Tuesday, July 7, 2020

How to Enjoy a Safer In-State Vacation

Disclaimer:  Traveling is a risk that you may or may not be willing to take at this time.  I shouldn't have to say this but unfortunately this virus seems to bring out the worst in people.  This is meant as an informative post for people looking to potentially engage in safer in-state travel during these times.  It is not a political post or an opportunity for people to jump on others (me included) about either being an overreacter or about the dangers of traveling during a pandemic depending on which side you may fall.  Travel or don't travel, your choice but I hope this helps someone out there considering it for a change of scenery for a few days.


Some of us have had to cancel or seriously modify our vacation plans this year due to Covid-19.  For those who have been continuing to basically lock down with those in your household this whole time, the cabin fever is real.  Perhaps you're hoping to get a change of scenery within your own state but wondering if it's safe to do so.  Many travel experts say it's safer to rent a private home to ensure the ability to social distance which you can't control in a hotel.  I understand many do not feel comfortable staying anywhere and you shouldn't do that until you can fully enjoy yourself.  For those who are choosing to vacation responsibly, here's a checklist to follow that may help you relax into your getaway without worrying about what the previous renters may have left behind.  First, if you're using a rental service, check the availability calendar to see if there is a gap between the previous renters and your stay.  During the first peak of Covid, companies were giving a 3 day gap between rentals for any particles to die.  I'm not consistently seeing that with this spike so use your judgment on what you're comfortable with.

We have been renting private homes for 20 years and I can tell you that I don't put immense trust the cleaning companies under normal circumstances.  (I can count on one hand how many places have been sparkling clean.)  We will only rent places with 5 stars and we have found some pretty gross things over the years.  A few places we refused to stay in until I cleaned it top to bottom and that was before the great crap fest of 2020.  Rental companies say they have implemented extra cleaning measures to make you feel better about renting.  But the fact is, it's still on the honor system that the cleaners are doing more than they were before and that's not enough for us.  I know that surface contact is not the main way the virus is transmitted but any risk is still a risk nonetheless.

Here is what we would do if we were renting a place right now.

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Many cleaning supplies in rental homes are locked up in a closet that only the paid cleaners can access.  This means the most you might have access to is a stray bottle of dish soap and maybe some Windex.  The likelihood of you getting your hands on anything of the disinfecting variety is slim to none, especially during this time.  Here are the things I would make sure to bring with me and yes, they can be hard to find so have people on the lookout if they're in stores too.

1) Disinfecting spray like Lysol or anything that kills 99.9% of germs for surfaces like remotes, door knobs, hot tub controls, playground equipment, etc.

2) Disinfecting wipes.  I mean actual disinfecting wipes that again list that they kill 99.9% of germs like Lysol, Clorox or store brand equivalents.  Baby wipes or toilet wipes do not disinfect or kill germs.   Use these for things like fridge, stove and microwave handles, chairs, hard surfaces, counter tops, etc

3)  Fabric disinfecting spray.  Yes, such a beast exists!  I found some Febreze professional (8-30 rating) that lists it kills 99.9% of germs and you must spray until the item is damp for at least 5 minutes.  The rating MUST SAY 8-30 for it to be the disinfectant.  I would use it on couches, chairs, cushions on patios or dining room chairs, and definitely throw pillows because you know those have never been washed, ever!  There are other sprays out there like it too, so do your research.  (Obviously, do a small patch test to make sure it doesn't hurt any fabric in your rental.)  It's not a must have but good to get if you can find it, even for your own house.  Spray down your soft surfaces or your coats after going out when the weather cools down.

Masks/gloves and paper towels.  Some rentals only give one roll (or even the half roll left from the previous people) with no access to more.  You're gonna need them or your own microfiber towels that you toss in the washer later.

Now that you've arrived with your supplies in hand, let's get that place spic and span so you can enjoy your downtime during crazy times.

When you arrive, before moving anything into the house, put on your mask and gloves.  There's still a lot to touch before you can get to cleaning like opening the front door, and unloading the cooler if you have one.  This will allow you to get to business and first thing's first...

Most of the time, I can tell if sheets have been washed or not but you throw those disgusting comforters or bedspreads that don't get washed regularly on top and what's the point?  Take the sheets off of all beds you'll be using and put them in with like colored towels.  I can't tell you how many towels we go to use after a shower and they have a funky or mildew smell that you don't want touching your clean body.  I follow that up with checking the bedspreads to make sure they're not dry clean only and put them in on cold or warm after the sheets are done and dry them on nothing higher than medium heat.  (You totally take on the risk should you decide to do this.)

Finally, I wash the community blankets that are draped on couches and/or chairs.  I can't cuddle up on cool evenings with other people's cooties on a good day and I haven't met a blanket on a couch yet that doesn't smell "stale" to me.  **If you don't feel comfortable washing the bedspreads/blankets, you can use a sanitizing spray like I got, just make sure it's damp for at least 5 minutes for antibacterial strength.**

Okay, now that you've got your sheets/towels in the washer, don't skip this important step before getting your clean on...

With your gloves still on, open all of the windows in every room and turn on ceiling and/or standing fans.  This circulates the stale, potentially contaminated air out of the house and anything you kick up while you begin your cleaning.

Every shared surface as well as run all of the dishes and flatware you're going to use through the dishwasher.  Wash up any pots and pans too because people are gross under normal circumstances and many cleaning companies assume because the plates are put away they're been washed and not just rinsed to save time.  Just flip on some music and it'll go by fast.  Get all light switches, knobs, remotes, tabletops, counter tops, chairs, appliances, and don't forget shared outdoor spaces like outdoor furniture, playground equipment, hot tub controls, weenie roasters/lighters (if provided), chairs by the fire pit and whatever else could've been used by a previous renter.  This includes things like activities for you to do like corn hole bags and boards need to be sprayed down and any other games, puzzles, etc they may provide.

**Optional but we would do it**

Some would say this is nuts, I say we're living in a pandemic and if I'm taking the risk of traveling, we're doing what makes us feel the safest.  Regardless of traveling in the heat or cold, you're going to be running the HVAC the recirculated air has the potential for issues.  Find the furnace and check the size of the filter.  Run to the nearest hardware store and grab the best furnace filter they have.   No, you can't clean out the ducts so there is still that potential but we personally feel better taking that extra step.  Doesn't matter if their filter appears newer, if the place was rented before you, whatever they did, sneezed and coughed has the potential to be recirculated.

Could the cleaning crew have done a good bit of this?  Yes.  Could you be wasting your time/money?  Maybe.   Would you be kicking yourself if you or someone you loved got sick or worse because you blindly put your faith in other people to clean the way you would clean yourself?  Absolutely.

An hour or so of being extra cautious (or "paranoid" as some might see it) is worth the hours of memories and peace of mind you can enjoy when you're done.

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1 comment:

  1. This is a solid, responsible approach to getting a change of scenery. It's just like when the grocery store tells you "oh these carts have been cleaned" and you clean them yourself anyway. Take matters into your own hands when you can. Getting a change of scenery can be a huge boost to your well being and that includes your immune system, but doing so responsibly is key.


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