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16 Things Hotels Should Have—But Don’t

Staying in a hotel should feel like an escape—after all, we are paying for a bed to always be made, an abundance of clean towels, free cable TV, and maybe even a nice piece of chocolate on our pillows at bedtime. Here are 16 things hotels should have but too often don't.

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Liquid shampoo put on bathrobe in room.Summer Photographer/Shutterstock

More amenities, please

Even the best hotels in the world could offer additional amenities to make our stay more comfortable, pleasant, and memorable. Let’s look at the things all hotels should have, starting in the bathroom and moving down through the lobby. In fact, toiletries are some of the things you should immediately check for in your hotel room.

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Remember when a little bottle of mouthwash was standard alongside shampoo and conditioner, a mini sewing kit, and an individually wrapped Q-Tip? Us too, and we would like every hotel to once again offer mouthwash (as the well-stocked bathrooms at the Encore Boston Harbor do) because sometimes, especially when traveling for business, you want a quick mouth pick-me-up and with the carry-on liquid limit TSA now enforces, a frequent flier cannot bring their own mouthwash bottle. Find out why most hotels don’t automatically provide guests with toothpaste.

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Bars of soap

Kudos to Marriott for phasing out single-use bottles of shampoo and conditioner in favor of pump bottles in their showers but nothing beats—and helps reduce plastic use—like a good bar of soap. Not every room can have a great view but here are some of the best hotel room views to add to your travel bucket list.

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Modern style interior design of a bathroomWuttichok Panichiwarapun/Shutterstock

Bathroom night light

Few things are more jarring when staying in a hotel than going to the bathroom in the middle of the night and flipping on the light to make sure you remember where the toilet is located. That harsh beam of artificial illumination at 2:45 in the morning is nothing short of hideous, but it doesn’t need to be there at all. The best hotels now feature a soft below vanity light or a simple nightlight. Memorize these 50 packing tricks before your next trip.

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Round wall mirror for the bath.Valeri Potapova/Shutterstock

Magnifying mirror in a bathroom with good lighting

Hotel bathrooms would ideally have an array of light options, from nightlights for those 2:00 a.m. potty breaks to strong illumination for preparing yourself before a big night out. Travel writer Vera Holroyd of Passports & Spice remarks that, “I thought I was crazy or super high maintenance to want better lighting and a magnifying mirror in a hotel bathroom until a Hilton focus group revealed the exact same thing.” While we’re on the topic—full-length mirrors would be welcome, too. Find out the secrets to packing lighter before you set out on your next trip.

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elevator access control, Hand holding a key card to unlock elevator floor befor up or downGOLFX/Shutterstock

Key card access to elevators

“I appreciate when hotels require guests to use their room keys to access rooms via the elevator, because even though there are times I fumble to dig my key out of my bag, as a woman who travels solo, this extra layer of security provides reassurance,” says Leticia Barr of Tech Savvy Mama. This nifty piece of safety technology, making guest room floors accessible only to those with key cards, is something every hotel should have. Here are more ways to make your hotel stay safer.

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Bed maid-up with clean white pillows and bed sheets in beauty room.; Shutterstock ID 1150069967; Job (TFH, TOH, RD, BNB, CWM, CM): -FabrikaSimf/Shutterstock

Pillow options

Every hotel needn’t have a full pillow menu like the Hard Rock Hotel Riviera Maya’s Rock Royalty program, offering water and lavender-scented pillows among other luxe choices, but it is easy enough to offer two or four pillows on each bed, half of which are firm and half-soft pillows like Hilton Hotels wisely do. Having many different pillow options would be right up there with these 13 most incredible hotel amenities available.

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white bathrobes hanging in closetsumroeng chinnapan/Shutterstock

A plethora of closet space

While you can get away with a lack of space for a one or two-night stay in a hotel, a plethora of closet space is a must when traveling with your family and staying in a hotel, shares Holroyd. Still, many hotels do not provide guests with enough drawer or closet space—and the hangers to go along with it—to fully unpack and make their room a home away from home. These are the 11 things you should always pack in your carry-on for a successful trip.

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Closeup on electric iron and ironing board set keep in the corner of wooden furniture cupboard for housekeeping service job.ekapol sirachainan/Shutterstock

Iron and ironing board

Because not every company on earth is business casual yet or because you want to be wrinkle-free before the celebratory nights out for which you traveled in the first place, an iron and ironing board remain essential hotel room amenities. Not every hotel room has an ironing board anymore but here’s why hotel rooms still have a bible.

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Male hand holding TV remote control.Dmitri Ma/Shutterstock

Smart TV with free Netflix

C’mon, it’s nearly the year 2020, every hotel should not only have a Smart TV for easy access to popular streaming channels like YouTube, Amazon Prime, and Hulu but there should be complimentary Netflix access where there was once Cinemax with those tiny booklets outlining a month’s worth of premium programming which we’d flip through hoping a good movie was on late at night after we got back from sightseeing or the business meeting that brought us to town in the first place. Just be careful when you touch that remote control; it’s one of the 11 dirtiest spots in hotel rooms.

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Waiter carrying a plate with meat dishMNStudio/Shutterstock

A room service menu that doesn’t price gauge its guests

A stack of buttermilk pancakes should never cost $20 and anyway, what are we getting for that 18 percent service charge separate from the extra gratuity earned by the person actually doing the work to make the delivery? Every full-service hotel should have a room service menu that doesn’t price gauge its guests and ideally would offer marvelous food for their vegetarian visitors, like the heavenly Impossible Tacos at the Gaylord Rockies. Here are 15 things you should never do in your hotel room, including ordering overpriced room service.

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Vinyl player with plates on a wooden table. Entertainment 70s. Listen to music. Top view.Vladimir Sukhachev/Shutterstock

Turntables and vinyl records

If every hotel can afford to populate their rooms with a small Bluetooth speaker/phone charger/alarm clock combination device, then a suitcase-style retro turntable with a few vinyl LPs shouldn’t be too much to ask. If a property wants to invite guests in with a welcoming, warm in-room atmosphere, there’s hardly a better way to achieve this than a turntable, just ask those lucky travelers who have stayed at one of the eight Lyric Suites around the country which supply guests with a premium Denon turntable and speaker system along with a curated stack of records from bands who call that city home. The Lone Mountain Ranch in Big Sky Montana also places such audio entertainment in their cabins and the result is a vacation that immediately sounds and feels more relaxing and at Austin’s Hotel Van Zandt, you’ll find a Symbol vinyl record player in the Presidential Suite. Peek inside 16 of the most luxurious presidential suites around the world.

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Keep calm and ride on. Businessman cycling against office buiding, going to workProstock-studio/Shutterstock


More hotels should be like the Hotel Galvez & Spa in Galveston, Texas in offering their guests complimentary use of bicycles (and bike locks) during their stay. Bikes are not only a fantastic way to explore a destination, but they also leave no carbon footprint and provide a bit of exercise too. That’s a win all around! Using bicycles while traveling helps keep the Earth clean but here are things hotels aren’t cleaning as well as they should!

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Charging electric car on a city parking lot the future of mobilityHerr Loeffler/Shutterstock

EV chargers

More and more electric vehicles are hitting the motorways, so it makes perfect sense that every hotel should offer some EV charges station parking spots to their guests. Hotels should offer EV chargers but hotels should never be spying on you in your room.

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Photo frame on wall - coffee picture(3d rendering)baitong333/Shutterstock

Original artwork

This might seem frivolous, but art can heal, energize, reinvigorate, initiate reflective thoughts, and bring peace of mind. When staying in a hotel, especially if traveling solo and battling the loneliness of life on the road, original artwork like the pieces inside every room at NoMad Las Vegas that have been curated by Paris-based design studio be-poles, are capable of subtly shifting a trip from good to great. Amenities are regulated to top-tier properties; these are some of the best value hotels in America.

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Woman working on digital tablet computer at nightleungchopan/Shutterstock

Bedtime stories

Doug French, co-founder of the Dad 2.0 Summit, spends a lot of time in hotels both for personal travel and scouting locations for future Dad 2.0 conferences, and he has a problem shutting his mind down for a good night’s sleep. French suggests that one thing hotels should have is, “A bedside device with a Spotify Premium and/or Audible subscription, allowing guests like me to queue up a story or podcast to help us drift off into dreamland.” For children, this kind of bedtime story service exists at the Ritz Carlton Amelia Island in the form of a pirate, a parrot, cookies and milk, and an evening tale that will provide not only a good night’s sleep for tiny tots but also family memories to last a lifetime. The next best thing to bedtime stories for kids happens at Legoland Florida Hotel, where an after-dinner dance party will exhaust your tiniest travel mates making falling asleep not a problem at all. These are 15 more of the coolest kid-friendly hotels around the world.

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Unmade bed with shades of sunlight through the curtain in morning.PJjaruwan/Shutterstock

Smart blinds

Though we love those blackout curtains that many hotels feature, the lack of sunlight can make it hard to get out of bed in the morning. Now, some hotels, including the Encore Boston Harbor, have voice-controlled Alexa-enabled smart drapes and sheers. “It was amazing to simply ask Alexa to crack open the drapes to let in a bit of natural light without even setting a foot on the ground,” says Anne L. Fritz, a Reader’s Digest editor. “It made for a nice, easy wake-up.” These 17 tips will help you sleep better while on vacation.

Jeff Bogle
Jeff Bogle is an Iris Award-winning photographer, avid traveler, and English football fanatic who regularly covers travel, culture, cars, health, business, the environment, and more for Reader's Digest. Jeff has also written for Parents Magazine, Esquire, PBS, and Good Housekeeping, among other publications. He is the proud dad of teen daughters. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and Twitter @OWTK.