It’s been a while for all of us, and let’s be serious… We all miss staying in hotels. The polished lobbies, the fresh linens, the overpriced room service, and most importantly, the tiny taste of personal space – even if it is for a limited time. We’re all aware that everything we know about touring is going to be somehow different when we go back. This is what it’s like Staying In A Hotel Post-COVID.
As always here at the Backstage Culture, let’s break this down into a couple different categories.
- Why did I stay in a hotel during a pandemic?
- What was the same?
- What was different?
Why did I stay in a Hotel during a Pandemic?
Over this past year, I’ve had some big life changes. I’ve been trying to leave the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) for longer than I can remember. Much like America, being from the suburbs is summed up by Smart Centres, big restaurant chains, and main roads with multiple lanes jammed car to car in each direction. There is no personality to suburbs. They’re all the same.
My wife and I had been talking about moving away for years but her steady day-job wouldn’t accommodate it pre COVID. So, here we are. We moved a couple of hours away to a smaller city at the beginning of October. We entertained the option of buying a new-build with everything done. But all of the subdivisions we were finding just looked like our home back in the GTA. We’re more of a “Buy an older house with some property and do some renos” people anyways.
Over the last couple of months, I’ve finished my basement. It was awful, But imperative for my productivity since my home office relied on having the basement finished. Our garage flooded on Christmas day, which leaked into our basement… fine. Then 2 weeks later, from the opposite corner of the house, our basement flooded again… Yep, totally sucks.
Anyways, Back To The Point
After I did the framing, We had a company come in and spray foam insulate the basement walls. When they do this, it lets out poisonous gas and it’s recommended (especially with little kids) that we get out of the house for 24 hours.
So, we did what every tour manager would do. Obsess over finding the best possible solution for 2 kids. 1 kid goes to school at 9am, the other naps from noon-3pm, and my wife works from home. You all know the drill. We need a guaranteed early check-in. Again, being a tour manager, I know that this is NEVER guaranteed. So I booked the night before as well.
I needed something that had min. 2 bedrooms. So before even looking at hotels, I scoured through all the available Air BnB’s. Have you looked for anything on Air BnB in this past year? It’s fucking crazy. Places that used to be $200/night are now closing in on $400/night depending on the night of the week (plus cleaning fees etc). I wasn’t trying to turn this into a $1000 ordeal.
Naturally, I used my obnoxious collection of hotel points at my favorite brand of hotels and got a 1 bedroom suite. My 4-year-old will stay on the pull-out couch, We have a mobile crib for my 1.5-year-old and the internet will be good enough for my wifey to piece together her workday.
So… we have a plan. But, will this process that I do 200+ times/year be the same?
What Was The Same?
There are some beautiful consistencies that we can rely on in this business. One of them is checking into a hotel. But since the world has gone to shit, how does this affect us?
To be honest, the check-in process was business as usual. I pull up to the lobby. I was by myself so I could get checked-in and test the waters as a bit of a dry run. It was behind glass, with a mask on, and on physical distancing markers. There was no one else in the lobby at the time so I wasn’t worried.
Much like normal, the attendant at the counter was super helpful and informative on the hotel’s policies and the hours on amenities. Not to mention fairly quick with the process.
I leave the lobby and back out to my car to pull into the underground parking. Business as usual with minimal changes. I immediately went to write my special code for the room number on the key card by realized it’s been so long since I’ve been in a hotel that I won’t forget the room number. Plus, I didn’t have my go-to sharpie tucked on the neck of my shirt either.
I head up the elevator. I was scared. What if it was gonna be like going back to your childhood playground and everything feels weirdly unfamiliar? No stops. Straight shot to the 9th floor…
I’m fortunate. I’ve stayed in so many hotels that I’ve gotten lifetime status. I got upgraded to a 2 bedroom suite. I was super grateful, especially since having the family with me.
The room was exactly how I remembered it being. It was my first time in this particular hotel, but it was exactly what I knew it was going to look and feel like. I walked through the room checking out the view and the layout, doing what I always do. I cruised across the freshly vacuumed carpet to the master bedroom to open the blinds wide and take in the view. What a beauty. I took a second to breathe it in.
From there, I continued my walkthrough when the most beautiful thing happened…
It’s winter here in Canada. It’s cold. Like too cold to even snow. Which makes the air super dry. I reached up to touch a light switch and ZAP!!! I got shocked by static so strong I thought the building had been hit by lightning. A feeling so painfully true to hotels (especially in the winter). After my initial reaction of thinking I was being electrocuted, I was overwhelmed by joy and a sense of normalcy. The zap from a dry hotel room immediately shot me back to the exhausting, but amazing days on the road. The electrostatic shock will now always be comforting to me until the end of time. Although, to be honest, it got old pretty quick.
I didn’t use any of the hotel amenities. Breakfast was available in the attached restaurant, and the hotel had given me vouchers. I didn’t eat there. We got Mcdonalds one day and went home the next.
The pool was open to 1 family (or 4 people total) at a time. We didnt use it either. But thinking back to it, I’m wondering how clean it would be in there. Normally I’m grossed out by public pools. Full of other people’s dead skin and peep. It’s nasty. But if there was ever a time that I might use a hotel pool, this might have been it. I’m guessing the average is about 1 person per day for the last couple of months. With the amount of chlorine and filters they have running on a hotel pool, it might be ok. Likely not tho.
What Was Different?
I was surprised. It felt normal. Maybe it was just the general enthusiasm of escaping my basement reno or breaking the routine of this endless groundhog day, but it felt great.
The hotel sent out a pre-screening email a couple of nights out. They outlined their safety and cleanliness protocols and what they were doing to ensure the hotel was as sterile as humanly possible. Also, they wanted to know if me or my family were sick or showed symptoms.
In the email, they had a bunch of instructions for those that were self-isolating and a disclaimer to let other guests know that there might be people quarantined somewhere in the hotel. We’re pretty close to the border to the US. Whenever you enter the country, it’s a mandatory 14-day self iso. To be honest, this shook me up a little bit to think I was putting myself within breathing distance of the infected, but I’d rather be aware so I can plan accordingly. Yes, I looked at the current case numbers and made an “educated” decision that it was still an ok idea. We were under 10 cases total in the whole city at that time.
Here in Canada, Ontario specifically, we’ve been mandatory masks anywhere inside for months. But as we all know, that doesn’t mean that we’re safe.
For starters, there was hand sanitizing stations everywhere, only 4 people allowed in the elevator at a time, and as I mentioned above, floor markers and stanchions guiding foot traffic so people had no choice but to keep their distance.
Do Not Disturb
I spent longer than I’m proud of looking for the “Do Not Disturb” sign. In every hotel room ever, I take my lap of the place to get my bearings and end up back at the front door where my bags are. Then I put on the DND sign since I wanna be left alone.
I looked in all the usual places, including all the drawers, closets, and even that welcome binder that normally has the room service menu. It was nowhere to be found. The last thing I want in a hotel is to be disturbed, especially during a pandemic.
Luckily the hotel had already thought it through. They had a welcome note on the counter with some more info regarding Ice machine protocol etc. On this sheet it mentioned that no housekeeping will be coming to the room unless I called for it. In an attempt to maintain distances, they weren’t interested in sending their employees into someone else’s airspace. Which is understandable and probably saves the hotel a couple bucks in operating expenses.
Have you ever stayed in/around NYC for an extended period of time? I stayed there for a week in 2013. While I figured the sheets were good for the week, and unless I needed towels, I didn’t need any assistance for my stay. I left the DND sign on the door the whole time.
When I was out and about on day 3, I had come back to a freshly made bed and a tidied room. Thinking it was strange, I double-checked that I left the sign on the door when I saw a note on the table. Apparently, they had a rule that you couldn’t go longer than 2 full days without having hotel staff in your room. I wonder how many bodies you gotta find before you start making that a policy. I probably wouldn’t have left my passport or personal stuff out if I knew someone was going to be in the room, but Oh, How times have changed.
Anyways, Back To The Point (Yet Again)
Although I didn’t know exactly what to expect, I had expected a lot of change. Since, well… We’re still in the middle of a pandemic. Outside of a couple of minor changes to your routine, which can change from hotel chain to hotel chain anyways, for the most part, everything was beautifully the same.
If you’re staying in hotels and see any updates that feel excessively out of the ordinary, hit me up at [email protected]