Borderline Genius Hotel Hacks for Your Next Trip

By Jake Schroeder
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Photo Courtesy: DavidLee/Pixabay

If you're planning an upcoming business trip or vacation, then feast your eyes on this collection of brilliant hotel hacks that every traveler should know. You may be shocked to learn how well these simple, effective tips work to make your next hotel stay more comfortable and stress-free.

Whether you're traveling solo or with the entire family, there are plenty of great tips for your situation. Read on to rest easy, knowing you're prepared to work your way around all the common hassles that tend to plague hotel guests everywhere.

Make Your Own Cooler

If there's one thing that can drive up your hotel bill quickly, it's using the minibar. Of course, the thought of a nice, cool beverage sounds great, and the urge to simply walk across the room and get it seems even better. Before you know it, you've spent $50 on very few ounces of refreshment served up in tiny bottles.

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Photo Courtesy: Starjen_Hotels/Twitter

Don't let this happen to you! Grab a six-pack of your favorite beverage on your way back to your hotel at night. Then fill up your sink with free ice from the ice machine to make a DIY cooler to keep everything ice cold.

The Curtain Clamp Trick

Ever notice how every pair of curtains in every hotel room in the world seems to have been designed to leave a huge gap in the middle? It can be a real pain when you're trying to sleep, especially if there are bright parking lot lights right outside the window. (And aren’t they always right by windows?)

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Photo Courtesy: FiddlerBeckyB/Twitter

The next time you find yourself in such a predicament, grab a couple of hangers from the closet. Align the curtains to shut as tightly as you want and keep them in place with the pants clamps on the bottom of the hangers.

Keep Your Toothbrush Germ Free

We'd all love to believe that every hotel's housekeeping standards are routinely up to par, but it’s okay to forget about blind faith and draw the line at your toothbrush. After all, most of us don't even lay our toothbrushes directly on our own bathroom counters, so why take the chance at a hotel?

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Photo Courtesy: Khanoisseur/Twitter

A quick fix is no further away than a paper cup. Just flip a cup upside down, poke your toothbrush handle through the bottom (now the top) and you've got your own DIY toothbrush stand.

Book Directly with the Hotel

It may be convenient to compare hotels on sites like Booking.com, but when you find a hotel you like, be sure to book directly with them. Most hotels offer a best rate guarantee and will match any price you find online.

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Photo Courtesy: Hermann/Pixabay

You may even get a better rate by joining their loyalty program if they offer one. Most programs are free to join, and you get to enjoy the perks and services that come with booking directly. The extras are usually plentiful, as the hotel gets to skip the commissions and fees associated with reservations made through booking sites.

Reinvent the Ironing Board

If you're in a hotel that doesn't have a convenient desk or table for dining, then check to see if there's an ironing board in your closet. By simply putting a blanket over it, you can set up a quick dinner table if you and your family ever want to enjoy some takeout.

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Photo Courtesy: marc_saltz/Twitter

Ironing boards also make great adjustable height desks if you would prefer to sit on the bed or a more comfortable chair than the one at the desk. You can even use it for your make-up or other personal items if the vanity is low on space.

Take Advantage of the Tiny Shampoos

Although you shouldn't take your hotel bathrobe home unless you want to be charged for it, some things are definitely up for grabs. You know those tiny bottles of shampoo, conditioner and bath wash? Take them and use them. They are already part of your bill, even though you don’t (usually) see them listed.

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Photo Courtesy: alllymart/Twitter

Hotels expect you to use them, so it's fine to take them to go. Either save them for later or keep them in little bags to donate or pass out to the homeless. The Gideon bibles in nightstands are also free for the taking as well.

Stream Your Own Entertainment

Hotel TV channels can be a hit or miss. You may occasionally get free HBO or Showtime, but who wants to plan their day around getting back to avoid missing the beginning of a movie? If the hotel has Wi-Fi and a smart TV, you can usually stream your own entertainment from your computer.

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Photo Courtesy: DeusQain/Twitter

Just plug in a Chromecast device or use the HDMI input to hook your laptop directly to the TV. That way you can stream whatever services you subscribe to right to the screen without having to pay for on-demand movies.

Always Mention Special Occasions

Whenever you're booking your stay, be sure to mention if you plan to celebrate any special occasions on your trip. Many hotel websites offer a little comment box for such things when you book online, or you can mention it when booking over the phone.

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Photo Courtesy: carlachernandez1/Twitter

Sometimes, you might get lucky and find a free bottle of champagne in your room or score a free upgrade if there are rooms available. After all, hotels survive largely on their reputations, and many are happy to do what they can to make sure your stay is an enjoyable one that you will talk about to others.

DIY Drain Stopper

Need to fill your sink or bathtub even though you've got a bum drain plug? Most hotels are happy to help you out, but if you'd rather handle things on the fly, then just grab the plastic bag from your ice bucket.

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Photo Courtesy: Facts Verse/YouTube

Place it over the sink drain and drop a few coins inside to help weigh things down. If you need a stopper for the bathtub, then try filling the plastic bag with water and tying it off at the end. Hold it over the drain until the tub starts to fill, and it will settle into place.

Keep the Remote Clean

No matter how great a job the hotel staff does when they're cleaning, the TV remote control is an often overlooked lair for germs. The mere thought of how many people's hands have held it within a single week should be enough to inspire you to give this hack a try.

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Photo Courtesy: DoctorYasmin/Twitter

It shouldn't take much searching to come across a plastic bag in your room. You can usually find them around the coffee cups and in the ice bucket, or you could even use a shower cap. Wrap it around your remote to enjoy some germ-free channel surfing.

When You're Traveling on a Budget

If you're traveling on a budget, then eating out or even in the hotel restaurant every day may not be a practical plan. Believe it or not, quite a few quick meal options are available for "cooking" that require nothing more than your hotel room coffee maker.

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Photo Courtesy: dannycanales/Twitter

Ramen, instant rice and oatmeal take little more effort than boiling some water, right? The average coffee pot has boiling water covered. Just put your food in the empty pot, fill the coffee maker with the right amount of water and wait for the fun to begin.

Use Band-Aids to Baby Proof Sockets

Not every hotel room is designed with small children in mind, although some may be more helpful than you think if you mention it while booking. If you ever find yourself in a pinch, however, band-aids can prevent accidents before they happen.

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Photo Courtesy: msumuh/Pixabay

Simply place them over any open electrical outlets in your room, and you've got DIY socket protectors. Rubber bands and hair ties are also handy for wrapping around two cabinet knobs that are side by side. They can prevent your child from opening the doors as long as they don’t stretch too far.

Collect the Breakfast Jellies

Even if you don’t need all the tiny condiments at the continental breakfast, it doesn't hurt to stow a few away. Small packets of peanut butter and jelly and a few slices of toast can turn into a quick sandwich for any long car rides you've got planned during your trip.

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Photo Courtesy: joshwellborn/Twitter

Be sure to pick up some of the free fruit as well. Even if you don't plan to eat it right away, it can be a great snack to have on hand while you're out and about or on your way home.

Use Your Shower as a Clothing Steamer

One of the biggest downsides to trying to fit all your clothing into very few suitcases is the wrinkles that are sure to follow. This can be especially embarrassing if you're traveling for business or a special event, and you need to look your best.

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Photo Courtesy: Stevepb/Pixabay

Luckily, that tiny, cramped hotel bathroom is about to do you a big favor. Try hanging your clothes on the inside of your bathroom door while you take a hot shower. The steam will help loosen all those wrinkles. A flat iron, which should be provided by the hotel, can help you finish the job on any remaining stubborn wrinkles.

Use the Coffee Maker to Do Some Disinfecting

If you're worried about cleanliness while staying at a hotel, then your coffee maker also comes in handy for a little disinfecting. Just boil a pot of water and use it to wash any non-disposable coffee cups and other hotel utensils you plan to use during your stay.

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Photo Courtesy: davidlee770924/Pixabay

If you really want to go the extra mile, you can easily pick up a travel-sized bottle of dishwashing liquid at a nearby discount or dollar store. Put those hotel washcloths and towels to good use by ensuring that everything is spotless and clean for eating and drinking.

Keep Your Electronics Close

If your partner has commandeered the lone bedside table in the room, then this sheet hack is for you. Just untuck the top end of your bed sheet and rewrap it to form a little horizontal pocket over the side.

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Photo Courtesy: 5 Minute Crafts/YouTube

Tuck the bottom ends securely under the side and you've got a nice place to store everything from your reading glasses to your phone. It's especially nice to know that they're within reach when you turn out the lights. Nothing's worse than fumbling around on an unfamiliar table in the dark!

How to Make a Grilled Cheese Sandwich in a Pinch

Another great hack for the traveler on a budget is the instant grilled sandwich trick. While the odds are low that you will be blessed with a hot plate or microwave oven in a budget hotel room, there's no need for one if you still have a clothing iron.

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Photo Courtesy: Theloopca/Twitter

Just prep the sandwich as usual and wrap it in some aluminum foil. Hold the hot iron on top of each side for as long as necessary until the sandwich is cooked. If you're feeling adventurous, you can even use the same items to make your own eggs and toast!

How to Hack the Card System

These days, many hotels are attempting to cut down on their electrical bills by using the key card system. The idea is that you place your room key card into a slot on the wall when you're in the room to activate the room's electricity.

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Photo Courtesy: JohnDragonMan/YouTube

While it’s a novel idea, it can be a pain if you need to charge your phone or want to keep your room cool while you're down at the pool. What the hotel won't bother to tell you is that anything from a business card to a loyalty rewards card will work just the same.

Defrost the Buffet Butter

One of the major drawbacks of continental breakfasts everywhere is those ice-cold blocks of butter that tend to be served with the toast. Mostly they result in either torn bread and muffins or a piece of toast with one big buttery spot in the middle. If you'd prefer a nice, creamy spread, then try this hack next time.

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Photo Courtesy: SamanthaBrown/Twitter

Just place a couple of those little butter cubes on the metal top of the toaster while you're heating up your bread. The heat should be enough to thaw them out, allowing you to spread the butter with ease.

Use a Mug for DIY Speakers

If you're a light sleeper, then noisy hotels can be a big issue. Always request a room as far away from the pool and stairwells as possible for this reason. If you're looking to drown out any extra sounds at night, then you could try turning the room’s air conditioner to the fan setting to fill your room with ambient noise that doesn’t interfere with sleeping.

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Photo Courtesy: TravelZoo/Twitter

For something actually designed to be relaxing, pull up YouTube on your phone and search for ambiance videos. You'll find everything from eight hours of rainfall to fireplace sounds. Put your phone in a mug if you want to play the sounds even louder.

Check Out the Perks at the Hotel Gym

Hotel gyms offer a great way to stay in shape for those who have the discipline to work out while traveling. For the rest of us, they also come with a few unexpected advantages. If you run out of water, you can probably find a few complimentary bottles hanging out in there.

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Photo Courtesy: Pexels/Twitter

Need some extra towels? The odds are good that you can find them there too. Although it may sound a tad fishy, keep in mind the gym is open to all guests, not just those who happen to be using it to work out.

Use a Towel to Block Out Light and Noise

It's funny how many ways light can find to creep into the average hotel room at night. A simple way to block out that annoying stream of light that's certain to flood under your door is to block it with a used bath towel.

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Photo Courtesy: FactsVerse/YouTube

Just roll one up and use it as a makeshift barricade to keep the fluorescent glow outside where it belongs. Depending on the towel's thickness, it can also help cut down on noise and make you feel a bit more separated from whatever's going on in the hallway.

Forget Your Phone Charger?

There's nothing more annoying than arriving at your destination, only to discover that you left your phone charger at home. Rather than heading to the nearest store and dropping a bundle to buy a new one, check out your surroundings first.

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Photo Courtesy: StockSnap/Pixabay

If you have the cable, then you can likely plug it into the USB plug-in on the back of your room's smart TV. If you forgot the entire set-up, then it's worth stopping by the front desk to ask if they have any spares. The odds are good that they have one in the lost and found you can borrow.

Make Your Own Humidifier

If you ever find yourself sick on a trip or simply feeling a little dried out, then try making your own humidifier out of the air conditioning unit in your room. Some say this trick can even help reduce the antics of a snoring roommate!

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Photo Courtesy: eightblackbird/Twitter

Just use a luggage stool to drape a wet towel near or over the top of your a/c unit. If you want to fuel your make-shift set-up through the night, then you can place one end of the towel in an ice bucket full of water.

Use Ice Bucket Bags for Swimsuits

If you're traveling with kids, then you probably plan to take advantage of the hotel’s swimming pool when you have free time. While this may be fun during your stay, things can get a little trickier when it's time to check out. Who wants a bunch of wet swimsuits in their luggage?

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Photo Courtesy: Stokpic/Pixabay

Look no further than the plastic bag in your ice bucket. You can toss all your damp swimsuits inside, tie the top and pack them in your suitcase without worrying about getting everything else inside your suitcase wet.

Refluff Your Own Pillows

Let's face it, a good pillow can be hard to find. For whatever reason, hotel pillows always seem to be either overly fluffy or just plain flat. The next time you find yourself in the middle of a sleepless hotel night, try taking matters into your own hands.

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Photo Courtesy: Smylers/Flickr

If you're dealing with a pancake pillow, then slip a few towels into the pillowcase, beneath the pillow itself. If you've got an ultra-fluffy pillow on your hands, try restuffing it with soft clothing, a coat or smaller throw pillows from your room's sofa.

Hide Your Cash in Plain Sight

It can be nervewracking to travel with cash, especially if you'd rather leave it in your room than carry it around. If your room isn't equipped with a safe, then try hiding your loot in plain sight when you go out for the day.

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Photo Courtesy: 5-Minute Crafts/YouTube

Just peel up the rubber portion of a flat hairbrush and slip your cash underneath. Secure the rubber top back into position and toss the brush into your toiletries or suitcase. That way if any of the hotel staff comes across it, they won't think anything of it.

The Dry Cleaning Bag and Its Many Uses

To this day, many hotels offer their guests free plastic dry cleaning bags, even though few people actually take advantage of dry cleaning services while on vacation. However, the bags can be useful for several other things.

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Photo Courtesy: Haydn Blackey/Flickr

If you're traveling with your family, they make a great "hamper" so you can separate dirty clothes from clean ones. They even come in handy if you've got a long car drive home. Use them as a trash bag to help keep the car clean or as a bag to store snacks.

Redirect the Air Conditioner

Ever notice how the a/c unit always seems to be positioned right beside the bed in many hotel rooms? Often, your choices at night are few. Either you can try to sleep in the heat or spend the night with a stream of frigid air blowing directly on your body or even your face.

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Photo Courtesy: sasint/Pixabay

Try doing a little rearranging instead. If you've got a sturdy chair in your room, put it in front of the vent to help redirect the airflow. Even a few well-stacked suitcases should do the trick by directly the air along a different path.

Leave Your “Do Not Disturb” Sign on the Door When You Go Out

Easy on the "room cleaning" sign! While it's nice to have your room cleaned from time to time, you can place a call to the front desk to request a cleaning anytime. While the cleaning sign will likely do the trick as far as getting your room tidied, it's also an unnecessary advertisement that you're not in the room.

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Photo Courtesy: bardzofajnynet/Flickr

Signaling that you're out isn't always a great idea, especially if you're staying in a hotel with doors on the outside of the building. It may attract potential thieves rather than just the cleaning crew.

Use the Shower Caps for Shoe Storage

Trying to keep your clothes clean while bouncing from hotel to hotel? Well “bouncing” normally requires footwear, and your shoes often step in things you’d rather not have touch the rest of your luggage.

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Photo Courtesy: @glossyadvice/Twitter

The solution? Head into your hotel bathroom and snag a complimentary shower cap. The stretchy cap can wrap around the soles of your shoes, protecting everything else in your luggage from whatever your shoes kicked up outside. 

Bring Electrical Tape for Those Pesky Lights

We get it. Sometimes it can be hard to sleep in a new bed. You want to minimize distractions to keep you from staying up. This is precisely why smoke detectors and various electronics can be the worst culprits at keeping you up at night.

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Photo Courtesy: @Crooked50/Twitter

Constant blinking lights from electronic devices can be unwelcome bedfellows, so grab some electrical tape and block those blinking lights. It’s easy to remove the next morning, especially after a good night’s sleep.

Use a Matchbook as a Nail File

We all know that smoking in almost all hotels has been banned for quite some time. However, hotels still like offering matchbooks to guests. If you’re ever in the mood for a quick nail touch-up, grab one of their matchbooks.

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Photo Courtesy: @JLap64/Twitter

Don’t bother striking a match. Instead, use the striking surface to help file your nails. The red phosphorus and powdered glass have some of the same components as a traditional nail file. Instead of sparking a fire, start your evening with some red-hot nails!

Avoid Room Service and Just Go Downstairs

It can be obnoxiously tempting to reach for the menu and order room service. They make it so easy for you to relax, unwind and pay $25 for chicken fingers to be brought to you on a silver platter. 

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Photo Courtesy: @AlexJAtiyeh/Twitter

Instead of paying extra for the convenience of room service, head downstairs to the hotel restaurant and order takeout. You’ve just saved upwards of 33% on those same chicken fingers because you went downstairs to get them yourself. 


Sugar Packets Make Great Exfoliants

Doctors have been telling us for years to stop adding sugar to our foods. Hotels don’t seem to listen to doctors, much, because there are always sugar packets next to the coffeemaker. But you can up your beauty game with those little packets.

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Photo Courtesy: @bbossoxx/Twitter

Grab a bottle of the complimentary lotion and mix in the sugar from the sugar packet. You’ve got yourself a free, exfoliating face and body scrub. Give yourself a rubdown for a few minutes before rinsing off. Who says you can’t play with your food?