Beyond that crisp, cleaning looking room and the folded-to-a-point toilet paper, there are lots of inside secrets and strategies you might want to be aware of when you book into a hotel. This list is hardly original, but it remains valid and useful. Here are some secrets that the hotels don’t want you to know about. While some can make your stay better, some are rather unpleasant, but knowing them is your first defense in avoiding them with some tips on what to do about them.
Hotel rooms are infested with germs. Hundreds of people have passed through your room in the preceding twelve months. Some items are never cleaned and some only every few months. Upholstery and rugs are may be cleaned less than that. That TV remote control, door knobs, light switches, telephone, or clock radio likely has as many germs as the toilet bowl. Carry some antibacterial wipes and clean those items when you arrive.
Always request clean linens when you check in. While sheets may be cleaned daily, blankets only get washed once a week at best in the best hotels, and don’t even ask about the bedspreads, they are not cleaned, especially if there are no visible stains. The best thing to do is to fold them and put them on the floor or a chair.
Call the hotel’s local number and ask to speak to the manager-on-duty or director of sales to get the best rate for they have the authority to do so. Centralized call centers don’t have this kind of flexibility. Also, independently owned hotels are more apt to cut your rate than are the bigger chains.
Everything is negotiable. Look around. If the parking lot is relatively empty, ask to have the parking fees waived or reduced.
Check the seals to the drinks in a mini-bar. Guests have been known to fill liquor bottles with water or worse yet, urine to avoid costs. Your housekeeper may not have caught this so don’t you get fooled either.
Rooms are often available even when the hotel has no vacancies. In many large hotels, a few rooms are designated as “out of order” at any given time. It could be that something is broken, stained, or has some other minor issue. If the desk clerk says they don’t have any rooms and you are desperate, explain that you are willing to take an “out-0f-order” room.
Rooms are more expensive in the morning. Make your reservation just after 6 p.m. for this is when all the no-show reservations that were secured by credit cards are freed up. Sometimes in larger, well-attended cities like San Francisco or New York, this time may be 4 p.m.
The bellman is typically connected to everyone. Tip them generously and they can help you in all sorts of ways. Consider them your one-stop shop for hotel service.
Don’t ask for upgrades when other guests are within earshot as that just puts the clerk or manager in a position to having to please everyone. Rather if you want a more spacious room without paying more, request a corner room or a handicapped one.
When you check into a hotel, find out what is free or included in a possible “daily amenities fee” and what is not. You can quickly add significantly to your bill while not realizing that some offerings are indeed already included. In many areas, free bottled water will be provided right alongside purchased bottled water. Knowing which are free can avoid a frustrating conversation at check-out.
Don’t assume that cleaning looking glasses are clean. If you are going to use them, clean them yourself as a favorite ruse among housekeepers is to wash them in the toilets. In that light, don’t leave your toothbrushes out. Your best bet is to not drink from glassware in your hotel room. Instead ask for sealed, plastic glasses at the concierge desk or go with bottled water.
Don’t trust the small safe in your particularly if you are traveling with extremely valuable items, because not all of them are insured against theft. Also, virtually every member of a hotel’s staff has access to your room. Rather ask the hotel management to place the items in the hotel safe, and to provide you with a receipt. The main hotel safe will be insured, and it’s accessible to a much smaller number of staff members. (Also don’t leave anything around that you don’t want read.)
Tip the housekeeper every day. Leave your tip on your bill or dress with a note so the housekeeper knows that it is for them. Don’t wait until the end of your stay to leave a larger tip. $2-5 is adequate depending upon the condition you leave the room and the priciness of the hotel. If you encounter the housekeeper, be pleasant and polite and a few dollars daily goes a long way toward better service, less malicious service, and minimizes any temptation to take advantage of you. Also be aware that people claiming to be you may try to enter and take things from your room while the housekeeper is cleaning. If the impostor enters, the housekeeper is more likely to recognize that it is not you.
Reconsider before putting ice directly into the ice bucket or brewing coffee in your room. Who knows what the previous guest did with them. Cigarette butts, vomit, and urine are often hidden in coffee makers and ice buckets and often the contents are simply dumped out, the container rinsed, and nothing more.
If you don’t know a local area well and want good information advice, try asking someone besides the concierge as some concierges get kickbacks for sending you to pricey tourist traps.
The lost and found is a great resource for your cell phone needs. Recharging cords are the number one item left behind so hotels usually have a stock of unclaimed ones and most are willing to lend chargers from their lost and found. Watch your credit cards. A thief will more often take just one as opposed to all of your credit cards as the ruse will likely take much longer until the credit line has been used up. Travel with only the cards you really need and check your wallet regularly.
Ignore any calls claiming to come from the front dest at odd hours of the night needing your credit card. It is likely that their system has been hacked and you are being scammed. Hotel personnel will not do that.
If possible, don’t call the front desk with a special request between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Chances are they will be busy with a long line of guests waiting to check out or in, and will just want to get you off the phone.
Never use the long distance for the rates are exorbitant. In fact, it’s best to typically ask for the long distance service to be turned off. There have even been situations in which housekeepers or staff have made calls from a guest’s phone.
Need to cancel your reservation and want to avoid a cancellation fee? Call the hotel and push your reservation forward a few weeks. Next, call back later that day and cancel. In that way, the room canceled and fee bypassed. (This typically works with the hotel directly, but not third-party travel sites.)
Don’t leave any personal hygiene items out such as a toothbrush. Disgruntled housekeepers have been know to take a toothbrush and clean the toilet bowl or do something similar with it.
If you travel frequently to the same area, use the same hotel each time. Get to know the staff. Regulars are recognized and treated as VIPs and may get free upgrades, discounts, and more.
Acting as a polite, calm, and respectful guest can go a long way in assuring yourself the best possible experience. “Please” and “thank you” go a long way!
P.S. You may be properly uncomfortable now with the above hygiene “secrets,” but if you are, here are some things you can do to provide you more piece of mind. And while there are many hospitality workers with integrity who will never do anything to the detriment of their guests, I totally stand by my comments as it just takes one disgruntled staffer to affect your stay and many hotel veteran employees and supervisors have backed up these points.
Before you book your room, check with TripAdvisor.com and BedbugRegistry.com for any negative reports on your hotel choice.
Bring your own bottled water.
Bring a small blanket or throw to cover upholstered furniture and desk chairs if you use them while wearing shorts, a nightgown or your underclothes.
Bring a small package of disinfectant wipes and do a quick cleaning over the most used surfaces.
Wash glasses, ice buckets, and the coffee maker thoroughly with soap and water if you intend to use them.
Check beds, crevices of the mattresses, headboards for signs of bedbugs. Remove the bedspreads and throw pillows.
Wear slippers or shoes when walking through the room.