5 things that take 5 minutes to make your hotel room better

By John Walton, May 20 2011
5 things that take 5 minutes to make your hotel room better

Some travellers like the generic nature of hotel rooms, with everything in its own place and not a lot of clutter. Others want a bit more of their own stuff around -- we even know some people who pack pillows from home (hey, whatever floats your boat).

But the trick is to figure out what you want your hotel room to look like -- and then change it up. After all, you're the one paying the big bucks to spend hours in the room.

So why shouldn't you make it a little bit more into your kind of space? If you're stuck for ideas, here are five easy ways to make your room into, well, your room.

1) Clear away all the hotel's advertising

That plastic remote control holder with the hotel's logo plastered over it? The little tent-card advertising the hotel's restaurant? Anything else that doesn't make you smile? Sweep it all into a desk drawer, a cupboard, or wherever you won't see it. 

You don't have advertising for your own home cooking in your bedroom (at least, you probably don't) -- so you don't need to look at advertising for room service in the place where you sleep away from home.

(Just be prepared to make this a daily chore if the housekeeping staff insist on putting everything back in its natural place.)

2) BYO music 

Why leave it to the hotel to choose what TV music channels or radio stations you should relax to in the evening or to wake up to in the morning?

If you're travelling with your own laptop and it's got decent speakers this is a no-brainer. But if you're on a work-issued laptop that's been locked down to a standard configuration which doesn't include your iTunes library, consider bringing along a set of travel speakers for your iPod or other MP3 player.

If you're looking for a decent combination of price, portability and audio output, Altec Lansing's folding speakers fit the bill. Model numbers change frequently, so when we need to replace our last set we just pick up whatever the latest model is. (The sound is good, and they last a reasonable time with heavy travelling use.) 

The tiny round Orbit M, available for $25-45 at many retailers, is surprisingly good on sound quality for people travelling particularly light.

3) Take a little bit of home with you

Faces and places that mean something to you are bound to cheer up even the most drab of hotel rooms. Tuck them into mirrors or carry them in a fold-out picture frame. 

For super-light packers who don't want to carry a picture frame, here's a top tip: tape two or more photographs together vertically so they'll stand up in a triangle and keep them somewhere they won't be bent (like inside your closed laptop or a book).

Of course, if you have an iPad, the unlock screen has the option of a slideshow of all the pictures you've loaded on the device. It makes a pretty good electronic picture frame too. 

4) Shift the furniture around

There's nothing that says that you need to put up with the hotel's decisions about where to put the furniture, which is probably more for ease of vacuuming than for your convenience. 

Do you want to curl up on the comfy chair with a DVD on your laptop? Pull it over closer to the power socket (which is probably hidden under the desk anyway).

Would you rather attend to today's email or work on tomorrow's PowerPoint presentation looking out the window over that fantastic city skyline view for which you probably paid a premium? Shift the desk over there. Not enough light on the desk? Haul that freestanding lamp around.

The longer you'll be staying at the hotel the more reason do a little 'guerrilla redesign' of the layout. Consider leaving a tip for housekeeping together with a little note asking them to leave things where they are if you're staying for more than one night.

And if you're staying for several nights and you'd like a comfier chair, or a better desk chair from the hotel's business centre, you lose nothing by asking the duty manager if they can send one up.

5) Turn off the TV and open the window

The trend for business hotels to have the TV blaring (along with a computer-generated message welcoming you to the room) really needs to stop. Until hotels come to their senses, though, turn the TV off when you arrive for a little peace and quiet.

Of course, if you're lucky enough to be in a hotel with decent soundproofing, the lack of background noise can be a little disconcerting. Try opening a window to get a bit of gentle murmur from below. (Hopefully, it is just a gentle murmur rather than a construction site.) 

This won't work at all hotels, since some have windows that don't open, but there's something about a little bit of calming background noise that connects you to the city you're staying in.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2539

Definitely agree on all these - why is it that so many hotel desks seem positioned in the worst possible location for being sat at and used?

My own tip as to how I make a hotel room a little more 'mine': I have a small scented (French pear) 'travel candle' that's part of my travel kit. It's in a little tin, not much larger than a tin of lip balm - I bought mine one from Aussie firm Ecoya (www.ecoya.com.au) - and you don't even need to light it, just the scent which wafts along when this is sitting on the bedside table is a pleasing little touch. The fact that I use this in every hotel also adds a sense of familiarity to every stay.

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