We compared Google Meet and Zoom to see which is better for remote working and learning – and Zoom has a slight edge for large meetings

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Google Hangouts vs Zoom 4x3
  • If you’re learning or working from home, a video conferencing tool is a must.
  • Two of the best services out there are Google Meet and Zoom.
  • Zoom supports larger meetings, but Google Meet is conveniently packaged with other Google services.

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Two of the most popular video communication tools for remote work and learning are Google Meet and Zoom. The two services are used by workplaces and classrooms around the world. Both provide the ability to interact with other participants through video conferencing, enabling businesses and schools to conduct remote meetings and lessons through a variety of apps and devices.

But which of these tools is ultimately better? And which might work best for your needs? We put Google Meet and Zoom head to head to find out.

Google Meet vs Zoom: Which is better?

Google Meet and Zoom are both video conferencing services and they offer a lot of the same features. But one service may be a better fit for your needs depending on the size of your team and what other applications you plan to use.

When it comes purely to video conferencing features, Zoom has a slight edge over Google Meet, offering a comprehensive assortment of options at various price points. Zoom’s most expensive plan provides support for the largest number of participants.

That said, if you’re looking for a bigger collection of applications to use in tandem with your video conferencing service, then Google Meet might be a better fit. The platform, formerly known as Google Hangouts Meet, comes bundled with other helpful Google services as part of a Google Workspace subscription.

Feature comparison

Google Meet Zoom
Free option Yes Yes
Monthly price $6-$25 per user $15-$20 per license
Participants Up to 250 Up to 1,000
Meeting time limit up to 24 hours Up to 30 hours
Platforms Windows, Mac, Android, iOS Windows, Mac, Android, iOS

Pricing and plans

Google Meet and Zoom are both available in a variety of plans for different monthly costs, with certain features only available via certain packages.

Zoom plans

The basic version of Zoom is available for free, but there are some limitations to this option. Notably, you can only host meetings of up to 100 people and group meetings can only be up to 40 minutes.

Pricing for Zoom’s premium plans can get a little complicated if you need more than what the free version has to offer. Here’s a full rundown of packages:

Plan Price Participants Time Hosts
Zoom Basic: Free Up to 100 40 minutes One
Zoom Pro: $15/month/host Up to 100 30 hours 1-9
Zoom Business: $20/month/host Up to 300 30 hours 10-99
Zoom Enterprise: $20/month/host Up to 500 30 hours 50+

Starting with the Pro plan, members receive social media streaming, 1 GB of cloud recording, and personal meeting IDs. When you step up to Business, you get some advanced administrative features, like transcript recording, managed domains, and company branding. Enterprise upgrades you to unlimited cloud storage.

You can also add the “Large Meetings” add-on to any paid plan to get support for up to 1,000 participants.

Outside of its workplace plans, Zoom also has specific solutions geared toward education. Education plans are available for a minimum of 20 hosts and a max of 149 hosts. Each host can have unlimited meetings with support for up to 300 participants. You can find more information on pricing and features for Zoom’s Education plan here.

Google Meet plans

When it comes to Google Meet, you also have a few different options to choose from. Though a free version of Meet wasn’t originally available, Google now offers free access to a limited version of the service.

To unlock more features, you’ll need to pay for Google Meet as part of a subscription to Google Workspace (formerly G Suite). Workspace comes with a full suite of additional Google cloud services, including Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, and more. Here’s a full breakdown of Google Meet options via Google’s different Workspace plans:

Plan Price Participants Time Users
Google Meet: Free Up to 100 One hour (groups) One
Business Starter: $6/month/user Up to 100 24 hours 300 max
Business Standard: $12/month/user Up to 150 24 hours 300 max
Business Plus: $18/month/user Up to 250 24 hours 300 max
Enterprise: Varies Up to 250 24 hours No max

The Business Standard plan adds recording support. Meanwhile, Business Plus adds attendance tracking. Finally the Enterprise plan adds a noise-cancellation feature and “in-domain” live streaming.

Like Zoom, Google also offers education-specific Google Meet solutions. You can find more information about Google Workspace for education here.

Extra features

Zoom video conferencing

Zoom is a dedicated video conferencing service built by a company that is mainly focused on that platform. As such, Zoom is a little more comprehensive than Google Meet. Sure, Meet scores points thanks to its seamless integration with other Google apps, and the fact that it comes bundled with a host of other services, but if you’re really only looking for a video conferencing platform, those other apps won’t matter all that much.

Google Meet caps out at 250 participants and 24 hours, but Zoom can support up to 30 hours and has an option to add support for up to 1,000 participants for an extra fee. Most teams won’t need the expanded support that Zoom provides – but for some businesses, this ability could be the deciding factor.

When it comes to general features, Meet and Zoom both offer many of the same basic functions, like call encryption, support for up to 720p HD video, and presentation modes that allow for screensharing to other participants.

Google Meet has also made some big improvements over the last few months by adding additional options that were initially only found on Zoom, like polls, a tiled gallery layout for larger calls, and video filters so you can change your background. Both Zoom and Meet will let you split up calls into breakout rooms as well.

You can go further with both video conferencing services by hosting a session with a whiteboard. Participants in Meet and Zoom can also raise their hands if they have to say something in a class or company meeting.

Though Google Meet was initially missing a lot of these extra functions, the difference between both services has steadily decreased.

Integrations

Google Hangouts Meet integrations
Google Meet can integrate with other services.

Perhaps one of the most important things to consider is how each platform integrates with other services. Notably, Google Meet allows users to integrate meetings with other teams using Skype for Business, and other video meeting systems based on the SIP and H.323 standards. Meet also integrates with additional apps, including other Google services. For example, the service integrates well with Google Calendar

Zoom offers some great integrations too – including some Google apps and services. For example, Zoom integrates with Facebook Workplace, Skype for Business, Salesforce, Microsoft Outlook, Google Drive, Google Calendar, and more. While Meet may make integration with Google services a little easier, Zoom still allows many of those same integrations as well.

The bottom line

Zoom meeting
Zoom is the more comprehensive service for dedicated video conferencing needs.

Zoom offers support for the most amount of people and the longest meeting times, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right option for everyone. Zoom’s edge over Meet has diminished greatly over the last few months as Google added a lot of new features. Still, if you just want a service purely for video conferencing, then Zoom has a slight edge.

That said, if you want to use other Google services that come included with a Google Workspace subscription, then Meet will be more than good enough for your remote work or learning needs.

You can get Google Meet from the Google Workspace website, or sign up for Zoom at the Zoom website.

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March Madness 2021 concludes with the Men’s NCAA Championship Game tonight on CBS – here’s how to watch live without cable

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Baylor
  • March Madness 2021 will come to a close with the Men’s NCAA Championship Game tonight at 9 p.m. ET.
  • You can watch the game live on CBS through cable or select streaming services like Paramount Plus.
  • Paramount Plus starts at $6 a month for ad-supported streaming.

Plus Monthly Plan (ad-supported) (small)

March Madness 2021 reaches its conclusion with the Men’s NCAA Championship Game tonight on CBS. You can watch the game live at 9 p.m. ET on cable, or via streaming services with access to CBS, including Paramount Plus. You can sign up for Paramount Plus for as little as $6 a month.

After canceling the annual event for the first time in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA revived its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments for 2021 with precautions in place. Rather than splitting tournament games across several different cities, the NCAA invited all 68 qualifying men’s teams to Indianapolis and the 64 women’s teams to San Antonio.

The Women’s NCAA Championship Game was held on April 4 between the Stanford Cardinal and Arizona Wildcats. Stanford won the game with a final score of 54-53.

March Madness 2021 dates and times

March Madness 2021 began with the First Four on March 18. The Women’s NCAA Championship Game was broadcast on April 4 at 6 p.m. ET. The tournament reaches its end with the Men’s NCAA Championship Game tonight at 9 p.m. ET.

The Men’s Championship Game will pit the Baylor Bears against the Gonzaga Bulldogs at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.

How to watch March Madness 2021 Championship Game: Baylor vs. Gonzaga

March Madness will conclude with the Men’s NCAA Championship Game tonight at 9 p.m. ET on CBS. If you don’t have cable or satellite, there are several streaming services you can use.

One of the cheapest options to watch the Men’s NCAA Championship Game is Paramount Plus. The service offers live CBS streaming and on-demand content with ads for just $6 a month. You can get ad-free on-demand streaming for $10 a month.

For detailed impressions on Paramount Plus, check out our full Paramount Plus review and our Paramount Plus guide.

Plus Monthly Subscription (small)

Another option to stream CBS is Hulu + Live TV. This service offers around 65 channels for $65 a month. You get to watch on two devices at once, and new members get a free one-week trial.

The service also includes access to Hulu’s entire on-demand library of movies and shows.

+ Live TV (small)

Youtube TV features a total of over 85 channels for $65 a month, including CBS. You can get two weeks free up front if you’re new, and you get three simultaneous streams.

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Fubo TV also include access to live CBS streaming in its packages. The service costs $65 a month for its Starter plan with around 120 channels, support for three devices at the same time, and 250 hours of cloud DVR storage. New members can get a free one-week trial.

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March Madness 2021 nears its end with the Final Four this weekend – here’s how to watch every game without cable

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paige bueckers
  • The 2021 NCAA Basketball tournament, commonly known as March Madness, began on March 18.
  • This weekend, the men’s Final Four will air on CBS, while the women’s Final Four will air on ESPN.
  • To stream all the games through a single app, we recommend Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky+ Live TV (small)TV (small)

March Madness is nearing its conclusion as the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Basketball tournaments are both down to their Final Four. The women’s Final Four will play first on April 2 with ESPN airing the game live from San Antonio, Texas; CBS will broadcast the Men’s Final Four on April 3 from Indianapolis, Indiana.

After canceling the annual event for the first time in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA revived its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments with precautions in place. Rather than splitting tournament games across several different cities, the NCAA invited all 68 qualifying men’s teams to Indianapolis and the 64 women’s teams to San Antonio.

If you don’t already have access to CBS through your TV provider, you can stream the men’s Final Four and national championship game with a Paramount Plus subscription starting at $6 a month. The women’s Final Four and championship game will only air on ESPN, so if you’re not a cable subscriber you’ll need to pay for a service like Sling, Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV to watch live.

March Madness 2021 dates and times

March Madness 2021 began with the First Four on March 18 and continues with the Final Four this weekend. The tournament will conclude with the Men’s NCAA Championship Game on April 5.

The men’s Final Four will feature a clash of two Texas schools when Houston plays Baylor, while a surprising UCLA team will continue its run towards the school’s 12th tournament championship against Gonzaga, an undefeated powerhouse.

In the women’s tournament, three of the four top seeded teams remain, including the perennial favorite UConn Huskies, led by freshman and AP Player of the Year Paige Bueckers.

Below you can find a chart of the remaining games, dates, and times for the 2021 NCAA Basketball Tournament, as laid out by the official March Madness website.

Event Coverage begins Channel

Women’s Final Four:
South Carolina (1) vs. Stanford (1)

6 p.m. ET on April 2 ESPN

Women’s Final Four:
Arizona (3) vs. UConn (1)

9:30 p.m. ET on April 2 ESPN

Men’s Final Four:
Houston (2) vs. Baylor (1)

5:14 p.m. ET on April 3 CBS

Men’s Final Four: UCLA (11) vs. Gonzaga (1)

8:34 p.m. ET on April 3 CBS
Women’s Championship Game 6 p.m. ET on April 4 ESPN
Men’s Championship Game 9 p.m. ET on April 5 CBS

How to watch March Madness 2021

The remaining men’s March Madness 2021 games are airing on CBS, while the remaining women’s games are being broadcast on ESPN.

If you don’t have cable or satellite, and you want a single streaming service with access to all of the women’s and men’s March Madness games, Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV will be your best bet.

If you just need access to the men’s games, Paramount Plus is your cheapest option. If you just need access to the women’s games, Sling Orange is your most affordable option.

Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV both offer every March Madness game

Hulu + Live TV offers around 65 channels for $65 a month, including CBS and ESPN. You get to watch on two devices at once, and new members get a free one-week trial. The service also includes access to Hulu’s entire on-demand library of movies and shows.

+ Live TV (small)

Youtube TV features a total of over 85 channels for $65 a month, including CBS and ESPN. You can get two weeks free up front if you’re new, and you get three simultaneous streams.

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You can use Paramount Plus to watch the March Madness games on CBS

If you just want access to the men’s March Madness games on CBS, one of your cheapest options is Paramount Plus. The service offers live CBS streaming along with some exclusive on-demand content for plans starting at just $6 a month.

You can find more information about Paramount Plus in our full guide here.

Plus Monthly Subscription (small)

You can use Sling Orange to watch the March Madness games on ESPN

If you just want access to the women’s March Madness games on ESPN, Sling TV’s Orange plan is your cheapest streaming option. Sling Orange offers live ESPN along with several other channels for $35 a month. New members can get their first month of service for just $25.

You can find more information about Sling in our full breakdown of Sling TV channels.

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March Madness 2021 is airing on CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTV – here’s how to watch every game without cable

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How to watch march madness
  • March Madness 2021 began on March 18, and will end with the NCAA Championship Game on April 5.
  • Games are spread across CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTV through cable and live streaming services.
  • To get access to every channel through a single app, we recommend Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky+ Live TV (small)TV (small)

March Madness, the annual NCAA basketball tournament, is in full swing. CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTV are all showing select games, and you can catch the action through several streaming services. Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV are our top recommendations since they include every channel you need for $65 a month.

The NCAA has created two safe sites for this years men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with 68 men’s teams playing in Indianapolis, Indiana, and 64 women’s teams playing in San Antonio, Texas. The single-elimination tournament will be held over a three-week span to determine which college has the top squad.

Wondering how to get your eyeballs on all these high-stakes contests without a cable subscription? Look no further.

March Madness 2021 dates and times

March Madness 2021 began with the First Four on March 18. The tournament will conclude with the Men’s NCAA Championship Game on April 5.

Below you can find a chart of the remaining dates and times for the 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, as laid out by the official March Madness website. For a full breakdown of each game’s specific airing station and time, check out this handy list.

Event Coverage begins Channels
Second round (day two) 12:10 p.m. ET on March 22 CBS, TNT, TBS
Sweet 16 (day one) 2:40 p.m. and 7:25 p.m. ET on March 27 CBS (afternoon), TBS (primetime)
Sweet 16 (day two) 1 p.m and 7 p.m. ET on March 28 CBS (afternoon), TBS (primetime)
Elite Eight (day one) 7 p.m. ET on March 29 CBS
Elite Eight (day two) 6 p.m. ET on March 30 TBS
Final Four 5 p.m. ET on April 3 CBS
NCAA Championship Game 9 p.m. ET on April 5 CBS

The 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament began on March 21, with the Women’s Final Four planned for April 2, and the Women’s National Championship Game scheduled for April 4.

How to watch March Madness 2021

March Madness 2021 games are spread across CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTV. The easiest way to watch every game is to use the March Madness Live website or streaming app, and sign in with a supported cable or satellite provider. From there, you can stream every game in the whole enchilada.

If you don’t have cable or satellite, and you want a single streaming service with access to all four March Madness networks, Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV will be your best bet.

Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV both offer every March Madness game

Hulu + Live TV offers around 65 channels for $65 a month, including CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTV. You get to watch on two devices at once, and new members get a free one-week trial. The service also includes access to Hulu’s entire on-demand library of movies and shows.

+ Live TV (small)

Youtube TV features a total of over 85 channels for $65 a month, including CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTV. You can get two weeks free up front if you’re new, and you get three simultaneous streams.

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You can use Paramount Plus to watch the March Madness games on CBS

If you just want access to the March Madness games on CBS, one of your cheapest options is Paramount Plus. The service offers live CBS streaming along with some exclusive on-demand content for plans starting at just $6 a month.

You can find more information about Paramount Plus in our full guide here.

Plus Monthly Subscription (small)

You can use Sling TV to watch the March Madness games on TNT and TBS

If you just want to stream the games on TNT, TBS, and TruTV, and you don’t want or need CBS, then Sling TV is the most affordable streaming service you can use.

Sling has two basic packages: Sling Orange and Sling Blue. The Blue plan offers all three Turner networks, but Orange is missing TruTV. Blue will run you $35 a month, and you can watch three simultaneous streams.

Sling’s three-day free trial won’t get you the whole tournament, but you could watch a solid slate of games that way. Remember, though: no CBS with Sling.

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March Madness 2021 begins tonight with the first games on TBS and TruTV – here’s how to watch every matchup without cable

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

How to watch march madness
  • March Madness 2021 will begin with the First Four on March 18 at 5:10 p.m. ET.
  • Games will be spread across CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTV through cable and live streaming services.
  • To get access to every channel through a single app, we recommend Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky+ Live TV (small)TV (small)

March is upon us, and you know what that means. The sports community – and the sports betting community – are gearing up for this year’s edition of March Madness, the annual NCAA basketball tournament.

The NCAA has created two safe sites for this years men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, with 68 men’s teams playing in Indianapolis, Indiana, and 64 women’s teams playing in San Antonio, Texas. The single-elimination tournament will be held over a three-week span to determine which college has the top squad, and which fight song will play as colorful confetti rains down and the champs cut down the nets.

Last year’s tournament was canceled for the first time in NCAA history as the COVID-19 outbreak swelled. With the pandemic still looming, Indiana will limit the normally raucous crowds to 25% of their normal capacity. That said, millions will no doubt be watching remotely with baited breath to see which team will capture the first title since Virginia’s 2019 win.

Wondering how to get your eyeballs on all these high-stakes contests without a cable subscription? Look no further.

March Madness 2021 dates and times

March Madness 2021 began with Selection Sunday determining the tournament bracket on March 14. The tournament will commence with the First Four on March 18 starting at 5:10 p.m. ET. Below you can find a chart of the key dates and times for 2021 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, as laid out by the official NCAA March Madness website.

For a full breakdown of each game’s specific airing station and time, check out this handy list.

Event Coverage begins Channels
Selection Sunday

6 p.m. ET on March 14

CBS
First Four

5:10 p.m. ET on March 18

TruTV, TBS
First round (day one) 12:15 p.m. ET on March 19 CBS, TruTV, TNT, TBS
First round (day two) 12:15 p.m. ET on March 20 CBS, TruTV, TNT, TBS
Second round (day one) 12 p.m. ET on March 21 CBS, TruTV, TNT, TBS
Second round (day two) 12 p.m. ET on March 22 CBS, TruTV, TNT, TBS
Sweet 16 (day one) 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET on March 27 CBS (afternoon), TBS (primetime)
Sweet 16 (day two) 1 p.m and 7 p.m. ET on March 28 CBS (afternoon), TBS (primetime)
Elite Eight (day one) 7 p.m. ET on March 29 CBS
Elite Eight (day two) 6 p.m. ET on March 30 TBS
Final Four 5 p.m. ET on April 3 CBS
NCAA Championship Game 9 p.m. ET on April 5 CBS

The 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament will begin on March 21, with the Women’s Final Four planned for April 2, and the Women’s National Championship Game scheduled for April 4.

How to watch March Madness 2021

The easiest way to watch March Madness 2021 – which you likely have already figured out if you’ve got the credentials – is to use the March Madness Live website or streaming app, and sign in with a supported cable or satellite provider. From there, you can stream every game in the whole enchilada.

If you’re reading this article, however, you’re probably saying to yourself, “But I don’t have cable. That’s why I’m here.” Right! Well, there are other ways to watch, so fear not.

Games are being spread across CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTV, and there are several streaming services that include one or more of those channels. If you want a single service with access to all four March Madness networks, Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV will be your best bet. Each service costs $65 a month.

If you just want access to some of the channels, we’ve broken additional details on streaming options for each network below.

How to watch the CBS games without cable

As a network station, there are many ways to stream CBS if you don’t already have a cable or satellite package.

Paramount Plus

One of the cheapest ways to get live CBS streaming access is via Paramount Plus. The service offers some exclusive on-demand content in addition to live streaming for plans starting at just $6 a month. You can find more information about Paramount Plus in our full guide here.

Plus Monthly Subscription (small)

Live streaming services with CBS

For people who want a larger assortment of channels to go along with CBS, live streaming services like Hulu + Live TV, AT&T TV, Youtube TV, and FuboTV all have you covered. Crucially, Sling does not offer CBS, so don’t go that route.

How to watch the Turner games without cable

Since TBS, TNT, and TruTV are all Turner networks, they all fall under the same subscription umbrellas. Unfortunately, their availability doesn’t overlap perfectly with CBS, which would have made this guide a little bit simpler and shorter. Alas!

Youtube TV

Youtube TV includes all the Turner networks and CBS, which makes it pretty enticing, but it does run $65 a month. You can get two weeks free up front if you’re new, and you get three simultaneous streams.

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Hulu with Live TV

Hulu also offers live streaming with all four networks included. It costs $65 a month, though you can plop down an extra $7 a month to get a bundle with Disney Plus and ESPN+ as well. You can get a week free to start, and you get to watch on two devices at once.

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AT&T TV

You’ll get CBS and the Turner networks with the “base” tier of AT&T TV, called “Entertainment,” though it does run $70 a month. You can watch on three devices at the same time, but there does not appear to be any sort of available free trial.

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Sling Blue

Sling has two basic packages: Sling Orange and Sling Blue. The Blue plan offers all three Turner networks, but Orange is missing TruTV. Blue will run you $35 a month, and you can watch three simultaneous streams. A three-day free trial won’t get you the whole tournament, but you could watch a solid slate of games that way. Remember, though: no CBS with Sling.

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6 safer, expert-backed vacation ideas during the pandemic, whether you’re taking a last-minute spring break trip or planning ahead for summer

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All our ideas on safer summer travel 4x3

  • Despite the pandemic, many US travelers are eager to take a spring break vacation, but safely.
  • For safer vacation ideas during COVID, we compiled options based on expert advice and research.
  • From remote hotels near beaches to vacation rentals and road trip essentials, consider these ideas.

Table of Contents

With vaccine rollouts well underway, it finally feels like there might soon be light at the end of the tunnel. However, the pandemic continues across the country, and some are worried that spring break trips could lead to new spikes in cases. Though pandemic fatigue may be setting in, it’s still vital to seek safe vacation ideas for closer-t0-home getaways right now.

For those of us wondering if it is safe to travel right now, the answer depends on many variables, namely, how you plan to do so, where you want to go, the rates of infection in your chosen destination, and your anticipated behavior once you arrive.

To help determine the risks associated with each mode of travel during COVID, we reached out to experts including infectious disease and ER doctors, cleaning specialists, travel industry professionals, and representatives from major rental cars, hotels, Airbnb, and transportation organizations, to reveal both the risks and best practices associated with various forms of lodging and safe travel during COVID. We’ve also taken into account the latest guidance from the CDC.

Of course, it’s impossible to guarantee any place other than your home is safe right now. The pandemic is an evolving situation and it’s crucial to follow guidelines set forth by organizations such as the CDC and WHO, and practice safety measures, no matter where you go, including wearing a mask, washing your hands, and maintaining social distancing. Additionally, consider quarantine mandates for your destination, as well as your own level of risk and whether you’re traveling from or to a hotspot, so as not to increase the rate of infection.

However, if you’re fully vaccinated, Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo, does note that “flying, travel, and life, in general, is significantly safer.”

But that doesn’t mean you’re totally in the clear. “The vaccines are very good, but they’re not perfect. While you’re much less likely to transmit the disease or get it, there is still a chance,” says Dr. Russo.

The CDC advises that even those who are vaccinated should continue to wear masks in public areas. Additionally, keep in mind that you need to be at least two weeks out from receiving your final dose to be considered fully vaccinated.

If you do want to take a safe vacation during COVID and are seeking safer spring break ideas, we compiled several options based on expert insight that suggests travel this year will stick close to home, with travelers choosing safer travel alternatives to traditional choices. Think regional road trips over far-flung flights, lodging that prioritizes hotels with stringent COVID policies, and private vacation rentals instead of crowded resorts. Both Airbnb and Vrbo have seen an uptick in bookings compared to last year and, according to Airbnb, domestic vacation rentals will continue to be a trend throughout 2021.

From beaches and mountains to lakes and islands, as well as private vacation home rentals, remote hotels, and how to prepare for a road trip, the following list includes close to home vacation ideas during coronavirus. Additionally, if a spring ski trip is on your list, start with this guide where we break down if skiing is safe, all the changes to expect at ski resorts this year, plus expert-backed recommendations for precautions to take.

Travel looks different right now, but it’s still ready and willing to welcome you as safely as possible.

Here are 6 ways to take a safe vacation during COVID:

Book a socially distant hotel stay

We already know that most major hotel chains have announced wide-reaching new cleaning policies made in combination with health experts. These policies focus on social distancing and contact-free transactions such as virtual check-in and out, digital keys, limited dining, and more.

However, the experts we interviewed still feel that the answer to the question ‘Are hotels safe during coronavirus’ is highly subjective and depends on whether an individual also takes proper protective measures like wearing a mask, distancing, and disinfecting.

best santa fe hotels four seasons rancho encantado

If you swear by staying in hotels, make sure the property has announced rigorous new cleaning measures, and look for signs they are implementing such procedures, from check-in to common spaces like the elevator or pool, and of course, in your room. Some are even promoting COVID-friendly WFH – work from hotel – travel deals aimed at the socially distant traveler. Also, consider more remote properties with plenty of wide-open spaces and outdoor-friendly amenities.

If you’re worried about flexibility, many hotels are offering more generous cancellation policies right now than usual.

To help facilitate a socially distant hotel stay, the following destinations and hotels all detail new COVID policies and are well-suited for a domestic getaway. Think wide stretches of beaches, remote mountain retreats, idyllic island escapes, and other places that embrace the great outdoors.

Book a private vacation rental to limit interactions with others

After breaking down the risks of both hotels and vacation rentals such as Vrbo or Airbnb, the doctors and experts we spoke with agreed private vacation homes are likely safer than hotels because they come with fewer person-to-person interactions.

“While there is no question hotels are working diligently to keep their hotels clean and sanitized, Airbnb has a huge advantage given that the renter is generally the only one occupying the property,” said Dr. Neil Brown, K Health’s chief diagnosis officer. “With Airbnb’s new Enhanced Cleaning Initiative, the company provides a better option than public hotel spaces,” he said.

Additionally, the CDC’s current lodging guidelines note that private vacation rentals with members of your own household are a safer option than hotels or staying with family.

Airbnb

For those who like social distancing of aspect of vacation rentals, but prefer the comforts of hotels, consider in-between options like Sonder or Marriott Homes & Villas, which offer professionally managed vacation rentals with hotel-like amenities.

We detailed everything to know about vacation rentals, from what to know about Airbnb’s new cleaning protocol to the platform’s COVID cancellation policies and Airbnb Plus program, plus key differences between Airbnb and other vacation home rental sites such as Vrbo.

If you’re ready to hit the road, these are some of the best places in the US to rent a vacation home right now:

Nationwide

Northeast

The South

Midwest

West

Hawaii

Plan a socially distant road trip during COVID

Remember when planning a road trip simply meant queueing up a great playlist and stocking up on snacks?

These days, they’re one of the safer-seeming ways to travel while limiting exposure, especially compared to planes, trains, and other mass transit. And should you feel any discomfort, or worse, become sick, you can hop back in the car and drive home.

road trip

From expert-recommended precautions to take and products to pack, to getaways that are close to home, scenic drives, and more, here are our top tips and ways to hit the road right now:

Camp somewhere remote

If you want to get away and embrace nature, but feel uncomfortable checking into a hotel or private lodging, there are plenty of other outdoor options from camping to glamping that make it easy to avoid crowds.

Book a home on wheels or pack your gear into the car and pitch a tent. These ideas all afford a charming level of rustic charm where you can control just how much, or little, you encounter the rest of the world. Even in colder areas, camping can be a cozy option, provided you bring plenty of warm supplies and a heavier sleeping bag. You may also want to consider car camping or truck camping to help ensure you’re plenty warm.

Consider safer alternatives to traditional travel

Ultimately, if you plan to head out on a trip, consider adapting your vacation plans in ways that provide safer alternatives that can help can reduce your risk of virus exposure while away from home.

To come up with a list of safer approaches to air travel, ground transportation, lodging, activities, and more, we culled the advice from our interviews with experts – including medical, sanitization, and travel industry professionals.

travel during the coronavirus

Do note, however, that many public health and medical professionals (including some of those we talked to) still advise limiting nonessential travel in the pandemic, as it poses inherent risks.

Here are four safer travel ideas based on expert advice – public charters over commercial flights, private home rentals overcrowded resorts, and much more

Work with a travel agent

While many travelers previously booked travel independently, some are returning to travel agents. These seasoned professionals have spent years in the business and are well-equipped to help clients identify viable locations with vetted, flexible policies. They may also have better insights into new practices at specific hotels to help determine how clean and safe they will be, and whether facilities and amenities may be impacted.

Their advice is to plan now, travel later (most of their clients are looking to travel between March and May of 2021), book refundable options, be aware of cleaning policies, try to travel domestically or close to home, opt for socially distant places, take advantage of deals, and assess your own comfort level with risk before booking.

Read the full story on key takeaways to learn from travel agents and tour operators about how to book travel right now, and into next year.

For more reporting on whether it’s safe to travel right now, click a link below to jump directly to related coverage:

Read the original article on Business Insider

Is flying safe right now? Experts weigh in on risks to consider, precautions to take, and how vaccines affect air travel.

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Is it safe to fly right now 4x3

  • While some aren’t yet considering air travel amidst the pandemic, others are eager to resume flying.
  • Before booking that cheap ticket, it’s important to be aware of the risks of flying during COVID-19.
  • We talked to doctors, pilots, and other industry experts about whether it is safe to fly right now.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

Though vaccine rollouts are underway and there’s reason to be optimistic about future travels, COVID-19 is still spreading across the US and air travel continues to be one of the hardest-hit industries

But as restlessness spikes and more people get vaccinated, many are eyeing a return to travel as soon as possible. 

For some, that still means starting small by considering safe vacation alternatives during COVID, such as renting a car, taking regional road trips, and booking private Airbnbs (largely considered safe by experts), or hotels with stringent new cleaning policies.

That’s because air travel seems like a relatively riskier proposition given the likelihood of encountering many people, of unknown backgrounds, for a prolonged period, and in a captive environment.

But just how safe or risky is air travel during the pandemic? Is it safe to fly right right now during COVID? 

To help break down the answers, we reached out to an array of experts, including an infectious disease doctor, an ER doctor, a pilot, a medical advisor for an aviation trade association, and uber-frequent-flyer founders of popular flight deal platforms.

Here’s what they say about the risks of flying during COVID-19 and encountering airplanes and airports, the precautions you should take to mitigate risk if you decide to fly, and whether or not they consider it safe to fly at all in this stage of the pandemic. And if you’re considering holiday travel this year, here’s what experts say you should know about whether it’s safe to fly over Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the holiday season, specifically.

What are the risks of flying during COVID-19?

Remember that most air travel – with the exception of private flights, or public charters like JSX that fly through private terminals – requires not just the airplane flight itself, but also the full airport experience. As we all know, that means lots of lines and crowds. 

We also know that the virus is generally transmitted directly between people. Therefore, people-to-people interactions pose the greatest risk among the factors present in airports.

“Airports have constant traffic going through them with travelers coming to and from various locations around the globe,” says Dr. Neil Brown, an emergency medicine physician and K Health‘s chief diagnosis officer. “We cannot be sure everyone is using the same precautions as we are, nor if they have been advised to.”

But you might be able to reasonably manage your risk of exposure to people in an airport. Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo, calculates, “I would think that you could control spacing and time that you might be exposed to individuals who might be infectious unbeknownst to you more easily as you’re entering the airport and during the boarding process, than when you’re on the flight.”

Airports are trying various tactics to minimize contact between people and promote social distancing. For instance, Seattle-Tacoma International has removed many of the seats at its gates. At Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, passengers can use facial recognition technology to bypass various points of human contact prior to boarding.

Additionally, airplanes themselves are known to filter air quickly and effectively, which helps. And airplane travel has some other built-in safety features well suited to the age of coronavirus, explains Dr. David Powell, a medical advisor for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade group that represents most of the world’s major passenger airlines and cargo carriers.

“Customers sit facing forward and not toward each other, seat backs provide a barrier, and the limited movement of passengers once seated adds to the onboard protection,” he says. “Moreover, airflow is less conducive to droplet spread than other indoor environments: flow rates are high, directed in a controlled manner (from ceiling to floor), to limit mixing, and the use of High Efficiency Particulate Air filters ensures that the air supply is pure.”

Pilot and aviation author Brett Manders explains that these filters are able to capture 99.9 percent of virus particles. “The other thing to note is aircraft air is replaced at a rapid rate,” he says. “If you filled the aircraft with green smoke for demonstration purposes, it would be all 100-percent clear within two minutes.”

But while these features may help reduce risk, they do not change the fact that commercial airplane travel means flying in a confined space with other people, and for more than a fleeting period of time.

Manders notes that while planes’ airflow and filtration systems are effective, they can’t do everything to prevent spread between passengers, even those who may be asymptomatic. “COVID-19 transmits by droplets in the air and whilst the systems refresh cabin air at a rate of about 90 seconds, it isn’t a linear flow from ceiling to floor,” he says. “Unfortunately, air will mix and tumble and it only takes a droplet in the air from a passenger’s cough, speech, or sneeze to your personal space.”

travel during the coronavirus

Indeed, Dr. Russo underscores that airplanes’ airflow systems may be good – but they’re not magical. “The air handling in a plane is pretty good, but it’s still a closed space. And depending on how long your flight is, you’re going to be in proximity of a fixed number of people for a prolonged period,” he says. “Once you’re on the flight, you’ve been dealt a hand. Hopefully, everyone around you isn’t infected, but you just don’t know for sure. A longer flight is going to be a greater risk even though the air is handled pretty well because it’s a close space, exposed to other individuals, and the time of exposure is longer.”

Russo puts the risk of infection coming mainly from other passengers next to you or within a couple of rows. It’s “a lot less likely [from passengers] 10 or 15 rows back.”

He is a big proponent of masks overall, citing them as an effective precaution against transmission. If you have to fly, “This would be a time to use your best masks. If you have an N95 mask, that’s ideal,” he says.

No matter the mask you own, air travel is the time to use your best-protecting face cover that is fitted correctly, and not removed for the duration.

What precautions should I take if I fly?

As it is known that the virus spreads primarily through direct person-to-person contact, inanimate objects are much less of a concern, according to CDC guidance.

“It’s really proximity to people,” Dr. Russo notes. “But bring your own wipes if you want to be sure, and wipe down your tray tables, all your audio, TV remote knobs, and all that sort of stuff.”

Dr. Brown also suggests sanitizing the seat, armrests, headrests, and sidewalls if you have a window seat. “If you are flying or planning to, I highly recommend everyone to take certain precautions to lower your risk of being exposed to the coronavirus such as making sure you are up to date with your routine vaccinations, wash your hands often or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, steer clear from people who are visibly sick, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth,” he says.

Dr. Brown considers it “generally safe” to use the airplane’s lavatory as long as you socially distance as much as possible from other passengers if waiting in line. “I would advise travelers to avoid directly touching the door, bathroom faucet, the slider to lock the lavatory, and the handle to flush the toilet.”

Also, consider that eating and drinking on planes may be another possible transmission trigger. “A number of airlines have actually suspended in-flight service because of concerns about transmission through handling trays and individual items,” Manders notes. “Airlines would hate to be listed as a source for an outbreak so they will do everything in their power to prevent this by taking proactive measures.”

What are airlines doing to mitigate the risks of flying during COVID-19?

Airlines have announced a patchwork of new policies designed to reduce the risk of virus transmission and reassure would-be travelers.

Dr. Powell notes that changes within airports include the wearing of masks by airport staff and face coverings by passengers, provision of hand sanitizer dispensers, frequent and thorough disinfection of premises, and physical distancing measures where practicable.

Some airports, including London Heathrow and Puerto Rico’s San Juan airport, are also conducting passenger temperature checks using thermal cameras. Of course, much has been made of the coronavirus’ ability to transmit through asymptomatic passengers, who would not be detected in such a screening.

On the planes themselves, airline policies vary widely. Delta is among those announcing it would cap seating capacity to guarantee distancing. Frontier faced swift backlash after announcing it planned to charge passengers for the guarantee of a socially distanced seat; it later pulled the plug on the idea.

Additionally, Dr. Powell notes, “We are seeing measures being introduced such as wearing of face masks and coverings by passengers and crew, simplified catering that reduces interactions between passenger and crew, reduced mobility on board, more frequent and deeper cabin cleaning, and new boarding procedures to eliminate crowding on the air bridge and in the cabin.”

But because each airline has a different approach.

“There’s been a bit of confusion,” says Scott’s Cheap Flights founder and flight expert Scott Keyes. “Some airlines are blocking middle seats, some are limiting the number of passengers on board, some are warning passengers ahead of time if it’ll be a full flight, and some are doing none of that. It’s difficult to keep straight which airline is taking which step, if any. Generally speaking, airlines are adhering to their stated policies, but those policies vary widely.”

And not everyone is as convinced the airlines are faithfully doing what they promise. Alex Miller, the founder and CEO of UpgradedPoints.com, says they can only “sort of” be trusted. “Many airlines promised blocked seats, but later revealed that if flight loads dictated, they would release these seats for passengers. So, blocked seats really weren’t blocked after all. This said, most airlines are implementing rigid cleaning procedures and most airlines are abiding by these new, strict standards.”

Our own reporter found that United was choosing not to block middle seats any longer and instead was offering free flight changes for passengers on crowded flights. Similarly, American also stopped blocking middle seats.

Most airlines have already abandoned the policy entirely and opted to fill aircraft to capacity, citing US Department of Defense and Harvard School of Public Health studies that show the effectiveness of mask-wearing and high-efficiency particulate air filters in limiting the onboard spread of COVID-19. Delta is now the only airline to block middle seats and will do so until at least April 30.

coronavirus face mask

For his part, Dr. Russo is not convinced that seat-blocking policies are necessarily adequate to fully mitigate risk in all situations. After all, he notes, a window seat is hardly six feet from the seat on the aisle even if the middle seat is vacant, and six feet is merely the minimum-recommended social distancing measure to prevent spread.

So, is flying safe right now?

The IATA’s Powell reports encouraging data about the risk of virus transmission on flights. “The risk of transmission of COVID-19 from passenger-to-passenger onboard an aircraft appears already to be very low, based on our communications with a large number of major airlines during January through March 2020, and a more detailed IATA examination of contact tracing of 1,100 passengers [during the same period] who were confirmed for COVID-19 after air travel.” He attributes this to the seating configuration, airflow and filtration systems, and those other traits unique to flying.

But according to medical experts unaffiliated with aviation, there is an inherent risk in flying right now. “Safe is a relative term,” Dr. Russo says. “Particularly for longer flights, even with good mask usage, you’re getting into the more moderate risk zone as opposed to low risk” environments you might find with grocery store outings or jaunts to a local beach with social distancing. 

“On a plane, all bets are off as far as likelihood of who could be infected,” he notes. “It could be different people from different parts of the world, and different prevalence of disease. So even if you’re flying out of an area where everything looks good, you just don’t quite know who’s on that plane, where they’ve been, and what their state is. The mask affords a certain degree of protection, but there’s no question there’s going to be some risk with this situation, particularly the longer the flight is and the more crowded it is.” 

Dr. Brown puts it simply: “It is best to avoid any unnecessary travel at the moment until the CDC has stated otherwise.”

Whether or not to fly remains an individual choice, best undertaken after serious considerations of the risk-versus-reward ratio until there is a vaccine. For his part, Dr. Russo says he would fly for a significant family event he deemed worthy of exposure to some amount of risk.

Keyes agrees. “I wouldn’t fly for vacation today,” he says. “But I think it’s safe enough that if I had an important trip like visiting a sick family member, I’d feel confident getting on board.”

Is flying safe if I’ve been vaccinated?

The first important factor here is if you’ve been fully vaccinated. Whether you receive one dose or two depends on which vaccine you get, but according to the CDC, you need to wait at least two weeks after receiving your final dose to be considered fully vaccinated.

If you have been fully vaccinated, flying (and travel in general) is significantly safer, according to Dr. Russo. “Though we’re still learning about the vaccine, it offers an extraordinary degree of protection against developing symptomatic disease, and if it does develop, it will likely be a very mild case,” he says. “Although the vaccines are very good at preventing transmission to others, there is still a small but finite chance you could be infectious even if vaccinated.” 

The other way to have protection? If you’ve already had COVID-19. “It’s definitely safer to travel if you’ve had COVID-19, which offers a degree of protection, but it’s an even more robust protection if you’ve been vaccinated,” says Dr. Russo. 

However, he also notes that you still need to wear a mask on planes and when in public areas, like airports, even after getting vaccinated. “The vaccines are very good, but they’re not perfect. While you’re much less likely to transmit the disease or get it, there is still a chance,” says Dr. Russo. 

As for when we can all feel safe hopping on planes without masks again like pre-pandemic times, Dr. Russo says we are still at least a few months away, if not more, and notes that many areas still have high infection rates right now. “We would need to reach herd immunity levels and have cases be at, or very close to, zero,” he says. 

A sample of airlines’ current COVID-19 policies

  • Air Canada: Mandatory masks for passengers. Issuing contact-free infrared temperature screenings. Passengers with elevated temperatures will be denied boarding.
  • Air France: Mandatory masks for passengers. Issuing contact-free infrared temperature screenings on some flights.
  • American Airlines: Seats are no longer blocked and flights may be filled to capacity. Mandatory masks, and reduced food and beverage service is continuing. If a flight is booking up, American may notify passengers and offer the option to change flights free of charge. No change to boarding process.
  • Allegiant: Flights may be filled to capacity and masks are mandatory.
  • Delta: Mandatory face masks, reduced food and beverage offerings, and new boarding by row procedure from back to front. Blocking middle seats and select aisle/window seats in all cabins until April 30, and reducing the total number of passengers per flight to between 50 percent and 60 percent of capacity depending on aircraft type.
  • Emirates: Mandatory masks, food offerings reimagined in bento-box style to reduce contact during service, and option to buy extra seats when at the airport for onboard distancing.
  • Frontier: First US airline to announce screening all passengers with temperature checks and denying boarding if found to be elevated. Mandatory masks, plexiglass partitions are being installed at ticket counters, all passengers checking in must accept a health acknowledgment. No food and drink service and no change to boarding process.
  • Hawaiian: Seats are no longer blocked and flights may be filled to capacity and masks are mandatory.
  • JetBlue: First airline to make masks mandatory for passengers and crew. Mandatory masks, plexiglass partitions are being installed at ticket counters, all passengers checking in must accept a health acknowledgment. Seats are no longer blocked and flights may be filled to capacity. Limited food and beverage service and back to front boarding.
  • Southwest: Mandatory masks for the crew, and airline-provided masks for passengers without them, limited food and beverage service of ice water and a snack mix. Seats are no longer blocked and flights may be filled to capacity. No change to boarding process.
  • Spirit: Flights may be filled to capacity and masks are mandatory. Food and drinks, including alcoholic beverages, are available for purchase.
  • Sun Country: Flights may be filled to capacity and masks are mandatory.
  • United: Seats are no longer blocked and flights may be filled to capacity, but United will allow passengers with full flights to make a change free of charge. Masks are mandatory and boarding is from back to front. Service is suspended on short flights, but on flights longer than 2 hours and 20 minutes, United will distribute amenity bags with a sanitizing wipe, water bottle, and snacks, and offer soft drinks.

Tom Pallini, Hannah Freedman, and David Slotnick contributed reporting to this article.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Is it safe to stay in a hotel right now? An infectious disease doctor, a cleaning expert, and hotel reps all share what you should know before you check-in.

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Travel Generic Graphics Hotel Key 4x3

  • Though vaccine rollouts have started, travelers continue to prioritize safety amidst the pandemic.
  • The risk for hotels depends on myriad factors, but experts and the CDC say private home rentals are safer.
  • Experts and an infectious disease doctor gave us guidance and tips for mitigating risks during hotel stays.

Table of Contents: Masthead Sticky

For some travelers, there’s nothing more desirable than the hotel experience, awash in luxury and service. But amidst the continuing pandemic, many are wondering how much risk they’d face if they booked a stay. Many hotel selling points, such as round-the-clock staff, are now potential liabilities.

By definition, hotels are gathering spaces, often crowded with both staff and other guests. They are places where many objects – from remote controls to furnishings – are shared and reused by visitor after visitor, sometimes with mere hours in between. If these facts never raised red flags for travelers in the past, they certainly do now at a time when social distancing and sanitizing are top of mind. 

To help break down whether hotels are safe to stay in right now, we reached out to several experts – including an infectious disease doctor, a cleaning company owner with a new coronavirus division, and representatives for the Four Seasons and Marriott Bonvoy hotel brands.

Here’s what they said about how to know whether the property’s common spaces and rooms are clean and safe, how to take extra precautions when you get there, under what conditions you could risk exposure if you do choose to book, and if they themselves would take on the risk. 

Additionally, if you are making upcoming plans, it’s wise to also read up on the safety of flying, renting a car, and taking the train

And, if a hotel stay isn’t quite right for you just yet, consider booking a vacation rental where you won’t have to worry about interacting with other guests or staff.

Finally, it’s important to remember that this is an evolving situation. As vaccines ramp up, it’s crucial to continue to follow guidelines and advice set forth by organizations such as the CDC and WHO, and practice safety measures no matter where you go, including wearing a mask, washing your hands, and maintaining social distancing.

Is it safe to stay in a hotel right now? What are the risks?

The novel coronavirus is known to spread primarily from direct contact with people. That makes hotels potentially suspect by their nature as places where people gather. These people are typically unknown to each other and from unknown backgrounds.

“The first thing that potentially opens up risk is running into other people that you have no idea what their infectious status is. We know now that there’s a lot of people who get the coronavirus who have no symptoms at all, who could potentially transmit it,” explains Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo, referring to the virus’ now well-known ability to spread among asymptomatic people.

He adds, “And we also know that people could potentially transmit the virus perhaps as many as six days prior to developing symptoms. So just because people are feeling well and circulating in society doesn’t mean that they couldn’t potentially be infectious. Therefore you have to assume that anyone you encounter that you don’t know could be potentially infectious.”

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He points to potential problem areas such as hotel check-in desks, where people might gather. “When you are waiting in a line to check-in, you might interact with people taking your bags. I would wear a mask because during the check-in process, going in the elevator up to your room, or even the stairwell, it’s possible that you might run into someone. The mask would afford a layer of protection.”

In general, Dr. Russo recommends masks in addition to social distancing in environments such as hotels. “I’m a big fan of mask use because this magical six-foot zone is based on probability. The closer you are to someone, and the longer you’re close to someone that’s infectious, the more likely you are to get infected. But just because you may be seven or eight feet away doesn’t mean you’re absolutely risk-free. It just means the risk decreases.”

The most recent health guidelines also suggest double masking for added protection now, so you may want to consider layering up. 

And if you imagine that you are sparing yourself risk exposure by traveling to a remote or rural hotel rather than a big city one, make sure to do your homework to confirm your suspicion, which may, or may not, be accurate. What really matters is “what the prevalence of infection is at that venue at that time. If you’re in a small town with a bunch of meatpackers who are all infected – not so good.”

What precautions should I take in hotels?

Dr. Russo explains that the virus is known to settle out of the air quickly, about one to three hours under experimental conditions, and perhaps much less in real-world scenarios. That means air quality is not likely to be a concern in a hotel if no other people are present in an environment, such as your room upon check-in.

That said, take note of areas of potential concern and do a disinfecting pass. These high-touch areas might include phones, TV remotes, door handles, bathroom faucets, toilet handles, and flat surfaces. “The flat bedside tables,” Dr. Russo points out, “If someone was sick in the room and coughing, [those are among] flat surfaces it could settle onto.”

John Marroni, owner and president of National Restoration, a disaster recovery company with a new dedicated coronavirus arm suggests seeking signs that your hotel’s cleaning standards are up to par. “We work with a lot of hotels, and they should each have some kind of certificate that indicates the place has been disinfected, which is what we make sure to provide after we service them,” he says.

He adds, “You can always tell if a hotel has been properly cleaned and disinfected by checking the bathrooms and seeing if the room is free of dust. You can also check the heating vents to make sure they are clean and free of dust and dirt. Those are the key areas to check first, which will be a major indicator of whether the hotel is clean and safe.”

Marroni also suggests scanning for clues in the form of sanitizer dispensers. “Typically, with the modern cleaning policies now being put into place, the first thing you should see is a hand sanitizer dispenser right at the entrance to the building. That’s what the CDC is on the verge of mandating with all the reopening policies the states will be issuing.”

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As far as hotel common areas are concerned, Dr. Russo again underscores the highest risk is directly between people.

So in a hotel pool for instance, “other bodies is the main concern,” Dr. Russo says. “If there are other people around, that’s going to increase your risk. And when we swim, sometimes we aspirate a little water so we’re going to cough. [The bigger concern is] the people and proximity in that scenario than [being] worried about the water getting contaminated, because it is a respiratory virus more than a fecal-oral virus in terms of spread.”

Beyond that, he says, “Remember pools, theoretically, are chlorinated, and this is a wimpy virus. So that should be able to deactivate the virus.”

When it comes to dining in a hotel, your best bet at this time is going to be room service, or ordering some kind of delivery from an outside establishment. “Once you get into the restaurant situation, then your risk is going to increase,” Dr. Russo says. “I’m not really worried about menus or tablecloths. Those can be laundered and disinfected. But when the food shows up, you’re going to have to take your mask off.”

What are hotels doing to mitigate risk?

As you would expect, most major hotel chains have announced wide-reaching new cleaning policies made in combination with health experts. In addition to cleanliness, these policies focus on social-distancing opportunities and contact-free transactions.

For instance, Marriott Bonvoy hotels rolled out the Marriott Global Cleanliness Council in April 2020. Among its areas of focus are those high-touch surface areas, which now must be treated with hospital-grade disinfectants with greater frequency. Marriott is also offering disinfecting wipes in each room for guests’ use. 

Marriott aims to reduce person-to-person contact in various ways such as using signage in lobbies to remind guests of social distancing protocols, and removing or re-arranging furniture to allow more space to do so. The company has installed hand-sanitizing stations throughout properties, and now, in more than 3,200 of Marriott’s hotels, guests can opt to use their phones to check-in, access their rooms, make requests, and order room service to be delivered without contact.

“We want our guests to understand what we are doing today and planning for in the near future in the areas of cleanliness, hygiene, and social distancing so that when they walk through the doors of one of our hotels, they know our commitment to their health and safety is our priority,” Marriott International president and CEO Arne Sorenson said in a statement.

For its part, Four Seasons has worked with experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine International on its new Lead With Care program for cleanliness and safety. Included in the program is the promise that restaurants and bars may operate with reduced capacity to allow for social distancing.

“In this environment, the notion of care has a whole new dimension, and travel must be grounded in trust. This enhanced health and safety program builds upon our already stringent procedures, equipping hotel teams with access to leading international specialists and real-time COVID-19 information,” explained Christian Clerc, president of global operations. “By collaborating with Johns Hopkins, our employees and guests can trust that we are going above and beyond, making informed, expert-guided decisions when it comes to the implementation of health and safety measures at our properties around the world.”

Like Marriott, Four Seasons also leverages technology for safety, by way of its Four Seasons app, “a powerful, intuitive platform that helps limit face-to-face interaction, but that does not lose Four Seasons signature service experience,” says Clerc.

What should I ask the hotel about the cleaning history of my room?

While gloves are the subject of much discussion, Dr. Russo says that he would not necessarily need to know that the housekeeping team wore them to clean the room, only that they’d disinfected their hands.

“I think a better question might be, ‘Does housekeeping routinely disinfect hands before they make the beds?’ Hand disinfection is probably better than gloves because once the gloves become contaminated, it’s hard to clean them until you get rid of them, unless you keep using glove after glove. Hands are disinfected more readily. I prefer the concept of doing more hand disinfection, but [asking your hotel] some kind of question along those lines would be a good one.”

hotel cleaning

Marroni also suggests asking your hotel what cleaning products they are using. They should be using an approved EPA-registered disinfectant in their rooms and should be able to tell you that,” he says. “Ask the front desk for their cleaning protocol. Otherwise, you are putting yourself at risk by staying there.”

Let’s consider the worst-case scenario, in which an infected person stayed in your room before you arrive, but the housekeeping crew did indeed clean and sanitize everything according to guidelines. If you enter the room within three hours of that guest’s departure, would you escape risk?

“The answer is probably yes,” Dr. Russo says. But, “that’s not an ideal scenario.” You’d be better off specifically requesting a room no one has stayed in for a day or two.

Would an infectious disease doctor stay in a hotel?

Dr. Russo estimates that staying in a private Airbnb is a safer option than booking a hotel room, given the likelihood of less direct person-to-person contact. And he weighed in on the risks of staying in them too, here. It’s also worth noting that the CDC agrees with our experts and has put private home rentals in a lower risk category than hotel stays.

When asked whether or not he’d be willing to stay in a hotel himself during the pandemic, Dr. Russo opened up a broader question of risk tolerance and its potential for reward.

“The answer is, I think so,” he said, answering the question as to whether or not he’d stay in a hotel. “And I think that my equalizer is a mask.” 

But the conditions would have to reasonably merit a decision associated with accepting some risk. 

“If you don’t interact with anyone, you’re not going to get infected. But we can’t carry on with life [in quarantine] forever, right?” he says. “If you’re going to put yourself in situations where you’re going to increase your risk, you should choose wisely. What are those activities that are most necessary and most important to you?”

When it comes to travel and hotel stays, these decisions will be highly individual, he says. “If it’s a trip that is important and necessary, I feel relatively safe using the proper protective measures like wearing a mask, distancing, disinfecting, and hand hygiene.”

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