You may be asking yourself, “Are people even staying in hotels right now?” The answer to that question would be “yes.” And, although the occupancy numbers are down from the previous year, hotels are open and ready for business. But, there are some things you should consider before booking a hotel room during the current pandemic. Keep reading to find out what those things are.
10. Be Concerned About Safety
Before booking a hotel room, you’ll want to make sure the establishment is taking proper measures to thoroughly clean and disinfect every inch of the hotel as well as following social-distancing protocols. In fact, anywhere you plan on staying should have safety guidelines in place that customers can learn about beforehand. It’s totally acceptable to call ahead of time and ask the hotel about its cleaning and social-distancing practices. Make sure you ask the right questions, such as are employees required to wear masks and gloves too, and if everyone will be required to have their temperature take upon arrival.
9. Book Closer to Your Travel Date
Under normal circumstances, you would want to book your hotel room well in advance to avoid the higher rates that come along with high occupancy. During the current pandemic, however, the rates might drop if there aren’t that many people booking rooms. In fact, rates this spring were down an average of 9 percent nationally. But, by June rates were close to levels seen before the start of the pandemic. This indicates that both hotels and travelers are in a “wait-and-see mode,” The New York Times wrote in an article published on its website.
8. Pay Close Attention to Prepayment Rates
Did you know that some hotels are now listing only prepaid options? These options can be found on their website and will include lower nonrefundable prepaid rates and the new refundable prepaid rates. The refundable rates allow you to make changes up to a day ahead of your reservation, but it’s up to YOU to initiate a refund if you cancel your booking within the allotted time frame. “I would advise people to be very wary of any rate that requires an advance deposit even if the rate is changeable or can be canceled, because hotels are going to do everything they can to take your money and be slow about giving it back,” Henry H. Harteveldt, a travel analyst and the president of Atmosphere Research Group, told The New York Times.
7. Read the Cancellation Policy
Most hotels allow you to cancel on refundable rates between 72 and 24 hours before the date of your planned arrival. However, it’s always best to read the hotel’s cancellation policy beforehand so you know the terms and conditions you’re agreeing to. And, don’t forget to mark the cancellation deadline on your calendar.
FYI, some hotels might even allow you to change or cancel nonrefundable rates as well. Both Hilton and Marriott did so this spring. An article published by The New York Times back in April said that both Hilton and Marriott were allowing refunds and changes up to 24 hours before arrival through June 30.
6. Question Why Rates Are So Cheap
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying “if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.” This certainly applies when it comes to snagging an unbelievably good deal on a hotel room. It could be that the room is so cheap because there will be a ton of other fees tacked on to make up the difference. For example, there could be a resort fee or a service charge. Or, perhaps the tax hasn’t been included in the total. And, the hotel won’t disclose any of this information until after your credit card has been charged.
5. Review the Hotel’s Outdoor Activities
After being under quarantine for most of the year, the last thing you probably want to do is take a trip just to stay indoors the entire time. And, although social distancing rules are still in place, there are plenty of activities you can do outdoors that won’t involve you getting close to others. So, do yourself a favor and read up on what outdoor activities will be offered by the hotel your visiting. According to Reader’s Digest, Sean Copley, general manager at The Bristol Hotel in Virginia, recommends choosing a hotel that offers an array of family-friendly outdoor activities, such as those that are located near beaches, mountains, or national parks.
4. Research the Area
Before booking a hotel room, you should do some research on the surrounding area. That’s because not all areas of the country are operating the same. Depending on where you visit, it might be an area with lots of closures due to the number of coronavirus cases in that particular state or region. So, if you’re planning on staying at a particular hotel because it’s close to your favorite restaurant or some other attraction, it’s worth finding out if those places are even going to be open before booking a room there. That way you won’t be disappointed when you get there and find out they’re closed.
3. Be Open Minded
Since we’re in the middle of a pandemic, it should come as no surprise to anyone that things are not going to be quite the same — at least not any time soon anyway. That being the case, it’s best to keep an open mind when booking a hotel room. “While the travel industry is doing our best to maintain the luxury experience we’re known for, things have changed,” Frank Cavella, director of sales and marketing at Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach in Florida, told Reader’s Digest. COVID-19 has made it difficult for hotels to provide the personalized service you may be used to, so a little understanding on your part can go a long way for both you and the hotel employees.
2. Consider Traveling by Land
Skipping the airport and going by car to your destination can help protect you from the coronavirus. Think about it: the last thing you want is to be in a crowded airport or on a crowded plane with someone who has COVID-19.
Something else that will help protect you against this virus is picking a destination that offers activities that can be done while social distancing. This can include swimming, hiking and fishing. That way you can enjoy yourself and become one with nature at the same time.
1. Consider Future Travel
Just because you book a hotel room right now doesn’t mean your reservation has to be for right now. You can work toward a future trip. You can even start earning points and miles now that can be saved up for whenever this whole pandemic thing finally comes to an end. And, here’s the best part: some hotels right now are selling discounted gift cards and certificates redeemable for a future stay. The Hotel Amparo in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, for example, is offering $100 gift certificates for $75 until travel restrictions are lifted.