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Need to stay at a hotel or motel? Try these pandemic tactics

Illustration of a motel sign with a Santa hat on it
(Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

This story is part of a package on holiday travel.

There’s no place like home. But with care, you can reduce the risks that come with spending a night in a hotel or motel. Half of the battle occurs before arrival, when you choose a location, then choose a room. The other half comes with your decisions and actions on the scene.

  • Whether you’re staying in a fancy hotel or a budget motel, ask for a room with windows that open. A patio or a balcony is a plus too. A door that opens directly to the outdoors means you don’t have to navigate the lobby or use the elevator.
  • On arrival, wipe down surfaces you know you’ll be using, such as light fixtures and doorknobs. The fewer objects you touch, the better. In the halls and staircases, don’t touch handrails unless you feel unsteady. Don’t take an elevator unless you have it to yourself.
  • No maid or housekeeper should enter your room between your first night and your second. Chances are that management will tell you that upfront. I also say no to housekeeping after the second or third night. If you need towels, collect them at the desk.
  • Don’t linger in the lobby. If you’re staying someplace upscale, expect sanitation performances every 30 to 60 minutes. This is when employees spray or wipe down the furniture with disinfectant or hit it with ultraviolet light. In Honolulu a few weeks ago, my hotel put all the lobby seating behind crime-scene tape so guests couldn’t hang out.
  • Consider staying in a chain hotel or motel. Chain hotels often have less character. But they often have more uniform cleaning standards than independents, along with more resources and perhaps more accountability.
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  • Many hotel chains are big on touchless transactions. If you’re not tech-inclined, this means you’ll need to improve your cellphone skills. Before long, you will use your phone as your room key. Many Marriott and Hilton hotels were transitioning to that before the pandemic.
  • Before this year is over, you may order a restaurant meal or hotel room service without touching a paper menu. Instead you’ll use your phone’s camera to read a QR code that will take you to an online menu.
  • Remember the maids. Perhaps hotels will come up with a way to tip maids without anyone handling cash.

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