17 Hotel Red Flags To Look For Before You Book Your Next Trip

For frequent travelers, staying in hotels is part of the adventure, but sometimes, it’s more a misadventure. On social media threads, people have shared their immediate red flags when checking into accommodations. Let’s dive into the quirky and sometimes alarming signals that travelers have encountered, ensuring you’re always on the lookout for more than just the mint on your pillow.

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#1: More Than Just a Pleasant Scent

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“Overly aggressive air fresheners. If you get to the hotel and the room has a strong air freshener smell they are trying to mask bad smells like mold, sewage, or worse.”

Many users agree that an overly over-powering air freshener can be a telltale sign of something amiss. If your hotel room smells like a bouquet on steroids, it might be masking odors —a definite red flag for your stay.

#2: Tiny Intruders

Bed Bugs
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Spotting little dark-brown spots near the top of the bed or in mattress seams is more than just an unpleasant sight. These marks could signify the presence of bedbugs, turning your cozy night’s sleep into a nightmare of itchy discomfort.

#3:Poor Ventilation Spells Trouble

Poor ventilation, empty room
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The moment you step into a hotel and catch a whiff of poor ventilation, it’s not just a foul smell—it’s a red flag. Many users suggest that inadequate airflow could indicate subpar cleanliness or maintenance standards, setting a less-than-ideal tone for your stay.

#4: The Youth Brigade

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“This only applies to larger hotels: When all employees are really young. Not a single employee over the age of 20-23 in view. This, in my experience, means that whomever is managing the hotel is only hiring the cheapest possible employees; who generally don’t know their roles. On every occasion like this, service has been completely absent.”

Some users have noted a suspicious absence of older employees in larger hotels, with only young faces in sight. Brace yourself for lackluster service and potential issues during your stay.

#5: Exterior Evasion

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“An easy red flag is when you’re looking to book a place online and there are absolutely no photos of the exterior or street / neighborhood; just generic-looking photos of beds and the breakfast room.”

A lack of genuine photos could indicate a less-than-ideal location or an attempt to mask undesirable surroundings. It’s definitely a red flag to consider before booking.

#6: Google Gossip

Tula, Russia - April 08, 2021: Google logo on iPhone display.
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“Read the google reviews before you book and see if the owners/managers respond kindly (if at all). If they attack the negative reviewers at all – stay away.”

Before booking, some users suggest scrolling through Google reviews for valuable insights. Pay close attention to how owners or managers respond to negative feedback. If they’re defensive or hostile, it’s a clear sign to steer clear of potential conflict during your stay.

#7: Doors That Won’t Lock Properly

Hotel door
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Discovering a door that won’t lock properly in your hotel room is more than just an inconvenience; it’s a red flag for safety. Whether it’s a faulty lock or a broken mechanism, this issue leaves you vulnerable to unauthorized entry, making for a restless night’s sleep and heightened security concerns.

#8: Shocking Complaints

Hotel Guest
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“I went to a Travelodge last month and when checking in, someone came up to reception in front of us and we overheard, “I don’t like to complain, but there is a used co***m in our room.” Immediate red flag!”

This unexpected encounter is an immediate red flag, hinting at potential cleanliness issues and raising doubts about the overall hygiene standards of the establishment. Would you still have checked in to this hotel?

#9: Unwelcome Roommates

Privacy Policy
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Feeling snug in your hotel bed after a long day of travel is blissful, until another guest keys into your room. This unsettling experience was shockingly shared by many users, highlighting glaring security flaws and a breach of privacy. Many users suggested investing in hotel door locking mechanisms to keep intruders out.

#10: Water Woes

Rusty Pipe
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“I once had brown water coming out of the faucet at a hotel in Romania when I wanted to freshen up after checking in. It didn’t get any better from there.”

Whether it’s rusty pipes or contaminated water sources, this initial impression sets a troubling tone for the rest of your stay, leaving you parched for a reliable refreshment. In addition to this unsettling story, many users suggested not to drink tap water in hotels.

#11: Deserted Reception

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“If there is nobody at reception, particularly if it’s advertised as a 24 hour service, that’s always a bad sign. It suggests that the receptionist is either super busy doing the work of 3 people and the place is understaffed, or a lack of discipline in the staff. Understaffed means extra wait times for everything and a lack of discipline means that nobody cares, so everything from breakfast to bar service will be a major challenge.”

#12: The Menace of Secret Cameras

Couple in hotel room
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The discovery of hidden cameras in hotel rooms and AirBnB’s is a flagrant violation of privacy and happens way more often than we all think it does. Users caution against overlooking suspicious objects or unusual fixtures, emphasizing the importance of conducting thorough inspections to safeguard personal privacy and security.

#13: Filthy Filters

Hotel room with AC
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“My dad ran a motel for decades and the first thing we do is check the filters in the AC. If a place is run well, the maids should be cleaning them regularly. Doesn’t need to be every day but when the whole thing has layers of caked on dirt and debris, you know the folks aren’t cleaning properly.”

#14: Flouting Fire Safety Regulations

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“Propped open fire doors and fire extinguishers that expired 5 years ago. I stayed at a hotel for almost a week and that door was propped open in a blatantly illegal way every day. It also blocked my room door. Two years later, a hotel down the street burned down in a fire.”

If you see violations of fire safety regulations at your hotel, check out right away. Users recount experiences of compromised safety measures, highlighting the importance of ensuring that emergency exits remain unobstructed and fire-fighting equipment is up-to-date and accessible.

#15: Signs of Disregard in Car Parks

Neglected car park
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Surveying poorly maintained car parks, characterized by overgrown landscaping and litter, is more than just an aesthetic concern, it’s indicative of a disregard for cleanliness and safety. These neglected surroundings diminish the overall appeal and security of the hotel, leaving guests wary of their environment.

#16: Lingering Odors

smoking cigarette
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“Cigarette smell, especially in motels.”

Detecting the unmistakable smell of cigarettes in a motel room is more than just a nuisance, it’s a red flag for potential health hazards and cleanliness issues. This pervasive odor not only detracts from the overall comfort of the accommodation but also raises concerns about inadequate ventilation and hygiene standards.

#17: Law Enforcement Presence

Police officers with crossed arms looking at camera
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“Cops out front. You know there is some wild stuff going on in there.”

Spotting police officers stationed outside a hotel signals potential disturbances or illegal activities occurring on the premises. This unwelcome sight raises concerns about safety and the overall reputation of the establishment, prompting guests to reconsider their choice of lodging.

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