Staying at a hotel can be a fun experience — someone else is making your bed, there’s a swimming pool and/or workout room and/or bar downstairs, and the room is a private haven where you can go to escape the rigors of your business trip or your vacation. Here are some tips to help you make sure that your hotel room is as comfortable as you can get it.
The most important thing is to be a member of the hotel’s frequent stay club. You get nicer rooms, points for free stays, and often free Internet or a free bottle of water from the nicer chains. After that, the next most important thing is to have a reservation. I rarely just show up at a hotel desk asking for a room. When I have, I have more often than not travelled from hotel to hotel, and landed with an expensive and least favorable room. My most recent experience included a stifling hot room that was missing some of its furniture overlooking the pool and the travelling sports team, and for a higher price than if I’d thought ahead and reserved a room at my favorite hotel in that location.
Rent a room that has no more than what you want. Often, one gets excited about a hotel room that has a swimming pool. I often bring my swimsuit and don’t use it. I travel and stay at hotels for the purpose of sleeping and then getting up and moving on. I don’t travel to go swimming. If I had kids, I’d want a hotel with a pool so they could swim and be quieter in the car. In addition, a hotel with a bar is usually more expensive than one without. Free breakfast is offered at a variety of price levels, and the quality, in my experience, is not directly related to the room price. However, I tend to look only for a breakfast included/free internet hotel over other amenities. If I stay for more than 3 days, though, I do want a room with a treadmill. Plan ahead for your price range.
Check in earlier rather than later. A lot of hotels require a 3:00 pm or later check in, but you can check in, drop off your luggage in the bell hop’s storage room, and begin your day. If you wait until after check in time, don’t wait until you’re about to go to bed to check in. Checking in as early as you can benefits you in a few ways.
First, your room may have the temperature controls turned off. Hotels are trying to cut down on costs (or take care of the environment), so your room’s air conditioning or heating may be turned off. When you arrive, the room needs and hour or two to bring the temperature to a comfortable level.
Second, dropping off your luggage in the room allows you to then travel about your visit location freely without worrying about your laptop or other valuables in random parking spaces. Only once in all my travel time did I find a bell hop trying to get into my room, and I startled him. Almost all the time, your stuff is safer in your room than in your car.
Third, checking in allows you to settle in and be at home. I knew a road warrior who brought her teddy bears with her on trips. It made all the difference to her comfort level. If you’re bringing comforts from home, like your own pillows, you can arrange them in the room so that you see them when you come back to sleep. The psychological effect of seeing a room already settled in is enormous when you are tired from a day of playing or working. Also, hanging your shirts, skirts, slacks, etc., in the closet earlier rather than later helps reduce touch-up time.
Fourth, hotels give away their nicest (regular priced) rooms to their club members, and then the rest in order of arrivals. It may be that the hotel has pre-chosen your room based on occupancy, as a lot of hotels will concentrate guests in order to minimize how much housekeeping has to travel. I have arrived after 11:00 pm on many nights and have been given the least comfortable room, from missing nightstands to having the room that sits right next to the staff smoking section to having to share the hallway with a travelling bus of basketball players. When I arrive earlier, I almost always get a better room.
Finally on this point, if anything is missing, you have time to have it corrected. I have had more than one trip where I was exhausted and then had to go back down to the front desk and ask for towels or something else missing, only to wait another 14 or 20 minutes, losing sleep, for them to arrive. Find out what you need, request it, and then go out and enjoy your day.
Bring with you what you need to be comfortable. Hotels work really hard to have all of your amenities, but you will find that in the lower priced hotels, the pillows are not as good as your wonderful pillows at home, there aren’t enough blankets, and you really do want your special white noise maker with you. Buy travel sizes of everything that you need for your personal beauty and hygiene (use the airline security rules if you’re flying to your destination), or buy little bottles at your nearest camping/hiking/sporting goods store for these products. If you use body wash and not soap, bring it.
Be prepared for noise and light. Especially during peak travel times, you will very likely have noise in the rooms near you. As your hotel price/quality rises, these noises will be mitigated, but I was once punished severely in a medium-to-high-end hotel for having a room next to the wedding guests. I was allowed to sleep finally around 3:00 am, and had to wake at 6:00 for my flight. Bring ear plugs and eye shades if you’re comfortable using them. Also, hotels are set up on main roads and have lights to help people find them. Most rooms have curtains that can block the light, but feel free to bring eye shades just in case.
Fill your ice bucket. Hotel rooms are dry, and I need water every time I stay. To combat the dryness, I fill my ice bucket, fill a glass with ice and set it next to my bed. My theory is that water that is made into ice is much more likely to be filtered (look up ice machines online — they offer filters along with the machines), and so will taste better. Also, keeping cold water is handy, along with keeping my soda or milk cold.
Prepare well ahead of time for taking medications and late snacking. I have to take my nighttime medications with milk or food. I have often found myself wandering around the hotel late at night looking for crackers or milk when I should have been getting into bed. If you go from an airport to your hotel, buy a banana inside the gates before getting your luggage. If you are driving, stop at a convenience store for whatever you need before checking in.
Be thorough and polite with the front desk. One of my favorite customer service stories is from my sister’s run as a front desk clerk. People would come into her hotel, slam their credit cards down, patronize her, bark orders, and be otherwise rude. She smiled as she was trained, was extraordinarily solicitous, and then placed them in the room that was about 20 feet away from a busy commuter/freight rail line. If I am checking into a hotel after 11:00 pm, my check in clerk is usually the night auditor — a little slower, a little less comfortable, and more lonely than day clerks. I have to accommodate for that even when I’m very tired. I don’t have to put up with rudeness.
Unpack when you arrive, regardless of the length of stay. You’ll want to settle in and be able to find all of your clothes. Unless you’re sharing your room with 3 other people who brought their entire wardrobes, there are usually plenty of drawers and not quite enough closet space. You will be able to have your clothes hanging instead of wrinkling, and easily available, freeing up your time for more worthwhile activities.
Use the in-room safe if you have a mess of cash. Hotels will also keep your cash at the front desk, but that makes me uncomfortable. I know very few people who have experienced theft from their rooms, but I feel less worried if my cash is locked up.
Tip the housekeeper for a clean room. Your choice for the housekeeper is to leave a tip or leave a note asking that the stray hair be removed from the bathroom, or the mold be cleaned out of the tub, or whatever is not taken care of. If your room is clean, leave a tip, usually 5% of the room cost or somewhere between $5 and $10, depending on how much you are a show-off. A room that I tip usually gets me slightly better service for my subsequent nights. Frequently, housekeepers forget to empty my ice bucket and give me a clean bag, so on my second day, I have often left a note instead of a tip. It worked.
Ask for special items in the morning. Ask for extra towels, an extra blanket, etc., during the day when the staff are there to accommodate you. When I make towel requests at night, I am willing to follow the clerk to the closet and take the towels myself so he can return to the desk.
Don’t be late for breakfast. If you slept in until just at the end of the breakfast buffet, you will get the dregs of the buffet cooked and served for you by people who have been at work since dawn. If you are up that late, ask for the nearest bakery or diner for your breakfast. No last minute buffet has tasted worth the price to me, even the free ones.
Do a walk around in the room before leaving your key. I am obsessed with not having to buy a new swimsuit (once it was a pair of glasses!) or not having to pay postage for getting my stuff back. Open all the drawers, check the surfaces and floors on your way out, checking the closet and bathroom last. You may find your phone charger or that last bit of your favorite expensive shampoo about to be left behind.
Tell the front desk you’re leaving, and look at your bill. Often, hotels will slip your bill under the door. Look at it in case someone else’s movies got on your bill. Then drop your keys at the desk. You’ve had a good stay.