The Consummate Traveler – Spotting a Bad Hotel Room Quickly

June 11, 2015 Updated: February 14, 2019

Recently, after a long connecting flight, I made it to my hotel in Rome only to be assigned a room that had many disappointing issues. The problems included hair on the pillow that was not mine, an ant crawling on the bed, black mold in the bathroom, and a malfunctioning air conditioner on a sweltering day. What may surprise you is that I only detected these issues after settling in for over an hour and fully unpacking. By that point, I was so exhausted and sleep deprived, that I decided to take a nap first and deal with all of the issues later.

When arriving in any hotel room, a good practice is to check on a few key things in the first few minutes before unpacking. This way, you will be inclined to immediately report any issues and have your room changed with the least amount of hassle to you. Here are my top areas to review before getting too cozy:

Test the Plumbing

The most basic necessity for any hotel room is to have properly running water and a working toilet. This is the first area to test in my opinion. Flush the toilet twice to identify if any clogs or leaks exist, and run the shower or tub to spot if the water is sufficiently hot and cold and can drain out adequately. If there are issues here, ask to change rooms as these types of problems could take some effort to address.

Ensure Room Temperature Units Function

A big factor in being able to get a comfortable night of sleep is to have the ability to adjust the temperature up or down to accommodate your preferences. Within minutes of arriving to your room after checking-in, move the thermostat up or down from its current setting by five degrees to see if any noticeable changes happen after 10 minutes. If not, report the issue immediately. If there is no response, ask to change rooms.

Cleanliness of Bedding

Pull the covers back and inspect the pillow and bed linens from top to bottom to ensure there are no visible stains, bugs, dirt, hair or other problems. Filthy sheets are simply unacceptable. If you have any concerns, call housekeeping and ask to have the bedding changed immediately. It is always preferable to stay in the room while this is done so that you can ensure it was remedied properly.


There is nothing more annoying than settling in for the night with your remote in hand, only to find out that the television does not work. As you begin to unpack your clothing, this is a great time to test this out. After 18 years of business travel, I have noticed that a non-responding television is often related to dead batteries in the remote. A quick call to the front desk is usually all it takes to have this addressed.

As always, I wish you the happiest of travels!