Unexpected hiccups and frustrations are inevitable whenever you are doing a lot of traveling.
But there are some ways that you can reduce the friction of your experience when staying in hotels and increase the amount of “minor” victories.
Over the years, I’ve picked up on a few habits that have helped me to avoid frustrations and have a more relaxing stay and I want to share all of those with you below!
Get a co-branded hotel credit card
Getting a co-branded hotel credit card is going to help you in a few ways.
For one, you can earn more points by using that card to book your hotel stay. It’s really hard to beat the return in value when you use a co-branded card at its own hotel chain.
Secondly, they usually offer some level of elite status which can help you get things like free breakfast and late check out.
What’s more, you can often earn or receive elite credits that can help you climb up the elite status ladder much quicker.
And finally, you can take advantage of other perks like free nights or other little discounts that can add up in the long run and help you save money.
Tip: Use the free app WalletFlo to help you travel the world for free by finding the best travel credit cards and promotions!
Scrutinize your decisions based on saving “a few bucks”
Before you decide on your hotel or room type, scrutinize your decisions based on saving a few bucks.
It’s easy to go for the cheapest rate by default but being honest with yourself is really helpful here.
Are you really okay staying at that hotel with construction going on?
Is an ocean view really not a big deal to you?
Will you be comfortable in that tiny standard room or will you need more space in a suite?
Take a second to imagine yourself traveling in that setting and see if your selection still sounds as appealing. It’s easy to get blinded by savings.
It’s also okay to spend a little bit extra on things you really care about.
Accurately select the number of people in your room
Hotels want you to accurately select how many people are staying in your room for a few reasons.
Some of them will charge you extra if you have multiple guests but it’s also a safety thing.
It will help the hotel comply with the fire code and in the event of an emergency, a rescue worker would know how many occupants would be in a room.
But adding all of your guests to your reservation can also help you receive the full amount of elite benefits you are entitled to.
For example, sometimes you are issued a dining credit for up to two people and if you forgot to add the other person to the reservation, the hotel may only provide you with one credit.
They may or may not allow you to add the extra person later on and receive the elite benefits so it’s best to add them beforehand.
Carry around a band of $1 bills
When we are between trips, we make a point to visit the bank to get a band of $1 bills.
We then place that in a travel bag so that we don’t even have to think about getting bills when packing for a trip.
This is going to make your life much easier when it comes to tipping valet, concierge, housekeeping, and all of the other people at the hotel you might need to tip.
It feels really good to be “loaded” with one dollar bills so you don’t have to stress over tips.
As an aside, we always try to tip a minimum of two dollars to avoid “disrespectful” one dollar tips.
Go for early check in
Early check-in can pretty much never be guaranteed.
But that shouldn’t stop you from going for it.
If I had to guess, I have about an 80% success rate with getting early check-in before the stated check in time. Showing up around noon is often not a problem, even at hotels that are sold out.
Early check-in is great not only because you get more time in your room but you also get to check in before the lobby becomes a tourist zoo.
Check about meal reservations
As soon as you make your hotel booking, you should be thinking about dining reservations.
And don’t always assume that reservations won’t be needed at some restaurants.
Sometimes, especially during a busy season, you may need to make reservations at hotel restaurants that you would typically think would not require reservations.
Avoid the disappointment by reserving your table before you arrive.
Confirm your reservation for nonstandard bookings
For the most seamless hotel experience always book directly but if you booked through an online travel agency you should always confirm your reservation with the hotel.
You can do this over the phone or via email.
You’d be shocked to find out how many reservations are just lost somewhere in the interwebs and it’s usually those reservations booked through an online travel agency.
You also should confirm your hotel room if you have special needs such as if you are bringing a pet, need an accessible room, etc.
And if you have a special occasion such as an anniversary, honeymoon, or anything else you’re celebrating, it’s always a good idea to let the hotel know about that.
Not only can you get free stuff and special treatment but it’s going to also help prevent you from getting walked.
Ask for extra towels at check-in
Whenever we check in to a hotel, we make it a habit to request extra towels right on the spot.
I can’t tell you how many times I had to take a shower in the past without a fresh towel waiting for me when I get out and you never know how long it may take the hotel to provide you with another towel.
I’ve even had (reputable) hotels tell me that towels are temporary unavailable!
Bring a case of bottled water
If you’re an active traveler, chances are you’re going to constantly be on the brink of dehydration from all the running around.
This is especially true if you are hanging out in a place like Phoenix in the summer, going on hikes, or partaking in adult beverages.
While many hotels provide a few free water bottles, it’s often not enough to keep you properly hydrated.
We always try to buy a case of water bottles whenever we arrive at a location so that we don’t spend a crazy amount of money buying expensive water at the hotel and can stay properly hydrated.
Filtered re-usable water bottles can also come in handy but having lots of water bottles is usually more convenient since they can be used for other needs like tea.
Get a portable tea kettle
I don’t think I will ever use a coffee maker again after learning about how dirty those things can get.
Avoid the potential nastiness by bringing your own portable tea kettle to heat up your water. I use a collapsible one that is super easy to travel with and it’s always convenient to use.
Related to this, if you want more varieties of coffee or tea packets, be sure to check out the lobby as they usually have more varieties than what you’ll find in your room.
Bring a white noise machine
Some hotels are just way too quiet and it can be difficult to get some sleep in those environments.
You can get a quality white noise machine for cheap that can easily be transported to help with these situations.
Check your room amenities
Whenever you arrive in your room, survey your room for any oddities.
For example, does the mini fridge work? Are the dispensers with shampoo and soap already empty? Does the TV work?
These are things that may be super inconvenient to fix later on so it’s good to be proactive about discovering them early on.
Ask about upgrades and better rooms
Whenever you check into a hotel don’t be afraid to ask about potential upgrades or rooms with better views.
If you’re courteous and friendly, it’s not hard to get a little bump in room quality from the front desk agent.
Use USB data blockers
I’ve never felt comfortable plugging in my USB cables into those USB ports found in hotel alarm clocks or lamps.
And then I found out about juice jacking and really decided against doing that.
While the odds of something like juice jacking happening to you are probably very low, you can easily remove any fear of that happening by using something like a USB data blocker to charge your devices.
Related: Should You Use USB Ports In Hotel Rooms? (Stay Away!?)
Bring an eye mask
Eye masks are not for everybody and it takes a while to get used to sleeping with these.
But sometimes there is very little you can do in a hotel room to prevent light from casting a glow in your room.
In another situation, your travel partner may need to stay up to get some things done and that could interrupt your sleep.
Having an eye mask is a great solution to all of these situations.
By the way, I’m a big fan of the hanger on the curtains trick which helps to keep light out.
Get going early
I can’t express how beneficial it is to just get going early at hotels.
For breakfast, you’ll have the best seat in the house, fresh items to choose from, and you won’t have to worry about a line of 37 people judging you for your sometimes questionable food selections (or portions).
When it comes to resorts, you’ll find it 10 times easier to lock down a chair in one of the better spots around the pool or beach area.
Plus, there’s nothing better than catching the sunrise on vacation.
Bring your own blanket
Here’s something you probably don’t want to know: a lot of hotels do not clean the comforters between guests.
You can read some first hand accounts here but it’s one of the unfortunate (and grosser) realities of hotel travel.
For that reason, whenever I’m traveling on a road trip, I always bring my own blanket to minimize contact with duvet covers and comforters that may be a little bit too “broken in” for me.
Verify your key when using late check out
A lot of times whenever you get late check out, your key card will deactivate at the normal checkout time.
This can be really inconvenient if you are arriving back at the hotel after this time and you have a long walk to your room.
That’s because you’re probably going to have to backtrack to the front desk.
So anytime I receive late check out, I always make sure to head to the front desk before I depart to get my card updated with the late check out time.
Settle your bill issues in person
If you’re staying at a full service hotel where you may have a variety of charges like parking, valet, room service, and potentially credits applied to some of these charges, then I would recommend always settling your bill issues in person at checkout.
You’d be surprised how often hotels screwup on your charges.
And trying to work this out over the phone can lead to a lot of back-and-forth with several days in between each follow up which can be really frustrating and difficult to keep track of.
If you can remember to just take a few steps to prepare for your hotel visit, you can often ensure that the entire experience goes much smoother.
Hopefully, these tips that I’ve had success with over the years will also help you enjoy your hotel experience even better.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. Since 2014, his content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.