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Travel Survival Guide to Staying in Hotels

Travel Guide to Staying in Hotels

I don’t know about you, but sometimes, staying at hotels can give me a bit of anxiety. I appreciate the pampering and the independence of having my own room. Yet, there’s the burden of always wondering how secure my room is or what the etiquette is around my stay and the hotel staff.

I’ve been getting questions from some of you about hotel stays and a couple of months ago, I got this comment from Fiona R. She left a lot of questions that were all hotel related. At first I was very overwhelmed and then I realized it was actually a blessing because it outlined an entire blog post and video travel guide to staying in hotels. Thanks to Fiona R, here’s some hotel tips for your next stay!

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travel guide to staying in hotels


Travel Survival Guide to Staying in Hotels

1.  What are some tips for choosing your hotel?

•  Location, location, location.. stay in the city.

Like many travelers, I like to navigate the city quickly and easily. I don’t want to stay somewhere far outside of the city, where I have to take taxis to get into the city. Aside from convenience, I often stay out late filming and staying away from public transportation means costly dollars spent.  Instead, I like to be located in the city. I like to walk out on the street and the town is right there.

• Research hotel reviews.

I always check hotel reviews if I’m interested in booking a hotel. Most of my Asia travel, I book with Agoda and they’re great.  Most accommodation booking websites have a place for reviews and there’s also Tripadvisor.

• Convenience to public transportation and sightseeing landmarks.  

Having a metro station or bus stop located five minutes away is ideal to me. When I arrive after a long flight or bus ride, I just want to go straight to my hotel.  If I have to take too many side and street alleys to get to my hotel, then guess what– I’m probably gonna get lost. The last thing I want is to be walking around the city for an hour, dragging my luggage around.

2. What is your security tip for entering and leaving a hotel? Do you use a doorstop so that no one else can enter?

Obviously, I would not book a hotel I don’t feel safe in. But let’s say I book  a hotel whose security is questionable. If my room has a chain lock on the door,  I’ll use that when I’m hanging out in my room or sleeping.  I will take a doorstop with me, if I think I’ll be staying at guesthouses or BnB’s where my room is a part of a house. For most of the hotels that I’ve stayed at, I’ve not really needed a doorstop.

3. Do you leave your stuff in your room? Do you unpack your clothes, keep it away or toothbrush or other item so that it wouldn’t get stolen? Once the cleaners get an idea that you’re staying alone will they steal from you? Should I fake that someone else is staying with me by having an extra pair of shoes maybe men’s shoes. What if my suitcase gets stolen with all my clothes, what should I do?

• Getting your things stolen by the maid is probably the exception than the rule.

Having worked in the hospitality industry for a brief stint, I know that workers are very dedicated to the work that they do and they try their best to create a good experience for people. Nobody wants to lose their job. Nobody wants to be accused of stealing.

• Don’t leave your valuables out as temptation.

I do leave my stuff in my room. But I will pack all my stuff away. I will not leave any valuables out. Leaving money,  valuables like your computer or camera equipment out; those are things I would probably pack up  in my bag or at least, cover and hide a little.

• Take your valuables with you.

If I’m staying at guesthouses or hostels, where I feel like the doors feel a little  flimsy and easy to open or the hostel locker doesn’t feel stable… I will take all my valuables with me (that includes my laptop!). I will pack it in my daypack and take that around with me sightseeing.

 • Put the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on your room door knob.

When I used to work in television as camera crew, I was staying in that room from days to a month. But I had a lot of expensive equipment in my room.  I didn’t want my room cleaned, because I didn’t want to have to pack everything up every day, before I left for my shoot. Instead, I put out the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign. I didn’t want anyone to tamper with anything, clean or organize. I just wanted my room untouched.

4. Are hotel room safes safe?

• I think hotel room safes are safe, but I’ve never used them.

It’s personal preference. I don’t like using hotel safes, because I like to keep my things organized and in very visible sight. I don’t like to put things in spaces where it can be concealed where I can forget them, like drawers!  The only thing I might do is hang up my coats and my nicer clothes in the closet. This is the only thing I actually use.  As I said, it’s personal preference.

I’m the type of traveler that can occasionally rush and do things at the last minute. If I’m running late for my plane, but I forget that I’ve left stuff like my passport, in the safe… a passport is a pretty valuable thing. It means I’m definitely making a trip to go back.

• Always do a once over of your room before checking out.

If you use the hotel safe, then this is especially for you.  I always go through all the closets, drawers and look under and on my bed to make sure I don’t leave any personal items behind.

• Alternatives:

As I said, I’ll put the “Do not disturb” sign on my door, so my room won’t get cleaned. It’s for a variety of reasons:

1)  Responsible tourism

I like to be eco friendly about things and I don’t like waste. I don’t need clean towels and sheets every day. I don’t even have that at home!  I don’t need new toiletries;  I’m fine with using what I got. I feel like it’s a waste of time for cleaners come to my room.

2) Budget

I don’t want to feel like I have to tip the maid every day.

3) I don’t like my belongings touched or organized.  

I like to sprawl all my battery chargers out. I don’t like people to come in and move them or arrange them .


5. What’s a good time to be off the streets?

That’s a hard question.  Personally, I don’t come back to my hotel until it’s midnight, because I’m running around, filming things. I want to make the most of my trip and my belief is that I can rest when I return back to the U.S.  I practice travel street smarts often. I don’t take anything for granted and I pay attention to my surroundings, especially if they’re foreign.

Read Top 8 Travel Safety Tips for Travelers

But if you feel like you know the place is sketchy or you don’t feel confident traveling at night,  a good time to be off the streets is 7pm-9pm. If you’re comfortable then maybe 10pm.  There are other travelers, who will suggest not going out at night.

But there’s so much stuff that goes on at night. To completely remove evening activities from your itinerary is removing a part of the culture and lifestyle of that city. When I was in India, I was in Darjeeling. At night it gets dark. Very dark. But the streets are lit up and people roam around as if there’s a street festival. Shops are open and tourists are buying souvenirs. Families are going out for dinner or they’re just walking around strolling. It’s really up to your comfort level.

6. Tipping Etiquette in Hotels

I think it’s up to personal preference budget and cultural etiquette.  It’s up to you how you want to set the tone of your trip.

I’m an American and in the U.S., tips are an expected thing. Americans believe in tipping… in hotels, cafes, restaurants, deliveries, apartment doormen, a lot of places! It’s an etiquette that turned grossly into an expectation and social pressure.

There are countries in which tipping can be considered offensive, is not expected or a part of the working lifestyle.  If I’m going to someplace like Las Vegas, I might leave a tip of a dollar a day to the hotel maid. However, you’ll see Asians coming in and staying in a hotel, they don’t tip. They’re not a tipping culture.  As a Westerner staying at Asian hotels, it’s really up to you.

What if you don’t have the budget to tip every single day but you feel pressured.

When I’m on a budget, I’m feeling very frugal. It’s also part of my philosophy to be more eco-friendly when I stay at hotels, because there’s a lot of waste. I don’t need fresh towels, my bed to be fluffed or new toiletries and soap everyday. So I put out the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on my door and I don’t let the cleaner clean my room. Voila!  A safe room, no excessive waste and I don’t have to tip every day.

If you were writing a travel guide to staying at hotels, what would some of your tips be?



  1. James says:

    I have been a very bad experience of Hotels, You have mentioned some useful points here that can help to overcome from such an aweful situations.

  2. Mimazine says:

    Great advice… I’ve ended up in some shocking hotels and it can really ruin your travels! So true about being travel street smart! xx

  3. where tips are expected, they are a part of your cleaner’s salary. I put the door not distrub sign out AND tip too.

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