Seven hotel habits of mine

I’ve found that the more I stay at hotels, the more I develop a consistent pattern of behavior based on past experience. So I figured I’d share seven hotel habits I have with just about every hotel stay. The list is by no means comprehensive, but just what I’ve found myself doing over the past couple of stays.

Take a picture of your room number with your phone

Often I’ll stay in 3-4 different hotels in a week, so remembering a room number can be very difficult. I’m also not very good at keeping track of room keys. As a result I’ll always take a picture of the room number with my iPhone as soon as I check-in (either of the placard on the door or the room number written on the key envelope). Then I immediately remove the key from the key envelope. It’s easy enough to lose a room key, and the last thing you want to do is have someone else with not only your room key, but also your room number.

Check alarms as soon as you get to the room

Trust me on this one. As much as housekeeping does a decent job cleaning rooms at most places, rarely do they check to see if the alarm in the room is turned off. I’ve been woken up at 4AM more than a few times from alarms set by the previous guest.

Check the shower as soon as you get to the room

This is actually a new habit for me, as I’ve had awful luck with hotel showers lately. Over the years I’ve had dozens of hotel stays with shower issues, be it awful water pressure, bad water temperature control, or just showers that are altogether broken. I usually shower under a time crunch, so I always like to check the showers as soon as possible. The last thing I want is a 6AM flight where I have my morning planned to the minute, only to find the shower doesn’t work.

Get free water at the gym

As an elite member in a few hotel programs I usually get a couple of complimentary bottles of water (or at InterContinental hotels I get unlimited drinks from the minibar), though I tend to drink a lot of water and quickly run out. Instead of paying $5-10 for the additional bottles of water in the room, the hotel gym almost always has free water. Many have bottled water, while others just have a cooler. I always make an effort to have an empty bottle of water with me (usually one from the plane that I already finished), so that makes it easy to get a few bottles of water for free.

Never slam doors

When you’re in a hotel it’s easy to assume the sound insulation is good. It usually isn’t. I’ve been woken up dozens of times over the years from slamming doors at the room next to mine. For the most part hotel doors are especially heavy so that they shut automatically, so I always make an effort to close them without any noise.

Put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door whenever you’re in the room

I’ve found housekeeping to get progressively more pushy over the years when it comes to knocking on the door to service rooms. I suspect staffing levels are down and they have more rooms to clean in the same amount of time. It sucks when they start knocking on your door hourly starting at 8AM. This is an area where I’d really like to see reform in the hotel industry, especially on the day of check-out. There’s no reason the front desk couldn’t communicate with housekeeping to let them know when the guest has checked out. For other days I wish they’d give you the option at check-in of either having housekeeping knock on your door to service your room, and just having the guest call housekeeping at their convenience to have their room serviced.

In the meantime, it’s “Do Not Disturb” for me 24/7 when I’m in the room.

Tip housekeeping when you can

I’ve had a change of heart on this one. I had a post about this last year and there were heated opinions on both sides. At the time I argued it wasn’t necessary to tip housekeeping, given that they’re ultimately paid a livable wage – not a good wage, but their pay doesn’t assume they’ll be getting huge tips. But I did change my opinion a bit mostly because I realized just how much housekeeping has to deal with. Not only do people often leave hotel rooms really messy, but I can only imagine how disgusting some of the stuff they have to handle is (let’s leave it at that — use your imagination, kids). At the end of the day $2-3 a day isn’t going to kill me, and I know it goes a long way with housekeeping.

Anyway, those are a few of my hotel habits, and I’m curious to hear if you guys do the same, or if you have other habits. Let me know in the comments section!

Filed Under: Advice, Hotels
  1. First thing I always check is the fire escape plan (should be on the back of the door). After being awaken in the middle of the night with smoke in the hallway of a hotel 20 years ago there is nothing more unnerving – and I was only on the 3rd floor!

  2. Put soap, shampoo, etc. in the shower! Those early wake-up calls mean sometimes I’ve been in the shower for 5 minutes before remembering that my conditioner is still in my TSA quart-size bag at the bottom of the suitcase.

  3. Don’t put your room key next to your cell phone. Had a stay at Palmer House recently where I had to have my key re-set at the front desk because I’d forgotten that. Second time this year, too.

  4. You can’t refill the water bottles with water fom the faucet? In the US top water is better regulated than bottle water.

  5. Put zip lock bag around the remote control as that (along with the phone) is the most germ infested item in the room.

  6. @ Rich – Even in the United States, it depends on where you are. I wouldn’t ever drink tap water in CA, but would in other places.

  7. Agree with the housekeeping issue – i was in the shower and housekeeping rang the doorbell! I tried to get to the door in time but after only 2 bells, (which lasted for about 10 secs) the housekeeping staff entered … (thankfully i hastily threw on a bathrobe). Now i always make sure the do not disturb sign is on when i’m in the bath!!

  8. Great post! I do many of those things. Addtionally;

    1) Get a spare key when I check in and put it in my wallet – it usually doesn’t get demagnetized.
    2) Make sure the TV works

    Slightly different from your routine – I get my water from the lounge (assuming there is an open one).

    Totally different – I never put out the do not disturb sign – I forget it too often. Instead I always lock the security chain or bolt. Slightly noisier, but foolproof. Love the “flipover” security latch.

    I concur that the water depends on location – the southwest US is poor. The northeast US and SF is great.

    Maybe a similar post for planes? I always check to make sure the seat is in order right away.

  9. Your comment about tipping housekeepers made me happy. Housekeepers work SO hard! This is the least we can do for them. A hearty ‘hello’ and ‘thanks for taking good care of us’ when passing them in the hallway can also do wonders for their morale.

  10. You forgot the most important one of all: Always deadbolt the door whenever you are in your room. I have had all kinds of people (maids, room service, other guests who had also been assigned to the same room, etc.) try and enter my room.

  11. One of the first things I do is flush the toilet. If it doesn’t work, you want to know that before you have to use it. 🙂

  12. Good for you on the change of heart. There aren’t many worker in the travel industry who work harder than housekeepers. I like to tip each night if I have a multi night stay. There have been a number of times where theyve taken a little extra care as a result.

  13. $2-3 a day? What a cheapskate you are. Especially since we are talking about expensive rooms you stay in – $2-3 probably is a 1 percent tip!

    So sad –

  14. Planet Hollywood has a fridge stocked with tons of bottled water in the diamond/seven stars check in lobby that you can stock up with as needed. This is fantastic I wish all hotels had it! At other Caesars owned properties (rio, Caesars palace, ballys, harrahs, flamingo, Paris) you have to ask for the waters but they seem to have no problem with repeat trips to the desk to get more throughout your stay. Flamingo has delicious fresh baked giant cookies out too and they are wrapped up so they keep well for later on that night !

  15. Must be hard having a blog sometimes. You discuss something that is a generous act (tipping housekeeping) and some jerk acts like you’ve done something wrong.

  16. I also check the pillows right away. Often the highest-end hotels have the worst soft pillows that provide no support! I often have to request firm pillows unless I’m staying at some run-of-the-mill property that’s content to use old-fashioned foam in their pillows.

  17. @Murphy. Gross generalization on CA. San Francisco has some of the best-tasting tap water in the country (as do some other parts of the Bay Area, such as Marin County).

  18. What is the accepted method for tipping the hotel staff? I often see my money left alone. Even if I leave it on the bed half the time it just ends up back on the nightstand again. Maybe I’m not tipping enough or maybe I’m tipping too much. Neither of those possibilities sounds right to me, but I’m obviously missing something.

    I usually check the beds and bathroom for basic cleanliness. Other than that I don’t really have much of an established protocol for reaching my room. Most of the time I’m just there to drop off my luggage and head out before heading back again to sleep. It’s not uncommon for me to never make use of various amenities. If I have a lot familiarity with the room then maybe the weather is bad or I’ve caught a cold or I’ve had to catch up with work while on the road. Otherwise I’d rather be out exploring, even if it’s just to see the rest of the resort.

  19. @ Dax — I usually place it on top of the pillow. Seems that placing it there makes it obvious it’s not just money laying around, and that it’s intended for the housekeeper.

  20. Great post and great comments here! I leave my tip for housekeping the day I check out, so the staff have no choice but to pick it up. 😉

  21. @lucky –

    “In the meantime, it’s “Do Not Disturb” for me 24/7 when I’m in the room.”

    Sometimes they deliver the welcome amenity after you check-in, so I would just put the “Do Not Disturb” sign on after 30 minutes of checking into your room. You don’t want to miss that fresh fruit basket or free bottle of wine do ya?

  22. I check the air conditioning system,i dont want to wake up in the middle of the night sweating all over!!!i realised the extra care housekeeping take of your room when you tip them,extra towels,ranging your toiletteries,extra bottle of waters on turndown and night chocolates.

  23. I don’t tip housekeeping, but I ALWAYS make sure to leave the room in excellent shape. Trash in trash cans, bed straightened out, towels on the floor in front of shower and not all over the room, toilet clean…

    That’s just part of respecting the dignity of those who clean up the room after I stay there. Something most folks don’t do because they don’t spend two seconds thinking about housekeeping as anything more than servants to their whims.

    Also, I would like to point out that job satisfaction is far more driven by feedback from customers in the form of conversation than it is by small tips. Harvard just released the results of a small study they ran on this. Always be friendly, treat these employees like you would any other dignified human being, and you will make them far happier than leave them 2 bucks on a pillow.

  24. Glad you’ve had a change of heart on tipping housekeeping 🙂 One additional note on tipping: I always make sure to put the tip somewhere that the folks refilling the minibar wouldn’t automatically see it. It’s happened before where I’ve left a tip in a more “common” area, and the minibar person refilled the minibar but the room wasn’t made up — I came back to the room, and the tip was gone. I can’t prove it was the minibar person, but…

    since then, I always leave it out of the line of sight of the minibar (if possible), usually wrapped in a piece of paper with “thank you” written on it. Since I’m a toiletries whore and hoard them all, this also tends to insure I get a bunch more left for me each day!

  25. Great article! I read it last night as I checked into a new hotel, and realized I’d never thought of the alarm clock issue. I told myself that I’d make sure to do that from now on.

    And of course, at 6:30 this morning…. BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP

    Although I had the best intentions, I didn’t actually follow through, and woke up due to the previous occupant’s alarm.

    Now that’s irony.

  26. Make sure I can connect to the internet, and run a speed test.

    I should tip more, I love nothing more than using every towel and leaving the room a complete disaster.

  27. We usually write put the tip with a small note “Thanks!” so that it is clear it’s for the house keeping and not our money.

  28. I sleep HOT, and so can’t use the omni-present duvets. I always [ie, when i remember…] check the closet and dresser for a blanket. If not present, i make my call immediately to housekeeping. i continue to be astounded by the absence of blankets in rooms. Seems the classier the hotel, the poorer the chance of a blanket.

  29. Thumbs up for your change of heart on tipping housekeeping. Harvard studies don’t put food in the table for these hard working folks. Kudos!

  30. I agree with you Absolute.These hotel habits/tips will be very helpful at my next stay at a hotel. I never knew to check the alarm clocks when staying at a hotel. Here I am thinking my parents set the alarm clock at 4am, but it was really the previous guest that set the alarm lol. TIme does really fly by when you are at a hotel trying to go to bed and then a few hours later you hear the alarm clock ring because it wasn’t shut off by previous guest.
    Great Job on the Article!

  31. @Dax @Lucky Place the tip on the desk alongside a simple “thank you” note written on the hotel stationary. No mistakes in this case.

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