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I’m so excited to report back after my first mid-pandemic travel experience. It had been so long since my partner and I left our home headed in any direction other than the grocery store or the vet. The ocean was calling our names, as I’m sure it’s doing every other human’s at this time, and we had to give it a shot.

We had a lot of criteria for this trip considering we both have mild asthma, I have a heart condition, and we live with my mother who is of a higher-risk age. We had to balance our need for the ocean with the realities of a virus that could do some significant harm to our family.  A short term rental would have been our preference, as far as limiting our exposure to other people, but also being on a very sparsely populated beach was a major concern, as well. Our favorite little stretch of the NC coast, Salter Path, is the beach we knew we needed to be on, and there just weren’t any STRs available. So we opted for a tiny ocean-side motel. With just 11 rooms, all with window-unit AC’s and outdoor entrances, we felt we could get adequate space from other guests, and that turned out to be the case. Plus our room had a kitchenette, so we took all of our own food and once we were checked in, we didn’t have to interact with the public at all.

But of course I found myself thinking of all the ways that if we had been in an STR, the host could have improved our mid-COVID stay greatly (and really, the motel owner could have done these things, too). You should know that I am very pro-mask and don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t wear one knowing it could very well save someone’s life, and I’m taking the risks of this pandemic very seriously. Even if you aren’t as cautious as I am, many of your guests are likely to be, and they will be beyond appreciative of your efforts to help them feel safe.

Here’s my wish list for future stays away from home:

  • Provide a list of local restaurants and grocery stores complete with COVID response policies (i.e. – curbside pick up, delivery, masks-required, etc)
  • Indicate COVID policies for attractions that are open (i.e. we were curious if a mini-golf course required masks, but never went because we just weren’t sure what to expect).
  • Let us know about automatic ice stations (like, Twice the Ice) where coolers can be filled with no human contact – we found one by chance on our drive in, but had been a bit worried about going into the local convenience store that didn’t have a mask policy.
  • Indicate COVID cleaning protocols in your rental in advance, such as AirBnB’s Enhanced Cleaning protocol in advance.  Your guests will want to know if their standards are being met or if they should come prepared to do their own extra layer of sanitizing.
  • Offer alternatives to attractions/entertainment that aren’t available because of the pandemic, like:
    • Provide bikes for guests (if appropriate for your area) and offer suggested routes for a fun tour around town
    • Create a map of outdoor art installations, murals, or other outdoor attractions that are safe to visit and hiking trails nearby that are likely to not be too crowded. Discover the Forest is a great resource if you’re not an avid hiker yourself, to help you locate forest-related activities for guests.
    • Let guests know about COVID-safe entertainment attractions. For example, there are drive-in theaters popping in unexpected places (like at the museum near us), which is a great way to get out on the town on Friday night without braving crowds.
    • Make sure you have streaming services available to guests if you provide TVs -Both Peacock TV and TubiTV have come onto the scene with fun, free offerings!
    • Update your board games selection with new and fun options
    • Spruce up your outdoor space, and if you can, add yard games and/or an outdoor movie screen & projector setup

These were the things that came to mind for me during one brief long weekend away. It’s a strange new world we’re living in, and science tells us that we’ll be living under these conditions for some time to come – likely another year, at least. Many of these changes take a little time and very little money. Others would be wise financial investments in securing happy guests over the coming months and adding value over the long-run. One thing I know is living through the discomfort of a pandemic makes you really grateful for any effort to bring back a little comfort. Your guests are worth it.