- I recently spent a weekend staying at hotels, motels, and resorts as they reopened amid the coronavirus pandemic.
- The first night, I stayed at the Aqualina Inn, a budget motel near the beach in Montauk, the easternmost village in the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island.
- The next night, I stayed at Gurney’s Montauk Resort & Seawater Spa, a high-end beachfront resort.
- After that, I spent a night at the Sound View Greenport, a boutique hotel on the North Fork of Long Island.
- My stays were noticeably different from a hotel stay before the pandemic.
- Amenities like swimming pools, beach clubs, and restaurants were closed, but contactless check-in and wearing masks were the norm.
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At the eastern end of Long Island, a few hours from New York City, sits the Hamptons, a collection of charming (and pricey) villages where affluent New Yorkers spend their summer vacations. This year, however, the exodus from NYC to the Hamptons had begun much earlier than usual — in March, as the coronavirus spread across the city and wealthy New Yorkers fled.
Even as coronavirus cases continue to rise across the US, states are reopening and people are venturing out from lockdowns. Many hotels have announced enhanced cleaning protocols and safety measures to help guests feel safe staying there during a pandemic.
When Long Island started to reopen on May 29, I set out to see what it would be like to spend a weekend staying in motels, hotels, and resorts after nearly three months of being locked down during the coronavirus pandemic. I booked rooms at three different types of accommodations: a budget motel, an amenities-packed beachfront resort, and a boutique hotel.
Here are five ways the hotel experience was different from before the pandemic.
Editor’s Note: Business Insider paid discounted media rates to stay at Gurney’s Montauk and Sound View Greenport.
Travelers should consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines before any summer travels. Per the CDC, stopping for gas, food, or bathroom breaks while on the road can put you in close contact with other people and the surfaces they touch.
1. Contactless check-in
The most immediately obvious difference of staying in a hotel during a pandemic is the addition of contactless check-in. Two out of three places I stayed over the weekend offered this new perk, which more and more hotels are implementing to minimize person-to-person contact.
My first night’s accommodation was the unassuming Aqualina Inn in Montauk, which cost $173 per night, including taxes and fees. To check in, I called the reception desk upon arrival, which gave me my room number and told me the door was unlocked with the keys waiting inside.
The Aqualina Inn was a motel, so I didn’t have to step foot inside any shared enclosed space or interact with another person throughout my stay.
At the Sound View Greenport on the North Fork of Long Island, which was charging about $300 per night including taxes and fees, I was able to check in using a smartphone app that unlocked the door to my room. The hotel had exterior corridors like a motel, so I didn’t need to step foot in any indoor area or come close to any hotel staff.
The only place I stayed that didn’t offer contactless check-in was Gurney’s Montauk. The front desk staff were wearing masks and practicing social distancing, but I would have felt safer if I didn’t have to interact with anyone in order to check in.
After my stay, a Gurney’s spokesperson told me the resort was working on rolling out contactless check-in via OpenKey.
2. Limited resort amenities
For higher-end hotels, amenities like swanky lounges, beach clubs, and swimming pools are typically key attractions. But over my weekend in hotels during the pandemic, I found that the coronavirus had completely changed that.
At the Aqualina Inn, the swimming pool was closed per New York State guidelines. But apart from the pool, the beachside motel didn’t have many other amenities to speak of. Its appeal clearly rested on its location and affordability, so I didn’t feel like I was missing out on much.
Gurney’s, on the other hand, is a beachside resort known for its beach club, upscale restaurants, and swimming pools. All of those amenities were closed during my stay due to COVID-19, which made it hard to justify the more than $800 nightly price tag. Despite the closure of the amenities, the resort was still charging a 20% nightly resort fee, which came out to $135.
Gurney’s has since reopened its beach club and its Scarpetta Beach restaurants for outdoor dining.
At Sound View Greenport, the focus seemed to be on the laid-back vibe of the North Fork — known for its farmland and wineries — rather than on lavish amenities like at Gurney’s.
The amenities Sound View did have were also mostly inaccessible at the end of May. The lobby lounge, piano bar, outdoor swimming pool, and seafood restaurant, the Halyard, were all closed at the time of my visit. Hotel staff were figuring out how to prepare the Halyard for socially distanced dining, and it has since reopened by reservation only.
Sound View did, however, beef up some of its outdoor offerings by installing a new Low Tide Beach Bar, where guests can grab a cocktail to enjoy by a fire on the beach.
3. Room service is a brown bag
At the modest Aqualina Inn, there was no room service to speak of, but several restaurants were within walking distance of the motel.
At Gurney’s, contactless room service came in the form of a brown paper bag dropped outside the door.
Sound View had the most pleasurable room service experience: food and cocktails delivered straight to my table on the beach.
4. Masks everywhere
The only indoor part I saw of the Aqualina Inn was my own room, but the few hotel staff I saw around the inn were all wearing masks, even outside.
Gurney’s required both staff and guests to wear masks while inside, and they offered complimentary masks to those who don’t have them. There were also hand sanitizing stations installed at reception and throughout the resort.
Masks were also required at Sound View, both inside and outdoors whenever a guest was within six feet of a another guest or staff member.
5. Hygiene products on location
Pre-coronavirus, a typical hotel amenity kit included things like mini bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and body wash.
Now, the hot-ticket items are face masks and sanitizing wipes.
Gurney’s placed a hygiene kit in each room that included face masks, antiseptic wipes, and latex gloves — a welcome perk as well as a stark reminder that nothing is back to normal just yet.