50 Hotel Hacks & Tips for Solo Travelers Staying in Hotels

Last Updated on May 7, 2024 by Christine Kaaloa

Tips for staying at hotels, hotel tips, hotel etiquette
Hotel survival guide: Hotel Hacks for Solo travelers

 

Although solo travelers appreciate the pampering and the privacy their own hotel room, it’s not uncommon to experience stress about hotel etiquette and finding an affordable hotel.  To take the stress and questions out of your hotel bookings, I’m sharing my survival guide of hotel hacks and tips for solo travelers.

Survival Guide for Staying in Hotels: Audience Questions Answered (video)

Here’s important tips for staying in hotels, so you can enjoy your future stay without the stress!

Travel Guide to Staying in Hotels

 

50 Hotel Hacks and Tips for Solo Travelers Staying in Hotels

1.  Book a hotel located in the city

For solo travelers, booking a hotel stay that is conveniently located near city attractions is ideal.  Prices may be higher for location convenience, but you’ll encounter less navigational stress, better nightlife and food options and busy, well-light street safety at night.

If the price looks too good to be true,  dig deeper. Check a map of where your hotel is located. Sometimes a badly located hotel causes added expense to your stay if the hotel you booked is located outside the city or far from your itinerary attractions. I once booked an wonderfully inexpensive and seemingly idyllic hostel stay in Memphis. It was a peaceful stay, but it turned out to be far from downtown Memphis, requiring a car to get into the city.

Pro-tip: To avoid high prices, I like to seek out hotels in areas of the city that are not as popular as the tourist hotspots, but still conveniently located to my itinerary attractions. As I use public transportation to get around, I want to be stay fairly central to the spots on my itinerary. I don’t like to be reliant upon too many things outside of my control.

2.  Research hotel reviews

Check hotel guest reviews. Happy ti angry customers will share their opinions and gives insight into the facilities in ways you cannot tell from a photo. Reviewers share inside perspectives that may be red flags.

Booking.com is my favorite hotel search engine as they do not charge a cancellation fee, and their hotel listings have many reviews and ratings.

ProTip: I also like to check the hotel website. While pictures don’t always present accurately, a good navigational design and booking experience will say volumes of a hotel.

Read: 46 ways to travel for cheap

3. Book a hotel  conveniently located near to public transportation

Skirting around town is easier if you can step outside your hotel and hop onto a public vehicle taking you to your where you want. As I use public transportation a lot,  I book my hotels in walking distance to transportation hubs, like bus stops, metro or shuttle stops. Not to mention, after a long flight, the last thing you want to experience in getting to your hotel is to be lost wandering the city, dragging luggage around.

Pro-tip: Hotels that are located nearby transit hubs, generally state as one of their features. When a hotel does not list the attractions and conveniences near it, double check how far your hotel is from a transit hub. You can always take an Uber but depending upon the destination, some can cost as much as a taxi.

4. If you are staying in a hotel you feel unsafe in,… leave

Obviously, I would not book a hotel I do not feel safe in. But let’s say you book a hotel whose security -upon arrival- is questionable or the hotel does not look the way it appeared on the website. Book your next night in another hotel. I have done that. On occasions, there are times I do not book any hotel and just show up, scout the location and room and then book it if I like it.

Pro tip: Always check the hotel reviews to see if anyone has had unsafe encounters in the hotel. If your room has a chain lock on the door,  use it and check out tip #5.

5. Pack a safety doorstop

I  take a safety doorstop with me for guesthouses. For most of the hotels that I’ve stayed at, using the chain lock has been enough. But if you are a female solo traveler, packing a safety door stop does not hurt. If you forget your doorstop at home, you can always stuff your hand towel under the door crack, to add challenge to opening it.

safety doorstop with alarm

safety doorstop with alarm for hotels

6. Do not leave your valuables lying around in your room

I do not leave any valuables out, when I leave the room, because I do not want to make theft easy or tempting. Money and valuables like a laptop or YouTube camera equipment are best packed in your bag before leaving your room. I hide my valuables in my bag and then seal it up and put items on it. If you are staying in a hostel, store them in your locker.

A thieving maid is more 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.  However, there are occasional bad apples..

7. Take 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 my valuables with me. Yes, that includes my laptop!  Some travelers like to leave their valuables in their hotel vault. I recommend that only if you can remember that you’ve hidden it there. Out of sight can occasionally mean, out of mind.

Read my essential tips for staying at a hostel

 8. DO use your  “Do not disturb” sign

When I used to worked as traveling camera crew, I stayed in hotel rooms from days to a month. As I was responsible for a lot of expensive equipment in my room, I didn’t want housekeeping to tamper, clean or organize my belongings. I also I didn’t want to pack everything up my belongings every day, before I left for a shoot. So I simply put out the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign.

9. If you don’t want to leave a housecleaning tip every single day…DO THIS

I put out the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on my door to keep housekeeping from entering and cleaning my hotel room. It’s partially my thriftiness of not wanting to leave tips every day.

The other reason I post my Do Not Disturb sign, is wanting to be an eco-friendly traveler and avoiding waste. I don’t need fresh towels, my bed to be fluffed or new toiletries every day.  That Do not disturb sign is the one fix for everything.  A safe room, no excessive waste and I don’t have to tip every day.

Read my ecofriendly tips for travelers

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

Before checking out, 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.

delhi hotels, hotels in delhi,
How much of your stuff should you leave out when you leave your room?

11. Avoid the hotel safe or leave a shoe in it.

Personally, I do not like using the hotel safe. I can be forgetful when I’m in a rush. I  don’t like to put my belongings in spaces where they can be concealed and I can forget them. And I don’t want to accidentally forget valuables.  I like to keep my stuff organized and in very visible sight -to me- so they are accounted for.

If you want to use the hotel safe, I’ll share a Samantha Brown tip of leaving a shoe in the safe. It will help you remember it, provided you don’t forget the shoe either.

12. Tipping Etiquette in U.S. Hotels

Tipping is a personal preference, based on budget, cultural etiquette and the existing beliefs of the country you are from.  In the U.S., tips are expected. Americans believe in tipping in hotels, cafes, restaurants, deliveries, apartment doormen, a lot of places!

Generally, being American, I tip on a sliding scale depending upon the country’s dollar value. I know that house cleaning work is effort and it’s not fun to clean after piggy travelers.  Sometimes, when maids see they’re being appreciated, they give a little extra effort or leave extra toiletries.  Some travelers tip daily, whenever they request their room cleaned, while others tip a lump sum at the end of their stay.

13. You’re traveling in a country that does not expect tips… do you still tip and if so, how much?

There are no tipping countries, like Japan where tipping can be considered offensive and Asian countries where tipping is not done. I’ve met both, Japanese who felt insulted and those who felt appreciative of tips.  With different attitudes of tipping, most travelers from countries that tip, will still feel habitually compelled to tip. How much do you tip?

In a hotel in Cambodia, I might tip what’s considered a dollar in their currency rather a dollar in mine. This is because you want to keep it relative to the country’s economy. In the end, it’s up to you as to how you enjoy the hospitality staff and how generous you feel.

Note: Overtipping has been known to change the perception that locals have of western travelers expectations for locals. Some locals see westerners as walking cash machines and it can change the dynamic of a place in both, positive and negative ways.

Read my tips on being an ethical traveler

14. Beware of gratuity tips, resort fees and taxes included in the bill.

Sometimes, you may book a hotel at one price and upon check-out, discover there’s been extra charges to your bill. Some hotels add anything from resort fees, gratuity tips and city taxes.

Not all hotels mention this up front when you are booking them.   If you are on a tight budget, ask your hotel if there are additional fees before you book.

IMG 2345 2520copy

15. Book hotel with free cancellation

Did you know you can Book refundable hotel reservations in advance and cancel them up to the last minute for free?

Booking.com has a  majority of their properties offer free cancellation. Meaning, you can book your  hotel days months to weeks  in advance. If you have to cancel or delay your trip (ahem…Covid) then you don’t lose your money, because you can cancel it without a fee. In truth, they charge a little more for the flexibility of a free cancellation service but you are given an opt out of the extra charge if you know for certain you want to book your hotel.

Once I booked three hotels for the weekend so I woulnd’t lose out on the best deals because I was still trying to snag a deal on my flight.  I ended up cancelling all but one.  This is not a hack I’m sharing so travelers can abuse the system, but so you can make your trip planning decisions with speed and ease.

Note: Be thoughtful of hotel operators and make your cancellations decisions ASAP so the hotel can book other customers in that spot.  For the hotels with free cancellation, Booking.com charges a little extra for the convenience and according to their policies, the hotel operators are compensated for last minute cancellations, although I would still be considerate of their need to do business.

Read my responsible tourism tips

16. Book hotels with free WiFi or use your eSIM

If you are a digital nomad who works while traveling, book a hotel with free WiFi.

Most hotels offer free wifi ,but some include it in a resort fee or as a separate charge.  If you do not want to pay extra for WiFi, use your mobile internet hotspot feature.

Pro tip: Buy a Airalo eSIM – it can be activated before or after you arrive- and turn your mobile phone hotspot to connect your laptop to your own wifi. Read more on how to get internet when you travel

17. Book hotels with free parking

Hotel parking can be expensive and some require valet to park. Make sure your hotel has free. The last thing you want is to be circling around the block looking for street parking.

18. Hotels with free breakfasts rock

Book a hotel with a hotel that offers free breakfast. Even if it’s just a continental breakfast, it will feel nice to have something in your stomach before setting out for sightseeing.

19. Book a hotel with a mini fridge

I love hotel rooms with a mini fridge, because I love going grocery shopping and bringing back yogurts, snacks and drinks!

20. Book a room with a kitchen if you have a long stay

I’m a huge fan of local grocery shopping and if i have a long stay or work trip, I’ll look to see if a hotel with a kitchen is a viable option for me.

Pro tip: Bring your own portable travel blender to make smoothies!

portable blender for travel
Portable blender for travel

21. Pack a power strip or multi-port plug

If you’re traveling with multiple devices, a 6 inch power strip or multi-port plug can be a lifesaver. Hotels notoriously have a lack of outlets, and a power strip can help you avoid having to choose between charging your phone or your laptop.

belkin 6 plug oulet
6″  plug oulet

multiplug adapter to charge many devices

22. Your hotel coffee maker makes a great cooker

You may not have a microwave in your room but you’ll likely have a coffee maker. When I used to take work trips, I’d pack packets of miso soup, Quaker instant oatmeal and my favourite dehydrated split pea and lentil soups!

quaker instant oatmeal for travel

23. Bring a 3-in-1 spork

A 3-in-1 spork is a utensil that combines a spoon, serrated edge for cutting and a fork. It’s a utensil to pack for your trip, especially if you plan to grocery shop locally and make some of your own meals and snacks in your hotel room.

3-in-1 spork for travel and camping
3-in-1 spork for travel and camping

24. Ask for a room that is not near an elevator, ice maker and emergency stairs

If you are a light sleeper, getting a hotel room next to busy or noisy traffic areas such as elevators, emergency stairs and ice makers will be annoying and keep you away. Simply ask the receptionist for a room away from these.

25. Use hotel points strategically

If you’re a frequent traveler, consider signing up for a hotel loyalty program. You can use your points to pay for future stays or upgrades.

26. Check out Booking.com loyalty program

Booking.com has a loyalty program that gives you savings and perks like room upgrades and free breakfast. All you need to do to qualify is book often through them!

27. Pack wipes to clean high contact areas

There are many high contact areas that house cleaning does not clean, such as television remote control, door handles, toilet handle, telephone. This means many people have handled it before you and who knows what they did before it and the germs they spread. Pack Lysol disinfecting wipes to get rid of the germs  Watch my hotel routine video below.

lysol disinfecting wipes

 

28. Chuck the decorative pillow and bed cover

The decorative pillows and bed throws are not regularly cleaned, but often reused. This means you may be sleeping with a lot of past guests. I often remove the bed throw cover and pillows and place them on the side of my room on the floor.

29. Pack a universal plug adapter

These days I’m surprised how many hotels have international plug outlets like Nepal and Pakistan. But not all hotels have gotten up to speed with that. You should still pack a universal plug adapter, but these days, they are sexier. Buy a universal plug adapters with USB C and B outlets.

30. Ask for early check-in time

Although the hotel website says that check in is at a specific time, but your flight arrives earlier, kindly ask if you can get an early check-in. Some hotels will try their best to accommodate travelers with early arrival flights at no extra charge.

31. Ask for a late check-out time

Similar to above I’ve had hotels allow me a later check-out time without a fee, simply because my bus/taxi/flight was an hour or so away from the hotel check-out time.  When it’s beyond your control, hotels tend to extend the courtesy if the room is not booked by another guest.

32. Ask to store your luggage in their luggage storage room

If you are not allowed to check-in to your room or you have a substantial amount of time before you leave and want to go sightseeing, ask the hotel to store your luggage. Keep in mind, they won’t be responsible for valuables, so take those with you.

33. Consider booking weekdays over weekends

Hotels are often cheaper on weekdays than weekends. If you have some flexibility in your travel dates, consider booking your stay from Sunday to Thursday.

34. Book a hotel with free airport pickup

Hotels with free airport pickups and drop-off services are perfect for solo travelers. Other hotels may charge for that service. As a female solo traveler, I love staying at hotels which offer the first. It minimizes my costs and stress of finding the hotel via public transportation or even taking an Uber to my hotel.

Pro tip: Many airport hotels offer this service, but I’ve also experienced this for city hotels. Sometimes, it can be because the hotel is hard to find, out of the way or they simply want to provide convenience to guests.

35.  Hotels near the airport can sometimes be inexpensive.

Sometimes, you can find great deals on airport hotels because they are more often used by travelers with long layovers.  If you have a long layover and want to rest and freshen up,  consider a hotel near the airport.  Read my post on airport sleeping pods

36. Request two room card keys

There is nothing more annoying than returning to your room after a long tired day of shopping only to find your room card has been de-magnetized. Request two room cards to save yourself from that extra trip downstairs.

37. Use your AAA discount

AAA’s roadside assistance isn’t the only awesome perk of your AAA travel membership but you can save anywhere from 5%-10% off your favorite hotels like Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Choice, Best Western and MGM resorts.

38. Download a white noise or sleep sounds app

For light sleepers or those who have difficulty sleeping in new places, download White Noise Lite or Sleep Sounds by Sleeping Pillow. From whales, to ocean waves, nature sounds and white noise you can drift away into sleep. Both have a free versions to test out.

Pro Tip: This is great for noisy hotel rooms !

39. Steam out wrinkles with your hotel shower

Another hotel hack is to hang wrinkled clothes in the bathroom when you take a shower and the steam from your bath will loosen the wrinkles.

Pro tip: Buy wrinkle free clothes or a wrinkle release travel size spray. Bounce 3-in-1 wrinkle release spray is not only a wrinkle release but odor eliminator and static release spray in a travel sized bottle.

wrinkle release travel spray
Bounce 3-in-1 wrinkle release spray (travel size)

40. Pack a blackout mask

Many hotels have blackout curtains but sometimes it’s still not enough. Or the air in your hotel room can feel a little dry from the air conditioning.  I pack my Manta sleep mask which makes my eyes feel cozy, relaxed and moisturized as it locks in moisture so I don’t have to worry about dry eyes

Protip: My Manta mask is one of my in-flight essentials too.

 

manta sleep mask for travel
manta sleep mask

41. Turn off the lights before you leave your room

Let’s all do our part to reduce energy waste. Turn off the lights before leaving for the day. You won’t need it.  Read my ecofriendly travel tips for more ways to be an eco-conscious traveler.

42. Have a hotel routine

Having a hotel routine gives you a formula for setting up your room for cleanliness and comfort. One thing I like to do immediately after filming it for YouTube (he he) is to set up my power strip charging station, wipe high contact surfaces down and hang up my clothes. Check out my hotel routine.

43. Bring flip flops

Please don’t walk barefoot on the rug. If the hotel offers room slippers, use them, but pack your flip flops or sandals as backup room slippers.  Although hotel room carpets get vaccuumed, they don’t get washed regularly. That’s thousands of feet and dirty shoes on the carpet.

 

44. Tidy your room before leaving

I know the house keepers have a job to do but it’s a dirty job. At the very least, place your dirty towels together in a pile on the floor and put all your bottles, perishables and trash in the trash can.

45.  If you are not planning to spend time at a hotel pool, do not book a hotel with resort fees.

A resort fee is an additional charge tacked onto your bill for the use of hotel amenities, such as pool, spa, cultural or fitness classes, wifi, etc.  Some hotels – mostly resort hotels or name brands- tack on resort fees  automatically. Traveling Hawaii, for instance, you’ll find a lot of hotels with resort fees.

If you do not plan to spend time in your hotel to enjoy these extra features, find a hotel without resort fees.

46. Ask for an upgraded room

It never hurts to ask for an upgraded room when you arrive. If you want an ocean view, simply state your request. For solo travelers, sometimes, you’ll be put in a room with twin beds.  Instead of sticking with the twin bed room, ask the reception desk if they can switch you to a room with a Queen sized bed. They may pleasantly surprise you and give you a King!

47. Book off-peak travel

If you have flexibility in your travel schedule, booking a hotel during off-peak season can open more room upgrades. Hotels are less likely to be fully booked which means they have more rooms at their disposal and upgrades come to those who ask!

48. Your hotel location can affect your nightly activities

A viewer once asked me – what’s a good time to be off the streets as a solo traveler? This can partially have to do with the hotel location of where you book.  The closer to are to busy tourist areas, the later you can stay out. If you are further away from hotspots, you might feel comfortable returning to your hotel early.

Likewise, if you book a hotel in a sketchy location, you may not feel confident traveling at night,  and so a good time to return to your hotel is 6 pm-7 pm or before night falls.  There are other travelers, who will suggest not going out at night. I personally don’t return to my hotel until it’s midnight because filming YouTube travel videos is my job, there are activities solo travelers can enjoy at night and a city looks romantic at night! When I traveling Darjeeling, the streets are aglow at night and families roam the streets as if it were a street festival. Shops are open and tourists are buying souvenirs.

As a solo traveler, if you want the freedom to move around as you wish, you need to be proactive and on your toes. Practice travel street smarts often. I dress down, don’t walk in dark alleys and have my guard on high alert. I pay attention to my surroundings, especially if they’re foreign.

Read Important Street Smart Tips for Solo Travelers

49.  Check out vacation packages for great hotel deals

If you’re planning a weekend getaway, check out trip booking aggregator websites like Expedia for flight and hotel combo savings. You can score some real deals! I booked a trip for my mom and I to visit Jeju Island and we scored a fabulous flight+ hotel package, flying with Korean Airlines and staying at a popular K-drama resort hotel.

50. Avoid single supplements when booking

There’s many ways to avoid a single supplement fee when booking a hotel. Although this is mostly for tours and cruises, I wanted to include a link to my single supplement tips (coming soon) to checkout.

 Watch my Hotel Routine

This is the standard hotel routine I go through when encountering a new hotel room. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a budget guesthouse or a luxury hotel. Read my solo female vlogger tips to see what goes into amking a video like this.

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

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tips for staying in hotels , travel survival guide hotels, staying at hotels, hotel etiquette
tips for staying in hotels
50 Hotel Hacks for travelers
50 Hotel Hacks for travelers

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