Booking a hotel? Before you book, do yourself a favour and read these cheeky hotel hacks from our Tourism and Hospitality writer and professional traveller, Kate Gibbs.
You’ve left your home comforts for the chance of a remarkable time away, whether you’re travelling for business, the destination or the chance at a break. Anything from two-star to five-star has its hidden secrets, and there are ways to make every hotel stay even better with some simple hotel hacks.
In a bluffer’s guide to pimping a hotel stay, here’s the lowdown on everything from secret phone charging to cheating your way through to an upgrade.
1. Use the breakfast room service
One of the best perks of a holiday, let alone staying at a hotel, is when you wake before dawn for a meeting or business call, or an early day trip to see a natural wonder of the world, and a hotel professional is at your door bearing a pot of coffee and whatever meal you ordered the night before.
Croissants and cereal, an ornate fruit salad, delivered to your room. It’s an exceptional service that all travellers should experience at least once a trip.
2. Turn up, tune in
Put your phone in a mug or glass in your room to dramatically improve the sound quality of your tunes in lieu of a decent set of speakers.
3. Build your Instagram following
There’s nothing like a decent Instagram following to nab a room upgrade. And who doesn’t love a suite with an ocean view? According to Fortune magazine, luxury resorts are courting “social media influences” with paid holidays.
A subtle note before you travel that you’re excited to be visiting the hotel, or even a quiet note to the manager before travel, can make all the difference. If nothing comes of it though, don’t be pushy.
4. Do a “Ross”
An old Friends episode has Ross taking everything portable during a hotel stay – from shampoo to pine cones – to much hilarity. Frowned upon in most hotels - but an excellent way to make the most of a breakfast buffet and save money on dining out – is to take an extra roll or two, some cheese, butter and jam, wrap it all up in a shower cap (in place of cling film) and call it a mid-morning snack.
Leave the light bulbs, unlike Ross, as well as the grand piano.
5. Make friends with a front desk
They are the first people to greet you and they can upgrade you with the click of a button, if they feel so inclined.
These guys also know their way around the city as well as the hotel, they’ll find that all-essential adaptor for you, and send up a welcome basket because you clearly had a frantic journey there. They’ll tell you about the best time to pop up to the rooftop bar too.
Be nice, make friends, and charm your way to a balcony with a view.
6. Go to the experts
Likewise, the pinnacle of service at a top five-star hotel is the concierge, a well-connected fixer whose services are at your disposal throughout your stay. He or she is often the key to squeezing the most out of your five-star hotel stay.
A good concierge will rise to any challenge, whether it's retrieving lost luggage from an airline or finding a tailor to copy a favourite shirt.
7. Look for red flags when booking
Hotels that show more images of the local area than the rooms themselves have either never got around to hiring a photographer, or there’s something shoddy going on with the place itself. Either way, book somewhere else. The focus should be on the rooms and amenities; there are only so many angles of the local beach a person needs to get the gist.
Look closely, fall in love with the hotel and not just the location.
8. Ask for a discount when booking
Hotels can pay a commission of up to 30 percent to online booking sites. So call the hotel itself, ask for 20 percent less than the online price, and everyone comes out ahead.
9. Listen to reviewers
The most humble but noisiest of reviewers, those former guests who make their voice heard on online review sites, make a point as a massive, opinionated average.
Take each opinion with a grain of salt, but if every review makes a similar point on a gripe or bonus, they’re probably spot on.
10. Take charge
Forgotten the plug adapter for your iPhone charger? You could ask to borrow one from reception.
Or be completely self-sufficient and use a USB port in the back of the TV to charge a device.
11. Ask for clean linen
You can request clean linens when you check in. True, the sheets are clean, but the same is not necessarily true for everything on the bed.
Generally, sheets are washed every day (or for every new guest), but blankets often only get washed once a week. And the bedspreads? If there’s no visible stain, it’s maybe once a month.
Ask for a thorough clean, and if you suspect it hasn’t been done, raise the issue.
12. BYO mini bar
Don’t touch the mini bar, because that’s extortion right there, but there’s nothing wrong with a DIY situation.
Empty the fridge if you need to make space. There’s nothing like turning to that miniature fridge, wrapping up in bed with your laptop, and opening a bottle of beer you can actually afford.
13. Ask about pillow options
Some top hotels now have pillow menus, but even without such luxuries you have options. If you're vulnerable to neck or back pain from using the wrong pillow, find out if pillows with different levels of firmness are available.
Some hotels stock firmer ones in guestroom closets, or have a secret stash at the front desk. If the hotel doesn't offer what you need, consider bringing yours from home.
14. Ask Jeeves
Another five-star option - does the hotel have a butler? You may be able to use his or her services as soon as you check in. You can request to have your bags unpacked while you enjoy a drink at the pool or explore the hotel.
It’s not a service that is widely advertised, but many five-star hotels that don't have butlers will find a member of staff to pack or unpack for you, if that’s your thing. It’s worth asking.
15. Complain (courteously), immediately
There are times when you arrive so late and so exhausted that you would sleep with cockroaches without either noticing or caring.
But otherwise, if something is wrong with your room, ask for another or a fix of the problem as soon as you discover it.
Want to be a professional traveller, just like Kate? Explore a career in Tourism and Hospitality here.
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