18 Things You Probably Shouldn’t Be Doing in a Hotel Room
These common mistakes could turn your dream vacation into a travel nightmare. Travel experts share the biggest hotel no-no's.
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A hotel stay done the right way
Now more than ever, travelers need to know the dos and don’ts of staying at a hotel. According to the CDC, the safest thing to do is to avoid hotels during the pandemic—but if you want to travel, or need to out of necessity, you can do a few things to ensure that your stay will go as smoothly and safely as possible. Some of these things you should (or shouldn’t) be doing anyway, but especially in the age of COVID-19, it’s a good idea to follow these guidelines. Your health and your wallet will thank you! Afterward, brush up on the 22 things you should never do on an airplane to have the safest flight possible.
Touching surfaces without taking precautions
This tip goes for all areas in a hotel room, but most especially the bathroom. “By the toilet, lay down a towel on the ground so your bare feet never touch the area where urine or other bacteria is likely to collect over the course of many guests staying in the room,” suggests Alex Miller, the founder and CEO of Upgraded Points.
And for the surfaces you do need to touch? “Ask the hotel for disinfectant wipes, and wipe down all doorknobs, the TV remote, faucets, and even light switches,” advises Robert M. Hebeler, professor of Hospitality and Business at Rollins College. “The most ‘touched’ items in a hotel room are often the dirtiest.” Many hotels are now supplying disinfecting wipes for guests to give their rooms a once-over when they arrive. This is how professional cleaners can tell if a hotel room is clean.
Getting into a crowded elevator
If you’re staying in a hotel with many floor levels, it’s likely that at the very least one person may already be in the elevator when you’re ready to get on. While this normally poses no threat (except perhaps to those who are claustrophobic), in the time of COVID-19, this is best avoided. “It’s best to use an elevator alone,” says Natasha Bhuyan, MD, of One Medical. “It might be a bit awkward at first, but feel comfortable ‘passing’ an elevator if someone is already in it, and take the next one.” Also, although hotels should be cleaning elevator buttons frequently, use a clean tissue to push the buttons and then throw it out in a garbage can. An even healthier option? Unless you’re in a high rise, bypass the elevator altogether and take the stairs. It’s good for both your immune system and your legs! This is why you should also think twice before sitting in a hotel chair.
Indulging in the pool, gym, or other public spaces
Although the CDC has stated that both chlorine and bromine kill COVID-19, it’s still smart to avoid hotel pools and other areas where crowds of vacationers may congregate. “Hotel pools and spas have many guests coming in and out all the time,” says Leann Poston, MD, of Invigor Medical. Even besides coronavirus, “there are gastrointestinal infections, which spread when sick guests choose to swim in the pool or when parents allow children in diapers in the pool.” So, skip the dip—and forgo the hotel gym, as well, especially if you’re staying in a COVID-19 hotspot. But fear not: This doesn’t mean that you can’t find another way to get in a good workout. “Use an outdoor run or workout as an opportunity to explore the location while social distancing and not touching shared surfaces,” says Dr. Bhuyan.
Stealing the bathrobes
COVID aside, this is just not good manners—and you might end up with an unwanted charge on your account. “Guests sometimes take home essential amenities that the hotel provides during their stay, like shampoo, lotion, and other vanity products,” says Ryazan Tristram, a photographer and travel blogger for EverythingZany.com. “However, people sometimes take home the bathrobes as well, which is a no-no.” You could be charged extra or even fined for taking pricier items, including linens, artwork, and electronics. If you’re unsure about which things you’re allowed to take, follow this list of 6 things you can’t take from a hotel and 4 things you can take.
Breaking something and lying about it
Accidents happen, but damaging something in your room and keeping it a secret can actually harm staff or future guests. Nowadays, no one needs additional safety risks in their hotel rooms. Matthew, founder of The Travel Blogs, says a guest once cut his foot on a shard of glass. “[Glass is] very hard to spot, even if you know it is there, so although the room was cleaned, there was one piece that the housekeeper missed,” he says. “We ended up comping that man’s night in the hotel all because the previous guest didn’t make the team aware of broken glass in his room.”
Cooking anything without a proper kitchen area
You might want to avoid a crowded restaurant, but consider ordering contactless takeout or room service instead of bringing your own cooking appliances. “We always want to save money when we travel,” says Tristram. “Some guests will bring their portable cooking appliances with them during their stay, and this can cause a few problems, primarily if the hotel room doesn’t have a kitchenette area.” These cooking appliances can set off a hotel’s fire alarm system or cause an actual fire. If you want to bring your own food to save a few bucks, stick with no-cook meals. Aside from preventing hotel room fires, here are 22 more tips for making your hotel stay as safe and healthy as possible.
Leaving important jewelry in your suitcase or dresser
During COVID, many hotels are only having housekeeping come in before and after a guest’s stay, but it’s still better to be on the “safe side” when it comes to your valuables. Most hotel rooms provide an easy-to-use safe, so you might as well take advantage: Don’t leave your precious jewels, wallets, or purses in your room, unless it’s in a hotel-provided safe, says a Farmers Insurance Group representative. Your homeowners or renters policy may provide coverage for your belongings while you are traveling, so it’s important to report any lost or stolen items as soon as possible. Take a look at some of the truly bizarre things people have actually stolen from hotels.
Keeping your bathroom door ajar when taking a shower
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a steamy shower at a hotel, but beware of what the vapor can do if released into your room. “A hotel’s hot showers can cause a lot of steam, and as a result, can trigger the hotel’s fire alarm system inside your bedroom if you leave the bathroom door open,” says Tristram. You definitely don’t want to be rushing through the hallways and gathering with fellow guests who may not have even had time to grab a mask. Plus, some hotels allow COVID-positive guests to stay on the premises, making this even more problematic.
Covering up the smoke alarms
Certain hotels still allow smokers to smoke cigarettes inside their rooms. Despite this, some guests insist on smoking in non-smoking rooms. The biggest problem: Guests who do this cover the smoke alarm so they can smoke in bed, risking their safety and that of all other guests, says Bryony Summer, owner and editor of the website Coasting Australia. Smoke outside in designated places, especially if you’re staying in a non-smoking room.
Forgetting to inspect the bed
Even the finest hotels and housekeepers can’t keep creepy critters from making their way into bedrooms. “I always advise travelers to put their luggage in the bathtub until they inspect the bed for bedbugs,” says Mitch Krayton of Krayton Travel. Pull back the bedding and inspect the corners and edges of the mattress. In addition, in the age of COVID, ask your hotel to confirm if there are any bedding items that are not washed between guests; that way, you can be sure to avoid anything that’s being used by multiple people. Pre-COVID, “bedspreads and bed scarfs [were] cleaned on an ‘as needed’ basis,” explains Hebeler. Today, many hotels are using duvets instead of bedspreads in order to wash the covers between guests. Still, it’s important to ask the hotel what their cleaning policy is on bedding.
Using the throw pillows
Besides sheets and bedspreads, there are concerns with other soft items in hotel rooms, as well. “If you notice the throw pillows on the bed or the couch have no removable sleeves, you can be sure they are [not normally] thoroughly cleaned,” says Kashlee Kucheran, a seasoned traveler and the co-owner of Travel Off Path. “After they get so stained or smelly that they become offensive, the hotel will just replace them. In the meantime, you can bet there have been many faces, bottoms, and other things lounging on those pillows, so steer clear!”
These days, hotels are removing many of these extraneous items from rooms to help prevent the spread of germs. But you can never be too careful, so if you see throw pillows, don’t use them. In addition, if you want to be extra cautious about pillows, bring along your own to sleep on.
Forgetting that you recently dyed your hair
Speaking of linens, as a courtesy to the hotel, you might want to wait until you get home before you change the hue of your ‘do. “The ruined towels and bed linens are unrecoverable,” says Leslie Mulcahy, co-owner of Rabbit Hill Inn in Vermont. If you have recently dyed your hair, avoid washing your hair—or bring your own towel to wrap your hair until it dries, and possibly your own pillowcase in case it rubs off overnight.
Cheating the minibar
Many hotel minibars have been removed from rooms since the pandemic started. But if there is one, use it responsibly. “If you plan on taking a bottle of whiskey out of there, just accept that you’ll still be paying for it,” says Sophia Borghese, a consultant for La Galerie Hotel in New Orleans. “Don’t try to fake the hotel staff out by replacing the liquor with a half-sipped bottle of Diet Coke. This happens more often than you might think, and those who do it still get charged for taking that $30, two-ounce bottle of spirits.” Especially during COVID, that’s not just dishonest—it’s also unsafe for other guests.
Boiling your undies in the kettle
Funny? Yes. Disturbing? Absolutely. Has it actually happened? You bet. After 12 years of managing hotels, Summer says the worst thing she came across was having guests boil their underwear in kettles, pots, or steamers to “freshen them up.” One would hope that today with the risks of COVID, guests would have better sense than to do this and bring enough clean undies for their entire stay…but you just never know. Boiling underwear is just one of the many crazy things people have seen in hotel rooms.
Using the fire sprinkler as a coat hanger
Closets are great for hanging clothes—the sprinklers on your hotel room’s ceiling are not. Bob Tupper, author of Drinking In the Culture: Tuppers’ Guide to Exploring Great Beers in Europe, says he saw people using the safety devices as coat hooks—a silly stunt that could not only set off a hotel’s fire alarm but also burst the pipes and cause water to flood into rooms. Again, you don’t want to be rushing through the halls with guests who didn’t have time to put their masks—and, of course, you don’t want your stuff to get soaked, either. Make sure to watch out for these other hotel room hazards you didn’t know were putting your kids in danger.
Sending sensitive information over hotel Wi-Fi
With the risks of COVID, you are probably rightly going to avoid the shared computers at the business center unless absolutely necessary. But you should also exercise caution when using your own computer in your room—for completely different reasons. “No one should ever, ever send any sensitive information or conduct any important business over hotel Wi-Fi—at least not without encryption,” says Harold Li, vice president of ExpressVPN. “Given how easy it is to hack public Wi-Fi hotspots, you might as well be yelling your passwords and bank details down the hall.” Travelers should use encryption to shield their Internet activity when sending important information. Find out how a VPN can keep you safe.
Walking with heavy feet
There are so many concerns with staying in hotels nowadays that we should all try to be as courteous as possible to our fellow travelers. And loud music and voices aren’t the only things you should keep in check when you’re in a hotel room. “In my experience, no matter how luxurious a hotel is, they are still built with materials that don’t allow a lot of soundproofing, especially from upstairs guests,” says Kucheran. Avoid walking around with weighty steps so you don’t become “that annoying guest.”
Sneaking in your pets
It’s tempting to bring your furry friends on trips with you, but don’t do it if you’re not staying at a pet-friendly hotel. If you’ve asked about the hotel’s policy and the answer is no, don’t try to pull a fast one on the staff—animals leave trails of evidence, from hairs to prints to smells, and your cleaning fees will skyrocket if you’ve broken the rules. Not to mention, it’s disrespectful to the housekeeping staff who are already working hard to keep the rooms safe and sanitary.
- CDC: “Know Your Travel Risk”
- Alex Miller, founder and CEO of Upgraded Points
- Robert M. Hebeler, professor of Hospitality and Business at Rollins College
- Natasha Bhuyan, MD, of One Medical
- Leann Poston, MD, of Invigor Medical
- Ryazan Tristram, photographer and travel blogger for Everything Zany
- Matthew, founder of The Travel Blogs
- Bryony Summer, owner and editor of Coasting Australia
- Mitch Krayton of Krayton Travel
- Kashlee Kucheran, seasoned traveler and co-owner of Travel Off Path
- Harold Li, vice president of ExpressVPN
- Leslie Mulcahy, co-owner of Rabbit Hill Inn