Let’s say you’re lucky enough to get to take two weeks of vacation away from home each year. Maybe your job sends you to a training session or trade conference for a few days. Then there’s your niece’s wedding, Thanksgiving with the family, a weekend getaway or two with your spouse to the hills — or Las Vegas. For many adults, a typical year may have us sleeping in a hotel room 10-20 nights per year. That’s nothing to sneeze at.
Or more accurately, that’s a lot to sneeze at. Not all hotels can offer plush bathrobes, superb security, and immaculate cleanliness. The reality is that even five-star hotels have been found to harbor plenty of hidden mildew and germs.
However, there are ways to make your home away from home not only more pleasant, but healthier and safer too.
1. Pack your own sheets. If you have any concerns about your hotel’s cleaning practices, pack a queen-size sheet to throw over the bedspread so you’re not exposed to dust mites, germs, or allergens lurking in the cover.
2. Pack a long-sleeved sleep shirt and long sleep pants. Again, if you are concerned about the hygiene of the bedding, reduce contact by wearing body-covering pajamas and light socks to bed.
3. Use your bed for sleeping only. Don’t do work on it, eat on it, and don’t watch movies or TV on it. Not only is that more hygienic, but you’ll likely find it easier to fall asleep that way.
4. Ask for an allergy-free room. Some hotels are now offering rooms that are built and furnished to minimize the amounts of dust mites and other allergens. Even if you don’t have allergies, this might be a good choice for people prone to colds and flus. Other hotels provide allergy packs, including face masks, special pillows, and mattress covers. But you have to ask for them.
5. Choose modern over old. Yes, Victorian bed-and-breakfasts are far superior in terms of charm and personal touches. But they also lead in the amount of allergens and dust you are likely to encounter in the rooms and public sitting areas. So if health is a real concern while traveling, go for good-quality modern hotels.
6. Ask for a room on the third floor or higher. Most thefts occur on the first two floors. Stay below the seventh floor, however; few fire engine ladders can reach above it.
7. Choose a hotel over a motel. This is mostly for safety reasons: Burglaries are easier when your room’s door is quickly accessible from the parking lot. You also get more dirt and allergens coming through the doorway when it opens directly to the outside. You wouldn’t want to sleep eight feet from the front door at home, would you?
8. If you’re going to be staying for several days, book a hotel with a pool or exercise room — and use them. Exercising will exorcise the traveler’s stiffness from your body and burn off some of the calories from that breakfast buffet, business lunch, or wedding cake.
9. Split your breakfast and lunch schedules in two. Use half for eating and the other half for walking outside. Just like you should be doing at work.
Plus: 7 Ways to Fly Safer