I’ll never forget my hotel horror story…
In 2009, my girlfriends and I spent a nearly perfect week in Italy, staying in a beautifully modern apartment on Florence’s artisanal Oltrarno. From there we flew to London to meet up with a few more friends for one epic night of international fun before flying home.
In London, we ended up at one of those characterless über hotels where every tour group either starts or ends their journey, and little did I know that it would turn out to be the grossest hotel experience I’ve ever had.
The bedding had long strands of hair on it, everything seemed coated with a layer of grime, the toilet seat was on the bathroom floor (evidently placed there intentionally by housekeeping) and I could have sworn there was blood on the walls.
It was bad.
It happens to everyone at some point in their travels. Sometimes, despite carefully planning and vetting of lodging, things just don’t live up to expectations (or common cleanliness).
Sure, you can always switch to a different hotel or hostel, but you probably won’t be able to get your money back. Also it’s often just not worth it to haul your bags somewhere else if you’re only someplace for a short amount of time.
When traveling, maximizing time is key.
With the latest release of Trip Advisor’s 2011 dirtiest hotels list, you now know at least a few places that you should avoid at all costs. However, here are a few tips on how to make it through the night if you simply must stay someplace that’s less than ideal:
1.) Try not to touch anything
This may sound simple, but it’s harder than it seems when faced with TV remotes, door knobs, faucets, light switches… the list goes on and on.
While this may seem like an excessive step, just remember that while housekeepers routinely clean things like showers and toilets and change the sheets, many of the smaller items go untouched… except by the hundreds of people who stay in that room and use them.
And don’t, I repeat, do not use the glass cups provided in the room. Whether at a straight up gross hotel or the Ritz, bring a bottle of water instead and forgo the cups completely.
2.) Don’t use the covers
If there’s no other tip you take from this, remember: Pull back the blanket from your bed.
I know it’s tempting to snuggle under blankets, especially in the colder climates, but those top blankets are G-R-O-S-S! Bedbugs, and who knows what other kinds of disgusting germs lie amongst the fibers, just waiting for you to come along and pick them up.
3.) Pack a sleep sheet
Once the cover is out of the way, the next logical question is whether to sleep on or under the sheets.
That’s your call, and you’ll be relieved to know that sheets are probably one of the cleanest items in any hotel or hostel room. When I stayed at the aforementioned hotel from hell, there was no way I was going to touch those sheets more than laying on top of them.
To remedy this, a helpful backpacker tip is to always pack along a sleep sack. Basically two sheets sewn together with an attached cover to put the provided pillow within, you can climb into the sleep sack and have a comfortable (and protected!) night’s sleep with no fear of bedbugs.
You can buy these sleep sacks online, but they’re easy enough to make as well.
If you don’t have a sleep sack, just do what I did: wear long pants and long-sleeved shirt, socks and sleep on top of the sheets, covering the pillow with one of your packed shirts. That’ll do in a pinch!
4.) Showering S.O.S.
When showering in a gross room, chances are your shower will be gross, too. (Or at the very least it may feel gross to your already squeamish perception.) And there’s nothing like feeling dirty in the midst of a nice warm shower to put even the calmest traveler in a bad mood.
College rules apply in this situation: if you have flip flops, wear them.
But what if you have one of those wispy shower curtains that sticks to you?
Well that is a conundrum! Try wetting both the bottom of the curtain as well as the outside of the tub to create a suction effect. Sure, you may end up with a little bit of water on the floor, but at least you will be safe from a touchy-feely curtain.
And you may be helping to clean the floor a little bit in the process!
5.) Final tip?
At the end of the day, the best tip of all is to just get out of the room.
Go out to a museum, find a great restaurant, meet new people… explore! If you focus on immersing yourself in the local culture, by the end of a packed day you’re sure to be so ready to crash that you just might not care where you do it!
Did I miss anything? Any helpful tips you’ve picked up along your travels? I’d love to hear!