Hotel hacks: Guest etiquette

Hotel hacks: 7 etiquette rules for guests

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Avoiding faux pas for a fabulous stay

Have you ever encountered hallway racers or mobile phone menaces at a hotel? Yeah, those people—they can make or break your stay as much as an accommodation’s service and style. 

Etiquette exists at hotels, too! From what to wear, to how to act, to what to tip, here are seven ways to stay well, keep it classy, and avoid hotel faux pas.

1. Appropriate attire

Starting on an obvious note: Mirror your environs with your ensemble. Whether you’re staying at a far-flung five-star, a hipster haunt in Palm Springs, or a rustic beach bungalow in Mexico, dress the part. And if you’re ever in doubt, channel your inner Coco Chanel or Tom Ford. Remember: You can never be overdressed.

When packing, assemble items that “fit” the location. For example, what I pack for a boutique hotel in Italy is very different from the wardrobe I bring to a mid-century stay in the California desert, or a beachfront resort in Maui (Style Guide: What to wear in Hawaii).

And finally, don’t traipse through the lobby in your bathing suit, hotel robe, or a sheer cover-up. Getting caught in your private clothes in the most public area of the hotel is a no-no!

2. Roam well

In corridors and hallways, guests get tunnel vision as far as their volume and awareness of others, forgetting there are people behind every door. With this, refrain from talking in the hotel hallway like you’re giving a keynote, roaming like you’re in a cackle of hyenas, or letting your kids use it like a track and field course. Hotels host travelers from a number of different time zones, so your 3 p.m. might be someone else’s 3 a.m. Inside voices, please! 

Viewfinder Tip: Good manners go a long way. Practicing your “please” and “thank you” maintains a positive domino effect that extends to every person and department in the hotel.

3. Respect the vibe

This all-encompassing rule relates to every part of a stay—rooms, lobby, spa, pool, restaurant—and is a reminder to be hyper-mindful of those around you. For example, if you’re traveling with your boo and seeking calm, head to the adult pool, or find a quiet spot at the main pool (away from the group or family set); talk with a whisper in the spa; and if you’re traveling with a baby (like I do, often), leave the public area if your little one begins to cry. To sum it up: Survey your surroundings and respect the vibe the hotel—and its guests—are putting out.

4. Good vibrations

One etiquette error I see at almost every hotel I visit around the world is mobile (cell phone) misconduct. Individuals turn into different creatures when they are holding a phone, and forget there are others around them. To avoid this common guest gaffe, keep your smartphone on vibrate (unless you’re in your room), don’t answer it unless you have to—that goes for the pool, too—and if you do need to chat, find a quiet space and use your inside voice (because nobody cares about the deal you’re brokering). 

5. Won’t you be my neighbor

When you’re living in community—versus a cabin in the middle of the woods—it’s important to think of others and bear in mind that most hotel walls are thin. Yes, you’re there for relaxation and enjoyment, but that shouldn’t come at the expense of others. Practically, this means respecting hotel quiet hours—yes, most stays have them from 10 p.m. to 8 a.m.—and refrain from watching MTV or partying in your room at 1 a.m.

Practice this same politeness to your housekeeper, too. They have one of the hardest jobs in the biz, and should be shown your utmost respect by piling used towels together, keeping the room tidy, and putting trash in the bin. If you want to be messy for a day, hang the “Do Not Disturb” sign on your door.

6. Speak to the source

Should you encounter a snafu throughout your stay, speak first to the source in an effort to get it resolved. It’s appropriate to escalate when you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere or being heard. Just don’t go straight to the general manager if the pool staff miss you on their first morning order run. Begin with the benefit of the doubt, and move on from there.

7. Tipping point

Like it or not, tipping is expected in hotels throughout North America—especially in the luxury realm—so make sure you bring a bevy of US$1s and $5s to acknowledge staff for standout service.

Tipping guidelines for hotel staff in North America (USD)
Valet (paid upon pick-up): $3–7
Bellhops: $1–2 per bag
Bag storage: $1–2 per bag
Housekeeping: $5–10 a day
Food and beverage staff: 15–22% of your bill
Spa services: 15% of your treatment(s)
Concierge: $10–20 for securing tickets or a hard-to-get reservation

Want more hotel hacks? Check out 7 hacks for booking the perfect hotel room in Vegas. Stay tuned for more in our hotel hacks series!

What ways do you practice being five-star guest?

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Trip Styler

Trish Friesen chose an unlikely profession given her fear of flying and propensity toward car, air, boat, train, and chairlift sickness. Thanks to Gravol, Sea-Bands, and cruise ship stabilizers, the reluctant—yet enthusiastic—jetsetter packs her bag once every two weeks to swim with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef or to sample the latest libation in Portland. Trish unpacks her suitcase in Vancouver, Canada, Eh! where she’s the editor-in-chief of, a travel lifestyle website for aspiring jetsetters. Find her moonlighting on Expedia, Fodor's, Jetsetter, and as a travel expert on TV while circumventing the globe with her entourage: a MacBook Air, an Olympus camera, and the biggest carry-on she can fit on the plane.

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