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Maximize Your Hotel Stay: Secrets and Tips from a Front Desk Agent

Updated on April 16, 2020
LaurenSutton12 profile image

Lauren has been in the service industry for her entire career. She loves her job and the fact that every day is different.

We all have busy, stressful lives and it’s wonderful when you can take a trip away. As Front Desk Agents, we know you have only a certain amount of time and are honored that you choose to spend it with us. Below are some of my best tips and secrets to help you and your family maximize your stay.

Call the hotel directly for unadvertised savings.

Most offer lower prices during the week, as well as discounts if you’re a Senior Citizen, AAA Cardholder, Business Traveler, etc. They may also offer specials on slower days, like Sundays and Mondays. The trick is though, that you have to ask for these discounts when you book or you won’t receive them.

Before you arrive, read the policies and let us know if you need anything out of the ordinary.

You've booked your room! Wonderful. Make sure you've received your confirmation email. Not only is it proof of your reservation, just in case the hotel doesn't have your reservation (it happens!) but also typically has the hotel policies. Most hotel policies are standard, but it's worth a look. They have good information like cancellation policies, when the check-in time is, when check-out time is, what is included with your room, what the parking situation is, etc.

Reading these policies is not only a good idea, but it can help you prevent frustration. You would be surprised how many people don't read the policies and are disappointed when things don't go as smoothly as they wish. They wonder why they can’t have access to their room at ten in the morning, or why they can’t check out at noon. It takes a few minutes--just read them!

If you have questions for the hotel, give us a call. We understand if your flight lands in the morning and sometimes we can get you access to your room sooner than check-in time. Sometimes, we cannot. It might be worth a call.

If you have room preferences, also give us a call. Preferences may be things like wanting the top floor, a quiet room, etc. If you need specific items in your room, like a shower chair, please let us know. It's much easier for us to make corrections early on, then waiting until check in, and the room or item may not be available. We want your stay to be the smoothest possible, so please help us do that.

If you check-in early, you may not be granted access to your room, and you will have to accept that.

This can be a source of contention for some guests, but check-in times are typical for hotels, and for good reason. One reason is that Housekeeping has to prepare your room. How quickly they‘re able to do this depends on a few variables; including how quickly the previous guests vacated, if the room is excessively dirty and they have to remove a lot of garbage, etc. That is just for a ‘typical’ scenario for a room turnover.

Also, keep in mind that larger hotels may have a cache of clean sheets and towels available, but smaller hotels may only have one set. This means that the smaller hotels literally have to wait for guests to leave before pulling the sheets and towels. They then have to wash and dry them, with washers and dryers that break down regularly, which takes more time to complete rooms.

Then, we have the strange occurrences, which require more attention. This can seem as simple, like a weird smell in the room or if something is broken. Usually, the toilet is severely clogged, but we‘ve had everything from a cat urine stain to cigarette smoke to large mattress stains to strong smells of illegal drugs. These all take extra time, and may close a room down until it can be addressed by Maintenance a few hours later. Sometimes, that room is booked, and staff has to work quickly to fix the problem so we don’t have to “walk” a guest. Walking a guest means that we are overbooked, and we have to put up the guest at another hotel at our expense while refunding the guest.

As you can see, a lot of preparation happens between check-out and check-in, and that’s why we appreciate your patience until your room is ready. At the very least, the Front Desk should allow you to complete any paperwork and store your luggage. Some hotels may even give you a call when your room is ready.

If you still need access to your room early, there may be a workaround.

As I mentioned, if you are arriving earlier than check-in time and want immediate access to your room, call us to ask if you can check-in early. Most chain or larger hotels might be able to accommodate moreso than the smaller hotels, based on a larger availability of rooms.

If you have extenuating circumstances that you think would be good to know, please tell us. For example, if you're ill and need your room to lay down, we can see what we can do. We don’t mind interrupting Housekeeping if there is a good reason, and we’ll move mountains to try to get you in earlier. We cannot make any promises, but at the very least, we can find you a space to sit, offer you water, carry your bags up for you, call you when your room is ready, etc.

The only other option is buying another day or partial day in advance. This might be worth it if you’re coming from a long flight that arrives in the morning and you will need rest. It’s not ideal for your budget, but it’s an option.

Check-In Do’s

  • Ask as many questions as you need to, but be cognizant if there is a long line of people behind you. You can always check back in a bit. If they’re hotel policy questions, you can usually find them in the room on a desk or side table.
  • Want a speedy check-in? Let us finish our “speech” before asking questions. We have certain items that we need to say, including policies and things you should be aware of. If a guest keeps interrupting while we’re talking, then this is going to drag out the check-in process. Surely, you can be quiet for thirty seconds.
  • Ask us for recommendations. Whether the hotel has a concierge or not, our Front Desk can serve as great resources and ambassadors for the area. We know the area best. We can tell you our favorite local places for happy hours, cheap things to do, or virtually anything off-the-beaten-path. If you are looking for something specific, then please be specific. We want to help you as much as possible.
  • While we will gladly take several minutes to offer our personal recommendations, please refrain from saying ‘I’ll just check GoogleMaps on my phone’. A simple ‘thank you’ will do. While GoogleMaps can tell you physically what is around, it doesn’t quite provide insight into what the city has to offer.

Sometimes we have to white lie.

Of course, it‘s not ideal, but it happens. A room gets overbooked due to software, or cannot be used because of an emergency. Said emergencies, as I have described above do happen more than you think. Instead of giving you the dirty details, usually we just use the term “maintenance issue” or “broken toilet”. One of these “maintenance issues” might be a reason that you get a room downgrade, for example. We don’t like to lie, but these are issues outside of our control and sounds a lot better than “cat urine smell that we cannot get out no matter how much air freshener we’ve sprayed”. Maintenance issue just has a better ring to it.

Also, if we offer you a solution to an issue and you are not happy with it, please tell us. There might be something else we can offer than can make you more satisfied.

Be nice, use common sense, and please don’t reach over our desk.

The service industry is tough, but we’re in it because we love people. We are people pleasers. We understand that you may be exhausted from traveling when you arrive at our hotel. You may be in various degrees of hangry. We accept that, and we are used to it. What makes our job tough is when some guests are rude. This can be by being excessively demanding, speaking in a sharp tone, or reaching over our desk.

For some reason, some people have no problem doing this and it’s my biggest pet peeve. It’s unacceptable for a few reasons. First of all, we usually have guest’s personal information on our desk, including names, addresses, credit card information, etc. Guests like you entrust us with this information and it‘s our duty to protect it. Secondly, it’s just plain rude. Would you want someone reaching into your space? My guess is no. And thirdly, some guests may try to reach over to drop pens or room keys off. This is also a no-no. Doing this messes with the organization of our desk, and again, even if we’ve turned over confidential papers, it makes us worried that you may have seen something you shouldn’t have. To minimize our stress, simply hand the item to us, drop it in designated drop box, wait until we’re back at our desk, or just simply leave it at the counter. We try not to be away from our desk for more than a few minutes, so rest assured; we’ll pick up the item then. Say it with me: do not reach over our desk.

If a guest is continuously rude, we’ve had managers “fire” guests and ask them not to return. We are there to help show you a good time, so please allow us to do so.

Tell us right away if you need something.

Need something? Ask for it right away. Please don’t wait until you post an online review to ask. Doing this denies us the chance to serve and/or correct an unrecognized issue. Please; do everyone a favor and simply ask. We are there to make your stay as comfortable as possible, so please, help us help you.

Clogged toilets are common.

If you have clogged the toilet, don’t be embarrassed. It happens all of the time. We will gladly bring a plunger to your room. For obvious reasons, please don’t expect it to unclog it for you, unless you have tried to unclog it and it still won’t flush.

Bed bugs are an unfortunate part of life for hotels.

Bed bugs are sneaky creatures that can arrive on traveler bags, bottom of shoes, etc. For hotels, they are unavoidable, especially with international travelers surrounded by thousands of people in airports. Even the best, most plush hotels have seen their share of bed bugs.

Bed bugs can be hard to get rid of, which is why they are feared. Hotels usually have preventative monitors in place and spray regularly to keep them away which helps minimize the risk. The truth is that when they happen, albeit rarely, you would probably never know it. That’s because many hotels will not tell you if or when they have had bed bugs. As you can imagine, it’s not a good look for any hotel and the problem is quietly treated.

Additionally, if you are reading hotel reviews about a particular hotel that seems to have repeat bed bug problems, don’t stay there. It’s possible that they cannot get their problem under control, which means that you have a higher chance of bringing them home. If you happen to bring them home, (which happened to my aunt in her apartment), the expensive and invasive treatment process involves heating your home at a very high heat. It’s not worth it.

If you are especially concerned when checking into a room, there are a few things you can check for. When you enter, turn all of the lights. Bed bugs hate the light. If you see any bed bugs scurry, I would leave immediately because the room more than likely has an infestation.

Next, check the pillows, pillow cases, and around the sheets for a brown residue, which can be bed bug excrement. If you see any signs of this, tell the Front Desk of your findings and ask to be reassigned to a room far away. You could also request a refund and choose another hotel.

Don’t be a no-show.

If you have to cancel your stay, know that the cancellation policies range from two to four days in advance. These policies are usually posted in your email confirmation, or on the hotel website.

You may very well get charged a partial or full amount of your stay if you cancel within hours of your stay, but give us a call anyway. Giving us a call is the right thing to do, and it allows us to try to fill the room. Also, if you let us know in advance, we may waive the fee for a first time offense. It also helps if you’re polite.

If there is an emergency, also let us know because that can weigh in our decision. Most of us are very understanding.

Check-Out Do’s

  • Let us know when you are checking out. That allows us to let Housekeeping know when you have vacated so they can start cleaning your room.
  • Let us know if you’ve clogged the toilet, or if anything is broken in the room and needs to be fixed. Unless you’ve broken a piece of furniture or the toilet or sink, you will more than likely not be charged for it. Giving us a heads up can allow us to tell Maintenance so they can fix anything before the next guest arrives.
  • Double-check that you have not forgotten anything. We have found some really personal items in rooms, from everything like phone cords to private items like adult toys. Let’s just say how it was an interesting surprise to open that bag!
  • If you did forget something, call us right away so it doesn’t get lost in the shuffle. We will try calling you as well. Just know that the items in lost and founds get donated after an amount of time passes, so the longer you wait to call, the less likely you will get said item back. We end up donating a lot of items.

Come back and visit, and travel often.

For travel inspiration, look no further than my favorite literary curmudgeon:

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”

-Mark Twain


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