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16 Things You Shouldn’t Ask Hotel Staff

Think twice before asking these questions at a hotel that may come across as rude, unsafe, or unrealistic—and ultimately won't get you the results you're after.

Chambermaid making bed at hotel suite
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Vacation etiquette

It’s been a long year at home during the pandemic, and for many of us who are newly vaccinated, going on a vacation and staying at a hotel where you don’t have to make the beds or do the dishes yourself is at the top of the “to do” list. However, COVID has forever changed what’s possible in a hotel stay. We all want to stay at only the cleanest hotels, of course, and we also need to educate ourselves on the gross things hotels do to save money so we’re fully prepared once we get there. But it’s not all about us. We also have to think about the employees at the hotels. Now it’s not just polite but also important for everyone’s safety to banish a few things from our travel vocabulary—including certain requests that range from annoying to time-consuming to flat-out unsafe. Once you’re up to speed, brush up on these things you probably shouldn’t be doing in your hotel room, as well.

Close up of young woman using smartphone at home in sunlight
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Did you see my complaint on Twitter?

We’ll say it up-front: Sometimes things go wrong with a hotel stay. The room’s not as clean, or quiet, or scenic as it should be or as you were expecting. But before you take to social media to complain, let the hotel staff know what went wrong and give them a chance to fix the situation. If they can’t, management will usually switch your room (often with an upgrade) or comp your meal, if necessary, if you let them know in real-time what happened. However, if you vent on social media alone, chances are the on-duty hotel staff won’t see it right away while they’re mid-shift and your chances of having something fixed during your stay will disappear. So go to them directly with the issue, not with your social media handle. Before you book your next vacation, get the skinny on insider hotel secrets from a former hotel inspector.

Beautiful afro woman with protective face mask arriving in hotel room
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Why do I have to wear a mask if this state doesn’t require them?

Let’s say you’re heading out on a road trip this summer and traveling from a state where masks are mandated to one where they are not. You arrive, take off your mask, enter the hotel, and see a sign that says masks are required. If this happens to you, do not ask the staff if you “really have to wear a mask.” Yes, you do. The policy is most likely set by either the individual property or by the larger corporate owner of the hotel, and it’s there for the safety of everyone who both visits and works there, including staff, who may come in contact with hundreds of people a day. That said, many hotels and other businesses are now allowing those who are vaccinated to go mask-free, so if you haven’t yet gotten your shots, what are you waiting for? You can get them for free at CVS, Walmart, Costco, and Kroger.

Do we have to pay the resort fee?

You shopped around for your vacation hotel and thought you knew the price of your room. But when you check-in, you find out that you will be charged an extra $25, or even more, per day as a “resort fee.” This amount covers amenities such as towels at the swimming pool, “complimentary” Wi-Fi, and fitness club access—yup, all the things you assumed were included in the hotel price anyway. But nope, even though you may not have noticed it when you made the reservation, there’s no way the resort is going to get rid of this extra amount, even if you swear you’re not going to use any of the hotel amenities. So, at the time of booking, scan the fine print or call and ask the hotel about any fees that are not included in the quote so you know how much you’ll be paying in advance of your arrival. For fewer surprises during your stay, you might want to opt for an all-inclusive resort.

close up of white bed with pillow and blanket, shallow depth of field
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Can we get a room with an ocean view?

When you’re booking a stay at a hotel offering waterfront views, it will be listed as a room option. In other words, this is a perk you need to pay for; being able to see the water is an upgrade, not a freebie distributed at the front desk. If this sounds like your idea of heaven, you’ll want to book a stay at one of these dreamy hotel rooms with amazing views.

Businessman in suit expecting receptionist
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Why can’t I check in now/early?

Hotels have set check-in and check-out times for a reason; the same goes for the housekeeping schedule. If you arrive hours early, the room you booked could still be messy from the previous guest. “We’re trying to make sure that you have the best experience and are checking into a room that’s clean and ready for you,” says Sophia B., a consultant for a hotel in New Orleans. Especially during the COVID era, housekeeping needs ample time to make sure rooms are fully cleaned and sanitized—something none of us would want them to cut corners on.

Female hand putting and holding magnetic key card switch in to open hotel room door
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Why don’t I get those extra perks I see others getting?

Guests at luxury resorts who booked through special credit card or membership programs, as well as on-property tourist attraction hotels, often get special perks or upgrades as part of their stay. These range from free meals and gifts at luxury resorts to express passes or complimentary shows at top tourist attraction properties. It’s important that you clarify up-front what is included with your stay when you’re booking, or else you may sour your mood—and that of the hotel staff—by assuming benefits are included in your stay, then blaming the staff for your misunderstanding. Here are a few ways to get a free hotel room upgrade, according to hotel managers.

No Vacancies Sign at a hotel
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Can I extend my stay even though it says no vacancies?

Unfortunately, just because you’re staying in a room tonight, it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed that room for eternity. Front desk supervisor Caela G. says most hotels won’t be able to make a room available, even if you’re already staying in it, until the next guest cancels or doesn’t show up for their reservation. And with coronavirus occupancy restrictions, hotels may not have their full inventory available to offer to guests.

Closeup of Chauffeur opening car door with glove

Why are you a valet-only hotel?

If a hotel says it only offers valet parking, it’s likely because parking for guests can’t be guaranteed; therefore, they can’t make it an option to park your own car. Hotel staff also generally won’t make parking recommendations in the area because it could end up becoming a liability for the company, says Gina D., a hotel receptionist. If you want free parking, you’ll need to find a hotel that offers it or park on the street at your own risk.

Unrecognizable housekeeper holding towels at a hotel
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I know it’s late, but can you bring this up to my room?

Ayoka B., a front desk night auditor at a large hotel in Richmond, Virginia, says that 99 percent of the time, she’s on duty alone, checking in guests, cleaning the lobby and common areas, doing laundry, making sure a hot breakfast is ready at 6 a.m., and more. So while she’s happy to provide extra towels, toothbrushes, and the like if you’re willing to head to the front desk to collect them, delivering said items to a guest’s room simply isn’t possible. FYI, if you haven’t traveled in a while, you should also be aware of these COVID-related airport changes.

Using laptop to book a hotel room
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I booked through a third-party site and my charge is incorrect. Can you fix it?

Unfortunately, no. Hotels pay between 10 and 30 percent commission on booking sites, and they don’t manage the transactions that guests make with those third-party companies. If you’ve booked through a site like Expedia, Orbitz, or Hotels.com, you’ll need to contact them directly if there are any issues with your transaction.

white airport bus close up

Can your airport shuttle take us downtown?

Many hotels are happy to provide complimentary travel to and from an airport. However, these shuttles are designated for just that—travel to and from the airport. If a guest would like to be taken elsewhere, they should order a taxi, Uber, or Lyft and skip the pointless request of asking the airport shuttle to veer elsewhere just for them.

Cropped image of a young hotel maid bringing clean towels and other supplies
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Why can’t I take stuff off the housekeeping cart?

Sure, there are some items you can “steal” from hotel rooms. However, housekeepers are often on tight schedules and may need those extra towels or mini shampoos for the next room. If you need items, ask if it’s OK first or call the front desk or housekeeping directly to make your request. And keep in mind that during COVID-era times, touching items on a sanitized housekeeping cart is never appropriate.

Portrait of young German Shepard mix dog with bone in hotel room
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Do you mind if my pet stays in my room?

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, sanitary, and allergen-free.

Unrecognizable female hotel receptionist working on computer
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Why is my rate different from my friend’s if we have the same rooms?

Have you ever noticed how airline prices are constantly changing throughout the year? Well, hotel rates are no different. The price you pay will depend on when you booked and who you booked through, and no rate is guaranteed, says Caela G. Some hotel chains have rewards or assurance programs like Marriott’s Look No Further Best Rate Guarantee, which, as the name suggests, secures the best rate for members. Instead of asking this annoying question, check out these tips for saving a ton of money on hotel rooms.

Traveler use map on mobile phone app to search for route location of place with gps on street when travel in city,Technology in lifestyle

How close are we to that popular tourist spot?

Well, that depends on what your definition of “close” is. Not to mention, chances are you chose that hotel because it was close to said tourist spot so you already know it’s either a few steps away or at least a short public transportation trip or Uber ride away. While most hotel staff know that helping tourists is part of the job, they wouldn’t mind guests doing their own research so they’re not so dependent on hotel concierge guidance, says Sophia B.

Laptop computer on bed in empty hotel room.
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Why do we have to pay for Wi-Fi?

Providing Internet to hundreds of guests daily isn’t cheap. The hotel paid to install the Internet and needs to continually pay for usage and upkeep. Costs for guests are either added on a user basis, meaning those who want to use it pay for it, or they’re folded into the overall rate. It’s worth noting that some hotels offer free Wi-Fi to their rewards members, so ask if that’s an option for lowering your bill. Speaking of hotel Wi-Fi, travelers should avoid sending sensitive information when using hotel Wi-Fi, or use encryption to shield their Internet activity when sending important information. Find out how a VPN can keep you safe.

Noelia Trujillo
I have seven years experience in both print and online communications and currently work as a Media and Promotions Officer at a regional not-for-profit in New South Wales, Australia, where I manage the public relations, social media, marketing, advertising, promotions and digital design. I am also a freelance writer, editor and translator (Spanish/English). My work has appeared on WomansDay.com, Redbook.com, TheHipPocket.com.au and GQ Australia.
Melissa Klurman
Melissa Klurman is an intrepid explorer and award-winning travel journalist with more than 25 years of experience. She covers topics ranging from family travel and Disney to honeymoons and romantic beaches and everything in between.