For the last couple of years, I've been traveling a lot for work, and often for a few days or a week at a time. Hotel rooms vary a lot, even within a chain, depending on location and management, and I've found that,in my case at least, the real key to a comfortable hotel stay is me, and the constants I create and take with me wherever I go.
With respect to hotel rooms, that means having a regular routine that establishes my space the way I like it, for the duration of my stay, wherever that space might be. In essence, I nest, knowing that, for the most part, when I come back to my hotel room after a day away, it may not be home, but it's a comfortable respite. And the more organized you are, and aware of your environment , the safer you'll be, as well, because you'll know right away if something is amiss.
What follows is how I make a home away from home when I travel, with some tips and tricks that might make your hotel stay a little sweeter, too.
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Step 1: The Essentials
I know some people need a lot of stuff to feel at home. But I've found the lighter I travel, the easier it is to set up hotel camp, and the easier it is to break down when it's time to leave. So for me, the essentials are:
- One small to medium sized suitcase (depending on length of stay) packed with
- Backpack and small purse or bag for day travel
- Underwear and other small items in ziplocks or compression bags
- Small toiletry bag
- Extra plastic bags (pack any extra shoes in them coming and going)
- Disinfectant spray
Step 2: Take Inventory
When I first arrive in a new hotel room, I take a brief inventory. Is there a fridge and microwave? If there is, I'll hit a local grocery or convenience store and stock up on some snack items and refreshments. In the last hotel I was in, there was a refrigerator but no microwave, so I couldn't get anything I had to heat up, which was good to know in advance.
Check out the bathroom and take stock of towels and other essentials - there's usually more than enough, and if there isn't, now's the time to request more from the front desk.
Take a look outside if there's a window. Are you near roads or stores?
Getting the lay of the land, inside and out, helps orient you and in the process, makes you safer, and gives you a little more control over your environment.
Step 3: Clean Up
Sure the place was cleaned by hotel staff, but where were they before they got to your room? In other rooms, and handling stuff in bathrooms and dirty sheets and all that fun stuff.
I typically spray or wipe down the entire room with disinfectant, starting with the items most likely to harbor pathogens I'd rather not think about. Even though I rarely use it, since it's right by the bed, I always give the hotel room phone a good dousing, and then also spray:
- door knobs, latches and locks
- tv remote (front and back)
- curtain pulls
- drawer handles on dressers
- toilet handles
- bathroom sink counters and fixtures
- any furniture, including desk furniture
- charging areas and wall outlets
- lamps and wall switches
By the time I'm done, the room might smell a little clinical, but I know it's at least somewhat cleaner.
I also spray bed covers, and then turn them down to the foot of the bed for the duration of my stay.
Step 4: Get Organized
When I feel like I've got things cleaned to my satisfaction, then I get organized, hanging clothes, hanging up my extra bags for laundry, setting up the bathroom (see my DIY toothbrush holder for a tidy way to do that), and stocking in the fridge if I can.
I usually store my computer and electronics in a middle or bottom door with something over them, if I have to leave them in the room.
Step 5: Stay Tidy
Then it's just a matter of maintaining your habitat for the duration of your stay. For me, the easiest way to do that is to put up the Do Not Disturb sign on the door, and let the staff and the front desk know that I really did mean I don't want anyone in the room, even and especially if I'm there for a few days or a week.
No one cleans up after me on a daily basis at home, so I certainly don't need anyone doing that when I'm in a hotel room. Once I've got it clean and parked, I don't want anyone in there mucking about. There's usually plenty of towels, and there's no need to change the sheets every day.
So daily, I hang up clothes, put dirty clothes in the plastic bags, keep the bathroom neat and tidy, and make my bed each morning.
Step 6: Tips and Tricks
I use towels and wash cloths for a lot of things besides bathing - like the aforementioned toothbrush caddy - but they're also good for putting jewelry or change and other small items on, so you don't forget or lose them. As you can tell from the photos, jewelry can blend in pretty well with those marbled counter tops. But put your jewelry on a dry washcloth when you remove it, and you can find it again easily.
I also use towel on any fabric furniture, as an extra layer between me and whatever else may have been on it, and sometimes use hand towels to line a drawer.
The paper and plastic cups that are usually in hotel rooms can be handy, too. I use them to store washed plastic wear, and during my last trip, the complimentary toothpaste strip I got at the front desk when I discovered I'd forgotten my toothpaste.
If your trash starts to pile up, just take it out yourself and replace the bag with one of your shopping bags, or that handy dry cleaning bag they always helpfully leave in the closet.
Step 7: Reverse and Go Home
At the end of your stay, reverse the process - pack back up, do a full room sweep to make sure you didn't leave anything (and if you've been staying tidy you shouldn't have) , and head home!
When I leave a hotel room, it looks like it was barely used, which is my intention. I don't want to make more work for anyone - housekeeping is a hard lot, and there's no need to make it harder for anyone. I throw away any opened or half eaten foods, but anything in a bag or container that's unopened, I leave for hotel staff, with a note that they're welcome to it.
Being organized and prepared makes for a hotel stay that's comfortable and comforting, and can help make a home away from home for those times when your only place is hotel sweet hotel.