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15 Red Flags You Should Leave Your Hotel Room ASAP

Don't miss these warning signs.

Have you ever arrived at a hotel, expecting it to be the Ritz, when in reality, it looks more like a Motel 6? We have. And let us tell you, it is not a pleasant experience. From stained sheets and leaky sinks to bed bugs and rude receptionists—we've truly seen it all. Which is why we're here to share the worst warning signs and hotel room red flags you should watch out for the next time you check in. You can thank us later.

There are black spots on the curtains or luggage racks.

female maid cleans the curtains at a hotel

It's a traveler's worst nightmare: waking up in the morning with red bites all over your body. Yes, that's right, we're talking about bed bugs. Although you should always remove the duvet and check the fitted sheets and mattress corners first, you'd be surprised where else the pests might be hiding. For instance, if you see black blotches on the window curtains, that's a sure sign of infestation. Another place to look? The luggage rack. Bed bugs thrive on wood surfaces as well as fabric, so it's best to place your suitcase in the tile bathroom where they can't easily crawl inside your bag.

Pro tip: Use Bedbug Reports to search hotels in the U.S. to see if there have been any bedbug warnings.

The sheets are colored or patterned.

brown bedroom with bedskirt
Shutterstock/Svetlana Larina

Nobody wants to think about how many bodies have been in that hotel bed. But the truth is, 2,000 people on average have slept there before you, so it's no surprise that there may be a few stains left behind. One way hotels may try to cover it up? Using colored sheets or bedding that isn't white. You can also bring a handy-dandy black light to do more detective work. Just brace yourself for what you might unearth.

There is dust on the fan.

ceiling fan running ways to bring down a/c bill

You never really know how thoroughly housekeeping cleans each room. Sure, the bed could look perfectly made and the tables could be tidy, but was that after a quick pass? One of the easiest ways to find out is to check the ceiling fan. It's the most overlooked fixture, so if it's wiped down—without dirt or dust—you know they've done a deep clean.

There are dead plants.

dead potted plant

Good hospitality is in the attention to detail. For instance, if there are plants around the property that look wilted or are in desperate need of some TLC, you can tell that the management doesn't care very much. Even worse? If they use fake plants as a cop out for live ones. The next time you check in, glance around for fragrant flowers or vibrant greenery, and you'll know you made a good choice.

There are smudges on the water glasses.

dirty cups with coffee residue

Cardinal rule: Never use the reusable cups or coffee mugs in hotel rooms. Even if they don't have smudges or lipstick stains—which many do, unfortunately—there's a very good chance that they haven't been sanitized completely. In fact, sometimes the cleaning crew will leave glasses that have been used for drinking water because they appear clean to the naked eye. Instead, look for hotel rooms that have paper cups, especially when they're individually wrapped in protective plastic.

There are leaky faucets in the bathroom.

leaky faucet

There are many indications of mold in a room, but the most obvious is a leaky faucet. If even the slightest bit of moisture drips from your sink or shower, you'll likely find black, white, green, or yellow specks of mold forming. It's also worth doing a smell test to see if there is a musty odor nearby. Mold is detrimental to your health and hygiene—so point it out to the hotel staff immediately if you find any traces of it. No one wants to add a doctor's visit to their trip itinerary.

The exit signs aren't easy to find.

Business man leaving door with exit sign

Guest rooms are required to have evacuation notices and fire escape plans. So, in an emergency, all hotels and resorts should have a clear exit path—but that's not always the case. If the exit signs aren't well lit, or there aren't any at all in the hallways, you can bet that the hotel isn't complying with the mandated safety procedures.

The carpets are worn.

Carpet cleaning Affordable ways to remodel your home

While you might notice dusty dressers or dirty sheets right away, paying attention to what's underneath your feet might not be the first priority. In rooms that get a lot of wear and tear, you'll notice it in the carpet. Look for frayed carpet fabric, faded spots, or worse, actual tracks beaten down from where people constantly come in and out of the room. And to protect your toes from germs, always use the free slippers (or dial down to reception to see if they have a pair).

There is an old hinge on the door.

a rusted old door hinge model

Safety and security are the utmost importance when on the road. You wouldn't want somebody sneaking into your room and pilfering through your stuff. So, if the keyless bolt, hinge, or chain on your door is damaged or rusty, you need to make a beeline for the exit sign.

There are leakage spots on the ceiling.

plaster ceiling with cracked paint and mold stains, signs you need a new mattress
Shutterstock/Dolores Giraldez Alonso

Ceilings could leak for various reasons—and none of them are comforting. It could be a sign of mildew or overall structural instability in the hotel building itself. In the worst case scenario, your upstairs neighbor might even have a damaged septic pipe in the bathroom, which could be trickling down to your room. Gross!

There is peeling paint on the walls.

peeling white paint on wall

There are some things worth the splurge—such as quality paint. If a hotel uses cheap paint, it will peel faster and it could even be hazardous to guests. Heat inside the room can release the toxins in the paint, which could cause lung irritation if inhaled. This is even more dangerous in older hotels that used lead-based paint.

The hotel location isn't accurate.

woman with apple maps on her phone n the car

Here's a sneaky trick. Some hotels will list their address under adjacent neighborhoods that are more popular among travelers. However, when you show up, you find that you're not staying where you thought you were. Another little white lie: They may say they are located "downtown" but are actually near a busy road or highway. Be careful if a hotel mentions it's in an "up-and-coming area," industrial district, or hospital zone (where ambulances are bound to keep you up all night with their ear-piercing sirens).

Pro tip: Use Google Earth's street-view option to inspect the surroundings before you go.

The lobby is unattended.

empty hotel lobby

Not every hotel is going to have white-glove service, but they should all at least have attentive hotel employees. If the lobby, reception desk, or concierge is empty, especially during after-hours, you can bet that the building security is not up to par. Similarly, be mindful if the main entrance is left unlocked or lacks cameras.

The parking lot is poorly lit.

empty parking with one light pole at night

When booking a hotel room, pictures of the parking lot are usually omitted. (It's not exactly the most exciting amenity, after all.) But if you pull up to find that the lot isn't well lit or you don't feel comfortable leaving your car there overnight, you'd better keep on driving. You'll also want to make sure the garage or parking area isn't a far walk from the hotel, so you don't feel uncomfortable stepping out of your vehicle and schlepping your suitcases a mile down the road.

The management has a bad online presence.

man holding phone reviewing something online

Employees at high-end hotels treat guests like royalty. They remember their names, are overly helpful, and sometimes throw in extra perks for return customers (hello, suite upgrades!). But the best management shows people courtesy, even when they're complaining. For instance, if a guest leaves a bad review, they should apologize or try to make up for the poor service. Watch out if you see a manager denying or deleting negative feedback online. Chances are they're trying to hide something. And for more travel tips, make sure you're aware of The Worst Time to Book a Hotel Room.

Adam Hadad
Adam is a science and travel writer based in New York City. Read more
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