You may think of it as your “home away from home,” but try not to get too comfortable in that hotel room. Private hotel rooms are a surprisingly public space, shared by hundreds of strangers each year. And whenever you share something with that many people, things are bound to get dicey. For your own sake, we recommend that you avoid these eight activities no matter where you stay.
Some of the links featured in this story are affiliate links, and SmarterTravel may collect a commission (at no cost to you) if you shop through them.
Don’t Use the Remote Control
Study after study has confirmed what germophobes everywhere have long believed: Hotel rooms are disgusting, fetid pools of fecal bacteria. We won’t get into the specifics just in case you’re reading this on your lunch break, but suffice it to say, you wouldn’t be out of place wearing a hazmat suit inside your room. And while there’s no shortage of filth-ridden surfaces to be wary of, the nastiest culprit by far is the TV remote control. You’ve got a few options here: Bring some antibacterial wipes with you, download a smartphone app to control the television, or just avoid TV altogether. Oh, and while we have your attention … don’t sleep on or under the quilt, either. Just trust us on this one.
Don’t Leave Valuables Lying Around
Perhaps this seems obvious, but we’ve heard enough stories of hotel-room thefts that we think it bears mentioning: Hide your valuables. Put them in the safe if you can (even if that means paying a small fee—it sure beats the cost of replacing that nice watch or fancy earrings). If there’s no space available, and you don’t want to carry them with you at all times, stash your valuables in an inconspicuous place, such as inside an empty vitamin or aspirin container. Hotel thieves know all the usual hiding spots, though, so an even better plan is to leave all or most of your valuables at home.
Don’t Forget to Put up the ‘Do Not Disturb’ Sign
People tend to get frisky in hotel rooms. Maybe it’s just the natural aphrodisiac of being someplace new. Who knows? The point is, it happens—a lot. But here’s the thing: Your hotel room isn’t exactly private until you put up the “do not disturb” sign. So if you want to be alone, make sure everyone knows it first. Otherwise, Murphy’s Law suggests your intimate moment may not be so intimate after all.
Don’t Reveal Your Room Number
Don’t say your room number aloud at check-in, at a restaurant, or to that friendly stranger you’ve just met. It’s just not a good idea. If you want to meet up with someone new, agree to meet in a public space—preferably one that’s not even at your hotel. The last thing you want to deal with on your vacation or business trip is a break-in.
Don’t Open the Door
It’s an automatic reaction for some people: There’s a knock at the door, so they answer it. Not a good idea. Make sure you know who’s there before you open the door—even if you’re expecting someone, like room service. Similarly, don’t leave the door ajar if you leave to get ice or, in some places, use the bathroom across the hall. You might return to find your room ransacked. Or worse yet, you might catch an unexpected guest waiting for you. And as long as we’re on the topic of leaving your room for ice, don’t do it au naturel either, or you may end up a hilarious Internet sensation like this guy.
Don’t Go Anywhere Near the Minibar
The good old days of perusing the minibar “just to see what’s in there” are long gone at many hotel chains. Those exorbitantly priced snacks are now more booby-trapped than the golden idol at the start of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Even jostling the Snickers bar a little could trigger the sensor, and just like that you’ve run up an automatic charge on your room bill.
Don’t Forget to Look for Bedbugs
They’re small, they’re nasty, and they’re pretty much everywhere these days—even at high-end hotels. Bedbugs are the world’s first (and worst) souvenir: They love coming home with you. Look for the incriminating signs of these little creepers before you put your bags down on the hotel bed or furniture for any lengthy period of time. Keep an eye out for the critters’ blood or fecal stains on your sheets or mattress and for the little buggers themselves on the mattress, headboard, couch, chair, and any other furniture.
Don’t Drink the Tap Water
Did you hear the one about the nice British couple who noticed a funny taste in the drinking water at a downtown Los Angeles hotel? It turns out the couple (and the hotel’s other guests) had been drinking from a corpse-tainted water supply for weeks. You read that right: There was a dead body floating around and decomposing in the rooftop water tank. And while this may be the most extreme case of tainted water we’ve heard in a while, it’s certainly not the only story of good water gone bad. Our advice: Don’t drink the tap water, no matter where you’re staying. Nothing good ever comes of it.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2013. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.
You Might Also Like:• 17 Best Museums in New York City
• 12 New Year’s Traditions from Around the World
• The 8 Safest Places in Mexico for Travelers
• The 10 Best Hotels in Washington, D.C.
• 10 Strategies to Survive Staying with Family Over the Holidays
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.