We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. Read my full disclosure here.
In the last month, I have stayed in three hotels, across three major hotel chains, in three different states, all during the height of the coronavirus pandemic. I have definitely learned a few things about how to book a hotel during the pandemic, what to look for, and how to stay safe when you travel. Keep reading for my best tips to ensure a great hotel stay during the pandemic.
NOTE: I am not a doctor or an infectious disease specialist. These are tips based on my experience with hotel stays during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. As always, consult your doctor and local authorities for advice on safety regarding travel at this time.
Tips for a Safe and Fun Hotel Stay during a Pandemic
Sitting home dormant for months on end is not our usual routine. Since August of 2019, I have traveled to Maine, upstate New York, Kure Beach North Carolina, Oregon, Sandals Grenada, Milan and Venice Italy, Clearwater Beach, the Bahamas, Orlando, Naples Florida, Club Med Sandpiper, New Orleans and have been on a Disney Cruise.
So, with things starting to open up at the end of spring, our family was itching to get out of New York and we had the fortunate opportunity to spend the summer in Naples, Florida. I documented the entire journey in an epic post about traveling during the covid-19 pandemic, and I did touch on our two hotel experiences in that post.
Since settling into our summer home in Florida, we took the opportunity to do a little staycation at a local hotel with a great waterpark. In total, in June 2020, I have stayed at three different hotels in three different states. Not sure being a pandemic travel expert is something I have always aspired to, but I do have some experience navigating hotel stays during the pandemic and I’m always glad to share my thoughts, tips and experiences.
UPDATE: In July 2020, I stayed at – The Holiday Inn Express & Suites Naples Downtown which was a great stay!
In August 2020, we drove back to New York from Florida staying at the Gaylord Palms in Orlando, The Westin Jekyll Island (again, we loved it so much!), a Fairfield Inn in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and at Disney’s Pop Century Resort during our two days at Walt Disney World during the pandemic.
Our Hotel Stays during the 2020 Pandemic
Driving from New York to Florida took us three days, so we had two nights in hotels along the way. Along with our hotel stay in SW Florida, these were all very different experiences for sure!
OCTOBER 2020 UPDATE: What its like to fly during the pandemic
Pandemic Hotel Stay #1: Hampton Inn, Fayetteville, NC
The first night of our road trip south, we stayed at a Hampton Inn off I-95 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. We stayed here the night of June 5th, and at this time, North Carolina was still in the very early stages of their re-opening.
We entered the lobby wearing the required masks (we chose to wear masks whenever indoors) and the lobby was littered with signs reminding people to keep their distance while at the hotel. Any common area was roped off and the pool and fitness center were closed. The lobby attendant was situated behind plexiglass, and the little sundries store was closed to guests, although patrons could purchase items directly from the lobby attendant.
Essentially this hotel was a place to lay our heads and sleep.
In the morning, lobby coffee service was available, but was not self-serve. The lobby attendant happily fixed coffee for the guests.
Same with the Hampton Inn breakfast. There were shorter hours and a smaller menu of offerings. Guests had to enter the breakfast area in one spot and two attendants served you what you wanted. Guests were able to sit and eat in the lobby area.
For dinner the night we stayed at the Hampton, we ordered Pizza Hut which was across the street. I drove over to pick it up, and when I got the pizzas I asked for plates, napkins etc. because the common spaces in the hotel were closed up. The Pizza Hut worker could not give me plates (not sure how that breeds the virus, but okay) so we had to eat dinner off of paper towels sitting on the hotel room floor.
Travel in the times of covid!
Pandemic Hotel Stay #2: Westin Jekyll Island, South Carolina
After our stop in Fayetteville, we drove five hours south to Jekyll Island, Georgia. I had wanted to visit this coastal island and this property looked amazing.
Riding into town, it was very strange because people were milling about, in and out of stores (this was on June 6 for reference) and no one was wearing masks.
When we pulled up to the Westin Jekyll Island, there was a valet attendant, although he could not park your car. He took our luggage and was wearing a mask, as were the other hotel employees. In the entire night and two days we visited this hotel, we only saw one other person wear a mask indoors.
There was a sign in the lobby about social distancing, but again, life was going on as normal at this resort.
We ate lunch outside (our first restaurant meal since March 13), lounged by the pool, went in the hot tub and down to the beach.
The pool and beach were not crowded at all. Not sure if that was because the hotel was operating at a limited capacity or what. We were easily able to socially distance from others.
That evening we walked over to a local restaurant, again no one inside (there was indoor dining available, we sat outside) was wearing a mask, and people were just going about their business enjoying their night out.
This was a big contrast to where we came from, and what we were used to. On one hand it was so nice to relax, be on vacation and not be constantly reminded about the virus. But on the other hand, it was a little unnerving that no one seemed to be taking precautions. At least there were no crowds, so we did not come in close contact with anyone.
Pandemic Hotel Stay #3: Hyatt Regency Resort and Spa Coconut Point, Estero Florida
After two weeks in Florida, we decided to book a night at this local hotel. Baby girl and I had done a day pass to the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point back in January, and I knew hubby and little man would love it. Hubby had a long weekend for Juneteenth and we had some Chase Rewards points to use, so we booked a stay the night of June 19th.
This is one of the best resorts in Naples Florida. When we arrived at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point, we were wearing our masks, as were employees of the hotel. Again, since masks are not required at this point in this part of Southwest Florida, it was hit or miss which other patrons were wearing them.
The lobby had plenty of signs reminding folks of social distancing and there was plexiglass between the lobby attendant and the patrons.
Upon check in, we were given a sheet outlining what was open (most amenities) and what services were not available due to the COVID – Camp Hyatt, the rock climbing wall and daily activities were cancelled. The remaining amenities around the resort were available with increased cleaning and social distancing.
The ferry shuttle to the beach was running, but reservations were required to keep capacity down. Same with the restaurant options. There was also only one entrance into some of the patio dining areas, to help monitor capacity.
The main reason we stayed at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point was because there is a full on water park on property. There are four water slides, a lazy river and numerous pools.
When we arrived in the pool area, we headed to the towel depot to get towels. They were only allowing one family in the towel depot at a time and the place to stand and queue was clearly marked.
Once we got our towels, we found seats by the lazy river pool, which is the area with three of the four slides, and the best place to snag a chair. I heard a pool server mention they had one less row of chairs available, but in my opinion, there were many chairs, and they were not spaced 6’ between groups.
Our time at this waterpark was the only time I felt a little close to others, but at least we were outdoors and we were not spending extended amounts of time in close proximity to other people. Just walking to and from the pool and slides and people were walking past our chairs.
One concession that was made regarding the tubes for the waterpark – on Friday they had signs asking families to keep their tubes with them at their chairs. On Saturday, when the waterpark was more crowded, they were constantly sanitizing the tubes as they came out of the water.
At the Hyatt, a huge resort, any time were we at dinner, breakfast or in any kind of common space, we felt totally fine. This is a large property with plenty of space to keep distance.
JUST UPDATED OCTOBER 2020: What its like to visit the Caribbean during COVID, my Antigua Trip Report including a stay at Sandals Grande Antigua.
Pandemic Hotel Stay #4 – The Holiday Inn Express & Suites Naples Downtown
In July 2020, baby girl and I were invited to spend a night at the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Naples Downtown. We had a great, and safe stay!
Before travel, I read through the IHG Clean Promise which outlines their enhanced cleaning protocols and what they are doing to keep guests safe at their properties. They are requiring masks indoors at all their hotels, which is a great way to keep everyone safe and build a consistent message across county and state lines.
When we checked into the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Naples Downtown, there was plexiglass dividers at the front desk, and the attendant double checked the system to see that our room had been recently cleaned and sanitized. She even offered us lysol wipes if we wanted to wipe down ourselves. I felt confident in the cleaning, but I appreciated the offer!
I was disappointed that IHG could not offer their amazing (and complimentary) buffet breakfast, BUT they did a great job offering a grab and go option! All you had to do was go down to the front desk, choose what you wanted to eat and the attendant put together a gift bag of your food. You could then eat in the lobby, in your room, or at one of the many outdoor tables by the pool. Coffee and water were available for self-serve and this was a great, and safe, way to start our day!
Tips for Booking a Hotel during a Pandemic
If you must travel, or want to travel, some pre-planning and leg work before you go will help set expectations and ease any fears as you book a hotel during the pandemic. Here are some tips to use before you go to a hotel during the pandemic.
As a full service travel agent, this is what I would do for you on your hotel, resort, all-inclusive, etc. booking! Reach out for all your travel planning needs, and as always, my services are free!
First, some tips I recommend doing BEFORE you book your hotel, to ensure a great stay, even amid a pandemic.
- Stay with a property you know and trust. Now in these pandemic times, it is more important than ever to support small businesses (well, always but especially now) BUT in terms of booking a hotel during the pandemic, a known brand might be a safer bet than a one off hotel. Of course, if you are looking at a high end boutique property, or an old favorite, or one that comes highly recommended, that might change, but not the time to cheap out on a random motel you are totally unfamiliar with. All of the major hotel chains (Hyatt, IHG, Marriott, Hilton, etc.) have released responses to COVID-19 and have a laundry list of protocols in place to ensure cleanliness and safety.
- Call ahead with Questions. For each hotel booked, I called in advance and asked many questions, the first two being, “Are you accepting guests from out of state” and “What amenities are available at the property.” I then asked about capacity limits, sanitation procedures and how long rooms were being left vacated between guests. For each hotel I have stayed in, I ended up calling multiple times.
- Book your stay directly, and with a refundable rate. This is so important! If in the event you have to cancel, going through a third party adds a layer of complication, and third party sites often have their own cancellation fees. This will definitely be a trend going forward in travel (flexibility over price) and most major hotel chains are offering flexible cancellation policies (even up to 24 or 48 hours in advance of arrival) but those rates are best secured by booking directly with the property. Again, something I, as your trusted travel advisor, can do for you.
November 2020 UPDATE: A review of El Dorado Royale, an adults only, all-inclusive in Riviera Maya, Mexico. This resort did a great job not only keeping guests safe during the pandemic, but after being hit with two hurricanes!
February 2021 UPDATE: I recently stayed at the Loews Royal Pacific at Universal Resort Orlando Florida. It was so great, both at the hotel and in the theme parks.
April 2021 UPDATE: I recently stayed at the Belmond Charleston Place in Charleston, South Carolina. Another great property taking the highest level of precautions!
Things to do before your Pandemic Hotel Stay
Some tips to ensure a better travel experience before you leave home:
- Call the property the day before travel to ask what amenities are available to guests. These are ever changing, so best to get up to the minute information.
- Make dining reservations. Since most restaurants are limiting capacity, best to call ahead if you want to dine at the hotel or at a nearby restaurant. You can also inquire about indoor vs. outdoor seating.
- Pack extra masks, hand sanitizer, and Lysol wipes. For my recent pandemic drive from New York to Florida, I bought a box of 50 disposable masks just to keep in the car, just in case. I did bring Lysol wipes (I only had a travel size with me) just in case I felt I needed to wipe something down. The hotels I chose to stay at, I was confident in their cleaning, so did not feel the need to re-sanitize the entire room again. But of course, you do to your comfort level.
Tips for staying at a Hotel during the Pandemic
The three hotel stays I had were probably the closest proximity I have come to others in the last four months. Be sure to expect that there will be other people at the hotel, but there are easy ways to stay safe while enjoying a hotel or resort during the pandemic.
- Ride solo in elevators (meaning just with your traveling party). Be patient to have to wait for the next car, and/or feel comfortable asking people to not join you in the elevator.
- Wear masks while indoors. We made the commitment, and explained to our kids that our family would be always wearing masks while indoors, even when not required. We also explained to them that there would be other families choosing not to, and that was their choice. If you are coming from a place where masks are not required, that might be a change for your family. We also had the kids practice wearing the masks while we were still at home, since they had not been leaving the house and had no experience with them.
- Self-park. In many hotels valet might not be available, but if it is, it’s always safer, and cheaper, to self-park.
- Do not expect daily housekeeping service. To minimize exposure, rooms are only cleaned upon check out (or every 5 days or so, check with each individual property for specifics). It is my understanding that towels, toiletries, and linens will be given to guests upon request. I have only done one-night stays at each of the three hotels I visited, so this was not an issue for us.
- Keep aware of social distancing in lobbies, by the pool, etc. This seems to be the best way to stay safe, so enjoy time with your own family, just not close to others!
- Practice frequent hand washing and increased use of hand sanitizer.
UPDATE: How I spent Two Days at Walt Disney World during the Pandemic. Everything you need to know about visiting during this time.
Alternatives to Staying in a Hotel During the Pandemic
Rent a Vacation Home Instead
If you are nervous about staying in a hotel, renting a vacation home could be a good option. This will be the more self-contained choice, but be sure to vet the property to be sure proper cleaning and sanitation is in place. In many states, units need to sit vacant for at least a day and there could be additional restrictions on out of state guests (vs hotels).
More and more vacation rentals are working with travel agents, and there are many high end villas available this summer so definitely reach out if you are interested in a summer vacation rental.
KEEP READING: What to pack for your vacation home rental
Book a Resort Pass
Want to lounge by the pool with someone bringing you drinks? Enjoy a resort experience without the overnight stay? Nervous about staying in a hotel room and prolonged exposure to crowds? Then consider buying a resortpass to a local hotel. Baby girl and I did this at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point last winter and it was a great (and less expensive) way to experience all the fabulousness of a resort, without the overnight stay.
JANUARY 2021 UPDATE: My family just spent a safe six nights at the Royalton Antigua, was my kids’ first time flying during the pandemic.
Travel in an RV or go Camping
I have to say, not my cup of tea, but an RV can be a great way to travel because your accommodations are self-contained. Camping, or glamping, is another great way to get a change of scenery without the crowds. We loved our Summer 2021 stay at Clear Sky Resorts in Arizona and this was the perfect way to social distance!
I love staying in hotels, and with the proper planning and precautions we had great stays at all of our stops. If you need help finding the right hotel for your family, or have questions about traveling during quarantine, be sure to email me or leave a comment!
Have you traveled during the pandemic? Have you stayed at a hotel? What was your experience like?
Hotels We Love & Trust:
Alden Suites, St. Pete Beach Florida
Club Med Sandpiper Bay, Port Saint Lucie, Florida
Edgewater Beach Resort, Naples, Florida
Emerson Resort and Spa, Catskills, New York
Borgata Atlantic City, Atlantic City, New Jersey
Sand Key Marriott, Clearwater, Florida