If you travel for work, you’ve been there. Countless nights in different hotel beds across multiple time zones followed each morning by crummy hotel room coffee as you drag a razor across your face and rush out to make your next client meeting. The life of a business traveler will have you spending your nights in hotel after hotel after hotel. Some nice (no doubt!). Others…well, not so much. But, it doesn’t have to be all bad. With a little planning you can maximize your hotel life while on the road. Here are 20 Hotel Hacks for the savvy business traveler designed to help you get the most out of your hotel life. Enjoy!
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Hotel Hacks for Picking a Hotel
- Stick with a single Hotel brand. Since your going to be traveling, you might as well get some points for it and some privileges. Your company policies may make this more difficult, but do your best to stick w/ a single Hotel brand. You can accumulate points status quicker this way. I stay at Hilton properties 99% of the time. Hilton offers all kinds of privileges like free breakfast, upgrades, access to the executive lounge, extra points, snacks, etc to their higher tier members. And if you achieve their highest status you can guarantee any travel difficulties you have will be sorted out quickly! This the most important Hotel Hack!
- Use a credit card that will allow you to maximize your points. Your company is likely reimbursing you for your travel expenses (if they are not…quit and find a better place). If you can, use your personal credit card and start racking up the points. It might be easier to use a completely separate card for this so you can track of your expenses. Use the points to get cash back, free vacations, and more. I prefer the Southwest Chase Card and the Delta Amex. I also use my cards for personal expenses (like the water bill) to maximize points. We took a week long trip to Hawaii (5 person family at the time) and the only thing I had to pay for was 2 rental car days, food, and entertainment. And we got upgraded to a SWEET suite!
- Always see what’s around the hotel before you book it. I stayed at a Hilton near some train tracks once. They issued earplugs to guests and it nearly cost me the chance to be a part of the birth of my 4th child. Do a quick once over on Google Maps to see what’s nearby. Make sure it’s safe.
- Stay close to the airport for those early morning flights home. Make the early morning, pre-coffee trek w/ a few extra minutes of sleep. It’s not uncommon for me to switch hotels for the last night of my trip just so I can ease my morning slog. That said, I generally try to avoid staying at hotels near an airport. They are often in not-so-great areas, and you have planes flying over head. But the last night, no prob.
- Price isn’t the only factor to consider when choosing a hotel. Cleanliness, proximity to your destination, reviews, age of the hotel, whether you want breakfast included or not, etc all factor in. While your company policy may force you into the “cheapest” hotel, chances are there is some actual wiggle room there as long as it’s within reason. Orbitz and Travelocity are usually pretty good about giving you reviews of these hotels which can be very helpful.
Hotel Hacks for Checking in / Out
- With status you likely get the ability to do a late check in (e.g. at 1am after you finally arrive from 3 hours of flight delays at Midway airport). If you don’t have status, you will need to call the hotel and inform them that you will be checking in late.
- Ask for the upgrade! Doesn’t always work, but every once in a while you can get an upgraded room, car or even a boarding position. This happens more when you have “status” with the company, but it also helps if your nice. Give it a try.
- Be nice to the staff! Sometimes you might get a free upgrade too. Or at the very least, when your hotel room’s shower doesn’t work, the desk clerk might work w/ you to get a new room instead of telling you that you are stuck w/ it. Be nice, show an interest, smile.
Hotel Hacks for Hotel Safety
- Always flip the door latch in your hotel room. I can’t tell you how many times this has paid off. From another traveler who was given a key to my room by the front desk, to the cleaning crew – you never know when someone will burst into your room. Also, it’s a good idea from a safety perspective.
- Glance at the alternate exit plan for the hotel. Just about every hotel has a sign on the inside of the door that shows the emergency exit route. Believe it or not, I’ve actually been rousted out of my room at 3 am because the hotel was on fire. You will be one step ahead and if you really need it (e.g. 9/11 scenario) it could save your life. Also…grab your backpack on the way out (but skip the suitcase).
- Keep your computer’s firewall on when using the Hotel Internet. No real explanation needed for this one. Networks are not safe. You should know that by now. Speaking of cyber security, you might be interested in my article Don’t get hacked on your business trip: 7 Cyber Security Travel Tips for the Business Traveler to Stay Secure.
- Put the do not disturb sign on the door when you leave the hotel room. I use this trick when I don’t want the staff in my room when I head down for breakfast or out for a beer. Obviously if you want them to clean the room, take the sign down. If I go out for a beer I am usually leaving my laptop in the room. No need to make it easier on the staff. The illusion that someone is room might be enough to deter them.
- Don’t leave valuables in your suitcase (and make it hard to get at). I don’t travel w/ too much valuable stuff anyway, but occasionally I have to leave my laptop in the hotel or something like that. But when I do, I employ a little trick I think works (although I have no idea). In addition to burying it beneath a stack of clothes and zipping it up and sticking the suitcase in the closet, I throw a pair of underwear on top of it. Gross right. I figure they aren’t touching it! #LevelUp
- Protip: Take your tooth brush with you during the day. Aside from being able to brush your teeth after the Philly cheese steak lunch, the maid can’t jack w/ it.
Bonus Tip: Bring some wet wipes and hand sanitizer! Germs abound while traveling and the hotel room is no exception. Wipe down that remote (or put it in a baggie) or any other surface you are concerned about.
Hotel Hacks – The Stay
- Have a good routine and stick to it. I personally always unpack immediately after I get to the Hotel Room. I hang my clothes. Iron the next day’s clothes (usually just a shirt, as my pants are always wrinkle free). I lay out the rest of my stuff (socks, etc). I also set my toiletries out and on especially early mornings I go so far as to lay the towel out on the floor next to the tub, physically move the shampoo into the shower, hang my towel next to the shower, and get the coffee pretty close to ready. I will even lay out my Allergy pill and partially open it. I am usually in a different time zone, and know I will be running on fumes in the morning. Those extra few seconds seem to add up and give me a little buffer if I am running slow.
- Buy wrinkle free clothes. I hate ironing. Seriously. I really hate it. I did a ton of it in the USMC and came to despise it. But w/ the life a business traveler its hard not to do it sometimes. However, I invest in wrinkle free clothing. I’ve personally found that wrinkle free dress shirts are hard to find (polos are no biggie) so I still have to iron them. But wrinkle free pants are a technological breakthrough! Roll em, pack em, hang em up in the closet and you will be iron free-ish. Protip: If you do have some minor wrinkles, shut the bathroom door, hang the pants or jacket on the back of the door and start the shower and steam up the room. The wrinkles will usually fade away. It’s not your water bill :-). Also, some Downy Wrinkle Releaser works great.
- Use the Hotel TV’s HDMI cable. Most modern hotels have HD cables/tvs. Hook your laptop up and watch Netflix in all of it’s glory rather than hunched over your iPhone. Or, if the TV supports it, “cast” it to the TV. If you don’t have an HDMI cable, get one.
- Set 2 alarms for the morning. I always set two alarms for the next morning. Usually 15 minutes apart. This is especially important if you are dealing w/ a big time zone swing (e.g. West Coast to East Coast). I usually don’t do the wakeup call, but it’s an option too.
- Set things out for the next day the night before. Set out your toiletries the night before and get a few minutes of extra sleep! And get the coffee maker ready to go for the AM. Every minute counts in a new time zone :-).
- Workout BEFORE dinner. This is one of those hotel hacks that’s been a real game changer for me. When I was really traveling hard, I let my health go. When I finally got it back under control, I started running. I had a rule. I would be happy to eat dinner “with the team,” but only after I worked out first. I 1000% guarantee that you will NOT go work out after the team dinner, a few drinks, and a heavy meal. Not gonna happen. And in the morning it’s tough – especially in a different time zone. So get it done immediately after you get back to the hotel, but before dinner. #GameChanger. Speaking of healthy travel, check out my article The 7 Habits of the Healthy Business Traveler: How to Stay Healthy While Traveling for Business.
Bonus Tip: Pack your clothes in a set then layer it in your suitcase for daily access. Some people like to fully unpack their suitcase and use that dresser they provide you. I only do that if I am staying greater than one week. Instead, I pack my clothes by day (or least the pants and shirts – I can tuck my socks, underwear and undershirts around things to get better storage). Then I can save a little time by leaving everything in the bag and pull it out as needed and in order.
Hotel Hacks for Checking out / Leaving
- Tip the Hotel shuttle drivers. For the most part, they work hard. Give them a buck or two per bag. My one rule though is you have to load my bag to get a tip. Some drivers (often female) won’t load bags. So no tip (although I did meet this great lady in Las Vegas who was a bag loading machine and pretty funny too). But if you grab my bag, I will tip you. $2.00 a bag seems fair, $5.00 if the bag is large or crazy heavy or a set of Golf Clubs. Better yet, skip the shuttles whenever you can (on airport rental car facility and parking anyone!)
- Skip the actual checkout process. No need to do that these days. You will get a receipt emailed to you and just leave your key in the room (or not, who cares, they are almost disposable anyway).
Bonus Tip: Pack the night before your flight/check out. I always pack the night before an early morning flight. Get a few extra minutes of sleep in the morning, and minimize any of my low-energy goofs (like leaving a $500.00 jacket in my hotel closet! UGH!).
Final Thoughts on Hotel Hacks
Yeah, I know that’s 21 Hotel Hacks…too bad! :-). I hope enjoyed this list of great tips and hotel hacks! I know if you start to employ these methods your travel experiences will start to improve. So, enjoy your next business trip w/ these great Hotel Hacks.
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