The world of travel has changed significantly over the past few years, largely due to the pandemic.
In the realm of hospitality, the landscape of housekeeping has undergone a transformative shift, bringing with it a mix of blessings and curses for discerning guests like yourself.
If you’re a hotel guest who prefers not to utilize hotel housekeeping services, I will provide you with some guidance on how to approach this to ensure a seamless hotel experience.
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Can you decline hotel housekeeping service for your entire stay?
The first question you might want to know is whether or not you are allowed to completely decline hotel housekeeping.
Every hotel is going to have its own housekeeping policy, and it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the specific hotel you’re staying at.
But the general trend that you’ll find at properties here in the US is that you can turn down daily housekeeping without an issue.
You can do this by simply placing a “do not disturb” sign on your door or just by talking with the housekeeping staff and letting them know you would like to decline housekeeping services.
You can also arrange this at the front desk although there are often miscommunications that arise when not dealing directly with housekeeping. Using the do not disturb placard is usually your best bet.
Tips for going without housekeeping
If you choose to go without housekeeping, below are some helpful tips you might want to consider.
The maximum amount of time you can go without housekeeping
At many hotels, it should not be a problem to turn down housekeeping for a few days. What I mean by that is that you will not face any kind of resistance if you have a three-day stay and you do not allow housekeeping into your room during that period.
However, some properties may have a maximum amount of time that you can decline housekeeping. For example, they may specify that housekeeping “must enter your room after every seven days.” It’s worth noting that based on my personal experience, these maximum time frames may or may not be enforced.
If no personnel from the hotel is following up on this and it is up to you to schedule the housekeeping, then chances are the property will let it slide for quite a while. This can make life a lot easier for those on extended stays.
Receiving a benefit for turning down housekeeping?
If you decline housekeeping at some hotels, it’s possible that they may offer you some kind of benefit, such as a free drink at the bar, a dining credit, award points, discounted room rate, gift shop discount, or even an upgrade.
Usually, if this is offered it will be mentioned at check-in but on occasion you could bring it up to see if there is any perk that was not brought to your attention.
How to handle your trash and dirty towels
Even if you are a well-organized hotel guest, if housekeeping doesn’t come to your room to take out the trash or replace your dirty towels, things can get messy quickly, especially when dealing with the minuscule dimensions of those Lilliputian trash cans.
So, what can you do?
The best approach is to talk to the front desk and ensure that your plan is acceptable. In my experience, most front desks are okay with the steps I’ll outline below, but it’s always good to check with them as some hotels may have different policies.
For dirty towels, you can simply ball them up and place them outside your door, signaling to housekeeping that they are dirty and need to be taken. However, they may not automatically replace them, so you might need to call the front desk and make a request.
If you happen to catch housekeeping on your floor, you can also just approach them and ask or signal to them about taking your towels.
To manage towels more efficiently, you can do two things.
First, reuse your towels multiple times, as it’s more energy-conscious, and if you hang them up on the back of the door or somewhere else, they will usually dry quickly. If you’re worried about sanitation, HealthLine states that “[i]t’s sanitary to reuse a bath towel two or three times between washes.”
Second, you can request your towels in bulk. We usually ask for four towels at once, although I think we’ve requested even more than that on occasion.
Sometimes, you may receive peculiar looks when making a request that appears as if you’re creating your own mini Bath and Body Works store in your room, but if it results in fewer inquiries or trips to the reception, does it truly matter?
If a hotel is very slow to honor your request or tends to be forgetful, you can go down to the front desk and request for the towels at that moment, sometimes even following the front desk agent to the laundry room to pick them up on the spot.
You can follow a similar approach with your waste management — just put it out by your door.
When it comes to managing your trash, be sure to give it the “tight bag treatment” before placing your trash in the hallway. If you’re lucky enough to score some grocery bags, they make excellent makeshift trash bags. Or if you have access to hotel-provided trash bags, you can use those as well. To-go bags from restaurants can work as well.
Aside from room service trays, it’s important not to leave loose items in the hallway. That can unleash a medley of unpleasant smells that quickly tarnish the sweet ambiance of the hotel. It can also be an extremely unsightly appearance.
Even if you have bagged something up, if the food is very smelly it’s best to just throw that right into the bin somewhere.
Some hotels have larger trash cans on each floor, usually located next to the vending machine or ice machine.
Additionally, there is usually a trash can located right outside the front entrance or a side entrance. Typically, the hotel dumpster out back is off-limits but that doesn’t always stop people.
Remember, do not disturb does not always keep people out your room
If you were relying on the do not disturb sign to always keep people out of your room, be aware that that sign is not a full proof measure.
Hotels handle these signs differently but it’s possible that someone could come into your room based on different circumstances.
Don’t deny housekeeping if you can’t stay on top of things
As a hotel guest, be honest with yourself. If you are not going to be able to keep your room in order over the span of several days, let housekeeping in to straighten things up so that things don’t get out of hand.
It’s rather disrespectful to let your room descend into a state of utter disarray and then expect housekeeping to magically restore order in a timely manner. In some cases, you could get hit with a cleaning fee.
Simply put, opting out of housekeeping services is not the right choice for everyone.
Is it ethical to decline housekeeping?
There is an argument to be made that by turning down housekeeping you are making a bad situation worse for those who are largely immigrant, low-wage workers. Since the pandemic, their job opportunities have gone away in a lot of cases and NPR reports that “the number of people working in hotel housekeeping is down more than 20% compared to before the pandemic.”
By refusing housekeeping you could be contributing to the loss of jobs for a vulnerable segment of the population.
While it is easy to be sympathetic to this argument, it’s hard to force people to request a service that they don’t need or want. This is especially true if people have additional privacy, security, or health concerns or just don’t want people snooping around their room.
So while I do admire people who actively seek out housekeeping in order to help create steady demand for housekeeping jobs, I fully understand those who choose not to.
Related: Should You Tip Hotel Housekeeping?
In today’s world, you can often refuse housekeeping for the entire duration of your stay without an issue, specially if you are on a shorter stay.
The key thing is to make sure you are keeping your room in order especially when it comes to your towels and trash.
I would suggest verifying your management plan with the front desk just to make sure you are on the same page but if you follow some of the steps above, you should be able to keep your room in order without the help of housekeeping even for extended amounts of time.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC.