Want to make the most of your budget the next time you check into a hotel? As an aviation journalist I’ve learned quite a few handy hacks to have a better stay — without paying any more.
Use the “open and sweep” method to clear the clutter
I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that many hotels (especially on the more reasonably-priced end of the scale) are overdoing it with the amount of advertising bumf they put in the room, the smoking fine info, and all the other placards. I counted eight in one mid-range hotel last year. You don’t need it, you didn’t ask for it, and now your jet-lagged or just-waking-up brain is thinking about their marketing slogan. Open the nearest drawer and sweep all the assorted placards into it. Your brain will thank you by not repeating that catchy tagline while you’re trying to get to sleep.
Drop them an email with your needs ahead of time.
Toting more than one suitcase and need a second luggage rack? Keen on a proper double bed for you and your paramour rather than two squashed-together singles? Hate hearing the elevator ding in the night? Find the hotel’s email address and drop them a quick line in advance with your requests. Special requests often mean they’ll allocate your room in advance, too, so you’re less likely to get the least good room in the place if you’re arriving late.
Always join the loyalty scheme
If you’re booking at any chain, join their loyalty club, but keep your number and login details in your password manager or a notes app so they don’t get overwhelming. Not only will you earn points for future travel, but many hotels have a fast track check-in or checkout system for even the lowest tier of frequent guest. Sometimes you even get free Wi-Fi. You can also be sure that they have your contact details in case you forget anything. More than one iPhone charger has caught up with me that way...
Get deliveries sent to you on arrival
Save money, time and hassle packing (and paying for) travel-sized items and stumping up a bag fee on your flight by ordering necessities online mailed ahead to you, or delivered from Amazon or the local equivalent. A small normal-sized item is often less than two travel-sized toiletries, saves on packaging waste and is a lot less of a faff.
Use your final night as a mail-drop
Can’t resist that souvenir, but don’t want to carry it on your ten-day, ten-city itinerary? Make sure you book a reasonably competent hotel that is happy to receive packages in advance for the last night of your stay, and mail items ahead. You can reduce your packing load en route too if you won’t need the swimmers/formal-wear/ski-suit you brought towards the end of your holiday.
Yes, you can order takeout to your hotel
It always surprises me how many people don’t know you can order delivery food to a hotel room. It’s worked in pretty much everywhere I’ve tried it, and on those nights when I don’t feel like going out, a quiet evening in with whatever the locals eat (definitely go for whatever has the highest rating) is an experience in itself.
Take two key cards, even when travelling solo
Here’s the scene: you’re popping back after a busy day of sightseeing before heading out for dinner. Your camera battery needs recharging, but your hotel has one of those card slots for the key that turns off the power when it’s empty. Always ask for two key cards at check-in for that reason. At a pinch, you can use a business card or a store loyalty card in some of these slots, but the newest ones are RFID-coded to your actual key, and it’s a pain to replace a store loyalty card every time you forget one.
John Walton is an international aviation journalist, follow him @thatjohn.