As a teenager and young adult, I spent over eight years working in hotels. I started off in a full-service resort, where I did just about everything. I worked as a banquet server, pulling late nights at weddings and holiday parties. I made reservations, helped with laundry when we were busy, and eventually went on to manage the front desk at that hotel. As you might imagine, this taught me a whole lot about the ins and outs of staying in hotels.
You might be surprised to know, though, that my experience in the hospitality industry didn’t leave me terrified of staying in hotels or certain that every room is covered in germs. Instead, I learned that hotels are full of great people who really love ensuring that their guests have memorable stays.
I also learned a few tricks from some of our experienced guests: you could tell by the way they handled their check-in that they knew exactly what they were doing.
One guest who stayed with us weekly, for instance, always set two wake-up calls before walking away from the check-in desk, just in case he missed the first, and I’m certain he never missed a single meeting.
This wasn’t the only check-in trick I learned. The truth is, enjoying your stay and feeling comfortable in your room don’t have to be struggles. If you want to travel like an insider in the hospitality industry, here are six things you need to do as soon as you check in.
Do a safety check.
Whether you are traveling with a friend, a gaggle of kids, or solo, safety should be one of your top priorities. Here’s the good news: the vast majority of hotel staff members care about your safety, too. Your room is set up for your safety; all you need to do is double check to make sure the appropriate safety measures are in place.
“Check to be sure you know how to use you door’s deadbolt lock, which you should always utilize when you turn in for the night,” suggests Eric Busick, general manager of The Elms Hotel & Spa in Excelsior Springs, Missouri. Additionally, Busick advises you to be certain the safe in your room is working so you can confidently store any items that are especially valuable.
If you are traveling solo, Adriana Smith, founder and blogger at Travepreneur, has a few additional safety suggestions you should follow before you get too comfortable in your room.
“Inform the hotel staff that you’re traveling solo and are not expecting any guests. Call a family member or friend to let them know you’ve arrived safely. You can never be too cautious about your safety,” she says.
Inspect these commonly neglected areas.
The staff at most reputable hotels are trained to thoroughly clean every hotel room between guests. Hotels associated with an international chain, like Holiday Inn, are held to strict cleaning requirements in order to remain associated with the brand, according to an anonymous employee. Still, there is no harm in checking that everything is in tip-top shape before you get too comfortable in your room.
Some areas of hotel rooms are more likely to be dirty than others, according to Jessica Bisesto, senior editor at TravelPirates.
“Walk through the room and the bathroom to ensure that they’ve been properly cleaned and that any trash cans have been emptied. Pull down the comforter and the sheets to make sure that there aren’t any surprises from previous guests, such as stray hairs or stains,” she advises.
More specifically, Morgan Statt, a safety investigator with Consumer Safety, recommends targeting the TV remotes.
“Although you probably won’t spend the majority of your time watching TV during your trip, make sure you disinfect the TV remote before your downtime,” Statt says. “One investigation by Rossen Reports looked into the top hotel chains and found that the remotes were the dirtiest item in hotel rooms, making it a prime way to spread infectious diseases.”
Check for these annoying guests.
Always take advantage of the luggage rack kept in the closet of your room. This is the first step to protecting your belongings from potential bed bugs, according to Statt.
“These pests are likely to spread via personal items like suitcases and other belongings. If you’re traveling via public transportation like trains or planes, the likelihood that you could bring bed bugs to your hotel is greater. Keep your luggage away from your bed to avoid waking up to an infestation,” she says.
Bed bugs have unique characteristics that make it easier to spot them in a hotel room. They leave behind red stains on bed sheets, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, either from being crushed or from leaving behind excrement.
These bugs are small and reddish brown, and they prefer to hide in dark places during the day. The space between your mattress and headboard, for instance, or cracks in furniture, or in the baseboards of the walls.
Here’s the good news: most hotels take the threat of bed bugs very seriously. Personally, I sat through two days of training on the topic at my first job, and then I observed housekeepers being trained to catch signs of bed bugs at the two other hotels I’ve worked at since then. If you have any concerns, talk with the staff at your hotel. They can take a closer look at your room and take action if your suspicions are confirmed.
Prepare for your stay.
Whether you travel a lot or if this is your first trip in a long time, it’s a great idea to spend a few minutes preparing for a great stay.
If you plan to hit the ground running first thing in the morning, Busick suggests ordering your breakfast the night before by using your hotel’s express breakfast menu.
“This will allow you to get your day started quickly so you can maximize your productivity,” he says.
Next, get familiar with your room. You don’t want to find yourself lost in the dark in the middle of the night, which isn’t as absurd as you might think, according to Jim Harness, the General Manager at ACME Hotel Company in Chicago.
“Figure out where the light switches are before you go to bed, as well as the layout of the room. Sounds silly, but if you travel a lot, it’s easy to wake up in the middle of the night and forget what the room layout is—and good luck stumbling around in the dark,” he says.
While you’re at it, take inventory of your room. Harness suggests asking for any additional items, like an extra pillow or blanket, right after check in instead of waiting until you’ve returned from a busy night out. In the same vein, Bisesto of TravelPirates suggests double checking the alarm clocks in your room to be certain they’re not still set from the previous guests’ stay.
Don’t forget to prioritize fun, too! Rebecca Lynn, experienced traveler and blogger at Jetset Juliette, suggests checking in with hotel staff about things to do in the area.
“For travelers checking into a hotel room, I recommend checking with the concierge to see if the hotel offers any discounts or deals at nearby attractions or restaurants. I have found more hotels are offering these deals in the past few years—especially in Niagara Falls and Myrtle Beach,” she says.
Although green and non-toxic cleaning products are rising in popularity in the hotel world, the industry still has a long ways to go. If you’re not certain what type of products were used to clean your hotel room, it is a good idea to take extra precautions to limit your exposure to the harsh chemicals present in many industrial cleaning products.
“If you’re able to, open up a window in your hotel room to get fresh air circulating. More often than not, hotels’ cleaning products release toxic chemicals into the air that aren’t good for your health. Stagnant and dirty air can bring on headaches, so let that fresh air in,” suggests Statt.
While you’re at it, don’t forget to fill your ice bucket right away and drink plenty of water throughout your stay.
Getting dehydrated while traveling is a fairly common experience, according to Harness, so keeping your room stocked with ice should be one of your first priorities after checking in.
During my eight years in the hospitality industry, I was always amazed at how many guests would wait to share that there were problems with their rooms until they were leaving. If you’re unhappy with your room, speak up! This will allow the staff members to address the problem and fix it right away.
“Throughout the hotel industry, staff members are coached to empathize with guests and understand their concerns, complaints, and issues,” Busick says. “If a guest’s room doesn’t live up to their expectations, staffers are trained to find out what those particular expectations are, and work with the guest to figure out a solution that is acceptable and preferable.”
In short, the hotel staff’s top priority is for you to have a comfortable stay. If you speak up when your expectations aren’t met, it is much easier for them make changes to make your stay a more enjoyable experience.