What you must check for in every hotel room
Don’t commit to a stay until you’ve scoured the room for these conveniences and health risks.
Hotel room essentials
Don’t let your trip be ruined by a dodgy hotel room. Before you commit to a stay, be sure to check for these elements.
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 [travelling] 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 cancelling your reservation than risking your safety.
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. Mould 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 hair conditioner,” 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.
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 traveller tips them off – so it’s up to you to hunt them down. Bed bugs love cosy 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 travelling the world, no matter where you go, no matter what they tell you about the tap water, it’s important that 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. If you’re worried about the impact of plastic bottles on the environment, consider alternative methods of purifying water, such as boiling or using a purifying straw or filter jug.
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 travellers 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.
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.
Can you use a printer?
A business centre might be the last thing on your mind when you’re on holiday, but it’s a good idea to check for a place to print, says Avery. The last thing you want is to be rushing to check out, only to realise your phone won’t load your departure boarding pass. In foreign countries where you don’t have mobile phone data, you might also want to print out tickets for attractions.
Is the room carpeted?
Setting your bare feet on a soft carpet when you get out of bed might seem appealing, but Goldman prefers bare floors. Carpets are vacuumed but rarely shampooed, while hardwood and tile are cleaned well every day. “You can’t imagine the kinds of things that you find embedded in the carpet at a hotel – even great hotels,” Goldman says. “If you have the choice, go for bare floors.
Which surfaces need to be wiped?
Even thorough housekeepers won’t be disinfecting closet handles or remote controls between every single guest, which is why Goldman recommends stashing a small pack of wipes in your luggage. After you check in, wipe down the spots that hundreds of grubby fingers might have touched before you arrived. “It sounds extreme, but if you’re going away for ten days and you get sick, it really messes up your vacation time,” says Goldman.