What you should do the first 5 minutes in a hotel room

So you just got to your hotel. You have had a long day of travel and all you want to do is crash on the bed.  Or you booked an early flight so you can explore a new city before the sun goes down.  

Either way, most of us don’t want to spend the first few minutes of our vacation time checking out our accommodations.  But it’s a really important part of the whole experience.  Lodging is typically a major portion of travel costs and even if you chose to stay with a budget brand you should still expect a clean, safe room for your family. 

Giving your room a once over should take 3 minutes or less and could save you lots of frustration in the long run.  And you don’t even need a black light!

In my hundreds of nights in hotel rooms, I have had rooms that were well below my standards forcing us to change rooms because of a cleaning issue.  Other times we have needed to change rooms due to non functioning room amenities like the air conditioner.  Sometimes we just need toilet paper.  From these experiences I have developed a first few minutes in a hotel, home rental, or airbnb space that makes settling in quicker and easier.  It is always a pain to change rooms after you have started to unpack and settle in so getting this step out of the way early can give you peace of mind.   Most of the time the room is great and we just get our vacation party started.  

Why do I do this? Because, hotels are big operations requiring many moving parts.  Some things just slip through the cracks.  New staff, shortages on the supply trolley, and mismanaged reservations can all lead to a less than stellar first impression on your lodging.  Your hotel should want to make it right and alerting them to any issues can save you precious time in the long run.  

Are there brands I trust enough to not do a check? Not really.  I book lodging with the expectation my needs will be met every time whether it is the Ritz Carlton or a Hampton Inn. But all hotels have the same weak point. They are run by humans and we all make mistakes.  I am only helping them to meet their own standards and I rarely find major issues that they need to address.  Just as you should check to see a server got your order right at dinner, you should check to be sure your hotel can meet your needs in a timely enough manner the hotel staff can assist you. 

Here is the quick step by step plan I use every time we check in to a new room.

#1 we pull our bags in the main part of the room and I do a quick check of the bathroom.  

Check the number of towels, make sure there is enough toilet paper, check if there are tissues, and the soaps you were expecting.  Look to be certain the toilet and tub are cleaned to your satisfaction.  Usually one of the kids is ready and waiting to use the facilities so this is a crucial first step to getting everybody taken care of.  

#2 Check under and around the bed

Everyone’s socks like to run away.  But if I find a prior guests items anywhere is the room, this is usually my first sinking suspicion a room hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned.  Luckily most hotels now use solid base beds so a quick check around the bed is all that is needed.  If it is an old school bed frame, go ahead and look underneath.  If anything is under there, your kids will find it eventually.  Better you than them.    

#3 Pull down the bed covers and check the linens were changed properly. 

The sheets should be crisp and clean.  You can tell when fresh linens are used on a bed.  And while most hotels do not change linens during your hotel stay, they ALL should change them between guests.

#4 Check for bed bugs

Luckily I have never found bed bugs but I always check.  Lift up the sheets and check around the seams of the mattress. Better safe than sorry.   

#5 look under the other furniture and move the curtains back to make sure there isn’t anything hanging out under there.  

Again, I am looking for sock buddies or trash.  Checking the floor has been vacuumed properly and overall cleanliness.  My kids will likely have ditched their shoes within 30 seconds of entering the room, so I want to make sure there isn’t anything hanging around that can pose an issue.  

#5 Open every drawer, cabinet, the mini bar, look behind the tv, and look on each shelf.

What am I looking for exactly? Anything that shouldn’t be there.  You should expect to find nothing out of place. But it is better to find those things now than later. 

#6 check the coffee maker and glasswares

I don’t typically use the in room coffee makers or glassware but I like to put all those things away so my children do not mess with them either.  It’s too easy to stroll to the lobby and get a fresh cup of herbal tea or hot chocolate. I still check it for cleanliness and that the hotel attendant has restocked it properly. I like seeing attention to detail in all aspects of a room.    

#7 look out the window just to see what you can see

I go ahead and set my curtains up for the next morning.  I prefer to leave the curtains open for lots of great natural light.

#8 adjust the thermostat to your liking

You will want to make sure the air conditioner/heater works before the middle of the night.  

#9 make sure the phone works

This is for safety.  You need to be able to stay in contact with the front desk quickly and easily. Not all hotel phone numbers listed on internet searches go to the front desk, Many now go to a central booking center. The phone should work and have a clearly listed number for the hotel or a direct dial option. They should replace a non working phone.  Quick tip: Usually the hotel address is listed on the phone, this is handy if you are ordering delivery. 

 One out of every five stays I usually need to call the front desk to amend a room’s items.  We travel as a family of four and usually need lots of towels and toilet paper.  I also typically call to ask for non feather pillows since I am allergic to down if I have not brought my own pillow.  Of course these are usually family specific requests I request above and beyond what they would normally stock in a standard room.  

Most of the time the room is great and I need to do nothing at all.  In the case things just don’t feel right, I go with my gut. If a room has not been cleaned or restocked well enough, I speak up and get it handled.  Call the front desk with your concerns if you have any.  A good hotel will always address the issues and see they are tended to in a timely manner. 

A Wife, Mother, horseback riding, RV-ing, travel enthusiast always looking for the next adventure. As the Matriarch of a homeschooling family of four we keep our suitcases packed and our atlas handy. Join us on our adventures.