Hotel Stay During Covid-19, Welcome To The Twilight Zone

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Hotel Stay During Covid-19
This is a picture from my visit to the hotel in February.

Hotel Stay During Covid-19, Welcome To The Twilight Zone

As we have been hunkering down at home, scrolling Facebook and binging Netflix shows we have been dreaming of the day we get to travel again. It feels like we are getting closer and closer to that day with states across the country starting to open up.  Needless to say we have been anxious to get back out there, but we are not really sure what to expect when that time does come. Ian shared his story last week of what it is like to fly during the pandemic and today I wanted to share what a hotel stay during Covid-19 is like. This is coming second hand from my parents but I thought the story was worth sharing.

Background Info

We have been dealing with the pandemic for around 2 months now in the United States.  Things have started to slowly open back up across the nation.  There are a few southern states that are way ahead of the pack though. One of those states happens to be where my parents live, Florida.  They currently reside near the Jacksonville area. Within the past few weeks most everything has opened up, with some restrictions set in place.

My parents have had a “staycation” of sorts planned for Memorial Day weekend in Daytona Beach for some time now.  They had figured that they would end up canceling the stay because of the pandemic but kept the booking intact just in case. With Florida opening a week or so before their trip they decided to give it a shot. They have both been working throughout the pandemic and needed a little time away.  Heading to the beach seemed like a nice little getaway and since the state was now open they figured it would be okay.

Their plan was to bring food for breakfast and lunch and then get some takeout or dine outside etc. for dinner.  They wanted to spend the day on the beach and then hang out in the room overlooking the water.  They figured the beach shouldn’t be too crowded and hopefully everyone would take proper precautions to make the stay enjoyable.  But when they entered the hotel it was like entering the twilight zone, a place where nothing had ever happened.

Hotel Stay During Covid-19

Hotel Experience During Covid-19 Details

You may be wondering what I mean by entering the twilight zone.  Well everyone around them was acting like it was business as usual and like it was May of 2019 instead of May of  2020! There were some adjustments made but many things seemed to be business as usual.

They had Friday off an got to the hotel ahead of the holiday traffic. They were staying at the Hyatt Place Daytona Beach.  This is one of my favorite Hyatt Place locations, which is also my favorite hotel brand.  We just stayed there in February, before all of this craziness really ramped up.  They said Friday was pretty relaxing and that the hotel was pretty empty.  They were able to get to the beach and hang out without really needing to interact with anyone etc.  But Saturday was a whole different ballgame and the hotel was actually sold out.  I am not sure if that means legit sold out or just at their new capacity but they were turning away walk in guests.  My parents did note that all of the parking lots were pretty full.

Here are some of their observations and experiences from their stay:
  • When they entered the hotel no one working at the front desk staff were wearing masks. The only hotel employee they saw wearing a mask the entire weekend was one floor cleaner.
  • Including themselves, they would say that maybe 5 guests wore masks the entire weekend.
  • They were told the elevator should be limited to 6 guests. This rule was not enforced in any way.
  • Maid service was suspended unless you were there for 3 or more days.  You could call down for towels etc. if needed.
  • They never noticed anyone wiping down door handles, buttons or any common areas while moving about the hotel.
  • The beach was large and it was easy to distance. The pool was another story, it was completely packed.  And the chairs were not spaced out any differently than they normally would be.
  • There was no hot breakfast like you would normally get at a Hyatt Place.  They had people wait in line to pick up breakfast which consisted of cold items like muffins and bagels etc.  There was no spacing requirement in this line and the employee handing out the breakfast was not wearing a mask.

Hotel Stay During Covid-19

My Thoughts About This

To be honest, I was a little shocked when they were giving me the rundown.  It was pretty much like a pandemic never happened.  I am not overly surprised that guests did not wear masks but I would have thought the ratio would have been higher than just a handful that did.  I was very surprised that pretty much none of the staff were wearing them.

Another issue I was very curious about was the elevator situation.  This isn’t your normal Hyatt Place with 3 floors where you could use the stairs easily and there are only 2 elevators on property (3 at most) if memory serves me right. I believe there are 10 floors at the hotel too so I figured this would be an issue.  There is no way to social distance on an elevator, especially when you are allowing 6 people on at a time. Throw in the fact that no one is wearing a mask and it could be uncomfortable for sure. My parents also said that people did not always follow the rules, packing 10 people in etc.  It doesn’t seem like the best set up.

Breakfast seems like a real mess too.  You are not spacing anyone out and then the person handing out the breakfast has no mask on etc.  For reference, when my parents ate on the outdoor patio of the Red Lobster across the street everyone working there had a mask on.

I was a little surprised that there was no spacing out by the pool and nothing was being wiped down throughout the hotel on a regular basis. It just doesn’t make sense to me that almost no precautions would be put into place when reopening.

Final Thoughts

I asked my parents if it was worth it and they were quick to say no.  Outside of the time on the beach they said they were never able to relax much.  It was totally different than what they expected.  They figured some sort of procedures or precautions would be set into place but there wasn’t much of anything.

This is only one hotel in one city.  I am sure there will be plenty that act very similar to this experience while there will be others that take all of the suggested precautions when dealing with guests. The tricky part will be knowing which one you are getting when you book an upcoming stay.  I would suggest calling the front desk and asking what precautions they are taking if you are concerned about it.

Having said that I am sure there is a good portion of the population that would prefer it to be set up this way.  A portion that are ready to move on with their lives and get back to normal.  And there is another set that wouldn’t touch a hotel with a 10 foot pole right now.  The third group would be somewhere in the middle, probably where I am at.  I don’t mind the thought of staying at a hotel if there was some sort of system in place. That clearly did not happen here.

Let me know what you think of my parent’s experience in the comments.  Does their hotel stay during Covid-19 make you more or less likely to stay at a hotel when restrictions are lifted in your state?

Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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44 COMMENTS

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44 COMMENTS

  1. Another hotel experience for you:
    We live in Minneapolis where riots in my neighborhood have been experienced very strongly. Last Saturday after hearing what would seem like a crazy night approaching, we decided to leave our home to stay in a hotel just a few miles away.

    We went to a Country Inn Suites by Raddison in a nearby suburb were things were quiet. Besides taking care of our safety I wanted for my daughter to have the “hotel experience” so that she could forget for a few hours the craziness we’ve been living. Let me tell you, there’s no “hotel experience” when there is no exercise room, no pool and the restaurant is closed. What else is there to do in a city where there was also a curfew? We just huddled in our room watching tv.

    At least your parents had the choice of breakfast. Country Inn Suites didn’t even have muffins or whatever. I get that having them lined up like in a buffet is not safe, but I thought that at least we could go downstairs and grab something from the front desk… we had to drink the room coffee and drive back home.

    I’m not staying in hotels until this is over. At least I have to run for my life, of course.

    • I think people have been thinking about doing some staycations at hotels nearby etc. and I think (depending on the area) many will run into this kind of experience. Which really defeats the purpose honestly. So I don’t blame you. I am going the house rental route for now instead.

  2. Im amazed no one asked you the most important question of all: after it was all done did your parents go get tested for corona? If not why not?

  3. Believe it or not some of us don’t want to wear masks when we are at the swimming pool, beach or restaurant. My thoughts are if this makes you uncomfortable then why go? Especially retirees who don’t need to travel for a living. Do all of you really believe these businesses will uphold all of these standards when the Majority of their guests don’t care!! If you don’t want to be exposed to a certain degree of risk than stay at home. If you are a business traveler stay in an apt or corporate housing where you can better control your environment.

    • Your attitude is exactly why we have lost over 100,000 people in this country: the idea that you are not responsible for the public health

      It’s a lie that too many people have told themselves. We are all responsible for the public health.

      • We spent memorial weekend at a Daytona Beach hotel also, and it was as you described – the hotel crowded and it was like the virus never happened.

        It was amazing and we loved it. Coming from a more locked down state, a crowded Florida beach vacation was the perfect break to take our minds off the virus and enjoy a normal crowded bustling holiday.

        A vacation shouldn’t be giving you constant unpleasant virus reminders. We appreciated the normalcy. Anyone who doesn’t like it can stay home

    • I don’t think anyone expects people to wear a mask at beach or pool etc. but they could easily make it so chairs are spaced out for people etc. And I think wearing masks in public places is out of respect for others not so much about protecting yourself.

  4. Before I will consider staying in a hotel, there either needs to be a well tested vaccine or I need to hear from the hotel that: 1) they have a supervised system in place to allow only household member to share and elevator; and 2) they have a well articulated guarantee that every piece of linen (towels, sheets, pillows and covers, duvets and covers in the room, etc) has been switched since the previous guests departed and linens are sanitized with some CDC-approved combination of chemicals, heat or ultraviolet light; and 3) every staff member can take paid sick leave.

    They can go on and on about ‘high touch’ surfaces ( door knobs, etc). I will be in sustained contact with linens more than with door knobs. And I want to be confident that if a staff member is unwell or believes they have been exposed to the virus, they have little incentive to come to work.

  5. I’m surprised to hear of your parents’ experience because I’ve been getting emails from Hyatt’s CEO about all of the safety procedures that Hyatt properties would be following. Is this experience more a reflection of the state of Florida? I wouldn’t dream of staying in a hotel for the next few months until the pandemic is no longer considered a health emergency — not at all worth the risk.

    • I have a feeling it has more to do with Florida than with the Hyatt brand. At least that is my take on it.

  6. It’s funny how I felt after reading this. I was suposed to be in D.C befor this pandemic, and I planned to spend just two weeks (and to stay in a hotel). Based on my budget, what if this pandemic had met me there?
    Anyways, thanks for sharing

  7. We are currently at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater on the opposite coast of Florida from where your parents stayed. The situation is very similar here…hotel sold out (at least on the app), beach packed and guests acting like nothing has changed. The only thing closed at the hotel are the hot tubs, but at least the hotel staff are almost all wearing masks. Signs say only 2 on the elevator unless the same party but guests are not complying. After this experience, I’m inclined to seek out smaller properties in the near future until this blows over.

    • Sorry to hear it – I would think a full service property would be more likely to have systems set up.

  8. This is so disappointing to hear. Unfortunately, this lack of care and precaution will costs lives, many lives.
    People, wake up!

    • Mark,
      That is horrifying but helpful. Perhaps you could do a little homework and write a piece on chains that are actually being responsible across the board. To me, that would include remote check in and keyless entry with an app. Next month, I am going drive from NY to San Diego and I would love to pick one hotel brand that is doing it right and stick with it for the whole road trip. I would be happy to report my experiences as we go.

      • I think it will more come down to the hotel and the area they are in honestly. They are all saying the right things but the individual hotels will be the ones to decide to follow it or not. I have heard good things about Hilton hotels but that is completely anecdotal evidence and a handful of hotel sample size.

  9. I found the Hyatt behavior appalling and I usually love the brand. Nice wake up call! I will be in Naples, Florida the end of June at a private higher end resort and I’ve gotten written assurances about sanitation proceedures and protocols but we will see….

    • I think that is the way to go – contacting the hotel/resort ahead of time to see what systems they have in place.

  10. I can comment on what’s even more strange. I live in Maui, I support three large resorts on the island and visit them from time to time during the mass shutdown. Walking the grounds, seeing pools still full and clean, but no furniture and no people anywhere on a beautiful Maui dad is eerie and makes you feel like the world has ended.

    • I can imagine – much like walking the Vegas strip with no people on it etc. Has to be a crazy sight for sure.

  11. Very interesting article, Mark, as well as all the comments. I’m also a loyal Hyatt customer, and have noticed that each Hyatt House or Hyatt Place can have its own personality. I’m wondering if the experience today would be different at a Hyatt Regency or a Park Hyatt or the Andaz? Or is the atmosphere more relaxed in Florida than in other US locations?

    • I truly think it is the attitude in Florida more than anything. They have noticed similar types of things at the stores etc. My father said when he was dealing with restaurant customers for work on Friday many of them were pretty packed.

      • Yes, it’s a Florida thing. I’m not picking on others as it’s my home state. I want things back to the way they were too but this is just nuts. IIRC, that Hyatt Place has two slow, creaky, small elevators. Being packed in one with a bunch of strangers without masks is not my idea of a good time but I’m not sure that blaming the hotel is the way to go unless they should have an elevator cop (don’t laugh, there was one at the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas during one stay).

        • Most casinos have an elevator cop haha. They can easily see it from the front desk so they could simply remind people as they see the rules being broken. But it is ultimately up to the guests to follow the protocols for sure.

    • Yes, just do what government tells you unquestioningly. Even as every single one of their doomsday projections was wrong by orders of magnitude and we see all-cause mortality from non-COVID deaths spike. It’s almost as if there are 2nd and 3rd order consequences to crashing the economy and terrifying everyone instead of measured, focused quarantines for the most vulnerable.

      The government tells you to move COVID-19 infected patients into nursing homes? Just salute and say,”Sounds great, boss!” 50% of the deaths happen in those same nursing homes? “Gosh, who could have possibly predicted it!”

      Keep following those orders, Samantha. Because we know politicians care about our families more than we do.

  12. I stayed at an IHG hotel about 3 weeks ago. It looked clean till that evening I went to put my drink down on their coaster. There were 2 coasters both had been used before, I contacted IHG told about it, they told me that they usually leave the coasters if they were not used. These were used , without a doubt ( I showed them to staff) all this lead me to question the cleanliness of the room from the previous guest. They ended up giving me half my points back. Also later after a further really look at the room for cleanliness found a hair ball in the corner edge of the shower.

    • Nasty Robert. I know Shawn found used Ramen in his coffee pot once – gross! Especially during these times you would think they would be extra cautious.

  13. 1st off thank you for reporting . Secondly, we have a trip planned in 10 days time to a Marriott property in Fort Lauderdale. My concern is exactly what your parents faced. While we were at St Prte Beach right at the beginning of covid, I could not relax and at that point nothing was regulated. We had our own hand sanitizer and used the whole thing, between 2 people , in 3 days time.
    I too just want to be able to check in to our king size ocean front with balcony Room and just be able to chill. I don’t need Room service. I will gladly pick up breakfast and lunch fixings from Publix prior to arrival and as for dinner were thinking of doing curbside pick up or delivery.
    I hope Marriott has a better experience for us than the Hyatt your parents visited.

    I’ll let you know….

  14. I have been checking hotels in my area, Huntsville, Alabama. Popular hotels were full on weekend and hotels that have mostly business travelers are completely empty. I will be doing day trips to Birmingham & Atlanta. I have seen the “twilight zone” at some stores here, but I think they quickly changed. I was going to stay at a hotel in Atlanta, but will hold off until later. I think it varies by place, but “twilight zone” places are forced to change because of complaints. That is what happened to “twilight zone” stores here.

    • Yup I think the area plays a large role into how things are handled and how bad of an outbreak the area had etc.

  15. To not leave as soon as they saw the set up was, I am sorry to say, foolish. That kind of set-up is just made for transmission of the Corona Virus. I would have raised a ruckus immediately the first time I saw an emplyee without a mask and no extra cleaning going on.

    I hope they will be OK!

    • I think they rolled with it on Friday because it was so empty and figured maybe it would remain somewhat so the next day as well. They did say they wished that they had just left on Saturday.

  16. I had a similar experience as 2808 Heavy when I stayed at a Hampton Inn on the SC coast a couple of weeks ago. All staff in masks. Distancing signs everywhere (and people respected it), only 1 person in elevator unless same group (again no problems), etc. all very professional and clearly taking steps included plexiglass at check in and handing out prepacked breakfast food instead of buffet.

    I’m at an IHG property this week and expect something similar from them. I feel comfortable traveling and staying in hotels now (plus eating out in restaurants). I make sure I distance from people, wash hands a lot, etc so if I’m somewhere that doesn’t seem safe I either leave (like a restaurant) or take other steps (like avoiding pool you mentioned and only going to the beach where I could distance)

    I hate to be a snitch but I would report it to Hyatt. Doesn’t sound d compliant at all with their stated precautions.

    I’m in the middle w you (although lean probably a little more toward OK w travel without all restrictions). BTW I am 62 but have very good immune system and generally in very good health. I didn’t see any comment on your parents age or health situation as that can be a major factor in how safe they feel

  17. For the record, the one hotel here in California at which I stayed, where masks are supposed to be *mandatory* did not have any staff who were wearing masks. Super quiet, very few people, no breakfast. But also no masks.

    • Thanks for sharing. I would expect guests to be 50/50 on it but I am surprised places of business wouldn’t require it.

  18. Interesting. My wife and I stayed at a Marriott location over the long holiday weekend and had an almost exact opposite experience.

    The hotel was nice and extremely clean. All of the hotel staff wore mask and some of guest we encountered.

    If I had to venture a guess the hotel was probably at about 45% capacity. Plenty of hand sanitizer stations around. We stayed 3 days and had housekeeping service available, declined the first day as we wanted to sleep in.

    Noticeable difference was no room service. We typically don’t use it anyway but there was signage saying that due to reduced staff that one would have to pick up their order downstairs at the Starbucks counter should one wanted to order food.

    Elevators had signage asking to keep to 4 folks or less. This particular location had 3 elevators. Only had to wait once during our 3 day stay.

    Everyone seemed to be okay with the request as I didn’t hear any grumps as we moved about.

    The obvious things were closed such as the indoor and outdoor pool. The gym had signs limiting capacity.

    Staff always asked when crossing paths if we were okay or if they could do anything for us.

    I must say that our stay was much better than I guessed it would be considering all the stories I’ve read on the internet. Again, the place was really clean and we’ll definitely stay again.

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