A Pandemic Hotel Stay: My Experience

Sitting in the window in a hotel in Cwmbran, South Wales

Hey Owlets,

I originally wrote this post in November 2020, and I've been holding on for "the right time" to post since then. Now things are starting to open back up I'm desperate to get away for awhile, but I know that not all of you feel the same and you're maybe a little nervous about how travel might look after lockdown. With this in mind I wanted to share my own personal experience from our between-lockdowns trip to give you an idea of what to expect.

 In September we went on a road trip around Devon and Cornwall and during that trip I received a lot of messages asking what it was like to stay in a hotel now, what had changed and if I felt safe. A lot of you mentioned that you wanted to go away but you weren’t sure what to expect, so hopefully sharing my experience will help you to feel more informed about staying in hotels when we’re able to travel again. It goes without saying that this is my experience from before the second lockdown, but I can’t imagine that there’s much more that hotels can change so I still think it’s worth talking about. We stayed at a Premier Inn for our trip - this post isn’t sponsored and we paid for the stay ourselves, but I’m telling you this so that you know my experiences are linked to this specific brand of hotels, because the rules may be slightly different depending on where you choose to stay.

Surgical Face Mask on a Blue Background

General Rules -

In the UK it’s mandatory to wear face coverings in any indoor setting, unless you’re seated. This means that you are required to wear a face mask in any public areas in the building, which include the lobby, corridors, bathrooms, lifts and restaurants. The only time you are allowed to remove a face mask is in your room or sitting down to eat in the restaurant. Social distancing was in force throughout the hotel with multiple signs reminding you to keep your distance and one way systems around the restaurant and lobby areas where there was likely to be a lot of traffic. There was also hand sanitiser by all doorways, the bathrooms and the lifts. 

Face coverings are the only general rule that’s now in force, and obviously that’s because it’s come from the government.

Check In -

Before you walk into the hotel you need to make sure you’ve put on your face mask. As you walk in there will be hand sanitiser at the entrance, and if there’s anyone in front of you at the desk you will be expected to keep to social distancing rules while you wait. 

In the hotel we stayed in, the staff weren’t wearing masks but had a solid perspex screen installed to separate themselves from us, and of course we were wearing masks so I felt perfectly safe. As the staff member checked us in, he explained all of the changes that had taken place to make our stay safer, and explained how breakfast worked in case we wanted to book. 

When we were handed our cards he warned us that they might feel a bit wet because they sanitise the cards just before they hand them over to make sure that they’re extra safe. All in all, check in was hassle free and actually really helpful. I felt like I walked in with several questions, and had them all answered without needing to ask.

A cup of coffee sat on a wooden table

Breakfast - 

Breakfast is where you have options, but I also overheard some complaints. With Premier Inn, you have three options - you can have one of two different breakfast boxes delivered to your door, or you can book a slot in the restaurant to have breakfast. 

When we checked in they had the two breakfast boxes on display - the cheaper one was just a smaller version of the more expensive one. From memory they were around £2-£4, and I think the restaurant breakfast was £6 or £7. My issue with the breakfast boxes is that they had muffins, breakfast bars and fruit in, and there was absolutely no consideration for dietary requirements so my options were restaurant breakfast or nothing.

If you choose to go to the restaurant for breakfast you have to book a time slot to ensure that the restaurant isn’t too busy. In theory this is fine, but it does mean that if you’re the last to book your only options might be really early in the morning or one of the last slots for the morning, which means you either have to get up and have a rushed start to your morning on holiday (if you’re not a morning person, like me) or you end up wasting your day hanging around the be able to eat breakfast. When your time slot arrives, you put on a mask and head down to the restaurant where you wait to be seated. I appreciate how difficult it must be for them to find a workaround, and it really was them trying to make the best of a bad situation, but I personally wouldn’t want to deal with hotel breakfasts at the moment, even if they did cater for me.

Even without knowing about the arrangements for breakfast, we’d actually packed breakfast bars, rice cakes and fruit for breakfast. This was purely because I usually find gluten free diets are poorly catered for in chain hotels, but it worked out well for us as we could please ourselves for breakfast. If you want more flexibility in the mornings I would definitely recommend bringing breakfast with you, or use it as an opportunity to go for brunch!

A hotel room in Bristol, UK
Hampton by Hilton, Bristol Airport

House Keeping - 

Housekeeping was a bit of a weird one. There weren’t any phones to call reception in the hotel we stayed at (I’m not sure if this is the same across the whole chain), so if you want something you had to walk downstairs and ask at reception to get it which oddly includes room service, although I’m not sure if this was something they offered before the pandemic or is a new addition which would explain the odd arrangement.

When you ask for something the housekeeping or room service staff will deliver it directly to your room. We were asked not to open the door straight away to give the staff member chance to move away from the door. When we checked into our room we only had one pillow each, when we asked for extra pillows they were delivered to our door in a paper bag that was taped shut.

The other important thing to note is that housekeeping aren’t allowed in your room at all during your stay, due to concerns around contaminating the space after it’s been fully cleaned between guests. This means that if you’re staying for several days you need to make your own bed (really not the end of the world!) and if you need any more towels or tea/coffee you need to go downstairs (wearing your mask of course) to ask for them at reception, and they will then be delivered to your room in a sealed bag. 

My one question in all of this is maintenance - what happens if something in your room breaks that can’t wait until the end of your stay to be fixed? Then what do they do? I’m assuming that maintenance will come into your room when you’re not there (hopefully wearing a mask), but housekeeping don’t enter so it cuts out non-essential contact. I’m really not sure on that one, so if you’ve had this experience let me know what happened.

I can’t lie, all of these little tweaks make it feel like you’re living in an alternative reality, but despite being a bit alien I really do appreciate how careful they were to limit contact.

Final Thoughts -

Overall, staying in a hotel during the pandemic really isn’t that much different, so if it’s something you’ve been worrying about I would say there really isn’t much need to stress. The hotels don’t want to shut down or see their name plastered over headlines from allowing Coronavirus to spread within their establishment so they’re going to do everything possible to keep you safe, above and beyond the government guidelines. As long as you wear a mask, regularly sanitise your hands, keep social distancing and don’t touch your face then I would say you don’t need to worry about staying in a hotel any more than going out in your local area. Obviously if you fall into the vulnerable or high risk category then I think it’s safer for you to stay at home just to be on the safe side, but if you’re healthy and you need a break then I honestly wouldn’t worry about checking yourself into a hotel.

Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 
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