Are Apart-hotels The Way Forward Post COVID-19 Lockdown?
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For many, the 4th of July will bring many changes. Not only will pubs and restaurants be reopening, but you'll be able to go on a much-needed staycation. Travel up until this important date has been severely restricted, but what could we be expecting with regards to hotel stays? Is there an option of a hotel that gives you all the comforts of home, while being able to feel safe travelling by minimising contact with people?
Due to a house move meaning that the new bungalow requires adapting before I'm able to move in, I've been able to stay in a hotel during the last few days of the lockdown despite being very high-risk as the house was becoming more unsafe for me by the day. I thought of this to not only be an excellent opportunity to get a hotel review done but also to allow you all to see what changes you can expect to see come 4th July when it comes to staying in hotels in the UK.
Since the house move, I've been staying at Staybridge Suites London - Heathrow Bath Road. This 4-star hotel is one of few in the UK that is a full suite hotel. Attached to a Holiday Inn, the rooms in this hotel are like mini apartments, designed for extended stays with a kitchenette in every room. The hotel has a range of rooms from studio suites, to 1 bedroom king suites and accessible suites too. Staybridge Suites is part of the IHG Group, meaning that IHG Rewards members can earn points and use status benefits at these locations.
For this stay, I had initially booked a one-bedroom king suite, but on arrival found out that as none are accessible, the booking changed to an accessible studio suite which turned out to be a lot more spacious than the studio suite photos show. Each kitchenette within the suites is fully equipped with a full fridge, microwave/grill, two ring induction hob and even a dishwasher! Unfortunately, there is no freezer, and in the accessible suite, the microwave/grill is too high for a wheelchair user to operate, something which has been overlooked in the design phase.
The studio suite can sleep four people thanks to a sofa-bed, although if you are staying in a group, the one-bedroom will always offer more privacy. There is also a dining table in every room, as well as two TVs. The wet room in the accessible suite is spacious, with an accessible shower, two sinks (one lowered for a wheelchair user to be able to use) and toilet. There is also a full-length mirror. The suites also come with an abundance of storage, perfect for extended stays! However, the safe in the wardrobe is quite small, and I was unable to get both of my laptops into the safe at the same time, something I've been able to do previously in many other hotels.
Breakfast is included with all rates. Before the pandemic, it was a buffet breakfast downstairs, and there were also social evenings, but these had to stop after the lockdown was introduced back in March. Both breakfast and dinner operate on a takeaway only basis. I haven't tried the dinner service as it's a very reduced menu with nothing that takes my fancy. However, breakfast is a bag with a selection of hot and cold items including sausages and either egg or omelette, a variety of pastries, a piece of fruit, some fruit juice, bread and other condiments. The hot breakfast items can be reheated in the room, although the microwave being out of my reach meant that for me, this wasn't possible. The pastries, however, are very nice!
While the gym and social areas are closed due to lockdown, those familiar with the Staybridge Suites concept will be pleased to know that the pantry is still open. For those not familiar, the pantry is a small shop where you can buy food, drink and other items which you can then have charged to your room. The laundry room is also still open, and every time I've used it, no one else has been in there at the same time. There are hand sanitiser units in the lift lobby areas on each floor, as well as at the entrance. The reception also has screens installed to protect both staff and customers as well as hand sanitiser on the desk.
The apart-hotel concept that Staybridge Suites has for me made travelling and staying away from home during the pandemic feel somewhat safer. The in-room kitchen means less contact with people as you can cook food if able to, and the measures installed throughout the hotel have made me feel safer. The idea of cleaning rooms every four days and in between guests for me is excellent, not only because it keeps responsible tourism in mind, but because there is less contact between housekeeping and belongings left in the room. This means you don't need to be as worried about contracting the virus from fabrics, something I'd be extremely anxious about if the rooms were still on daily cleaning despite using a lot of hand sanitiser throughout the day! In between the cleaning schedule, you can always ask for things like bins etc. to be emptied which has been a godsend for me!
As an accessible hotel, Staybridge Suites London - Heathrow Bath Road ticks most of the boxes for me. Most new hotels no longer have baths to save on water and again, promote responsible tourism, but the wet room in the accessible suites is spacious and has a reasonable amount of grab rails. The reception and corridor areas are spacious and easy to navigate; however, some wheelchair users may find the carpet in the corridors challenging to push themselves over. The microwave/grill being out of reach for a wheelchair user also means not being able to use the kitchen as much as one may want to. Having said that, the induction hob and sink are the perfect height, and the recess meant that as a wheelchair user, I was able to get to these relatively safely.
The hotel also benefits from free buses outside the hotel to both Terminals 2/3 or Terminal 5. Alternatively, you can get a bolt around to the terminal if you have a lot of luggage. I find that they tend to be cheaper than Uber. Another thing to note is that this is one of the only pet-friendly hotels in the area! Something to consider if you're bringing your pooch with you on your travels!
Are you staying in a hotel after 4th July? Let me know in the comments what your experience was like and any tips you have for fellow travellers! Take care and stay safe!!