The only way to eliminate risk is to not stay in a hotel – so think about whether your trip is strictly necessary.
External variables that may increase the risk of catching virus include the infection levels where you’re departing from and where you’re heading (see the very helpful Johns Hopkins University tracker). You should be particularly careful if you are older or more vulnerable due to a pre-existing condition.
If you do end up going on holiday, there are plenty of simple precautions you can take. Even if it is not required by the hotel, you should wear a mask in all public areas. You should abide by social-distancing guidelines, and you should wash your hands regularly.
To feel more comfortable in your room, you could bring your own disinfecting wipes to clean high-touch surfaces like door handles, TV remotes and bedside tables. You could also sterilise any glassware with hot water and soap (although the hotel will almost certainly have seen to this too).
If you’re struggling to decide where to stay, Schaffner recommends looking at hotels’ sanitation and distancing policies, and if these aren’t available online, calling to ask for more information. ‘It’s certainly worth asking, “What’s your procedure? What are the chemicals you’re using? How did you validate this procedure? What are these recommendations based on?”’ he says. ‘And if you get a sort of non-answer, I would consider going to a different chain.’
Worried it might be a bit crowded? You could ask the manager about the hotel’s occupancy rates, or request a room that hasn’t been occupied for at least a day. It may also be worth opting for a ground-floor room, to avoid having to use the elevator, or choosing a hotel with ample grounds and outdoor space, so you have somewhere to relax that isn’t indoors.
And given the greatest risk will always stem from contact with others, it may well be sensible – especially if you’re in a ‘high-risk’ category – to stay in self-contained accommodation like an Airbnb or other private rental apartment.
‘If you are able to physically distance from people, that is having the greatest reduction in risk,’ says Schaffner. ‘I’m not sure that the sanitation procedures of the Airbnb are going to be up to the procedures that could be implemented in a chain. But if there hasn’t been anyone in that Airbnb for a week, I would say the risks are practically nil.’