Special Requests At A Hotel: What To Do and What Not

In a people-oriented industry, customer service is at the top of the list of deliverables. Hotels know that outstanding service will make guests want to come back, thereby increasing their revenues. Guests may overlook a not-so-great view from their hotel window but won’t be as forgiving with crappy service, and they will remember the hotel for it.

That is why many hotel staff will go out of their way to accommodate requests from their guests; the creative ones will even anticipate these requests. But when guests have special requests, they often do not know how to relay them.

When making special requests at hotels, follow these three simple rules. First, just ask for it – it never hurts to ask. Second, ask politely – remember that you are talking to a person who wants to help you. And three, ask at the right time – a simple email ahead of time may be enough.

What can be considered a special request?

Any concern or requirement related to hotel rooms, amenities, and services, is treated as a special request. It doesn’t have to be something as bizarre as plastic pink flamingos in the room but it shows you what hotels are willing to do to satisfy their guests.

How To Ask Hotel to Change the Room Location

When it comes to hotel rooms, guests can become finicky about their location, size, cleanliness, noise level, getting an upgrade, and getting those enviable rooms with a view.

Even if the better part of your trip is outside the hotel, you still need that all-important rest during the night to recharge your batteries, so where your room is matters.

Noisy Roomes

You may want a change of rooms because of the level of noise that can prevent you from having a good night’s sleep. The noise can come from a construction site outside your window or from a clueless neighbor in the room next door.

Or it can come from a group of noisy guests along the hallway.

What To Do

Call the Front Desk and request to be transferred. Hotels want to keep their guests happy and comfortable, and a good night’s sleep is at the top of the list of must-haves on our trips, so if you politely state your problem, they will listen and move you to another room if one is available.

What Not To Do

If it’s a noisy next-door neighbor, don’t wait until their noise escalates but call the Front Desk as early as possible. You may knock on the wall between you to alert your neighbors if they’re not too noisy; but some hotels may tell you not to take matters into your hands but, instead, call the Front Desk and let them handle it themselves. They usually give noisy guests three warnings before they ask them to leave.

Tip #1. If you’re a light sleeper, ask for a room away from the elevators, ice machines, and from rooms with large groups of people.

Tip #2. On the other hand, if you feel safer and more comfortable having your room nearer an elevator, be sure to bring a good pair of earplugs, or ask for them.

How to Ask Hotel for a Room With a View

hotel room
Image credit: Canva

Let’s face it – getting that room with a dazzling view, whether of the city below or of the ocean out front and center, can take your accommodations to the drool-tastic level. We all want it!

What To Do

If you are going for a specific view like an oceanfront or a sunrise or sunset view, go to a travel specialist or your trusted travel agency who may be familiar with the hotel and its layout. You may also call the hotel directly.

Since rooms are not assigned until you check-in, there are no guarantees that you will get what you want. If you are after that oceanfront view, this is a premium view, for which you will have to pay.

What Not To Do

Do not book online. This request is best handled personally through a telephone call or an email.

Tip #1. Ask for a high-floor room if you are booking a highrise hotel. Chances are better than good that you will get great views no matter where your room is on the floor. It may not work all the time, especially in older hotels (which may also have less than stain-free windows), but it’s worth the try.

You may come away with keeper-photos of spectacular views from on high. But remember not to ask for the top floor, which goes for top prices, too.

An added benefit to getting a room on the higher floors will be reduced street noise and car fumes.

Tip #2. Getting the best views does not necessarily mean getting the best room. There may be trade-offs like the room with a stunning view may be near an elevator or next door to a noisy group, so you have to set your priorities and know what you want most and be able to live with it.

How to Ask for Connecting or Adjoining Rooms

When it comes to the type of room that you want, more often than not, two considerations top your list, which are staying as close as possible to one another if you are with other people and staying in a non-smoking room if you are a non-smoker.

When you’re traveling as a family or as a group and want to book more than one room with easy access to one another, you will be hoping to book either connecting or adjoining rooms, depending on which most suits your family or group. These rooms are in demand so you must book early.

What To Do

Since many hotel websites do not list their rooms as adjoining or connecting rooms, nor can you book them online, you need to call the hotel and find out if they have these rooms, especially if that is most important for your room search. It helps that many hotels will go out of their way to accommodate a family or a group.

What Not To Do

Don’t just talk with anyone at Reservations when you are calling a big hotel chain.

They may just forward your call to a 1-800 centralized call center where they may not know if there are connecting or adjoining rooms available, or they may not be able to block the rooms you want.

Make sure to talk to the right person at the Front Desk and to get their names.

Tip #1. See that you and the hotel staff you are talking to are referring to the same thing! In some hotels, an adjoining room is not the same as a connecting room.

You may ask for an adjoining room when what you wanted was a connecting room – the one with a shared door between two rooms – and instead be given two rooms next to each other with a private vestibule, which is what adjoining rooms are. Or you may ask for an adjacent room and be given rooms across from each other.

Even if the popular conception today refers to a connecting room as an adjoining room, it is still best to clarify and be specific with your request to lessen annoyances and unwanted surprises that misinterpretations could cause.

Tip #2. On the other hand, many single travelers complain of being given rooms with connecting doors, which happens more often than you think. Not only will the thinner walls between the rooms disrupt your sleep, but it would also raise your anxiety levels to have strangers with easy access right next door, so you have to specify in advance that you don’t want this type of room.

Tip #3. Booking connecting rooms may be cheaper than booking a multi-room traditional suite. And unlike a traditional suite, which may only have one bathroom, the former may each have their own.

How to Ask for Non-Smoking Rooms

Another factor that may ruin an otherwise memorable vacation or smooth business trip if you are not a smoker or are sensitive to irritants, is being in contact with cigarette or tobacco smoke – whether from real cigarettes and tobaccos or e-cigarettes.

What To Do

State your preference under the Reservations page, in an email, or when you call them. If there are no smoke-free rooms available (so they say), call them up a few more times just in case a smoke-free room may open up. Have another hotel in the same location as a backup.

I remember when I was booking a room on Expedia, I somehow glanced over the fact that the only room that was available in the hotel was a smoking one. Needless to say, my family still remembers that night as the worst night ever.

What Not To Do

If you want to avoid cigarette or tobacco smoke from any smokers around, or second-hand smoke, or even “third-hand smoke” left behind by cigarettes and tobaccos, then do not book a hotel that only has a partial smoking ban.

These hotels are designated as non-smoking but have common areas like the casino, dining areas, lobby, etc., which are still smoking zones.

Tip #1. Even if you booked a Non-Smoking Room, whether you book through the hotel’s website or an Online Travel Agency, it is still no guarantee you will get it. Your request remains just that – a request, which is subject to change according to availability. Furthermore, even if the hotel may confirm your preference, it may still state that it is “subject to hotel availability.”

Being friendly gracious may help you immensely. As one former hotel desk clerk said in a forum, “You would be surprised at how far being ‘nice’ will get you. I usually caved for people that were actually sincere and honestly nice!”

So politely make it known that you need a smoke-free room, and you may even get it.

Tip #2. If there are guests inconsiderately smoking on the hallways of a non-smoking floor, report this immediately to the Front Desk. The staff may act on your complaint and warn the offending parties, or they may simply ignore your grievance. So be forewarned for either kind of response.

Just be aware that hotels may not enforce the smoking bans the same way or to the same scrupulous degree that you may want.

Tip #3. Be prepared for situations where you may have no option but to stick to the smoke-tainted non-smoking room you were given by bringing scented candles or air sprays. If nothing works, then go to the other hotel on your list.

Tip #4. Since more and more hotels, especially the large chain hotels like Marriot, Westin, and Comfort Inn, are shifting towards becoming smoke-free places, smokers face the dilemma of where to smoke in the hotel. Some hotels have designated smoking areas inside and outside the hotel. 

If you take your chances and smoke inside your non-smoking room, you may incur hefty fines upon your check-out to pay for deep cleaning your room.

How to Ask Hotel for Room Upgrades

hotel breakfast
Image credit: Canva

There may be situations where you want a room upgrade, but you may be hesitant to inquire, or you may not know how to go about asking for it.

Special Occasions

Celebrating a birthday, an anniversary, or Valentine’s Day?

Or do you want to make your honeymoon even more special?

Then don’t be shy!

Be upfront about it and politely and respectfully ask the Front Desk staff if they can upgrade your room. Better yet, inform them of your special occasion ahead of time when you book, or through an email so they can make a note of it.

You may not only get a room upgrade, but they may also give you a complimentary Champagne bottle, cakes and goodies, and a congratulatory note.

Special Needs

If you are traveling with a person in a wheelchair, for example, and you need a larger room to maneuver around, don’t hesitate to ask for one.

Special Circumstances

If you are coming back to the hotel on a return trip; or if you are coming back with a group on your next trip; or if you will be holding an event at the hotel in the future, let them know about it, and they may reward you with an upgrade.

Ordinary Occasions

You don’t have to have a special occasion to score a room upgrade. Sometimes, just trying your luck to see if you can get one, especially if you are a return guest, is enough.

What To Do

Repeat your request when you confirm your reservation. Request it again upon checking in but do it when no one is around or within earshot, so as not to put the hotel staff in an awkward position. You can also increase your chances of upgrading your room by asking for a corner room, which is more spacious.

What Not To Do

Don’t be rude. Don’t demand. Don’t act entitled or throw your weight around. Don’t lie or try to manipulate the staff into giving you an upgrade. Just be honest about why you’re asking for one, and this will be more appreciated.

Tip #1. When the Front Desk agent tells you all rooms are just the same, you can slip him a 20 with a smile and voilà, suddenly a better room may become available; or you may get better amenities or a late check-out or other forms of upgrades. 

Tip #2. Then there is your bellman. He can do more than you think he can; and, if you treat him nicely, ask him for help, and tip him, he may even surprise you.

Tip #3. Ask for newly renovated rooms, which may offer benefits like better showerheads, for example. Just be aware that if you are allergic to the smells of fresh paint or new carpets, then you may not want that new room.

Tip #4. Staying for only a night or two and traveling during the low season may give you a better chance of freely upgrading your room. But if you are hoping to be lucky, don’t book the cheapest room and expect, or worse, ask for a room upgrade, or you will get the side-eye or the raised-eyebrow treatment from the Front Desk staff and kill your chance.

FREENOT FREERoom transferIf your complaint about noise and smelly rooms are valid, the hotel will transfer you or may even upgrade your room. 
Room with a viewDepending on room occupancy, room availability, or guest frequency, they may give you a corner room or a room with a better view.Premium rooms with the best views, like oceanfront views, are not free.
Connecting roomsIt all depends upon room availability. 
Room upgradesRoom upgrades can be freely given for special occasions, special needs, or special circumstances but cannot be guaranteed. 
Free vs. non-free special requests

Room Services and Amenities

Traveling light is a universal mantra we all try to follow, but it is a goal that many of us don’t achieve. We play a neverending game of should-i-pack-this-or-not with ourselves when we are packing our bags. But if we knew the astonishing number of freebies we can get at hotels, or things we can borrow, or even things they can get for us, then that would make our preparations so much simpler.

What To Do

Just call the Front Desk and ask for it, or email your requirements and requests ahead of time.

What Not To Do

Don’t call the Front Desk during their busiest hours, which are between 9 A.M and 1 P.M. They will be handling a gaggle of people checking in and checking out, and they won’t be able to deal satisfactorily with your request.

Basic toiletries Other toiletries Hair accessories Sanitary products Cleaning aids Health aids Beauty tools EarplugsHair-styling tools Flat iron Sewing kits Workout clothes Exercise kits Umbrellas Bathrobe Extra towelsSet of clean linens (request for this as soon as you check-in) Hypoallergenic pillows and beddings Body pillows Extra blankets Shoeshine kit
Bottled water Pens / Notepads Laundry bags Slippers Plastic bagPhone chargers Adapters Extension cords Coffee maker MicrowaveMini refrigerators Fans Rollaway beds Cribs
Travel guides Maps WiFiBoard games Books  Movies Guitars / DJ mixer
Complimentary tea, coffee, wine, snacks, goodies Breakfasts Kiddie mealsWheelchairs Strollers Bicycles  Private vehicles Kayaks
Free vs borrow hotel amenities

Of course, not all hotels have all these items on hand; many are specialty items according to the type of hotel you have booked. For example, hotels that encourage you to explore the area would have bicycles and private vehicles you can loan. Some of the items are also available on a first-come-first-serve basis.

The table above can serve as a guide for your next trip.

Some hotels may charge you for items like rollaway beds, cribs, or refrigerators. If you have a baby or toddler with you, try to arrange with your hotels for supplies like diapers and bottle-cleaners so that they can pre-stock your room.

More Tips For Advanced Special Requests

Tip #1. Make your requests when you are booking your Reservations. If you are booking through a third-party site, you must call the hotel after to make your requests – take note that most hotels give priority to those who book directly with them.

Tip #2. Make your request as specific as possible. Although the hotel cannot guarantee anything, it would help them more if they knew exactly what you want.

Tip #3. Follow up on your request. Send them an email or two the closer you get to the date of your trip to remind them, and then email them again on the day of your arrival.

A Final Word on Special Requests

Although hotels will endeavor to meet and even surpass your requests, it is never a guarantee. But there are ways to boost your chances:

  • Become a frequent guest or join the hotel’s frequent visitor program.
  • Even better than having a loyalty card is cultivating relationships with the hotel personnel. Staying at the same hotel will allow you to build and nurture these relationships.
  • Bring a thank-you gift to show your appreciation.
  • Don’t forget to tip the housekeeping staff daily.
  • Be kind. A random act of kindness can create ripples of positive energy that can reward you in many ways.

Reed Harris

Reed is a traveler and blogger. He's planning to visit all states in the USA. He's been in 31 states so far.

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