15 Things You Must Do Every Time You Walk Into a Hotel

Make every hotel visit unforgettable by mastering these crucial check-in rituals.

Couple checking in to a hotel
Updated May 28, 2024
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Walking into a hotel after a long flight or drive should be a relief. You might even feel great excitement if you're kicking off a much-anticipated vacation.

However, before you kick off your shoes and settle in, there are important steps you should take to ensure safety, comfort, and peace of mind.

Whether staying at a budget motel or splurging on luxury accommodations, these essential steps will help you avoid wasting money on a subpar hotel experience and ensure you have the best vacation possible.

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Check-in right

Rawpixel.com/Adobe Couple checking in to a hotel

Your hotel experience starts at the check-in counter. Be polite to the staff, as they can play a significant role in ensuring a pleasant experience (and offer any potential travel upgrades). Tip as needed.

You should also confirm your reservation details, including the length of your stay and room details, to avoid misunderstandings later.

See if you can get a free upgrade

Halfpoint/Adobe Man checking in to a hotel

It never hurts to politely ask about the possibility of a free room upgrade. For example, if the hotel has availability and you're celebrating a special occasion, the staff might be willing to accommodate your request. The worst they can do is say no.

On top of getting a swankier room, you may end up on a better floor for safety or evacuation purposes.

Inspect your bed linens

Syda Productions/Adobe Woman satisfied with hotel services

Once you're inside the hotel room, carefully check the bed linens. Look for stains, hair, or any signs of inadequate cleaning. If you notice anything dirty or unappealing, request fresh linens or a different room.

Most importantly, check for evidence of bed bugs. These nasty parasites cause irritating bites and can hitch a ride with you and infest your entire home. If they do, getting rid of them can be a major chore.

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Check for cleanliness

Monkey Business/Adobe Family arriving at hotel room

Once you have ensured your bed is bug-free, it's time for a general cleanliness check. Inspect the floors, carpets, countertops, and furniture for dirt, schmutz, or stains.

Don't hesitate to call housekeeping if you find any issues that need attention. Your checklist should include bathrobes, an ice bucket, and towels. Only open your luggage when you're sure the surroundings are sanitary.

Check for damage

Rawpixel.com/Adobe People checking out hotel room

You don't want to be on the hook for the bad behavior of the last guest who stayed in your room, so make sure everything is intact when you walk in.

Inspect the room for any signs of damage, such as chipped furniture, broken fixtures, or malfunctioning appliances. Report any concerns to the front desk immediately to avoid any potential blame for damage you didn't cause.

Make sure the locks work

Mirror-images/Adobe A hotel lock

Safety should be a top priority regardless of how fancy your hotel is. This begins with ensuring the locks on your doors and windows are functional.

Try testing from inside and outside of your doors and windows where applicable. Call the front desk and request a different room if the locks don’t work or appear to be compromised.

Check the thermostat

zhu difeng/Adobe A smart hotel room

The temperature in your room impacts your comfort, just as it does at home. So, check to see if you can adjust the thermostat. Also, ensure it's working properly. If you find any issues, alert the front desk.

In some cases, the thermostat may not be in an obvious place. Or, hotel staff might control it. In the latter case, let them know your preferences when you check in.

Look for hidden cameras

suwanphoto/Adobe Check for cameras

Finding a hidden camera is extremely unlikely, but it's better to be safe than sorry. Inspect your room for any unusual or hidden objects that could potentially be cameras.

Check smoke detectors and any other devices that seem out of place. Also, look for unusual red lights.

This is especially important if you are a woman traveling alone or with vulnerable family members.

Test the faucets in the bathroom

Dmitry Vereshchagin/Adobe A hotel bathroom

A functioning bathroom is essential for a decent hotel stay. Once you get into your room, test the faucets for hot and cold water, and make sure the water pressure is sufficient.

Check that the water is clean and heated to a warm temperature within a reasonable period. If you find problems, let the hotel staff know.

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Test the hotel phone

Vladimir Koletic/Adobe A hotel phone

Do you really need a hotel phone in the age of the iPhone? Yes, because it's a direct line to the front desk, and it makes it easier to get help.

Ensure the hotel phone is working so you can contact the front desk or emergency services if needed. This is especially important if you're traveling internationally or in a place where cell phone service isn't great.

Familiarize yourself with your surroundings

bunditinay/Adobe Woman checking out hotel room

Once you've ensured your space is clean and safe, familiarize yourself with your room and amenities. Explore the layout. Know where the light switches are and how to get to the bathroom at night.

Also, locate where nearby vending machines and ice machines are should you need them. Doing so will make those late-night snack runs easier.

Study the evacuation plan

Stephen/Adobe A hotel corridor

Hotels typically provide an evacuation plan on the back of the room door. Read it so you know where the nearest emergency exits are and how to get to them. You can even do a quick walk-through so you know the route.

Make sure you know where fire extinguishers are if you have them in your room. Being prepared can make a significant difference in an emergency.

Sterilize items in the room

rilueda/Adobe Man watching TV in hotel room

It's a good idea to carry disinfectant wipes or spray with you when you travel. Before settling in, give commonly touched surfaces such as remotes, light switches, and doorknobs a wipedown to kill germs.

While this may seem like overkill to some, you may be surprised at how dirty these surfaces can become. Remotes are often among the germiest things in a room.

Set the safe code

Galina Zhigalova/Adobe a hotel safe

If your room comes with a safe and you have items such as cash and passports to protect, it's vital to keep them under lock and key. This is especially important for international travelers.

Set your unique code and ensure that the safe works properly. This added layer of protection can protect you from trip-ruining and life-disrupting theft.

Make sure the Wi-Fi works

peopleimages.com/Adobe Family on hotel WiFi

The last thing to do before you get comfy for the night is to test the Wi-Fi connection in your room. You may need to get the password for it when you check in.

Again, this is particularly important if you’re traveling internationally, especially if your phone plan isn’t active. Consider downloading apps such as WhatsApp as an added method of communication.

Bottom line

Studio Romantic/Adobe Family booking travel online

Your hotel stay can set the tone for your entire trip, so it's crucial to start on the right foot. Do your homework before you grab one of your best travel credit cards and book a room. A little vigilance and preparation go a long way.

One smart strategy is to vet your hotel online beforehand by checking out sites like Tripadvisor, as customer reviews can tell a compelling story.

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Cat Lafuente

Cat Lafuente is a Florida-based writer and editor with extensive experience in digital and print content spaces. Her own personal finance journey — particularly consolidating debt and paying it off, in turn boosting her credit score and becoming a homeowner — inspired her to join the FinanceBuzz team; she hopes she can help others do the same.