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12 Things You Shouldn’t Do at Reopened Hotels

Just because hotels are opening up again, it doesn't mean your stay will be the same as it was pre-COVID.

Hotels may reopen, but some things have changed

This summer has been an especially confusing period of the COVID-19 pandemic. On the one hand, you have places like New York City—the original epicenter in the United States — getting the outbreak under control. But on the other hand, the novel coronavirus has been spreading rapidly in other parts of the country like Florida, California, Texas, and Arizona. There has also been increasing politicization over wearing face masks, causing large segments of the population to ignore the public health directive. On top of everything else, it’s summer and hot, and people started opening up their “quarantine bubble,” socializing more, and even traveling. Though more people are opting for air travel now compared to this spring, it’s still down significantly from past summers. Instead, road trips have been the preferred vacation method. But that still leaves the question of where to stay once you reach your destination. While vacation rentals have been a popular choice, they’re not always an option, meaning that travelers have been slowly trickling back into reopened hotels. But just because hotels are starting to welcome guests again, it doesn’t mean it will be business-as-usual.

Skip the mask

Though we’ve been told to wear face masks for months, on July 14, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officially called on all Americans to wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. And yes, that includes any public spaces in hotels. “Our motto is, ‘if you are in motion, wear a mask,'” Kaycee Darby, director of sales and market at Mirbeau Rhinebeck, an inn and spa, tells Reader’s Digest. According to Suzanne Markham-Bagnera, PhD, clinical assistant professor at the Boston University School of Hospitality and Administration, all major hotel brands are requiring the use of facial masks. “Despite your aversion to them, please don’t throw the complementary one at any staff member,” she tells Reader’s Digest. “The old adage, ‘no shirt, no shoes, no service’ will now have ‘no mask’ included. This will need to be worn in all of the public spaces, including the elevator.” These are the 10 things you won’t be seeing in hotels anymore.

Be rude to staff

This should go without saying, and apply during non-pandemic times too, but hotel guests should not be mean to the staff. “It’s all too common for hospitality workers to bear the brunt of guests’ displeasure,” Yannis Moati, CEO of HotelsByDay tells Reader’s Digest. “From all of us who have devoted our lives to hospitality, please be respectful of the strains of the current situation. Frontline employees are putting their lives at risk to serve guests. A little kindness goes a long way!” Instead of being rude to hotel staff, Markham-Bagnera says that guests should share how excited they are to travel with them, and how much it means that they are helping to take care of their needs during their experience. While you’re at it, these are 11 rude hotel habits you need to stop ASAP.

Forget to tip

Again, hotel guests should have been tipping staff all along, but this is particularly important as properties reopen during the pandemic. “Things are different right now,” Moati explains. “For hotel staff, that means there are fewer people doing more jobs, in very challenging circumstances. Show your gratitude and appreciation and tip generously if you can.” But given that using cash is discouraged right now, what’s the best way to tip? According to Markham-Bagnera, new companies like BtipT allow you to provide a gratuity directly to the employee if the hotel has such a service. Here’s what to know about paying with cash in a post-COVID-19 world.

Work from the lobby

Remote workers have long gravitated towards hotel lobbies as an alternative to working from home or a co-working space. Then COVID-19 hit, and that was no longer a safe option. As hotels are reopening, however, people have been returning to their lobbies, treating them as makeshift offices. If you’re going to do that, Moati recommends booking a room. “Lobbies are high-traffic areas and that’s just putting yourself and others at risk,” he explains. Here are 9 etiquette rules you still have to follow during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Try to get a rate reduction

Given that the travel industry has taken a major hit over the past few months, you may assume that hotel prices have hit rock bottom (or at least should) to attract customers. While that may be the case for some properties, there’s a reason why others have had to keep their rates steady, according to Hans Pfister, president and co-founder of the Cayuga Collection, a group of sustainable luxury hotels and lodges. “Guests should not push the rates down too hard, because if the rates are low, the hoteliers will cut corners in terms of hygiene, distancing, etc.,” Pfister tells Reader’s Digest. “So if you pay a fair price, you can also expect quality in terms of sanitary measures.”

Be careless when using the elevator

Even if you’re able to remain six feet apart from other hotel guests in public spaces, this usually isn’t possible in elevators. According to Darby, guests shouldn’t get into the elevator with other parties. “Wait until you can take the elevator only with those in your group,” she notes. Markham-Bagnera says that most hotels will provide signage that will ask that the elevator is occupied by single individuals unless you are all together in one party—pay attention to those. Also, avoid touching the elevator buttons. “While some hotels might be installing self-disinfecting buttons, be prepared to use your elbow, the guest room key corner, or another device to depress the call button and the floor button,” she adds. Our behavior in elevators is just one of these 13 everyday habits that could (and should) change forever after coronavirus.

Get too close to other people

By now, we should be used to the six-foot physical distancing rule when we’re in public—and being in a hotel is no exception. “Follow the standing stickers placed on the floor to avoid standing too close to people while waiting in line,” Markham-Bagnera says. “Additionally, despite the new plastic dividers that have been installed at the front desk, don’t stand too close to those either, allowing the six-foot distance. Expect that many hotels have added an additional table to help create that barrier.” Here are 20 photos that will define the era of social distancing.

Assume it’s all clean

When you checked into a hotel before the pandemic, you were probably already aware that not every part of a hotel room is thoroughly cleaned after guests leave. Now, go in with the same assumption, while also figuring in the high infectivity of the novel coronavirus. Markham-Bagnera recommends bringing your own disinfecting wipes with you to the hotel, “so that when you return, despite washing your hands you can continue to keep yourself safe in the room.” However, she also notes that some hotels have gone to extensive efforts to enhance the cleaning procedures. For example, Hilton has partnered with Lysol to provide a package of wipes in each guestroom—unfortunately, she says that’s not the norm. Here are the 11 germiest spots in a hotel room (prior to the pandemic).

Expect daily room attendant service

Though you may assume that hotel rooms would be cleaned more frequently during the pandemic, the American Hotel and Lodging Association has recommended that occupied guest rooms should only be cleaned daily if absolutely necessary. If that’s the case, you can request daily cleaning from the hotel, possibly for an additional charge, Markham-Bagnera says. “The intent is to keep both the guest and the employee safe,” she explains. “Request items that you may need for continued service.” Also keep in mind that since daily service will not be provided, linen will not be changed every day. According to Markham-Bagnera, some properties are even requesting the guest to remove or collect all the linen together to avoid the staff having to have too much exposure to soiled linen. In fact, disinfecting wipes are one of the 11 things you should pack if you plan on traveling anytime soon.

Expect the same in-room amenities

In order to help minimize the spread of the virus, many standard in-room hotel amenities have been removed—including the coffeemaker. And even if there is one there, Markham-Bagnera cautions against making coffee yourself, because it may not have been cleaned properly after the last guest checked out. And while we’re on the subject of beverages, Markham-Bagnera says that hotel guests definitely shouldn’t use the ice bucket provided in the room without a liner. “If you really must get ice, ensure you use a plastic bag in the ice bucket,” she notes. “Better yet, just drink the room temperature water that might be provided in a complimentary bottle.” Here are 11 ways coronavirus can change the way we eat (and drink).

Leave a mess

For some people, part of the luxury of staying in a hotel is not having to do household chores, like making the bed or washing towels. But that doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to embrace your inner rock star and completely trash the place. That is even more the case during the pandemic. “Be considerate of the room attendant who might be scared to have to clean up after you, but desperately needs the money to work,” Markham-Bagnera says. “Collect the trash in your room and dispose of it in the can.” No one is expecting you to scrub the floors or disinfect the entire room yourself, but don’t leave an unnecessarily large mess.

Leave a nasty review

Hotel team members are working really hard to provide guests with a safe environment right now. If you see there is a problem or something doesn’t meet your satisfaction, ask to speak with the manager to address your concerns, rather than leaving a negative review on TripAdvisor or Yelp, Markham-Bagnera says. “The staff members can take this really hard and find it really hurtful,” she says. “You can leave a constructive review for both the hotel and future guests—but just be upbeat in your sharing.” The pandemic is hard on everyone, so before making your words live on forever on the internet, bring it up in person during your stay. Here are 10 red flags you’re about to stay at a bad hotel.


Elizabeth Yuko
Elizabeth is a bioethicist and journalist covering politics, public health, pop culture, travel, and the lesser-known histories of holidays and traditions for She's always mentally planning her next trip, which she'll base around visits to medical museums or former hospitals, flea markets, local cuisine, and stays in unusual Airbnbs or historic hotels.