Staying at a Holiday Inn Express during the pandemic

For my lodging on my trip to Maryland, I decided to use my IHG points to book 4 nights at the Holiday Inn Express in Annapolis.  The hotel charges a variable 12,500-17,500 point rate per night, but since I get the 4th night free by virtue of having the IHG Premier card, the 4th night was free.  In addition since I also have the IHG Club card, I received 10% of the redeemed points back a few weeks after checkout.  Seeing how the standard rate for the King Whirpool room I booked is $246 per night (nearly $1,000 for a 4-night booking), the 4-night booking was a bargain at just 38,250 total IHG points after all the discounts.

Before booking the hotel, I called to ensure that all rooms have their own HVAC units.  Centralized HVACs allow for cross-room contamination, which is what caused the outbreaks on cruises.  The front desk informed me all rooms have their own HVAC units, including the gym, and the public areas are centralized heating.  Needless to say, the safest path would be to limit your exposure in public areas and stay in your room (or the gym).  IHG does have a mask mandate at all public areas of their hotels, so the only place you can go maskless is your own room.

The room

The check in process was relatively seamless, with the usual plexiglass separating you from the front desk agent.  As a Platinum elite member, I was offered either a free snack or 250 IHG bonus points.  Since I value IHG points at 0.5 cents per point ($1.25 for the 250 IHG points), I opted for the free junk food snack.  I was also given a diet soda, although that isn't a written perk for Platinum elites.  The front desk agent informed me that the hotel was at under one third capacity, whereas normally during this time of year they're at over 70% capacity.  Needless to say, the hotel industry has been one of the hardest hit sectors of this pandemic.

After entering my room, I immediately went to work with my Clorox disinfecting wipes by wiping down all surfaces.  I also turned on the HVAC window unit to full power for maximum ventilation with fresh outside air.  I also left my mask on for the first hour as a precaution.

The whirpool room had a basic bathroom and a mini-fridge and microwave, which would be important for this trip as I would not be dining in at any restaurants even though Maryland had (at the time) allowed indoor dining.  The hotel was offering abbreviated housecleaning every other day, but I declined it entirely to minimize risk.

The gym

Now let's get onto the real reason why I booked this hotel: 50 lb dumbbells, which is on the heavier side for a mid-tier hotel.  Though small, the gym had a commercial bench and plenty of space for lifting along with functional and cardio equipment.  Masks are required in the gym since it's considered public space, and sanitizing wipes and a water dispenser are available.

I wiped down all the dumbbells, the bench, equipment, and mats before and after all use, and I made sure that I was the only person in the gym.  I also turned on the window HVAC to full power for extra ventilation as a precaution.  With my 4-night stay, I was able to hit legs, shoulders, back, chest, arms, and core for a complete 5-day workout.  Throughout the course of my stay, I didn't see anyone else use the gym, and the equipment was always where I left it the day before, meaning that I was probably the only guest using the gym.

Bottom line

Staying at a hotel during this pandemic is not without its risks, though those risks were mitigated at this hotel with all rooms having dedicated window HVAC units instead of centralized air.  Holiday Inn Express usually offers complimentary hot breakfast buffet, but that amenity had been unsurprisingly scaled down to take-out small cereal boxes, fruit, granola bars, and milk and juice bottles.  I wouldn't expect buffets, hotel dining in, and full housecleaning service to resume until this pandemic is over.  The best part, however, was having the entire gym to myself for 5 days straight.

From all of us at Flying for Fitness, please stay healthy during this trying time.  We hope you enjoyed this post.  Please consider visiting one of our sponsors by clicking on the advertisements.  Our sponsors pay us for customer visits and help us to keep the lights on.  Thanks!


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