The OCD Travelers Guide to Hotel Stays

For anyone who does not suffer from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), the title may appear cute or funny, but to those like me who have “serious issues” with germs, you will appreciate this.

I am not sure when I began to have issues with germs, but I know that being married has helped me see that my issues may not be the norm. I grew up in a home where we were taught that lots of things were not clean. For example, my mother did not like going to the public pool because “it was dirty.” She told us how people peed in the pool and how commercial pools were just not kept as clean as private pools, so she didn’t go.  That also might be why I didn’t learn how to swim at an early age like many kids do. In may later years, I made fun of my grandmother for using bleach to wipe down her hotel room and asking for extra towels to cover the furniture. Well I guess the joke was on me because I am writing this from a hotel room sitting on a towel which is laid over the couch. And now that I know what I know, I am sure these were roots of the OCD that runs in my family.

I love to travel; I just don’t love germs, in fact, I will do lots of things to avoid them. There was a season in my life where I used to wipe my hands off on my pants after shaking a hand (even at church) and that was later followed by a commitment to “Howie Mandel” everyone I met. For those of you who don’t know, Howie does not shake hands due to OCD, instead he will do a fist bump. And for the record, it’s also why he shaved his head bald. Howie has gone public with his struggles with OCD and I appreciate that; you can read his ABC interview here.

On a recent trip, I had the unfortunate dilemma of washing my hands in a public restroom with no paper towels and a door that opened inward. I stood there looking at the door thinking of all of the people who had used the bathroom and not washed their hands (and then grabbed that same handle.) This was followed by thinking of all of the workers who did the same, or those who washed their hands, only to then grab the dirty door handle and go make my food. I then stood there wondering if I was going to wait for someone to open the door to come in, after which I could grab it with my arm and not have to touch the handle, or if I would “ruin” my shirt (that I had to keep driving across the country in) by grabbing the handle with my shirt.  It was one of those moments where I “sucked it up” and grabbed the door by a few fingers at what I thought was the least likely to be touched part of the handle.  I won’t tell you where that spot is, because you will all start using it and mess up my backup plan 🙂

I know this was supposed to be about hotel stays, but I felt that I should give the readers some insight into the soul of an OCD sufferer. Now keep in mind, OCD can manifest itself in different ways for different people. For some it’s about repetitive actions or speech patterns, and for others it’s that “did I lock the door” fear.  I check door locks often and have done so all of my life… I never knew it wasn’t normal.

This “guide” is based on my two most recent hotel stays. Well, there were three attempts and two stays. Yes, due to my “issues” we ended up leaving the last hotel we were supposed to stay at (in short, it was older and musty and had some structure issues.) Yes, OCD people can be concerned with the oddest things (is this parking structure really safe?  When last was this creaky old elevator serviced?) Heck, I believe the rest of the world benefits from our insights.

First, I will say that using bidding type websites just isn’t a good thing when quality and cleanliness are of high importance. Typically the more you pay, the nicer (and cleaner) the hotel should be.  We ended up staying in a 2 star hotel, but I am sure it was only rated 2 stars because it did not have certain amenities. For crying out loud it’s ON the beach. The 3 star hotel we left, really had nothing to be desired… at all… which is why we left. Our main hotel did not have all of the nights we needed, so we went to an online travel site where you bid and give a minimum star rating just to book the first night of our vacation, and that’s how we ended up there. I am not mentioning the site because I am disputing the charge, and I don’t want to give them any free publicity if they won’t work with me. Perhaps I should send them this blog post along with my letter?

Now that we are at our hotel, it’s time for me to go to work cleaning it up. Only God knows who stayed here before me, and what dirt was left behind. I did learn to drape towels over the couch and chair, thanks to my grandmother whom I used to jokingly mock. But most importantly, was buying Clorox wipes to clean everything… and I mean everything. Here is my list:

  • Toilet seat (don’t forget the part where you have to lift it… not just the surface)
  • Bathroom sink, surfaces, and handles
  • Light switches (on the walls and on the lamps)
  • Remote Controls (man, those things creep me out because people do freaky stuff in hotels… then they turn the TV off)
  • Table and dress surfaces
  • Door and drawer handles and knobs
  • Kitchen surfaces and appliances (and yes, I rewash any dishes I would use… but prefer plastics / paper products)

You get the idea. Basically, they should be paying me to stay because the room is getting a once over like rarely seen.

Cleaning aside, I don’t let my feet touch the floors – anywhere (I thank God for sandals.) And when getting dressed, I even have a towel on the floor for the time between putting socks on and putting shoes on because I can’t have any floor dirt in my shoes. If anything I have touches the floor.. game over…

Lastly, I will mention bugs; bed bugs in particular. I have never seen a real bed bug, but I certainly check for them.  I once asked an exterminator what to do about bed bugs. He said they are not typically in every room in a hotel, and the hotel industry is aware of them, so just look for them and if  you find them, alert the staff and they should find you another room. To learn more about how to find them, check out this article by Julia Rosien

I hope this has been insightful and for anyone who suffers from OCD and does not travel because of it, perhaps you can see some light and take that next step towards a nice getaway.  If you are married to soeone with OCD or have someone with OCD in your family that you travel with, hopefully you have a little more insight into how they think, or I should say how they are wired, and can be a bit more accommodating on your next vacation.

About the Author
The author is a veteran world traveler and a current business executive who wishes to remain anonymous due to the overwhelming ignorance and misconceptions about mental illness and those who suffer from such.

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