How to improve a stay in a bad hotel

I stay in a lot of hotels. I mean, A LOT of hotels (my husband and I joke that our apartment is just a place to keep our stuff. We don’t actually live there). And for the most part, my experiences are quite positive. But occasionally, I might stay in a room that looks — and smells — like a family of Sasquatch had stayed there before me. Or one that’s so noisy, I’ve considered grabbing the blankets off the bed and dragging them underneath the nearest freeway, in order to get some relative peace and quiet.

Fortunately, if you find yourself in a room you aren’t happy with, there are plenty of options to improve your stay that don’t involve spending the night underneath an overpass or plugging up your nostrils. Just keep calm, take a few deep breaths, and check out our eight essential tips for making your next hotel stay a pleasant one, no matter how bad the circumstances.

1.) Let the staff know that you aren’t happy — immediately. If you have a bellhop with you, don’t let him leave unless you’re satisfied with the room. If, after a quick glace, you find there’s a family of possums in the closet or raccoons have chewed through the electrical wiring, let someone know right away. The sooner you inform the staff that you need to switch rooms, the easier it will be on all of you (plus, it spares housekeeping the task of cleaning your room twice).


2. ) Be flexible. If you’re willing to accept a downgrade (e.g., no view or balcony) or trade in a king room for two queens, the hotel will more easily be able to accommodate your request to change rooms. If there are no other rooms available in your price range, ask them to upgrade you to a problem-free room at no extra charge. While most places won’t offer this up on their own, they likely won’t refuse when you suggest it, either.

3.) See if the problem can be fixed. If you can’t switch rooms, ask the staff to remedy the situation: if the room is dirty, ask for another pass by housekeeping. If a sink is clogged, request a visit from maintenance. If you suspect there’s a poltergeist in the bathroom … well, you know who to call. If you’re still unsatisfied with your accommodations and have exhausted all other options, let the staff know that you’d like to move into another room as soon as one is available.

%Gallery-99721%4.) Be reasonable — not only of your requests of staff, but also in your expectations. They obviously can’t control the cooing of the pigeons that are nesting just outside your room (seriously … don’t pigeons sleep?!), but they can ask your partying neighbors to keep it down. Try to rectify the things you can control, and remember that many of the annoyances that are out of your hands (like fluctuating water pressure and overly-poofy pillows) might actually fall under the category of “the joys of travel.”

5.) Ask to speak to a manager. They usually can help with upgrades and changes that regular staff can’t. Since they’re the highest on the chain of command in a hotel, they can probably straighten things out for you. Just make sure you’ve been polite and reasonable to everyone you’ve talked to before then — if you’ve already been labeled as “the crazy guest who’s screaming in the lobby,” it might be harder to make your case.


6.) Request a refund or discount. Most places won’t give you money back unless you specifically request it. A few dollars knocked off each of your nights’ stay can add up to a lot. If they aren’t able to provide a substantial reduction on the your stay, then ask them what they can offer you (vouchers to a nearby spa, a comped dinner or breakfast in the hotel restaurant, etc).

7.) Plan ahead. If you’ve had an unpleasant stay, ask the staff how you can avoid a similar situation in the future (when booking your room, ask if it’s noisy, above a busy street, near a stairwell, etc.). Not only will it help make your subsequent stay more pleasant, but it lets the staff know that you’re a repeat customer — and one who should be taken care of. You might even score TWO mints on your pillow next time.

8.) Switch hotels. If the staff is unable or unwilling to help you out, see if there are any vacancies at other nearby hotels. Nothing will get a hotel staff cracking than hearing, “We can simply check-out and go across the street.” Thanks to the Internet (is there anything it can’t do?), you should be able to find other accommodations, even during the busiest of seasons — that meet your standards (e.g., no circus animals in the hallways, plumbing pipes that actually drain, etc.).


Have you ever had a nightmare hotel stay that you handled like a pro? If so, share your tips and tricks in the comments section!

[Photo: Flickr | Fly for fun]