If you’ve ever stayed in a hotel before, you’ve probably wondered what items you can take home without any issue. Some people like to err on the side of caution while others like to push the limits. But considering that taking the wrong item could result in criminal charges you probably want to have a good idea of what’s off limits.
In this article, I’ll break down exactly what you can take from a hotel room and list out items that you want to keep in place to avoid getting charged or ending up in the clink.
I’ll also cover some items that fall in-between and provide you some tips on what to do with some of your items once you take them home.
Table of Contents
What can you take from a hotel room?
Most hotels allow you to take items like shampoos, lotions, and soaps for free along with certain disposable items such as ear buds. However, sometimes it’s not exactly clear what items are free for the taking and which will cost you. Keep reading below for an exhaustive list of hotel items you might be able to take.
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Common items you can take from a hotel room
We’ll start off with a list of common items that you can take from virtually any hotel room.
Shampoos, lotions, and soaps
The most well-known hotel items that you can take for free include: lotion, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and body wash. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a hotel that did not allow guests to take these, even if unused.
Sometimes these toiletries are not high quality so you may not be interested in taking them but other times you’ll find them to be quality brands (perhaps even nicer than what you have at home).
If you have a lot of extra toiletries that you accumulate over time then consider donating them. You can donate them to different establishments like your local homeless shelter, domestic violence shelter, food pantry, etc.
Note: A lot of hotels are now moving to the dispensary pumps for shampoo and soap so you may not have the option to take these at a lot of hotels.
There is no shame in taking the branded pens you might find on your desk or nightstand.
Indeed, in the past I’ve racked up some pretty impressive hotel pen collections, especially on our big ’round the world trips.
These pens usually include the name of the hotel and are essentially a marketing technique so I doubt any hotel would have issues with you taking these.
Notepads and sticky notes may also be fair game but just don’t take the leather binders or pads they get inserted into.
Tip: Make sure you test out the hotel pens first because sometimes they give you pens with little to no ink. You should be easily able to request a fresh writing pen from the front desk.
Tea and coffee packets
Hotels expect you to utilize the tea, coffee packets, and filters when making your morning beverages.
Unless a hotel is offering some sort of additional premium product, they should all be available to you free of charge.
Tip: If you are looking to snag some tea packets you might also head down to the lobby or to the breakfast area because a lot of times hotels will have a more expansive variety of tea packages down there.
Uncommon items you can take
Hotels also offer guests free items that many people probably don’t expect.
If you’re traveling with a dog at a dog-friendly property your hotel may offer you free doggy treats. You can look for these near the front desk. If you don’t see any you can always ask the hotel if they have any.
Front desk snacks
Some hotels offer snacks at the front desk and they may even have a welcome bar with snacks, drinks, etc. You might be able to enjoy a nice warm chocolate chip cookie or just enjoy a fresh mint free of charge. Just try not to get too greedy….
In the fitness center/gym you may find free earbuds which you can take with you. These are obviously not going to be very high-quality but at least you can still listen to your music.
The best practice is to turn your key cards into the front desk or at least leave them in a visible area in your hotel room when you check out. But if you are like me you constantly forget about your key cards in your wallet and end up taking them with you.
I’ve probably unintentionally taken dozens of key cards and key sleeves on accident over the past 10 years and I’ve never been charged so I think it is safe to say that if you accidentally take these at most hotels it’s a non-issue.
Just be aware that it is a (cheap) expense for the hotel to replace the cards and a lot of hotels even re-use the card holders/sleeves.
These key cards should not have any personal information encoded on them so you don’t need to worry about that, although times are rapidly changing and who knows what type of technological advances may affect how key cards function in the future.
Believe it or not you can actually take the hotel Bibles with you for free.
These are placed by the Gideons and are not technically property of the hotel. Not only that, but the Gideons are completely cool with you taking the Bible with you if you feel like you need it. Find out more about hotel Bibles here.
Items that may or may not be free…
Some items at a hotel may or may not be free for you to take. A limited number of properties will make this easy for you to know by supplying a menu to you but other times you will just have to inquire with the hotel or just take a guess.
A lot of properties will provide you with free water bottles in your hotel room. But sometimes these water bottles are not free and are actually very expensive. Other times you may have a combination of free water bottles and water bottles that will cost you.
Water bottles for purchase should always be clearly marked with a price tag but in some cases it’s not always 100% clear what is free and what is not.
If you are thirsty and in doubt you can call the front desk and ask if they can send you a couple of complimentary water bottles. A lot of mid to high-end hotels will do this, especially in warm climates.
When I’m speaking of toiletries I’m talking about toothbrush, razors, shaving cream, deodorant, feminine products, toothpaste, combs, q-tips, shower cap, sewing kit, cotton balls, etc. Some hotels will have these available in your room (under the sink) or at the front desk for you free of charge.
However, other properties will require you to purchase these but often for pretty cheap rates.
If you are staying in something like an all-inclusive resort, you may have to buy these from the gift shop and the prices can get crazy high so be prepared for that.
If you need basic medication items like ibuprofen, Tylenol or things like lip balm or contact solution, typically you have to pay for those. The same applies to some beauty items like lint rollers, nail clippers, steamer, etc.
Also, items like batteries typically have to be purchased.
If you have hotel elite status or you are staying in a premium room such as a hotel suite, it’s not uncommon to have some type of arrival gift waiting for you. This could be a box of chocolates, a bottle of champagne, or you might even get some type of cheese platter.
If something like this is waiting for you in your room or gets delivered to you shortly after check-in it’s probably something being offered to you for free. Your only obligation is to enjoy it.
If your mini fridge comes with items already in it, there’s a good chance that you’ll have to pay for these if you consume them.
Some of the mini-fridges have sensors to detect when a beverage is taken from them but other times someone from housekeeping will just perform an audit on your mini fridge when you check out.
On occasion, I’ve seen free water bottles already in the mini-fridge but the vast majority of time you have to purchase items taken from a stocked mini-fridge.
Some hotels will offer rollaway beds for free while others will charge you for the bed. Typically, this charge will be from $10 to $20. However, in some major cities like New York or San Francisco you could be charged as much as $30 or even up to $75! You can read more about hotel rollaway beds here.
Items you can borrow…
A lot of hotels will have items that you can request but only to be borrowed. If you need to borrow an item, you can expect to have to fill out some type of form so that the hotel can keep an accurate record of their items.
One of the most commonly requested items from the front desk is a phone charger. Hotels collect many phone chargers because guests constantly forget them in the room.
A generous hotel may allow you to just keep the phone charger but as a default you should expect it to be a borrowed item.
Also, some properties may have universal phone chargers you can use and those would always be expected to be returned.
Another common item that is requested is outlet adapters.
Hotels will often be able to provide you with one outlet adapter but getting multiple outlet adapters may be tricky. Again, expect to have to fill out a form to get these from certain locations because guests often take off with them.
Traveling with yoga mats can be annoying because they take up a lot of space in your luggage if you are trying to avoid checked luggage. So many hotels will allow you to borrow one or maybe two. The question is how clean will the yoga mat be?
It could be cleaner than the yoga mats in the gym but at the end of the day you’ll have to either trust the hotel or wipe down the mat yourself. The hotel may be able to offer you wipes or spray to clean the mat yourself.
If you are traveling with a baby you can rent a baby crib, high chair, and other baby items like “floaties” for free during your stay.
Your hotel might be able to supply you with select beauty items like a curling iron and flattening iron.
Miscellaneous items for common problems
If you encounter a common problem there is a chance that a hotel might be able to help you out.
For example, maybe your car is having issues and you need a flashlight and a jumper cable. Or maybe you need some scissors and some glue for some type of school project.
There’s a high probability your hotel will be able to lend you those items.
You might find a hotel that will allow you to take an umbrella with you but generally hotels just allow you to borrow umbrellas.
Items you CANNOT take
Perhaps the most commonly stolen item from the hotel is a hotel towel or washcloth.
A lot of people wonder whether or not a hotel can really tell if a towel is missing.
Some report that their hotels housekeeping crew check to see if any towels are missing from each room when they begin their cleanup.
I’m sure some properties do this but I’m skeptical that it’s a widespread practice. Housekeeping has a lot of rooms to clean and counting out the towels seems like a tedious task that would be overlooked.
In addition, a lot of guests request extra towels so housekeeping would also have to cross check their towel count with some sort of log of towel requests. Again, I’m sure some hotels may go that far to ensure towels are not taken but I doubt that it is a majority.
I’ve stayed at a lot of hotels and on at least one occasion we accidentally took a towel from the hotel. It was truly an accident and we did not realize it until we had gotten home and I never received a charge for the missing towel.
Still, I would NOT take towels from the hotel because it’s not something that is included in your room rate. It is essentially the same as shoplifting.
Lightbulbs are also one of the most commonly stolen items from hotels. People take them from lamps and other light fixtures in fans or ceilings.
Taking a lightbulb is one of the more deliberate acts of theft and likely won’t be excused by telling a hotel staff member “the lightbulb accidentally fell into your suitcase.”
Robes are pretty much always off-limits for keepers. On occasion when visiting a luxury property you might be gifted the robe but that will usually be made pretty clear.
Slippers can sometimes be disposable and in that case you can take them with you.
Pillows, sheets, and blankets should never be taken. Comforters and duvets are also items that should remain in your hotel room as well. Plus, there’s a chance these have not been washed in months so I doubt you would want to take off with them.
The bathroom is where most of the items you can take for free usually are located but one item that you cannot take is the hairdryer. Surprisingly, hair dryers are one of the most commonly stolen items from hotel rooms.
I’ve seen some reports of people taking the toilet paper from the hotel which is something that I highly doubt you would get charged for. However, I think only about 1% of hotels I’ve stayed at would have toilet paper worth taking so it’s not some thing I would take.
Anything related to entertainment is off-limits including your TV, remote control, cable box, Blu-ray player, etc. Despite this, around 9% of hotels have had TV remotes stolen.
If you’re given some type of tablet such as an iPad to order room service or arrange other services, that is something that you are expected to leave behind as well.
Hopefully it’s not a surprise that you can’t go home with the sofa from your hotel room.
But other items not permitted to take home would be things like artwork, picture frames, shower curtains, leather binders, lamps, alarm clocks, phones, noise machines, etc.
If you know the truth about hotel coffee makers you probably would not be wanting to take them home but in case you need a reminder you cannot take coffee makers home or the mugs/glasses that might accompany them. Also, be sure to leave the ice bucket and a tray in your room as well.
You might find other items in your closet like the hotel safe, iron, iron board, hangers, and potentially an additional robe or blanket. All of those items should remain in your hotel room.
Items you can purchase
A growing trend is for hotels to offer you the opportunity to purchase items from your hotel room.
For example, you might be able to purchase the robe if you fall in love with it. If this is the case, you should be able to find a menu with prices so don’t just assume a hotel will be cool with charging you for an item when it goes MIA.
In other situations, hotels like the W have stores where you can purchase items that will allow you to re-create your hotel stay. For example, we purchased the W scent spray so that our living room on occasion smells like a W hotel.
What happens if an item goes missing?
Assuming that a hotel notices that an item has gone missing there are basically three outcomes that could happen.
The hotel could choose to do nothing about it which could be the case if it is something small like a bathroom towel or even something of moderate value. (A surprising number of hotels may not follow up with guests if items go missing.)
The property could decide to charge your credit card that is on file. If they choose to go this route, you can expect the price charged to be well above what you would pay at a retail store.
Finally, a hotel could press charges against you for theft. This would likely only happen if there is a high-value item missing.
Be very careful when traveling abroad because taking something from a hotel room could end up ruining your life. Some foreign countries do not play around when it comes to taking items from hotels.
If you’re thinking about taking something from a hotel make sure that it is something that won’t get you in trouble with the hotel. Stick to taking items that are universally recognized as okay to take and seek clarification from the hotel for those items that fall in the gray areas.
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. Read my bio.