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- In response to COVID-19, many hotels are offering full-floor and entire property buyouts for travelers who don't want to encounter other guests.
- However, experts say the benefits are negligible for floor buyouts and that whole-property rentals are the way to go.
- Previously reserved for the uber-wealthy, many buyout deals are surprisingly affordable when split between families or groups quarantining together, with rates starting as low as $75 per night per room.
- Many properties back bookings up with contactless check-in and similar new cleaning and safety protocols, detailed below.
- Read more: Is travel safe? We interviewed experts on risks associated with flying, booking hotels or Airbnbs, renting cars, and more, plus ideas on safe vacations during COVID-19
Safety, hygiene, and personal space are some of the new watchwords for travel during COVID-19, with risk assessments on every option being regularly updated. While some travelers have turned to vacation homes, camping, and even RV rentals for safer-seeming alternatives, others still favor the ease and amenities that come with checking into a hotel.
This does, however, mean exposure to hotel staff and other members of the public. One way to avoid running into other guests is to rent out an entire hotel. But surely this would be cost-prohibitive for most people and only attainable for the uber-wealthy, right?
You'd certainly think so, and perhaps this was true — until recently. But with the pandemic affecting business, hotels are increasingly looking to lure customers with hitherto unseen deals. While hotel buyouts are never cheap, some whole property hotel rentals are increasingly affordable if you want to house your familial or social bubble. It's even possible for less than $100 per person per night for a group of five.
And while some chain hotels are offering entire floor rentals, this may only mitigate risk in a very minimal way. "Risk increases as you have more interactions with individuals," says Dr. Thomas Russo, chief of the division of infectious disease at the University at Buffalo. "Although it superficially sounds better, renting out floors doesn't really change the risk significantly as you're still interacting with hotel staff, and you're around other people in lobbies and elevators."
With this in mind, booking a hotel stay for your social or family bubble is safest if it's possible to book an entire property, or even a complete hotel. This way, there are no interactions with random members of the public, and it's much easier to arrange specific practices such as contactless check-in. And, of course, all the amenities are there for your group's exclusive use.
But Dr. Russo has one big caveat: it's only recommended for social or family pods that already exist. "It's not good practice to fly in family members from around the country," he warns. "The risks are only mitigated by keeping contact to small groups that have already been observing safety measures and isolated together."
Yet all groups, even closed pods, should be aware of the risks of travel. We always recommend following guidelines from the CDC and reading up on local and state regulations before traveling.
With that in mind, if you are looking for a hotel stay for your family or quarantine family with no other guests around, a buyout is a more affordable option than you might think if you can find the right properties.
While many hotel buyouts still start upwards of $10,000, we scoured the US for properties that come in at $250 or less per room per night. That means if some people are sharing rooms, the rates can be even more attractive. We've also chosen smaller, boutique properties that offer the best value. Some hotels start with as few as five rooms for small groups, while the largest has up to 26 rooms. But even if your group won't fill every room at the larger properties, all still come in at solid rates of under $450 per person per night even for just 10 or 12 guests. Additionally, we looked for hotels located in secluded countryside, beachfront or hilltop areas, as well as smaller, city-center boutique hotels with intriguing offers.
Read on for affordable hotel buyouts, sorted by price from low to high.
Whispers Ranch – Elgin, Arizona
Book Whispers Ranch: All five rooms from $375 per night ($75 per room per night)
There's a lot to be said for tranquility and isolation these days. Here's your chance to escape to a retreat in the relative wilderness of Arizona, some 90 miles south of Tucson.
While the house is usually a bed and breakfast, the owners having decamped to a neighboring property and all five rooms are now available for groups at a very attractive price. The wood paneling and tile floors are typical of this region's decor, and it's a perfect base for exploring the nearby Las Cienegas National Conservation Area or just hunkering down and relaxing under the vast canopy of stars that emerges every night.
However, keep in mind that the owners are currently only accepting reservations with a minimum of four nights.
Trip Advisor Ranking: 1 out of 1 specialty lodging in Elgin
Booking.com Rating: 9.8 out of 10
Pros: The property offers the feeling of being out in the wilderness but without the inconveniences of camping or RV rental.
Cons: The facilities are kind of basic, but the place is perfectly comfortable and has most of the home comforts that guests would need.
COVID-19 status and policies: The owners thoroughly sanitize the house after all guests leave and again before the arrival of the next set of guests. They also re-clean/sanitize kitchen items such as plates, glasses, and silverware after guests depart. The minimum four-night stay means that the house is not being turned over so often, and they allow two to three days between reservations. Guests can have contactless check-in thanks to number pads on the front doors instead of keys. The owners live next door so are accessible should there be any difficulties or questions.
The Andrew Jackson Hotel – New Orleans, Louisiana
Book The Andrew Jackson Hotel: All 21 rooms from $1,800 per night ($85 per room per night)
The 19th-century architecture of this historic property fits in perfectly with the surrounding French Quarter in downtown New Orleans. The private wrought-iron balconies, secluded tropical courtyard, and general old world charm of this mansion typify the elegant hospitality of the city. Not to mention it's a plum spot for walking to the Mississippi River or around downtown.
The rooms are traditionally decorated, with high ceilings, period antiques, and wooden floors. One major perk is that even if your group only uses half the rooms, the attractive price point still comes in at under $200 per room per night.
Trip Advisor Ranking: 58 out of 177 hotels in New Orleans
Booking.com Rating: 8.2 out of 10
Pros: The property enjoys an enviable location, right in the heart of the historic French Quarter.
Cons: The usual complimentary breakfast service has been suspended during the pandemic.
COVID-19 status and policies: New protocols minimize guest contact through a streamlined check-in and check-out process through electronic concierge services. Social distancing measures implemented with floor markers and plexiglass barriers. Enhanced and thorough cleaning protocols in guest rooms. After each check out, guest room linens and all touch points, for example, faucets, door handles, light switches, thermostats, clocks, and hangers are cleaned with chemicals aimed at killing COVID-19. Daily housekeeping service for occupied rooms will be limited to trash removal and linen replacement. Hand sanitizer or wipes will be provided for guests and employees in all public areas. Hotel employees will follow strict guidelines, including utilizing Personal Protective Equipment, frequent and stringent hand-washing protocols, and housekeepers/laundry staff will wear both gloves and a mask.
White Swan Inn – San Francisco, California
Book The White Swan Inn: All 26 rooms from $2,995 per night ($115 per room per night)
There's an unexpected, distinctly British feel to this boutique bilthole in downtown San Francisco. The hotel dashingly mixes the best of swinging '60s London and a high-end countryside retreat thanks to in-room fireplaces, colorful pop-art, and wood-paneled lounges with no small amount of elan.
This would be an especially lovely stay for a landmark birthday or a special anniversary, and there are all sorts of complimentary nibbles and libations thrown in for good measure from cheese and veggie plates to delightful mini confections and glasses of wine (a service the hotel offers to all guests). The movie-set backdrop would also make for a great murder-mystery game night, or just for enjoying a well-appointed change of scenery.
Trip Advisor Ranking: 16 out of 246 hotels in San Francisco
Booking.com Rating: 8.9 out of 10
Pros: Alluring aesthetics and a great location in the Nob Hill/Union Square neighborhood.
Cons: It's definitely a property for larger groups, which would entail extra planning. But even slightly smaller groups would still get a good rate for a downtown San Francisco hotel that they have exclusive use of.
COVID-19 status and policies: The property is using extra disinfection on all key surfaces in rooms, paying extra attention to high touch areas. All employees wear face masks, wear fresh gloves, and wash hands between rooms. All public area surfaces disinfected periodically throughout the day. No employees are permitted to come to work if they have any flu-like symptoms. Hand sanitizer is available in the lobby area. Daily housekeeping service has been changed to a request basis.
The Grey Barn Inn at Woodstock Farm Sanctuary – High Falls, New York
Book The Grey Barn Inn: All five rooms from $2,500 for four nights ($125 per room per night)
This award-winning inn boasts five bedrooms for up to 10 people, all with en-suite facilities. The 'barn' label is misleading, as it's an impressively modern design with huge picture windows that maximize the available daylight.
There are common rooms and private terraces and the place exudes rural chic for fans of contemporary urban design. Outside, the views of the Hudson Valley's Shawangunk Mountains and Rondout Creek stretch out as far as the eye can see. As an added bonus, there's resident wildlife to meet and 150 acres of tranquil countryside to explore around the sanctuary.
The property is currently taking bookings Wednesday to Sunday only and require four nights.
Trip Advisor Ranking: 3 out of 4 specialty lodging in High Falls
Booking.com Rating: Not yet ranked
Pros: A delicious vegan breakfast made with local seasonal ingredients is prepared each morning for guests.
Cons: The site does not allow children under the age of 12, so it's not suitable for younger families.
COVID-19 status and policies: A full COVID-19 deep clean of the entire inn is conducted prior to each new rental. The Gray Barn's team has designed the guest experience to be as safe as possible which includes customized security codes for contactless check-in, cleaning supplies, face masks, and hand sanitizers provided for guests to use during the stay. Trash, recycling, and compost bins are placed just outside the building for guests to use. Outside of the private tour or emergencies there is no guest/staff interaction to eliminate exposure. For any issues, staff can be reached by phone 24/7.
Longman & Eagle – Chicago, Illinois
Book Longman & Eagle: All six rooms from $1,042 per night ($173 per room per night)
There's definitely room at this inn for your small group above this usually-lively downtown Chicago tavern. Just a hop and a skip from Logan Square, there's an upscale bohemian ambience to the place, with local art hanging on the walls and exposed brickwork setting the scene.
The rooms emanate contemporary elegance, with clever design touches that make the most of the space in some of the smaller rooms, such as tucked away desks. The largest has a standalone tub and they all come with curated minibars, tech-friendly amenities, and site-specific artworks. Little extras like a large selection of books and vintage tape decks still make it feel special.
Trip Advisor Ranking: 9 out of 24 B&Bs/inns in Chicago
Booking.com Rating: Not yet ranked
Pros: The location couldn't be better, with the Metro and Logan Square Park both just a short walk away.
Cons: The smaller rooms, while comfortable, have fairly basic setups, such as just hangers on the wall rather than a full a closet, for example.
COVID-19 status and policies: Rooms are cleaned and sanitized according to CDC and EPA guidelines before guest arrival. This includes entrance doors, handrails and high touch areas within the inn. The hotel has removed all high-touch amenities (magazines, pencils, notepads, tapedecks, etc.) from rooms. Disposable items in rooms are removed following each guest stay. Laundry and linens are cleaned with CDC stated guidelines. Staff will not enter guest rooms once they have checked in.
Kenoza Hall – Kenoza Lake, New York
Book Kenoza Hall: All 22 rooms from $4,000 per night ($181 per room per night)
You might expect a certain level of grandeur booking a real life "hall" and guests will not be disappointed by any aspect of this Victorian beauty in the glorious Catskills countryside.
The house, set in 55 bucolic acres, dates back to the early 1900s and the guest rooms reflect some of that traditional design while presenting a modern aesthetic. Polished wooden floors and antique-style chairs sit alongside hugely comfortable contemporary beds and luxe amenities such as plush robes and deep soaking tubs.
Alluring lounge areas and a private pool complete the scene for an idyllic escape with exceptional value.
Trip Advisor Ranking: 1 out of 1 B&B/inn in Kenoza Lake
Booking.com Rating: Not yet rated
Pros: The absolutely stunning views of Kenoza Lake itself, and the miles of beautiful hiking trails
Cons: The property's sister spa facility is open, but only operating at 50% capacity so some forward planning and booking is needed for groups.
COVID-19 status and policies: Guests will be required to acknowledge a Covid-19 Health Declaration and Hold Harmless Agreement prior to finalizing a reservation, and will be asked to acknowledge the same information upon check-in. Guest rooms will be cleaned and sanitized before check-in, then sealed with a note to let guests know that no one else has been in the room after the final sanitation inspection. Face masks are provided in all rooms, along with hand sanitizer from a local distillery, the ability to create lunch picnic baskets to encourage outdoor dining and social distancing, and guests can just leave their room keys in their room when checking out rather than incur any face-to-face interactions.
The Hive – Wilmington, North Carolina
Book The Hive: All six suites from $1,139 per night ($189 per suite per night)
Even before the time of COVID-19, The Hive was on top of contactless check-ins and virtual assistance for guests, so they're seasoned experts at keeping guests safe.
Just a short walk from central Wilmington, this artsy boutique hotel is all suites, making that deal even sweeter. Full-size kitchens are a real boon, and the standard of amenities is satisfyingly high from sumptuous linens to high-end bath products and on-site laundry. Add on evocative artworks, reverse osmosis filtered running water, and pet-friendly outlook and it's a decidedly tempting proposition.
Trip Advisor Ranking: 16 out of 19 B&Bs/inns in Wilmington
Booking.com Rating: 9.2 out of 10
Pros: A lengthy list of high-end amenities available, including fast internet for free and 4k TVs. It's also a pet-friendly property.
Cons: Their state-of-the-art fitness room won't open until 2021.
COVID-19 status and policies: The hotel uses technology such as email and text messaging (via a service called Wishbox) to communicate check-in instructions and other helpful information. Keyless locks allow guests contactless, 24/7 access to their suite, and there's a virtual concierge. The housekeeping team sanitizes all common area surfaces including stair railings and door knobs multiple times a day and all suites are fog cleaned.
Plunge Beach Hotel – Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Florida
Book Plunge Beach Hotel: All 26 bungalows from $5,174 per night ($199 per bungalow per night)
This beachfront hotel promises a bohemian getaway along a lesser-known stretch of South Florida's A1A. The property has a separate, self-contained, all-bungalow annex with 26 gleaming white buildings, all with smart contemporary design.
Wooden floors, wall art, and modern kitchenettes all make them a great beach base. They sleep up to four people apiece, making the price an exceptional bargain for larger groups. The bungalow compound even includes its own refreshing swimming pool, so your party can bathe in relative seclusion without having to mix with other guests.
Trip Advisor Ranking: 11 out of 28 hotels in Lauderdale-By-The-Sea
Booking.com Rating: 8.6 out of 10
Pros: The bungalow properties come with their own concierge who can address any concerns or arrange poolside catering or drinks (in a suitably social-distanced fashion).
Cons: It's one of the larger buyouts, and so a high level of coordination, planning and trust is going to be advisable.
COVID-19 status and policies: The hotel uses TrustClean Sanitation Protocols and EPA-approved sanitizers to clean all public areas and guestrooms, contactless check-outs, housekeeping every third day, and requires mask wearing and social distancing to ensure the safety of all their guests.
Ruby 360 Lodge – Lamoille, Nevada
Book Ruby 360 Lodge: All 10 rooms from $2,500 per night ($250 per room per night)
Although primarily a skiing lodge, the 360-degree views (hence the name) of Nevada's Great Basin are spectacular at any time of year. This property is the highest end of our price point for recommendations, but given how impressive this place is, it's worth the inclusion.
There's an unmistakable Alpine chic feel, and the interiors showcase beautiful woodwork from the floors to the high ceilings. Expansive social areas with a kitchen, a grand piano, and a large outdoor hot tub await. This option is especially ideal for groups that want to spend a little extra on somewhere special and for outdoor lovers ready to bask in some of Nevada's most picturesque natural beauty.
For those seeking a winter escape, there's plenty of space to store skis here before hitting the mountain, and private skiing experiences can also be arranged.
Trip Advisor Ranking: Not yet ranked.
Booking.com Rating: Not yet ranked.
Pros: Fully set up for a skiing weekend, with a dedicated ski room for bulky equipment, and private heli-skiing possibilities.
Cons: It's a little remote, so your group needs to make sure that they pack everything they think they might need.
COVID-19 status and policies: Guests are required to sign a waiver stating they are in good health, not displaying any applicable symptoms, and have not been in contact with anyone diagnosed with COVID-19. The resort follows all CDC cleaning protocols.
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