What It’s Actually Like to Live in Hotels for a Year

If you’re like me, you may have spent nearly a year of your life in hotels and are eyeing offers of lifetime status like you did Christmas when you were a kid. Or maybe you’re not but you’re loving all the travel porn coming out of One Mile at a Time as Ben is living in hotels full time. Those of you who know me well know that I didn’t spend every single day in a hotel (preferring boutique hostels and AirBnb), but I think I have enough stories to entertain you :)

I will admit, a free huge breakfast on the 40th floor overlooking Seoul is pretty nice though.

I will admit, a free huge breakfast on the 40th floor overlooking Seoul is pretty nice though.

After a few hundred stays, checking in and out have become so mundane that you almost laugh or face palm when hotels engage in their wacky behavior, simply because they are so ingrained in their routine. So here’s a look at hilarious things that happen when an efficient road warrior meets your well-trained, eager to please hotel staff member.

People insisting on trying to help you with your bags when you have already optimized them to be carried around the world. (Westin DC)

I’m still a young and fit guy and have been living out of a 20” carryon for the past 12 months. So it’s absolutely hilarious when a guy about my age tries to wrest it from my hand, in the name of helping me take a load off. I know it’s your job, but go help the grandmother or family with two strollers over there. I’ve carried this baby over 100,000 miles, on boats, camels, and motorbikes. That elevator doesn’t look too daunting. :)

Valet parking shenanigans (Four Points, LAX)

This is usually most egregious around LA, particularly LAX, where the hotels have colluded with the city government to ban nearly all street parking, erect huge fences around the property and then charge you $34 (nearly the price of the room) for the privilege of parking your rental car (which you picked up less than a block away) in a nearly empty lot a full 40 ft from the door. Talk about artificial space constraints. This goes double at resort properties boasting thousands of acres of space.

Benefits, the upgrade dance and magically appearing suites (Westin Bayshore, Vancouver)

When I approach the desk, I have passport and credit card in hand. I’ve already booked on the hotel website (sometimes while in the lobby) so rarely is there a missing reservation issue, but it kills me when you have to prompt the agent for every single benefit. “So where is breakfast then?” “Wi-Fi is free right? Is there an access code?” “Club lounge open?” “Health club access?” I know that newspaper selection will never actually make it to my door.

The worst is when hotels make a huge deal over upgrading you to a “deluxe” room or “grand view” room, that’s likely identical to almost every other room at the property. I’m not a room diva and for short recovery stays a standard room is fine, but it’s really annoying when you’ve confirmed a suite upgrade for a special occasion, used suite nights or know that suites are available on the website and have to push for them to give the room to you.

Front Desk: “So as a platinum guest, we’ve upgraded you to our ‘improved view’ room. It has an extra border along the wallpaper”

Me: “Ah interesting, I was curious if you have any suites available?”

Front Desk: “Hmm, not really. I can give you a ‘deluxe view’ room with two borders along the wallpaper, but it’s smoking and not your bed type.”

Me: “Ok, so what would happen if I booked this one bedroom suite that’s showing as available for the stay on my iPad?”

Front Desk: “::tap tap tap:: Ah, I found a corner suite overlooking the harbor, would that be all right with you?”

Over the top service run amok (Park Hyatt, Abu Dhabi - Conrad, Tokyo)

This includes extended tours of the room to show you how each and every light switch works (“Why yes! That IS a closet!”) overly attentive pool staff wading into the pool to refill your water after every sip (Conrad Koh Samui) the dreaded knock to see if everything is all right, twenty seconds after you’ve entered your room and ventured to the bathroom to take a…

Inventing rules or processes that no sane person would have ever figured out (Sheraton, Rio, W, Montreal, many others)

I’ve been chastised for bringing a towel from the gym over to the pool (see this one tiny blue stripe! It makes it different and therefore not the right type of towel) And my guest has to be registered to the room to receive a towel.

Ah, I can’t go up to the omelet station, but have to tell my server, who writes it down and hands me a slip of paper to give to the omelet chef. Guess pointing is impolite.

“Ah yes, the key resets at 6pm every day, so you’ll have to come to the desk to get it reactivated”

Not being allowed to take my drink from the W bar to the adjacent W lounge where the rest of my group is sitting. Never mind that it’s a terrible $14 manhattan that I waited 20 minutes for…

Jumping through hoops to get a F%#@ing cup of coffee (W Seattle)

Me: “I have to work late and there doesn’t appear to be a coffeemaker in the room”

Front Desk: “Ah, well you can order a cup of coffee off the Whatever/Whenever menu, but only by the pot at $18, plus tax tip and service charge”

Me: “Ok, well I’d like a cup of coffee for around $2-3, (in downtown Seattle) Is there a Starbucks around?”

Front Desk: “No, there aren’t any open coffee shops nearby. Downtown closes early, but we can use the Acura Town Car to drive you to a coffee shop in South Lake Union. You’ll have to take a cab back, but it should only be $7”

Me: “I’ll take it”

When ultra-luxe hotels are clearly split between people who paid for them and those that didn’t (St. Regis, Aspen)

Checking out the hot tub with my friends, I find about fifteen twenty-somethings crammed into a tiny jacuzzi like sardines with dozens of empty cans of beer strewn about, iPhone blaring Spotify, chatting about their new MBA interns and next client projects, much to the horror of the distinguished older couple who were hoping for a relaxing ski getaway and a soak

The most aggressive housekeeping staff ever (Hilton, Cologne)

7am - Phone rings

Housekepping: “Hello, can we make up the room now?”

Me: “No, I’d like to sleep - please come around 1pm”

I turn to my friend and say “They’ll be up in about 30 seconds”

::30 seconds later::

KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK - “Housekeeping!”

Me: “GO AWAY!”

Repeat at 9


Me: “Still sleeping!”

and 11am…

Me: “AAHHHHH leave me alone!!!”

High-speed internet from 1997 (Hyatt Berlin)

Settle into club lounge for a productive day of work AND waiting, AND waiting, AND waiting. 20 minutes later, my email loads… Where’s the Starbucks?

Utter room design fails (Too many to list)

Why are the only outlets behind the bed or ::Ouch!:: under the desk?

Similarly when there are random light switches are stationed around the room that turn on random lamps, or no lamps.

Hm, this looks like a stripper window ::elbowing friend:: Want to put on a show in the tub? Later I ask a corporate rep at a conference why there are windows from the bedroom into the bathroom and they respond (straight-faced) that customers wanted more natural light in the bath. Riiight…

I guess I close off the 20 ft wide entry to the bathroom…with a curtain? Oh dear, I hope families don’t stay here.

Bell staff that can’t hail a cab to save their life (Park Hyatt, Buenos Aires)

Walk outside trying to catch our dinner reservations. No people around. Zero

Head the 20ft to the street to hail down a passing cab.

Out of nowhere, bell man runs over, pushes me aside and blows that insanely loud whistle right in my ear at a passing taxi, while motioning to his coworker to activate the taxi light. He then ushers me back to the front door.

Hotel within a hotel (Sheraton, Hong Kong)

Me: I’d like to reserve a room on points and apply 5 suite night upgrades.

Phone Agent: Oh, that will be 32,000 points per night.

Me: I thought it was category 5 hotel, closer to 12-16,000 points per night right?

Phone Agent: Oh I thought you wanted the Towers portion of the hotel. Those rooms are double the standard room points rate.

Me: Forget it, I’ll book the Hyatt.

Lounge food that makes you appreciate airline food (Sheraton, Bloomington) or those that are just ridiculously crowded

::Hacking the bruschetta that’s crusted onto/becoming the serving dish::

::Pour a glass of red wine and 6 or 7 bugs come out:: - SAS Lounge Heathrow T3 (I know, not a hotel, but eww)

Breakfast buffets that cost as much as feeding an entire impoverished nation (Westin, Bellevue)

Hm, modest buffet with eggs and bacon with a few pastries and coffee. How much does the buffet cost?


Staff nearly holding you hostage with checkout formalities as you run out to catch a flight (Aloft, Sukhumvit)

Front Desk: “Wait, wait we need to review your folio and check you out!”

Me: “You have my card on file, charge it!”

Front Desk: “No, we need you to review it to make sure the charges are itemized correctly”

Me: “Bye Felicia!”

Concierge holding your reservations hostage (Fairmont Mission Sonoma Inn, Sonoma)

Via Email:

Concierge: “Your reservation is set for 7pm at XX and we made a backup at YY at 8:45. If we don’t hear from you by 5pm, we’ll be forced to cancel the dinner reservations”

Me (checking my email at 4:50pm): “Now why would you pull the rug out of a guest and cancel their reservation if they didn’t happen to check their email in time?”

Concierge: “Oh, well we’re not supposed to make duplicate reservations in the first place”

Do Not Disturb means something else in Sonoma:

::Phone Rings::

Front Desk: “We saw the Do Not Disturb sign on the door, so we thought we should call to see if now is a good time to deliver a bottle of champagne”

Me: “No, I’m napping”

Front Desk: “Oh, well we have a bellman outside your room right now waiting to deliver it”

Me: “Ugh, let me find my pants”


While hotels can offer a great respite from the hustle of travel, they come with their own quirks and idiosyncracies that you’re going to have to adapt to. Hotels are usually huge operations with hundreds if not thousands of guests a day, so they have to design processes that help the most number of people in the most efficient way. Some of it is the result of training, others from the hotel design itself or the bad behavior of previous guests.

I hope you understand that I’m not complaining, just trying to show the often humorous, ridiculous, downright wacky stuff you have to jump through when you spend 100% of your time on the road. It’s not all glamour and rainbows :)

Have a funny hotel story you’d like to share? Comment Below!

6 Responses to “What It’s Actually Like to Live in Hotels for a Year”

  1. Great post Eric. I will have spent just over a month (maybe a bit more) in hotels this year and I have to say no hotel is as good as home!

  2. Yes…families DO stay at those weird hotels with the giant picture window next to the tub looking into the room (Hilton Xi’an). I was told by the hotel staff that this is the “the most up to date trend in new hotel design”. I hope not!

  3. As someone who has been living in hotel (almost exclusively mid-range domestic hotels) - yes, yes, yes, yes! The blatant disregard of the DND drives me crazy!

    Especially if (as often happens) I’m in a hotel with late check out (SPG or Hyatt). I had one, I don’t even remember which now, that I had a 4PM check out on a Sunday. DND up.
    8:20AM: Pound, pound, pound. “Housekeeping”. Before I can even say anything the door is opening. Luckily I had the little slider thing on and they went away.
    8:45AM: Pound, pound, pound. “Housekeeping.” I manage to get up this time. Go to the door. Point out the DND and let the housekeeper know that I’ll be in the room until 3PM. She seems to understand, so back to sleep.
    9:30AM: Pound, pound, pound. “Housekeeping.” I less kindly point out the DND sign and tell her not to come back until it is gone. Then go inside, call the front desk and let them know what has happened. Ask not to be disturbed as I’m trying to sleep (jet lag).
    9:40AM: Knock, knock, knock. I get up and answer the door: It’s the housekeeping supervisor. “The front desk told me that you have a problem with housekeeping.”

  4. Phenomenal post. Would love to read more

  5. Great article! You’re lucky to have someone travel with you. Most people don’t believe the stories that I come home with. I spend a couple months per year in hotels and it’s amazing what you run into. The design of the rooms is that one that always gets me.
    Courtyard in Downtown Atlanta last week.. TV was mounted on the wall parallel with the bed, so you had to pull it out and angle it at the bed. The TV hung crooked which drove me nuts the whole time, and because of the angle of the TV now, the remote didn’t work from the bed. Had no way to mute the TV when my phone rang. I like the have news channels on while I’m working on my laptop. Couldn’t sit at the desk either because the TV hung over the desk and was right in my face if I sat there to work. They had to mount it there on the wall instead of the one in FRONT of the bed because of those weird sliding barn doors they have on the bathrooms now.

  6. Very good post, I spent 2 years in and out of hotels every week and all of this hits close to home. I would never in a million years go back, although I’m spending much more time in Walmart than I used to manufacturing points!

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