Maintaining proper hygiene when you travel can be a challenge, no matter where you go. We all have heard the horror stories about Montezuma’s Revenge and avoiding the water in countries with poor sanitation. Even cities like New York are plagued with problems like bed bugs, which were a bane to the Manhattan hotel industry. Good hygiene is your best travel health insurance.
Believe it or not, hotel rooms can be one of the biggest sources of travel-borne illness. There are a number of hidden germ factories in hotel rooms, even in five-star hotels. (We will spare you the disgusting details of what has been found in hotel rooms, based on countless public studies.) Here are just a few of the surfaces in hotels that are never cleaned and could be germ carriers:
- The television remote control – probably the biggest offender
- Telephone handsets and keypads
- The bathroom faucets and toilet handle
- Light switches and door knobs
- And let’s not forget the bed comforter – they are not cleaned very frequently
What can you do to protect yourself? There are a few simple steps you can take that work quite well.Pack your own hotel sanitation kit. Be sure to include:
- Lysol disinfectant spray
- Clorox disinfecting wipes for surfaces
- Purell hand sanitizer- use it often, and it’s great for the remote
- Febreze fabric spray (there is an antimicrobial spray that is great for bed spreads)
All of these items can be purchased in small packages and packed in a TSA-compliant plastic bag. These are really handy on the airplane too, when you want to make sure the tray table isn’t disgusting when you go to use it.
If you don’t want to clean the hotel room when you arrive, then here’s a few helpful hints that will keep you from bringing home a cold or infection when you travel:
- Bring a small clear plastic bag with you from home – like the ones you pack produce in at the grocery store. Slip this over the remote control for the TV, and operate it through the plastic bag.
- Never use the glassware provided in your hotel room for drinks. It is rarely cleaned and who knows who sneezed on it.
- Ditch the bedspread. Never sit on it…particularly with your pants off. Laying around on it is a bad idea. Just fold it and drop it in a corner.
- Never leave your stuff, particularly your toiletries lying out. When you are finished with them, pack them up and put them in your suitcase. The housekeeping staff has trouble cleaning your bathroom when you have covered all the surfaces – and do you really want them to move your toothbrush to clean the sink with the gloves they just used to clean the toilet?
- Never put your suitcase on the bed. This is a fast way to bring home bedbugs. Use the top of a dresser or the suitcase stand that is often in a room. When you get home, always unpack with your suitcase on the floor. Don’t put it up on your bed, just in case you brought home some unexpected passengers.
- My wife likes to bring flip-flops to wear in the room, rather than run around in bare feet.
- When I am traveling in areas that have really sketchy hotels, I like to bring a silk sleeping bag liner. You can pick these up at any camping store. It wads up into a pouch the size of your fist. When you crawl into it, it gives you a nice barrier against bug bites.
- Bring your own pillowcase as an extra barrier against dust. Make sure it is a very bold color so you don’t forget it when you leave.
Hotels are being pressured to cut corners, and that means that even in the best hotels, the service staff is being forced to take time to fold the toilet paper and replenish the minibar, but they have less time to actually clean the room. Be proactive, and be prepared. A few simple sanitation precautions can help keep your trip happy and healthy. Hygienic precautions are your best travel health insurance.