Traveling has always come with complications, but the coronavirus pandemic has made it more challenging than ever. Our By The Way Concierge column will take your travel dilemmas to the experts to help you navigate the new normal. Want to see your question answered? Submit it here.
I live with roommates and made it a tradition to take brief staycations locally (usually by public transit) to get a weekend to myself and work on my writing. I’ve been waffling between whether or not it’s safe and ethical to continue this tradition during this spike in cases and deaths. I think I can make it safe for myself, but I can’t help but feel guilty seeing the circumstances.
If I do go, I plan to follow the recommended health protocols with mask use and social distancing. I don’t plan on dining indoors at restaurants and will do what I usually do anyway: check in to a nice boutique hotel (this time I’m eyeing the Lorien in Alexandria), go straight to my room, get into my PJs, order room service, and have a little space to myself. — Kevin Kim, Washington, D.C.
Living with roommates is challenging, and can be exponentially more so for people during the pandemic. When the coronavirus hit, I was living with five housemates and absolutely understand your need to start a staycation tradition.
As you mentioned, coronavirus cases are spiking across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly advises against traveling, and says that staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others at this time.
I took your question to Amesh A. Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
“We’re still in a situation where there are so many cases out there active in the community,” Adalja said. “Our hospitals are worrying about capacity on a day-to-day basis, and the vaccine rollout … is not expected to have an impact for some time.”
However, Adalja is not against the idea of you taking a staycation if you follow the coronavirus precautions you listed. He does advocate risk calculation during the pandemic rather than an “abstinence only” approach. Depending on how much you interact with your roommates and what their jobs are, Adalja said, you may be “safer” at a hotel than at home.
“If he’s going to the hotel to have a party or something like that, that might be a little bit different,” Adalja said. “But if it’s just him sitting in a hotel room, taking public transportation, wearing a face covering when he travels to and from the hotel, and washing his hands a lot, that’s probably not that big of a deal in terms of risk. People are taking much bigger risks all the time.”
Adalja’s biggest advice is to limit your interactions with other people as much as possible. Once you check in, don’t linger in the lobby or other common areas with hotel guests. Some other health experts recommend tips like opening the window of your hotel room when you arrive, if possible, and disinfecting high-touch surfaces.
Before you book a staycation, read recent reviews of the hotel. A hotel website may promise the world in terms of coronavirus precautions, but are they actually following through with those promises?
When I wrote about staying at three different hotels during the pandemic, I got a handful of emails from frustrated travelers who didn’t have the same results I did. They encountered hotel staff and guests who were not wearing masks, or they felt the property wasn’t carrying out coronavirus protocols as promised. Checking out reviews ahead of time may help you avoid some of those unfortunate experiences.
It is also important to do your homework ahead of your staycation to find out which amenities are still in place. It looks like the Kimpton Lorien Hotel & Spa you would like to book in Alexandria is not offering the room service you hoped to order, so you will have to order takeout to the hotel, dine at the hotel restaurant or buy the hotel’s grab-and-go food.
Finally, if you do go — don’t forget to tip housekeeping.
Have a travel dilemma for the By The Way Concierge? Submit it here.