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All words by Elsie Yang

The holiday festivities that end 2020 will likely be about as raucous as 2020 itself — that is to say, you’re probably best off investing in that disco ball for your living room rather than investing in a trip to watch a ball drop in-person. This year has certainly given us a lesson in the value of quality time with small groups of friends, and indeed, has perhaps made us more appreciative than ever of the wonders that are not a plane-ride away, but rather a short drive or even a short walk away. And for those of us craving a quick and safe getaway that will also support local businesses during this critical, difficult time, planning a quick staycation in your area (rules and regulations permitting) may be a good way to mix up your routine. 

Staying in for the new year can also mean staying in at a home away from home. And one of the more responsible forms of that second home these days may just be a hotel room. Here are a few things to look out for if you’re planning on (or find it necessary to) book a short stay as you ring in the new year: 

1) Check vacancy times

While amenities like pools, gyms, and room service may once have been at the top of your list when finding a hotel, different times call for different priorities. Be sure that your staycation is safe — not only for you, but for those around you as well. One of the ways that hotels around the country are looking to keep guests safe is by extending the period between bookings. At the new Canopy in Baltimore’s Harbor Point, for instance, rooms are kept vacant for a full 72 hours between guest stays to allow for a thorough cleaning procedure. Hilton also requires that rooms previously occupied by medical workers remain empty for 72 hours before allowing any cleaning staff to carry out cleaning procedures. 

Other Baltimore hotels like the Four Seasons mandate a 48-hour vacancy period, whereas hotels in D.C. like the Riggs in near Chinatown in D.C. and the Rosewood in Georgetown keep rooms empty for 24 hours between stays. 

2) Check cleaning protocols 

Cleanliness has always been key to selecting a good hotel, but it’s never been more top of mind than it is in 2020. Many hotels are detailing their cleaning procedures, listing everything from the cleaning products they use to the types of items that they’re removing from rooms after each stay. Find one that matches your comfort levels, and if you have any questions, be sure to call the hotel for additional clarity on how they’re keeping their guests safe.  

3) Check room service availability

With new bans on indoor (and in some cases, outdoor) dining in place, you won’t be eating out while you’re staying at a local hotel. That makes the quality of the room-service options more important than ever. Many properties have shut down their full-service restaurants, but most are still offering some form of contactless room service. We’re particularly partial to the dining options at the Line Hotel in Adams Morgan, where Chef Erik Bruener-Yang’s Brothers and Sisters can be enjoyed by hotel guests and locals alike. 

4) Be sure you can walk around

You won’t be spending much time indoors when you’re not in the sanctuary that is your hotel room, so you’ll want to ensure that the neighborhood surrounding your hotel is one that is pedestrian and outdoor-attraction friendly. That generally bodes well for waterfront hotels like the The Wharf InterContinental in the southwest waterfront of D.C., or the Hilton Canopy in Baltimore, situated between Harbor East and Fells Point, and offering great water views that can be enjoyed from your window or through a stroll. 

5) Find great takeout 

As restaurants brave the reality of yet another ban on dining — especially during a traditionally busy holiday season — many are preparing for the harshest winter they’ve seen in years. Luckily, while eating at these restaurants is off the table, you can still grab takeout options, which could be a great way to celebrate the New Year. Alma in Baltimore, for example, is offering a special New Year’s Eve takeout menu for two or four. This offering is particularly notable given that the restaurant is otherwise in the process of moving to a larger space to accommodate both a sustainable community meals program and a kitchen collective (in addition to the Venezuelan restaurant). 

6) Be sure you (and others around you) feel comfortable  

Of course, this year, nothing is more important than ensuring that you and those around you are comfortable with your New Year’s plans. Your emotional, mental, and physical well-being should all be considered when deciding whether you’ll be staying at home, staying in a home away from home, or finding another way to stay safe while having fun. 

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