There is a subset of corporate travelers that pack up every week, head off to Chicago or Hong Kong and make their home base in a hotel. Business travelers hold some key hotel tips on how to settle in quickly and make sure your stay has as few surprises as possible. Here we unlock the hotel secrets of experienced business travelers.
For more that 10 years, I have lived the life of a business traveler. That lifestyle involves checking into a different guest room every night and being more familiar with New York than my own recently-adopted hometown. Corporate travel has its quirks. While there are many resources for easy flights and travel booking, I thought I’d share my takeaways from mattress surfing. So here goes – the habits that every traveler should adopt as dictated by a corporate travel junkie. Seven of my favorites are listed below.
Booking a Hotel for a Business Trip
If hotel business travel is a part of your job, you need to keep a few key things in mind when booking. What is your company’s travel policy? Is there a per night cap? Does that capped amount need to include everything- like parking, wi-fi and taxes?
It’s important to know the rules so you don’t end up paying anything out of pocket. Also, don’t be afraid to push back or bring up issues with the budget caps. If your territory involves expensive large cities like San Francisco or even international travel to China and Hong Kong, those caps may need to be reexamined. It’s important to speak up to your corporate travel manager or accounting department if you feel like restrictions are impacting your ability to perform or even threatening your safety with your hotel choices. This brings me to my first rule regarding personal safety.
Hotel Business Travel Rule #1- Safety First
Most important item while traveling for business? No it’s not your job, your assignment or that big meeting. It’s your safety. To ensure a safe hotel experience, book a room in a reputable chain hotel brand. At hotel check-in your room number should NEVER be announced out loud. If it is, ask for another room and request the front desk clerk to write the room number down. Call in a manager if necessary. You can also skip the front desk with hotel chain mobile apps like Hilton Hotels Digital Key and Marriott Hotels Mobile Key. (Extra bonus: you’ll get to choose your own room.)
When you choose your room, consider this: statistically, the safest rooms in a hotel are interior rooms on the 4th or 5th floor near a fire exit that don’t face the front parking lot. Why? Well, they are high enough up to deter intruders, while still being low enough to be reached by the ladder of a firetruck. In today’s climate, with terror attacks on hotels, being away from gathering areas, such as the lobby, restaurants, and parking lots, also lowers your risk.
Consistency. Choose the Same Spot for Important Items Every Time
If you are staying in a different hotel every night, create hotel habits. Be consistent about where you place things. Every time I walk through a hotel room door, my room key, wallet and car keys are placed on the counter in the bathroom closest to the light. Not only does it save me from digging frantically for things later, but in the case of multiple 3 a.m. fire alarms and evacuations, I’ve been able to grab everything I need quickly. Trust me, it is far more pleasant to wait out a fire department visit in your car than in the rain on the sidewalk with everyone else in their PJs.
Never Unpack until You’ve Gone Through the Checklist
Flip back those covers, lift up the toilet lid, look in the shower, scan the room for major cleaning misses (like blood on the carpet- true story!). You certainly don’t want to find a dirty pair of panties in the bed when you go to climb in at 11 p.m. (This happened to a coworker and still creeps me out.)
Personally, I book rooms with two beds even when I’m alone. Then I flip down both the sheets and pick the cleaner looking one. Strange? Yes. But it works for me. The earlier you check for issues, the more likely they are to be able to switch your room. Once the hotel fills up, your options may be limited. This is a hotel tip that will save you time and heartache!
This is also a great time to count towels (are there enough for everyone if you aren’t alone?) and check to see if the fridge is turned to cold if you plan to use it.
Stick with One Hotel Chain Whenever Possible
It can be tempting to look for the bigger better deal but what is that $5 savings really costing you? Frequent business travelers become brand loyal for a reason. Loyalty leads to better rewards and a better experience.
While discount savings sites may net you a slightly cheaper room for the night, in the long run you can lose out on free breakfasts, lounge access, and even guaranteed last minute rooms. If your company has tight rules for hotel business travel and an even tighter budget, we recommend a AAA membership to help keep costs down while still earning rewards. Be sure to check out our tips to make sure your AAA membership is really saving you money!
Hotel Tip: Sign Up for Loyalty Programs.
Same idea as above here. Sign up for the loyalty programs of any hotel you stay in. Keep a spreadsheet of information. If you don’t sign up for loyalty programs, you are leaving money on the table. One of the major perks to hotel business travel (and business flights, meals out, etc.) is the ability to earn rewards to use in your personal life on someone else’s dime. Ignoring this perk is downright stupid. And I can state that because I was 23 when I started traveling for business, and it took me close to two years to maximize my return on traveling five days a week.
Keep It Sanitary
Anyone who travels regularly knows that one of the worst road nightmares is getting sick in a random city. Trying to pull yourself together in time to checkout of a hotel is a miserable experience, so smart travelers carry the necessary tools to avoid this. Sanitizer and bleach wipes can go a long way. When I check into a hotel, I immediately wipe down the phone and the remote with a sanitary wipe, as they are traditionally the germiest items in a room. You can also put the remote in the ice bucket bag and push the buttons through the bag.
Write It All Down
Don’t rely on memory or technology. Both will fail you at some point. Keep a paper planner and write down your hotel name and address. Have a room you particularly liked? Write the room number in your planner so that the next time you book you can request that room. Did you eat a great meal right near the hotel? Write it down. Then you won’t be asking at the front desk about that great Cuban place you found last time, just to meet blank stares. Did the fitness center only have one treadmill? Same thing!
Check the Ringer and Alarm Clock
This hotel tip is great for business travel and even more important when traveling with kids! Whether you are planning for a wake up call or not, ALWAYS check the alarm clock settings and the phone to see if the ringer is on or off. I have been rudely awakened by others’ 4 a.m. alarms, and I have missed wake up calls because the ringer on the phone was off. Both are a miserable start to the day.
Map the Hotel Location before Booking
If location is important to you when you are booking your hotel, make sure you go into Google Maps or Mapquest and map from your hotel to your destination. Many hotel sites use the “as the bird flies” mileage feature, so you could be in for a rude awakening in the morning when your 3-miles-away hotel turns out to be 25 minutes from your early morning appointment.
With these tips you can start traveling like it’s your job (and maybe it is). What tips do you have to share for hotel business travel?