Have Cards, Will Travel

Can we safely return to sleeping in hotels?

Staying in a hotel during a pandemic is risky, but here's what you might encounter


Resident travel writer Stephanie Zito stayed in a hotel for the first time since March. Here’s what a hotel stay during COVID-19 looks like.

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I did it. I checked into a hotel today. It’s never felt stranger to arrive at a Hyatt Place.

“Welcome back, Miss Zito,” the masked woman at the Hyatt Place Eugene, Oregon, reception counter greeted me on arrival from behind a plexiglass partition.

While Hyatt check-in is a ritual that I complete at least 60 times in a normal year to retain my World of Hyatt globalist status, standing at reception after nearly five months in my own house felt like arriving on Mars.

I knew things would feel different and a bit weird. What surprised me is that I mostly felt safe.

While I’m certainly not going to encourage everyone to run out to check in to a hotel this weekend, I thought I’d share my experience and pass on a few things you can expect when you decide it’s time for you to return to sleeping in hotels.

See related: Working from home in a hammock

Heading back to hotels

Even though I’ve been getting out and about as part of my safe, socially-distanced summer travel plan, I haven’t yet needed to sleep in a hotel for any reason. This week, however, I headed out on a week-long road trip to Northern California and that need changed.

On this trip I’m mostly camping and glamping my way around Mt. Shasta. However, I’m still remotely working and periodically need reliable Wi-Fi in a quiet space to host conference calls. On “normal” summer road trips, I solve this problem by staying in a hotel every few days to catch up on work that I can’t do from a campground.

While I might have been able to take a call from my car parked in front of a Starbucks, I was also very curious to know what sleeping in a hotel during this phase of COVID-19 felt like. I was also near a property that I had stayed in during similar circumstances last summer, which provided a perfect opportunity to compare the property’s current climate to how it operated in the past. So, apprehensively, I checked myself in.

See related:Best travel credit cards

Things will feel a bit strange

Hotels are doing the best they can to stay open, sanitized and safe, but this also means staying in a hotel feels strange – and more than likely some (or many) of the amenities you are used to may not be available.

Water refill stations are wrapped in plastic, housekeeping is on request only, masks are mandatory and signage on every floor reminds guests to wait for another elevator if there are more than four people already inside.

At this Hyatt, the pool is open – but you have to make an appointment to use it. The bar is serving a limited selection of small plates and drinks on the terrace at socially-distanced tables, and free breakfast has transitioned into a continental grab-and-go situation with plastic wrapped apples and bagels that you pick up in the lobby.

Last year, when I stayed at this same hotel, I could barely get a seat or service on the patio – and now I have the entire patio to myself as I watch the sunset while writing this report. On the positive side, my room is clean, the hotel is mostly quiet and there were mini toiletries and fresh towels awaiting me in a bathroom that I didn’t have to clean myself.

And let’s be honest, what doesn’t feel strange these days?

Hotel perks

Another deciding factor in my return to a hotel this week was that I could not only use my points to stay for free, but my World of Hyatt Credit Card was going to give me 25% of my points back for staying.

As one of the many hotel deals on offer right now, if you use your points to stay at Hyatt before Oct. 8  and are a World of Hyatt member (no status required), you’ll get 15% of your points back (plus free parking).

If you have the World of Hyatt card, this offer levels up and you get 25% of your points back, plus free parking. The only catch is that you must register for the promotion before you stay.

For my stay, I paid 8,000 points knowing that I’d get 2,000 points back as a rebate.

My only hesitation in booking was trying to decide if I should pay for the room to take advantage of the other Hyatt promotion, which offers triple points and a bonus of 2,500 points for my first stay back after the COVID-19 closures.

See related: Airline, hotel loyalty programs extending perks for members through coronavirus

Final thoughts

My test night of sleeping in a hotel after so long made me realize a few things.

It didn’t take long for me to remember that sleeping in a hotel bed is one of my favorite things in the world. I got the best night’s sleep I’ve had since March and I can’t wait until hotel bathtubs are back in my life again.

While I felt safe to overnight at a hotel and I would do it again if I needed to, I’m still planning to hold off reinstating my hobby of hotel-hopping for now. What I love most about hotel stays is the hospitality, the experience and the amenities. When these are back in full swing, I’ll be back, too.

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