The First 13 Things You Should Check for in a Hotel Room
Don’t commit to a stay until you’ve scoured the room for these conveniences and health risks.
How is the location?
As the saying goes: location, location, location. Before you even think about booking, pick your ideal location, says Peggy Goldman, president and founder of Friendly Planet Travel. “Especially if you’re [traveling] for the purpose of sightseeing, it’s really important to be in a place that’s very accessible,” she says. First, look at a map to find all the attractions you plan to visit and find a spot that’s central to those. If the sights are spread all over town, don’t stress—as long as your room is near public transportation, you’ll be able to get everywhere quickly. Settle on a cheaper, less central hotel, and you’ll likely end up spending more money (and time) on Ubers.
Does it feel safe?
When it comes to location, safety is even more important than convenience. “One of the big pleasures of travel is to walk around and really experience the area,” says Goldman. That’s not so easy if your hotel room is in a sketchy area. Online sources like TripAdvisor can clue you in to what the area is like, says Goldman. If you pull into the hotel and just don’t feel comfortable, you’re better off canceling your reservation than risking your safety. Memorize these other 22 tips for a better, safer hotel stay.
What does the caulking look like?
Whenever Goldman arrives in a hotel room, she beelines to the shower to inspect the caulking. “It tells you something about how the hotel is maintained, how important cleanliness is,” she says. Mold in the bathroom is a red flag—especially if you’re allergic.
Are there toiletries?
Most hotels offer free toiletries like shampoo and soap, but it’s worth double checking when you arrive. “The one missing amenity is often cream rinse,” says Elizabeth Avery, founder of Solo Trekker 4 U. If housekeeping forgot to drop off toiletries, or the hotel doesn’t include conditioner or other basics, you’ll want to know before you’re in your towel. For more free perks, ask about these 14 weird things you didn’t know you could borrow from hotels.
Do you have uninvited guests?
“The best hotels in the world can sometimes be plagued by bed bugs,” says Goldman. If a guest unknowingly brought bed bugs into the room, the hotel won’t know to fix the problem unless another traveler tips them off—so it’s up to you to hunt them down. Bed bugs love cozy spaces, so Goldman recommends scraping the bottom corner of the mattress with a business card to make sure pests aren’t hiding.
Did the hotel provide water?
“When you’re traveling the world, no matter where you go, no matter what they tell you about the tap water, it’s important that if you’re coming from the United States, you use bottled water,” says Goldman, “especially for brushing your teeth and without question for drinking.” Hotels get bonus points if they supply a free bottle every day during your stay. If there isn’t one waiting for you, buy one from a vending machine or nearby shop right away. Feel free to ignore these popular travel tips that aren’t true anymore.
What’s the coffee like?
Even if the hotel website promised free coffee in your room, you’ll want to see what that really looks like. “Coffee available in guest rooms may be instant or have only powdered creamers,” says Avery. She recommends packing coffee bags (which brew like tea and tend to be better quality than the powdered stuff), along with hot chocolate packets for a DIY mocha. Your fellow travelers will thank you for starting the day sufficiently caffeinated instead of hunting down the nearest café.
How does the bed feel?
Don’t be shy if you lie down in bed and notice a saggy mattress, torn sheets, or lumpy pillows. The front desk can usually find you a replacement or move you to a different room. “Anything you ask with a ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and a smile, usually the people that are working in service with hotels will be happy to accommodate,” says Goldman. The only exceptions? These 13 things you should never ask the hotel staff.
Do you know how everything works?
“A key missing item? Instructions on how things work,” says Avery. Figuring out how to flip through TV channels or set the alarm can be surprisingly confusing, so ask the hotel staff for help if you’re having trouble.
Is there an onsite shop?
No matter how prepared you thought you were, there’s a decent chance you forgot something while you were packing. Just in case, check to make sure the hotel can provide what you need, whether it’s free travel-sized toothpaste or aspirin from the lobby’s mini store. “It’s good if the hotel has a small shop inside it so you don’t need to go hunting around a strange city for basics,” says Goldman.