I'm an author, consultant, and keynote speaker specializing in customer service and hospitality; in fact, my most recent book is written specifically for the hospitality industry. But today I'd like to share some tips and philosophical thoughts on hotel stays from the perspective of the business traveler, which (no doubt like you) I frequently am.
1. First thing to do when you get to your guestroom: Check the alarm clock! The previous occupant of your room may have set it to go off at some godless hour. Of course, it's a cardinal sin when the housekeeper does not check for this, but it happens all the time. So if you don't want to be ingloriously awakened at 1:15 a.m. by that honk honk honk, check for this disaster-in-waiting yourself.
2. Even before you get to your room: If you're a light sleeper, when you choose a room at the front desk insist on one that doesn't have a connecting door cut into the wall. Otherwise, you're going to hear every time the neighbors sneeze (or worse!).
3. Other factors that can improve your sleep? Bring earplugs. Bring an eyepatch. Set the fan on the HVAC to "low" or "high" rather than "auto," so it's not constantly switching on or off. Avoid a room that's near an ice machine or an elevator. Get a corner room if you can. Get a high floor if you can. But most of all, insist on point 2, because having a solid wall rather than a connecting doorway matters the most.
4. Bring a nightlight. Better to not have to crank up a full-force light in the middle of the night to see around the room/bathroom, and better not to bang into glass-topped end tables or slip in your unfamiliar surroundings because you don't have any light at all.
5. Don't trust the cleanliness of the glasses and mugs in your room. I know this sounds paranoid, but I'm speaking truth here. You want to drink only out of glasses that come from the F&B (food and beverage) side of a hotel operation--the restaurant, the bar--where they have modern dishwashing equipment and know all the food safety rules, not the glasses that have an unclear provenance, i.e., may have just been wiped "clean" by housekeeping with the same rag that, well … do I need go any further here?
6. Ditto--and even more so--on the cleanliness of the coffeemaker in your room. You're essentially trusting the habits of the prior occupants of your room going back to time immemorial. My solution to all of this is to use those VIA instant coffees from Starbucks, or--see above--await room service breakfast and real coffee made by a real human being.
7. If you're worried you won't wake up in time for that unmissable business event (for me, this means showing up for the soundcheck for my keynote speeches, in particular, as those soundchecks tend to happen at an ungodly hour), you need a system to make sure you wake up. Here's my system. It's far from elegant, but it works. I set the alarm on my iPhone. Then I set another alarm on my iPad. Then I call the front desk to give me a wakeup call. And here's the piece de resistance: I hang one of those breakfast preorder hangtags on my door before you go to bed. There's nothing better than being awakened by a hospitality professional bearing a pot of coffee, oatmeal, and fruit.
8. For some business travelers, two beds work better than one. This is personal preference, but a lot of travelers swear by getting two twin beds rather than one king. This way they can use an entire bed to lay out the contents of their suitcase and use the other bed for sleeping.
Opinions and philosophy
9. Pick your hotels based on what truly matters to you. For me, this is service, location, and facility--not whatever awards program I'm a part of or whether there's a shuttle to the airport.
10. Book directly with the hotel via its website, not via a third-party aggregator. The hotel wants to have a direct relationship with you, and will actually pay you to make it worth your while for you to do so, via free Wi-Fi and other perks. Just a couple days ago a hotel surprised me by comping me an excellent breakfast as my "amenity" for booking direct, and free Wi-Fi is guaranteed to you if you book direct with Fairmont and several other chains. Also, when you're working directly with the hotel, it's easier for it to learn your guest preferences and to honor them on a future trip.
11. Introduce yourself to the front desk staff. Tell them who you are and why you're visiting--in other words, give them something to work with so you're not just an anonymous guest to them. They'll likely repay you with unexpected kindness; people who work in hospitality are often the epitome of "people people": They've been hired for this and trained for this.
12. Tip the housekeeper--generously. This is one of the hardest and lowest-paying jobs in a hotel and the tip you leave her is a true measure of your character, as it is a tip that nobody sees you give and that is entirely between you and your conscience.
13. Bring small (or midsize) bills so you can tip the other people who are nice to you at the hotel.
14. If something's wrong (or simply not to your taste) about your hotel room, your room-service food, or anything else about your hotel stay, don't suffer in silence, and don't rush to tweet about it either. Just let an employee know what's up--nicely. The hospitality industry is one of the most customer-centric industries in the world, perhaps the most customer-centric. Hotels want you to be happy, and you should give them a chance to make you happy--a chance they'll never have if you don't bring your dissatisfaction to their attention.