Hotel Etiquette You Need to Know When Traveling

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Hotel etiquette is just as important as hotel employees providing excellent customer service.

As a Hospitality major in my senior year of college, we were required to take a hotel rotation course. This required me to work at the front desk of a hotel during the semester. I actually enjoyed working at the front desk (my first time working in a hotel) and stayed for two years. I worked in the business district and the hotel I worked at was family-friendly, so we would get many business travelers as well as many family travelers.

My experience of working in retail and in hospitality has made me more compassionate for service industry workers. Take a moment to think, service industry range from blue collar to new collar jobs and employees usually are required to work evenings, weekends, and holidays.

I have compiled 10 hotel etiquette tips you should know before traveling – check it out!

Hotel Etiquette You Need to Know When Traveling

1. Book Direct

Large hotels like Marriott, Hyatt, and Hilton offer the lowest rates when you book direct. In the past, it was cheaper to book on third party websites like Expedia, Trivago, etc., however, hospitality companies realized that what was once a tactic to fill hotel rooms that didn’t sell, turned into the public forgoing booking directly with the hotel.

If you noticed in the last 4 years or so, companies like Hilton for example have encouraged travelers to book direct for the best deal. Also, hotels will often price match if there is a cheaper deal online. Note that it has to be the same room over the same dates.

Booking direct doesn’t just benefit hotels, it benefits you as a traveler. I don’t know how many times I encountered guests who booked through a third party like Booking.com or Expedia and there was a hiccup with their reservation.

If they needed to cancel their reservation, or had an issue and deserved a stay credit, since their reservation didn’t have their method of payment on file, we could not directly refund them or directly cancel their reservation, they had to go through the third party.

Another plus to booking is that you get their rewards points. If you book on a third party, some hotels won’t let you double dip by getting Expedia points and the hotel rewards points. Book direct-it makes things less complicated.

2. Know Check-In and Check-Out Times, But Be Flexible

Guest: “I thought check-in was at 4”. Me: “Yes, it is, however, housekeeping is still finishing up.” Guest: “But check-out is at 11.”

If I had a dime for every time someone said that at the front desk, I would be a millionaire. So yes, hotels have a designated check-in and check out time, but there is a certain factor that can affect that. It’s called the HUMAN factor.

If a hotel is fully occupied the night before, and a few sleepy eyes don’t check out at the check out time, housekeeping can be impacted because they can’t fully clean the room with guests still occupying the rooms.

Understand that housekeepers aren’t robots, cleaning rooms is a process. Also some housekeepers can’t clean rooms because a guest is still present. A hotel will NOT force someone out of their room if they stay a little over the check-out time.

I think sometimes guests would forget that people (oftentimes including themselves) like a little extra time to gather up their things and have a later check-out.

On the flip side, some guests want a later check-out, but the hotel may not be able to guarantee a late check-out.

For example, we have a system that allows guests to pre-select their rooms. Well if they happen to select a room that is currently occupied, we have to honor that as best we can and the goal is to check them in at the check-in time. The Housekeeping needs enough turn around time to accomplish their room flips.

Lastly, if you show up to the hotel at 8 am after an early flight, we sympathize with you that you are tired and want to freshen up. However, if check-out is at 11 am, chances are most rooms are either still occupied, or Housekeeping is beginning their rounds.

Sometimes there are vacant rooms ready before check-in, but the hotel can never guarantee that. I’d have people call the hotel asking if they can get an early check-in for their upcoming stay next week/month. I’d  have to tell them that I would not be able to guarantee early check-in.  (What I really wanted to say is do you think I can predict the future and predict when other guests are going to leave?!) Calling the day of arrival will give the Front Desk a better idea if early check-in is doable.

3. Use a Credit Card at Check-In

Hotels will put a hold on your method of payment to ensure there is enough funds for the entirety of your stay.

Hotels will generally place a hold of $50 or more for any incidental purchases like room service, valet parking, etc.

Most guests use credit cards, but there would be that occasional traveler who would use their debit card. 9/10 times they would come storming down to the front desk asking why we took so much out of their bank account.

Debit cards and credit cards are very different. A debit card will remove the funds immediately, then replenish later after the bill has been reconciled.

Credit cards are much better because charges will show up as pending, and won’t actually post until the guest departs. Use a credit card for hotel stays so that you still have money in the bank during your vacation.

4. Protect Your Security and Allow the Hotel to Protect it Too

When you check-in, if you forget your room number or if you need an extra key–have your I.D. on you.

Keeping your I.D. on you will help you avoid frustration if the front desk happens to require identification for such tasks. Being prepared when traveling is key!

Think about it- would you want some rando to ask for a key to your room without being questioned? I didn’t think so.

Also, some hotels may have stricter security policies than other hotels. Some hotels may require employees not to say a guest’s room number out loud.

This is a security feature in case someone is listening and intends to follow you to your room. This protects the guest’s privacy.

5. Don’t Demand an Upgrade

We love loyal to the brand guests and that there are repeat travelers. Let me tell you what  we don’t love. When you pull the “I am a Gold/Diamond member” card and demand a suite upgrade when you reserved a non-view, two queen room.

Upgrades depend on availability. Availability is probably the most used word I use in hospitality.

Kindly ask for an upgrade and if there is availability, the front desk agent will be more inclined to honor your request.

6. Understand Housekeeping Isn’t 24/7

If you leave for the day, and still have your do not disturb sign on the door, your room won’t be cleaned.

If you come back at 8:45pm, it might take a while for someone to come clean your room.

7. Don’t Shoot the Messenger (aka The Front Desk Staff)

The front desk staff has one of the most difficult jobs in the hotel. The Front Desk is the face of the hotel and is usually the first o hear about guest issues.

The front desk staff is usually the first and last point of contact you will have during your stay.

If there is an issue with housekeeping, noise, the kitchen, parking, guess who hears the complaints first? The department of the issue? Nope, the front desk.

One issue I remember that came up all the time was speed/connectivity issues with wifi. What I wanted to tell guests was, “This isn’t your home where there are 2-6 users at a time!!” Hotel wifi tends to be slower because hundreds of guests are trying to use it at the same time.

The front desk is the liaison between departments and acts as a mediator on your behalf. Remain calm and respectful when telling the front desk about your problem. Understand there is only so much the front desk can control. Being respectful during travel is the utmost way to show hotel etiquette to the staff.

8. Tip The Staff

Tipping isn’t just for waiters/waitresses and bellmen. Some hotel staff are paid lower wages, and tipping is a huge way of showing gratitude and acknowledging excellent service. Tipping in the hospitality industry is also common etiquette.

I would always be beyond grateful when a guest left me a tip, a nice note, or even a little trinket/souvenir.

If you don’t have extra cash to tip, leave a 5-star Yelp review with the name of the employee and that is a nice gesture. Plus, it just felt so good that I made someone’s day!

9. Give the Hotel a Chance to Make it Right

Please, don’t be that guest that writes on Yelp “I will never stay there again.” My first thought is, did you even tell the front desk or management of your issues while you were still in house? Probably not.

Many guests won’t even give the hotel an opportunity to right a wrong.

Why tolerate a lousy stay, when you could easily pick up the phone or visit the front desk and talk to the staff and have them improve your stay?

It is much better to tell the staff of your issues while you are STILL at the hotel, rather than days or weeks after you checked-out. There’s not too much more that we can do for you after the fact.

10. Check and Double Check Personal Items Before You Leave

Before I leave a hotel, I always do a thorough inspection of the hotel room. This way I know I didn’t leave anything behind.

I remember being a little girl accompanying my parents on my dad’s business trips, and making sure all my toys were accounted for.

Calling the hotel later will have you on hold while housekeeping checks lost and found to find your missing item.  Plus even if they locate it, good luck figuring out how your going to get it back!  Most likely a hefty shipping fee.

If you enjoyed this post, or if you work in a hotel, comment below! Also check out more of my posts on travel here.

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