13 Things You Should Know About Staying in Hotels

Hunting for the perfect hotel? Don’t book any accommodations until you read this list of tips from hotel industry insiders.

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1. It pays to be nice to hotel staff.

1. It pays to be nice to hotel staff.

Room assignments-including upgrades-are often still made by actual people, usually front desk managers. If they associate your name with a friendly face, you may find yourself in a spacious corner suite on your next visit.

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2. Request hotel extras (politely).

2. Request hotel extras (politely).

"Ask and you will receive," says Hilary Lewis, a housekeeping manager at Hotel Arts in Calgary. Most hotels will be happy to provide extra items, like DVD players, microwaves and even fridges, at no extra charge if they have them on hand.

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3. Loyalty counts, so stick with one hotel chain.

3. Loyalty counts, so stick with one hotel chain.

Frequent travellers can achieve a preferred status level, which comes with privileges-special amenities, freebies and access to "hotel within the hotel" areas that include perks such as private check-in and free breakfast or happy hour drinks.

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4. Handle hotel comforters with care.

4. Handle hotel comforters with care.

At some hotels, bedspreads aren't washed or even changed between guests. If you'd rather not deal with the uncertainty, toss the comforter in the corner, wash your hands and call for a replacement.

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5. Wash your hands after using the hotel remote.

5. Wash your hands after using the hotel remote.

That said, the filthiest thing in the room might be lying on your bedside table. In 2012, researchers at Ontario's Guelph University swabbed surfaces in 54 hotel rooms across the country. They found that TV remotes were covered in more bacteria than previous studies had measured on public-toilet surfaces.

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6. When in doubt, ask the hotel concierge.

6. When in doubt, ask the hotel concierge.

Trust the concierge as a source for local intel. "These highly trained professionals are the eyes and ears of the community," says Fairmont brand president Jennifer Fox.

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7. Don't leave everything until check-in.

7. Don't leave everything until check-in.

If you have preferences for where you'd like to sleep, special requests (like a hypoallergenic room), call ahead. "Earlier is better, but even if you call the morning of, you'll give us time to make it happen," says Lewis.

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8. Be wary of hotel sell-off sites.

8. Be wary of hotel sell-off sites.

If you use third-party sell-off sites like Expedia or Hotwire, you'll snag bargain rates, but you'll get what you paid for. You'll likely end up with a less-than-ideal room-lower floors, bad views.

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9. Booking late can get you the best deals.

9. Booking late can get you the best deals.

For same-day reservations, Peter Yesawich, the vice-chairman of international travel marketing service firm MMGY Global, recommends using Hoteltonight.com. Or do it the old-fashioned way and call the front desk. If the place isn't full, you'll often get a discount.

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10. Tip hotel staff generously.

10. Tip hotel staff generously.

Tipping lets you express gratitude and ensures you'll get good service again. Experts recommend giving bellhops up to $5 per bag; valets should get $2 to $3 for retrieving your car; housekeepers should be left $2 to $5 daily; and concierges should be rewarded for exceptional service ($10 to $20).

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11. Some of the best hotel offers are hidden.

11. Some of the best hotel offers are hidden.

Hotels will occasionally give out discounts and perks to guests who post Tripadvisor reviews or fill out hotel surveys. You can also ask about "recontact" lists, where special deals and packages are sent to patrons via email.

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12. Hotel star-ratings sometimes lie.

12. Hotel star-ratings sometimes lie.

Hotel ratings systems vary widely between countries. For example, in Italy, a hotel can earn five stars by simply having a 24-hour reception desk, rooms that start at 16 square metres and receptionists who speak three languages. A single star is awarded for changing the sheets once a week.

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13. Don't steal from a hotel.

13. Don't steal from a hotel.

If you're tempted to take home a robe or towel, don't. Some hotels have begun to include radio-frequency chips in order to track stolen items.