized cleaning efforts.  Disorder translates to inefficient, for me.  I’ve watched unorganized, uncaring staff spray something down right in front of me and completely half wipe it.
  6. A bonus is if masks, hand sanitizer, or wipes have been provided.  I couldn’t recall and didn’t note which ones did but some even provided entire “Covid-19” kits.
  7. Most also had rules about how many could get in an elevator and markers of where to stand.  Again, harder to enforce but at least they made efforts.

Which Hotels and How did they do?

This one was a memorable experience because they didn’t allow deliveries to your room.  I had ordered food and to my surprise, I had to go pick it up in the lobby.  I didn’t feel comfortable leaving my children alone, in the room while I went to get it, so I dragged them with me. Masks on, of course.  To my surprise, just as we stepped out the door and it locked, neither one had shoes on, and I didn’t have the key card.  The floors weren’t very clean in the halls and I was definitely brewing a mood suddenly.  We return to the room to find the key that I was just given didn’t work.  This was a pretty unpleasant day and yet not the worst of the 10 hotels.

Overall, the cleaning was lacking a bit of efficiency.  A coffee stain on a table that wiped up very easily when I used my own wipes (because I was prepared for a germ apocalypse). A few other stains of old food on tables that showed there was no thorough wiping that occurred.  No worries, I disinfected that place from top to bottom, every handle, switch, knob, table, and chair.  But, not exactly a good start to trusting hotels for now.

Pros – not a lot of people, masks required on the premises, hand sanitizer readily available.

Cons – cleaning needs to be a lot better throughout.  This was at a time when some standards had not been fully accepted and practiced yet, for instance, I never had a problem with contactless delivery to my room after this stay but I still ask the front desk just in case.

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It started out great with online check-in, greeting at gate with everything you need to go straight to your room.  But, there’s a saying that “Your mileage may vary” and believe me, mine always varies.  It would have been a pretty good stay except for returning to my room from some beach time to find balloons and cupcakes in my room.  I didn’t order it, it wasn’t a gift for us.  It was delivered to the wrong room.  So, in a time when they specifically say that no one will be entering your room, someone entered and left something.  I called to let them know and they came to get it.  Again, kind of odd.  Most places would’ve just said keep it unless you want it disposed of.  The kids had already seen it so it was a little disappointing for them.  It just left me feeling a little violated somehow.

Pros – online check-in and very clean.

Cons – it would be great if you could access dining ordering through the app and activity calendars.  Although, the pool was a bit full, so we avoided it despite there being a kids activity scheduled there.  People at resorts tend to like to talk to you and not a lot of people kept their masks on because they’re at the beach, eating, walking, drinking, thinking, etc.

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Clean, accommodating, and completely uneventful.  That’s a good thing.  Staff wore their masks, encountered few other guests, almost all with masks on and my food was delivered to my room.

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Very clean, masks required.  Beautiful 2 bedroom villa. 

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Very clean and masks required but also very full in restaurant/lounge areas where no one was wearing a mask.  Staff maintained distance and masks though.

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Cleanest by far, hand sanitizing stations everywhere, everything in its own sanitized bag, masks required and worn by both staff and guests.

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Very clean, hand sanitizer stations, staff wearing masks as required except for one person on staff who never wore a mask.  Every time I saw her, you could tell that she didn’t believe in masks.

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Very clean – so clean in fact, that they were cleaning the baseboards in the hall when we checked in.  Very attentive as well, I requested an upgrade to a suite and when we moved to it, someone immediately showed up with extra towels since we “probably did not have enough”.  They were absolutely correct, best service ever.  I’ve never been given towels so quickly, not even when I actually requested them ahead of checking in.

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Extremely clean and luxurious.  Provided J. Bigelow hand sanitizers at check-in.  Absolutely no complaints at all.

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The absolute worst.  It was so bad, we cancelled the rest of our stay and moved to the Hyatt Place in Greensboro. 

Issue #1 – selected a room during online check-in and upon arrival we were told that an emergency shut down the entire second floor so the room was being moved. 

Issue #2 – The new room had not been serviced, walked into a room with linens from one bed on the ground, food and garbage still on the table/desk, TV loudly playing, and the door did not have an intact seal. 

Issue #3 – no sincere apology for the mistake after going back to the desk for another room immediately.  Sent us back up to the room next to it. 

Issue #4 – Just sloppy dysfunctional staff with an uncaring attitude.  Walked into the hall the next morning and it looked like an SRO or flophouse with carts and linens all down the hall and a staff member standing around looking at his phone.  I’m not talking about normal cleaning procedures you would see in any hotel hallway, not one hotel we stayed at had housekeeping like this, picture the most disorganized uncaring production you can and then double it. Sorry, I would not recommend this place at all.

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Very clean, everyone wore masks as required.  Masks were readily available at the front desk if needed.  Note: the bar does not sell alcohol after 9PM.  That might not matter to you, but, it might.

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For the most part, I was genuinely happy with most hotels cleaning efforts.  It would appear that the 4* hotels make extra efforts just not seen in the 3* hotels.  Hilton in general has lived up to its promises when we stick to certain brands like DoubleTree and Homewood Suites. 

The places that I had problems at are usually the ones I have had previous issues with.  If cleaning safety is your concern, I would definitely stick to the ones that haven’t let you down in the past.  Newer hotels seem to have better cleaning standards but that’s not always true since the worst one was one of the newest hotels and some of the best ones have some age showing.

If you like mid-range suite hotels, you will probably do well with Hyatt Place, Homewood Suites, or Springhill Suites. Whatever you choose, do your homework, look at recent reviews to identify problems mentioned repeatedly.  It would be great if online ordering for room service became a standard but I won’t hold my breath since that could’ve been done already.

Happy Wandering Safely!

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