Standard Work for Being as Safe as Possible When Staying at a Hotel


Here is the second post in a series about how to be safe when traveling (if you have to now or when things start opening up a bit).

The series includes:

I recently stayed in three different hotels because my wife started a new job two weeks ago and we drove 2500+ miles from Orlando to Los Angeles.

Some of this post is driven from my own experience and the research I've done before and after about what seem like good practices. You might think of this as a form of “standardized work” for traveling.

I've also been writing up notes and talking about this subject with my colleagues Value Capture for when people get to start traveling again.

I wouldn't be taking discretionary trips right now, if you feel like you have to travel, be as safe as you can.

Checking In

When you book your reservation, try to do so with a hotel chain's app that allows for a “mobile key.” That way, you can bypass the front desk and have a contactless entry to the hotel.

During my relocation, we stayed at three different brands in the Marriott family. Two had mobile keys but, unfortunately a Marriott Renaissance property said they turned off the mobile key option “because of Covid 19,” which makes no sense. This is exactly the time and the reason to accelerate the adoption of using your phone as a key.

If this had been a part of regular work travel, I would choose a different hotel that offered working mobile key access.

Plexiglass lobby barriers

If you DO have to have traditional check-in interaction, there might very likely be a plexiglass barrier between you and the hotel employee. You'll be asked to maintain 6 foot distancing from other guests (and this might be marked on the floor).

If you have to hand over ID and credit card, you could wipe those down with a disinfecting wipe before putting back into your wallet or do so in your room (assuming you are carrying those with you).

Many hotels have hand sanitizer in the lobby… use it after check-in that has any contact or use it just because — it can't hurt.

Getting to Your Room

In our condo and apartment, I've been pressing elevator buttons with my elbow and I would do the same in a hotel.

The hotel might have a sign asking you to limit 2 people per elevator, and if I were traveling alone, I'd probably wait to take it by myself.

You can ask to be put on a lower floor so you can take stairs and avoid elevator contact, especially if you don't have to use your hands to get the door.

After unlocking my room and opening the door, the first thing I would do is wash my hands with soap and water.

Room Hygiene

You could ask the last time another guest stayed in that room, but I'm not sure the hotel would necessarily give that information or if it would be accurate, so I would assume somebody just checked out and that the room hasn't been disinfected. I would be more concerned if somebody had checked out that morning or the day before, considering how long a virus can live on hard surfaces (but “living” doesn't mean it's necessarily going to infect you).

I would wipe down any hard surface that I'd expect to touch during my stay (and even some surfaces that I didn't expect to touch).

By the way, TSA will allow you to travel with disinfecting wipes. so bring them if you've got 'em.

The TV remote can be put in a Ziploc bag (quart or gallon sized) — this is something one traveling friend of mine has always done. It can't hurt.

Here is a good article on hotel cleanliness initiatives – but can we trust them to follow the standard work?

There's going to possibly be the use of “electrostatic sprayers” as some airlines say they will do.

Meals & Exercise

One hotel we stayed at still had room service. You could request wrapped plastic utensils or bring your own.

Breakfast or lounge buffets will probably not be open, but there might be “grab and go” options.

You'll likely be eating take out or delivery food in your room (or in a common area, if they'll let you… and I'd wipe it down first).

Gyms are likely closed, but you can likely get a good workout in by using exercise apps or YouTube videos in your room (or go for a walk or run in the fresh air).

Major Hotel Websites

Here's what Marriott and Hilton have to say.

What tips or thoughts do you have? A standard can always be improved…

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  1. Mark Graban says

    See the LinkedIn discussion:

    Good comment:

    A nice list of considerations at any time for travellers because as you point out, you just don’t know who was the last person to use any of this and how healthy they were or weren’t.

  2. Marnet Zimmer says

    I just did an overnight on Saturday at Hampton Inn in northern Wisconsin. They did not offer digital room keys but did wipe down the keys after programing them and handing them to us. They was plexiglass between us and the employee and plenty of hand sanitizer. We were allowed to eat our dinner in the common area. There was only 1 other person in the entire space who kept their distance from us. When I went to get cleaner for table before we ate I was handed a bottle of disinfectant spray and a microfiber cloth. I explained that I wanted paper towel so I could throw it away when I was down. I suggested they not use the same cloth on multiple surfaces. I think everyone wants to do the right thing, but sometimes don’t think things all the way through, so it is important for us to be observant.

  3. Andrew Wagner says

    And of course, wear a mask in public.

  4. Mark Graban says

    From this WaPo article:

    Virus ‘does not spread easily’ from contaminated surfaces or animals, revised CDC website states

    The coronavirus primarily spreads from person to person and not easily from a contaminated surface. That is the takeaway from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which this month updated its “How COVID-19 Spreads” website.

    The fact that it’s MORE often transmitted person to person doesn’t mean there is ZERO risk from surfaces. For a while, I would probably still take these same precautions (they can’t hurt), but my anxiety might be reduced a bit.

  5. Mark Graban says

    An idea from my friend Mike Osterling:

    “…here’s one to add to the list: use “do not disturb” sign on your door if staying more than one night so no one, such as housekeeping, comes into your room during your stay.”

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