Hotel Etiquette

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Hotel guests, even guests in the most prestigious hotels, must be aware that they always have at least some responsibility for their security. Here are some basic rules to remember:

Faux Pas

Bathrobes, ashtrays, wine glasses, and the like are not souvenirs. Neither are towels. If you like, you can arrange to purchase these things at the front desk. This approach is far superior to finding the items listed on your hotel bill because you have been caught in the act.

  • Never keep cash or valuables in your room.
  • Never open the door when someone knocks unless you know who it is— especially at night. If the knocker claims to be a hotel employee and you have any doubts, call the front desk to ask whether this person has been sent to your room. If not, call hotel security, give your room number, and state that someone is at your door.
  • Always double-lock your door. You may want to leave the television on to dissuade burglars.
  • If the desk clerk announces your room number in a loud voice and this practice bothers you, as it should, quietly ask for another room and explain that you are being cautious in case someone overheard.
  • Don't flash a wad of bills in the hotel bar.
Checking Out

Confirm your departure the day before and verify the checkout time. Usually, you can arrange a late departure if the hotel isn't full. Call the porter to collect your bags. Tip about $1 a bag. If you need to check your bags at the hotel for the day, the porter will take care of it and give you tickets to redeem them.


Motels come in many shapes and sizes. Some offer little more than a bed, bathroom, and television, whereas others resemble small resorts with pools, restaurants, and gyms.

The variety of possibilities is one of the advantages of motel travel. They are usually clustered at the convergence of major highways so that motorists have a wide range of options within the distance of a mile or so.

You can easily make your own reservations, since most major chains have toll-free reservation numbers. Most offer discounts for members of auto clubs, holders of certain credit cards, and senior citizens. In some cases “seniors” can be as young as 50.

When you check in, the clerk may want identification, your driver's license number, and a credit card, even if you are paying in cash.

You will carry your own bags. Ice, snacks, and some personal items like toothbrushes probably will be available at a vending center, usually located one to a floor. Dress is casual, of course, but wear a cover-up at the pool, and avoid dripping all over the lobby. Don't leave children alone in the pool or Jacuzzi.

If you arrive late at night or leave early in the morning, be considerate of those still sleeping. If there is a disturbance late at night, don't elect to straighten it out yourself. Call the front desk, and do not open your door. Tip the maid $2 or $3 for each night you stay.

The Bed and Breakfast

Antiques. A canopied bed. Tea or sherry in the afternoon. A convivial host. These are among the charms of the bed & breakfast.

For the price, often, of a good hotel, you can spend the night in a charming Victorian or colonial-era house, usually an interesting place with interesting owners who have an agreeably old-fashioned idea of comfort and hospitality.

And then there's breakfast. Some hosts offer a simple continental breakfast of juice, coffee, and a roll. Others offer such a variety and quantity of food that you'll feel dazzled—and quite sated after eating! The best ways to find out about B&Bs are from friends or from the many guidebooks that are available in bookstores and public libraries. Always call for reservations. Some establishments require a stay of at least two days.

When you arrive, the host will probably be on hand to greet you personally. He or she will take your bags, help you get settled, and show the dining room and other spaces devoted to the guests. It is very bad form to stray into the host family's living quarters.

A good rule of thumb is to behave much like a houseguest at a friend's home. Avoid loud conversations or television late at night. You may borrow books from the library to read in your room but be sure to return them. Don't use the owner's private telephone without asking first.

Many such places have shared bathrooms, so don't luxuriate in the tub while someone may be waiting. And be sure to leave the tub and the rest of the room as clean as you can reasonably make it.

At breakfast, which is included in the price, introduce yourself and say, “Good morning,” all around. If you don't feel chatty in the morning, just smile and give minimal answers, and people will get the message. Be alert for such signals yourself.

Leave your room reasonably neat and say goodbye to the host before leaving. No tipping is required.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Etiquette © 2004 by Mary Mitchell. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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