Travel Is It Safe to Book a Vacation Rental or Airbnb This Summer?
Are Airbnbs safe? We spoke to experts, a company representative, and an Airbnb host to share everything you should know before booking someone's home
We talked to an infectious disease doctor, a cleaning specialist, and representatives from Airbnb about whether it's safe to book someone's home and how to best protect yourself. Read more: Are rental cars safe to drive right now? We talked to 3 leading experts to find out.As America attempts to re-open for business in phases, many are eagerly tracking signs for when and how a return to travel will be safe and feasible. With a vaccine for the novel coronavirus still potentially far off, many travelers will be eyeing a cautious return, starting with the options that data suggest pose the least risk.
With nearly four months of lockdown behind us, many are looking to get out of the house by turning to sites like, VRBO, and other vacation rentals for the space and control that homes offer over hotels. But as COVID-19 cases surge across the U.S., bookings are gradually slowing as would-be travelers reconsider planning trips, data.
As travelers weigh their options, we looked to the experts for advice on whether to book a vacation home with extended family or friends, if you should bring your own, and more. While they didn't all agree on the nitty gritty details, they all were clear about one thing: It's getting there that's the riskiest.
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I’m an advocate for ditching hotel rooms in favor of vacation rentals — especially for families. Many hotels, especially those overseas, don’t offer affordable accommodations that sleep four or more. But many travelers understandably want the reliability and consistency of staying with a big player in the hospitality market. Marriott’s entry into the vacation rental …Many hotels, especially those overseas, don’t offer affordable accommodations that sleep four or more. But many travelers understandably want the reliability and consistency of staying with a big player in the hospitality market.
"I'm more worried about getting to paradise than I am about the Airbnb itself, in terms of the flight and the airport, or even the drive and the rest area, just because it potentially introduces you to so many other people," says Andrew Noymer, an epidemiologist and associate professor of public health at University of California Irvine.
And it's those other people—whether strangers or friends outside of your household—that create risk, says Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University. "The most likely way you are going to get COVID-19 is person-to-person transmission," she says. "So the best thing to do is limit in-person interaction, including with people in your extended family. Even when you're driving, you should be following all of the social distancing precautions and making sure that you're keeping interactions as limited as possible."
Airbnb announced vigorous new cleaning protocols for hosts in response to COVID-19. Here's how to know if the listing you're considering is participating — or not.
Airbnb rolled out the Enhanced Cleaning Initiative, which is now live online for guests to see when considering booking a home. Here's how to use it.In response to the global pandemic, hospitality businesses of all kinds scrambled to initiate and publicize new cleaning policies that could reassure — and lure — would-be travelers.
Find more insight from Noymer, Wen, and Dr. Krutika Kuppalli, an infectious diseases physician and biosecurity fellow at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, below.
Where is it safe for me to book an Airbnb?
Wen: You have to look at what the level of viral transmission is at the time that you're going. You may well be booking a place now and it looks like that area looks fine, but it's possible that it could become a virus hotspot by the time you go, which means you might need consider not going and canceling your trip.
Noymer: It really depends on people's appetite for risk. Some people like to jump out of airplanes, right? And other people don't like to even get on a plane. You really need to figure out where on that spectrum you are in this case.
Kuppalli: Cases are surging pretty much all over United States, so I think there are a lot of questions you need to ask yourself [before booking]. Things are changing on a daily basis. So how are you going to feel if suddenly [your local government] says, oh, when you come back and you're gonna have to quarantine for 14 days? What if you get sick when you're there? Would you be okay with being hospitalized there—or staying for a while if a family member got sick? This year, it's not just as simple as like, Hey, I'm getting in the car and I'm going to drive to an Airbnb. You have to ask these questions wherever you go.
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Do I need to bring supplies for my own deep clean?
Wen: All of these companies have the cleaning protocols themselves and say that they were supposed to be cleaned in advance, but I urge for everyone to take matters into their own hands, just in case. Bring a lot of soaps, especially liquid soap, plus paper towels,, and wipes. Then clean the surfaces that people will be touching the most, specifically door handles—including both sides of front door—and things like light switches and faucets.
The second thing that you should do is when you enter, open all the windows and doors and just let the fresh air in to diffuse and refresh the air, just in case there are still any virus particles in the air from the previous guests or the individuals cleaning.
Noymer: I have images of someone bringing anfull of different cleaning supplies, but that would be overkill. Surfaces are sort of fading from our principal concerns for transmission, but the advice I would share is to give your surfaces a little bit of a wipe down when you arrive at Airbnb, just to be sure.
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Kuppalli: Make sure that you're taking things with you so you can clean down the place and high-touch surfaces that could put you at risk of getting infected when you arrive. That's going to be your light switches, your door handles, your countertops, your faucets, the keys—think about things you'd use frequently, especially in the kitchen and the bathrooms.
Some companies havebetween stays. Does that really help?
Wen: Having time, or more time, in between stays is important. But I would ask the host, when the cleaning was done? When was the last time somebody was in that in that house? Because it's not just about the time between stays. This is a virus that's transmitted from person to person and where the aerosol respiratory droplets can linger in the air and potentially still be infectious. So it's more about the time between when the last person was there. Was there a manager who came to check on the unit or cleaners who left 20 minutes before you arrived? You should give yourself at least a few hours between when somebody last was there and when you're going in.
Noymer: It would put me that much more at ease, knowing that if the cleaners missed a spot, there will be no viable virus there anyway since the virus doesn't live longer than 24 hours [on surfaces]. It's also about the air supply. Imagine one family checks out and then cleaners comes in like a whirling dervish and clean the place up. No, these droplets don't suspend in the air for for 24 hours, so even if you showed up a few hours later that would be fine, but the droplets would have wafted down, which really would give me a lot of peace of mind. Twenty-four hours from the point of view of the air circulation is overkill, but you know, overkill is underrated right now.
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Home vacation rentals may offer a safer travel alternative than traditional hotels since you can book entire homes. Here are the best vacation rental companies, plus some of the best places to visit in the US.The novel coronavirus has disrupted travel plans across the globe. Even as some states and countries lift restrictions and continue phased reopenings, other states are experiencing spikes and seeing the highest number of cases yet. Not to mention the recent EU ban on US travelers entering.
Kuppalli: We're still learning a lot about the transmission dynamics of the disease. So, the best answer I can give you right now is we really don't know if it'll be completely safe, especially when the disinfection and infection control protocols that they're using [during the buffer period] in these types of rentals may not be as stringent or regulated as.
Could I meet up with my extended family or some friends in a vacation house?
Wen: If you're going to be sharing a house with another family, you should assume that you will get whatever virus that they have. Because you're living in close quarters, it will not be possible to protect yourself from those with whom you're sharing a house, services, air, and everything else.
The best thing that you all can do is, in the two weeks leading up to your shared visit, reduce your risk as much as possible. Don't get together with other friends and family [during that time], especially indoors but if you see others outdoors, everybody must keep six feet apart. Don't get together for a dinner party or go to a graduation party or a wedding. Reduce your risk as much as much as possible in that two-week period.
Noymer: Mixing with another household in a rental? I personally wouldn't. It's such a nuanced question—part of it depends on people's appetite for risk, based on age, immunosuppressive medication, diabetes, obesity, and more. This adds to the expense, but it would probably be better if each family booked their own Airbnb or house and met up on the beach, so you can still spend quality time with your friends or family but stay safer when you go indoors.
Kuppalli: If a group of nine friends from, say, three different states, meet up in the middle and one of those friends is found to be sick, then those people have now been in contact with that person and are potential carriers of COVID-19. Then they get to get to their individual areas and spread it. That's concerning.
In my personal opinion, given everything that's going on right now, I would really recommend people just stay at home. I know that's not what people want to hear. It's not gonna make me a popular person. But if you really feel like you need to vacation, take a day trip with your family or the people that you've been isolating with.
We're reporting on how COVID-19 impacts travel on a daily basis.
These Tiny Cabins Outside of Laurel, Mississippi, are Officially on Our Bucket List .
These cabins are worth getting off the couch for, even when a Home Town marathon is on. © Provided by Southern Living airbnb.com Tucked away just 20-minutes from downtown Laurel, the secluded property is surrounded by acres of Southern pines and well-manicured grounds. The four on-site cabins named “Home Sweet Home,” “Hey Y’all,” “Lakeside Pines,” and “Bless Your Heart” sleep 6, 8, or 10 people in upscale yet rustic “glamping” fashion.