10 Things I Learned After Sleeping 1,000 Nights in Hotel Rooms
This super traveler's top tips for snagging freebies, avoiding headaches and getting a good night's sleep.
Hotels are an integral part of business travel, because getting a good night’s sleep in a clean room is the difference between success and an embarrassing failure. Here's what I've learned on the roughly 60 trips a year I've taken over the past two decades. (The keycards in the photo above are all mine, and yes, I recognize it might be a little crazy to have kept them all).
Avoid the late night room service menu.These menu items are available after the kitchen is closed, which means it’s all microwaved pre-fab “food” prepared by non-kitchen staff, sometimes by the person that brings it up to your room. Install food delivery apps such as UberEATS -- they’re nearly as fast, cheaper, and have accurate ratings to find something edible and cooked to order.
Pick a chain and stick with it.
Just like the airlines, pick a hotel brand you like and choose it every time, even if on some trips it doesn't offer the cheapest rate. The more you stay, the better your experience will be.
In a short period of time, there will be perks aplenty, including ridiculous room upgrades, free breakfast, drinks at the bar and a ton of free nights for your personal use.
Learn the hotel programs -- don’t be a sheep!
Ask for favors.
Here’s advice I’ll give and you’ll never do it, but here goes anyway: If you have a special situation and need a particular favor from a hotel, call ahead and speak at a minimum to the front desk manager. By “ahead” I mean weeks ahead, not in the cab on the way to the hotel.
A polite phone call will get you an upgraded room, change of room type, a free conference room or a late checkout. Learn the manager's name, ask to speak with them when you get there and thank them in person.
Use your favorite chain's credit card.
Each hotel chain card has different perks, so compare and see what’s best for you. And as with the airline cards, be sure to use the hotel credit card to pay for your stay, and charge everything to the room. The result is three to five times the points for every dollar spent. As your status increases, you'll never pay for internet or water or breakfast again.
Cancellation fees are for suckers.
“No Cancellation” means ... well, you can cancel most of the time anyway. If you're in a bind, and you’ve booked a hotel room that has a cancellation penalty, call the hotel directly (not the 1-800 central reservations line 00 they are unyielding). Get the front desk manager on the phone, explain your situation and as long as it’s not the same day, and you have a reasonable reason, I have found they will issue a full credit. (Again, this is where being a loyal customer will be a benefit).
Be sure to write down the manager’s name, as pre-paid rooms may take a few weeks to show up on your statement.
Don't be a slob.
Want your room actually cleaned? Then keep it clean. The housekeeping staff has seen every kind of horror, and while they will pick up your underwear and food wrappers, they’ll do a much better job of cleaning your room if you put your stuff away and have some courtesy.
Also, put your toothbrush away when you leave. They're too easy to knock over onto the floor and worse, you ever hear those urban legends about what angry people have done with other people's toothbrushes? I have no desire to find out if they're true.
Immediately unplug your hotel room alarm clock.
Don’t play Russian roulette with your peaceful sleep. There is a very high chance that you will get blasted out of bed at an ungodly hour by some randomly set alarm, and good luck figuring out how to shut it off at 3:26 a.m. It’s a Rubik’s Cube that won't stop screaming. Use your phone.
Don't touch the remote.Ah, the remote, AKA the DNA collection device. A hotel room TV remote is possibly the nastiest thing in the room, maybe on the planet. Luckily, there’s an app for that! Most hotels offer a free app that gives you full control over the TV and even include a channel listing, so you don't have to click through all 93 channels to find Cartoon Network.
Have a routine and stick to it -- this will eliminate leaving stuff behind in your room that you’re very unlikely to ever see again. My routine is that I only use the closet, never the drawers. This way, everything is in one place and in plain sight: hanging stuff, shoes and items on the shelf.
Most common places for things to be left behind are in nightstand drawers and on the hook behind the bathroom door.
Don't let the bed bugs bite.
If you’re thinking that you stay in hotels too fancy for bed bugs, think again. Learn how to check for bed bugs before you unpack anything because those little bastards are serious. Besides eating you alive in your hotel room, they love crawling in your luggage and coming home with you. Imagine exterminators, tossing furniture and clothes and generally being humiliated and miserable for a week or two.
Remove the linens and check the corners of the mattress and box spring -- around the stitching and in any nook and cranny is critical. Do this before you fully move in and keep your luggage on hard surfaces (like in the bathroom) while you make the search.
Yeesh, anyone else feeling itchy right now?