Travel Etiquette: Golden Rules of the Gracious Hotel Guest

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Prior to 2020, my husband and I went to Nashville and stayed in a very nice hotel, and I was shocked at other guests’ behaviors. Vacations are a time to dial down and relax, but this does not mean forgetting your manners while staying at a hotel! This is more important than ever, now we are all clamoring to get out and travel for business or pleasure. And while most folks know the standard protocol of keeping down the noise, treating the staff politely, and checking in and out on time, these gestures cover only the basics. To ensure everyone’s experience is positive, follow these golden rules to be a gracious guest during your next hotel stay.

Travel Etiquette for Hotel Guests

Get off the phone during check-in

You will annoy the hotel desk clerks if you’re on your phone while checking in. Not only is it rude but it slows production down; it’s hard to ask questions and get answers when a person is on the phone the entire time. You can survive away from your phone for two minutes while you check in.

Respect the hotel property

Many hotels create lovely spaces around the lobby and concierge areas where guests can gather and relax. Certainly enjoy these areas, but don’t abuse the privilege by spreading out your work or possessions. You’re not at home, so keep your feet off the furniture. Leave the area as tidy as you found it.

Make things easy for housekeeping

A good hotel guest makes it as easy as possible for the housekeepers to do their job. This means not leaving clothes all over the bed so that it’s difficult to make the bed, or strewing your belongings (including shoes) all over the floor so the room is hard to walk through. If you don’t require your room to be cleaned, remember to put up the Do Not Disturb sign. This is also a great theft deterrent, as you will appear to be in the room at all times.

Hang up towels you don’t need replaced

A hotel has enough clean towels to wrap yourself into a fluffy snowman every day. While this may be fun, it’s also wasteful. You create unnecessary work for the staff and indirectly waste the resources it takes to wash the towels. So if you don’t need new towels, hang them up so housekeeping knows you don’t need them replaced just yet. You’ll be helping hotel staff and the environment, plus your bathroom will feel a lot less cluttered.

Tip where appropriate

This varies from country to country, but unless you’re in a destination where tipping is uncommon, there are certain hotel staff members that you should tip. This includes the cleaning staff, the bellman, and the parking valet. It’s also customary to tip the concierge at the end of a hotel stay, as well as restaurant servers at each dining event. You can tip wait staff by leaving cash or adding gratuity to the credit card bill. Since housekeeping is typically overlooked, it may help to know an appropriate tip is about $5 a day, depending on the level of your accommodations.

Wear clothes outside your room

You may be quite comfortable moving through the bar or hotel lobby in your pajamas or robe, but most people riding with you on the elevator would feel better if you threw on jeans and a T-shirt. Clothing is just not optional when in the lobby or any other space outside your room (and sometimes when you’re in your room—see below!). The only place in the hotel where you can acceptably go shirtless, barefoot, or in other states of undress is the hotel pool.

Also wear clothes for room service

When you order room service, it’s the one time you should wear clothes inside your own room, to be respectful of the staff whose job it is to bring the food to you. The last thing they want to see are naked bodies, post-shower towels, or two people hiding under the covers. Keep the private moments private.

Provide feedback in a gracious and timely manner

Most staff will ask if there is anything they can do to improve your stay. Use that time to give them your honest feedback. Give the hotel a chance to fix the problem; don’t surprise them with a negative review after the fact. Most hotels will also email a quick survey to complete after your stay. If something wasn’t to your liking, say so in the survey so the hotel can fix things. You’ll be helping future guests in the long run.

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