What to pack when preparing for a hotel stay

This is taken from my increasingly extensive experience as a business traveller staying in a variety hotels across Europe and the United States. Please note that I am not yet familiar with any Asian, African or Australasian hotels. Anyone who knows about similarities and differences with hotels on these continents could /msg me or add a writeup here. Until then, travellers heading to hotels in these destinations would do well to be cautious about this advice. There is a wide range of 'hotel' accommodation to be seen, even in the two continents I have travelled widely. In this node I am not discussing motels, bed and breakfasts or youth hostels. These will have to be covered elsewhere.

What is in a room

For those totally unfamiliar with the inside of a hotel room, here are the basics. Hotel rooms are usually composed of these essential ingredients.
A door for keeping uninvited people out. Will usually have a fish-eye peep hole at chin level and various bits of card on the inside door handle. One of these will be the famous 'privacy please' sign. Hang this on the door to discourage incursions by the cleaning staff.

A wardrobe. Most hotel rooms are the same, and in most hotel rooms the wardrobe will be near the door, opposite or next to the bathroom.

The bathroom is a compact little fellow. A bath (very small but with a hopefully decent shower), a toilet and a hand basin make up its essential contents.

The remaining space you might call a bedroom. As the whole thing is a room, calling the bit with a bed in it the bedroom might seem presumptious. If your hotel room does not have a bed in it you should complain to the hotel clerk. The bedroom will usually also host a writing desk and a small chair. A TV will be at the foot of the bed. Under the TV there might be a safe (the safe could equally well be in the wardrobe. Do not despair if you can't find one in either location. The hotel staff are keen to help and will be pleased to look after your valuables in a safety deposit box somewhere). Perhaps there will also be a minibar in your room. It will always be expensive to drink and eat its contents.

Can you see already how the meagre differences between different hotels would be enough to keep you wondering what the hotel room you've booked is going to be like? Anything over and above this list is going to excite you. "Wow. A second wash-basin and mirror in a little alcove outside the bathroom!" or "A second phone above the toilet! How useful". Unpacking in a new hotel and discovering its hidden contents are about the most exciting things that will happen during your stay. Repacking at the end of the stay is decidedly boring in comparison, unless you stumble across a previously unopened drawer.
"Ooh! A second hairdryer!".

What to pack

There are certain inconsistencies regarding the necessities and luxuries provided for the benefit of hotel guests. Certain items will nearly always be provided, while others need to be packed and brought along from home. Here are the previously unwritten packing rules:

Not required

Things you might be tempted to include as you are packing, but which are almost always supplied by the hotel:
  • Bedding - Crisp white pillows and sheets. Cleaned every day. Sometimes they can feel a little over-starched.
  • Towels - Usually white, always super-absorbent having been regularly boil washed. These will sometimes only be replaced if you leave them in the bath. Leaving them hanging up can be a sign that you want to reuse them and save the hotel (and the planet) some water and detergent.
  • Face cloth - A face flannel or two. Packing one is a nightmare because it will be damp and nasty on the way home. I always trust that there will be one there and have rarely been let down.
  • Soap - Both a face soap and a bath soap. Unless you have a particular brand you have to use, don't bother packing this.
  • Shampoo - You'll find a little bottle of shampoo in the bathroom each day. It won't be anything fancy (like 'for dry hair', or 'anti-dandruff') though.
  • Shower gel - An inoffensive body soap. Perfectly adequate but you won't get a choice.
  • Conditioner - This makes up the trinity of little plastic bottles by your sink.
  • Shower cap - If you need one its there. I doubt you were going to bring one from home anyway. If you don't want to get your hair wet you've got no business being in the shower.
  • Mirror - Why bring a mirror from home when the room will have at least one in the room? Sometimes you'll also get a shaving mirror (by the sink) and you'll often find a full-length dressing mirror (behind the wardrobe door or in the bathroom).
  • TV - Every hotel room in the world has a TV set. I imagine it's a fundamental human right though I rarely switch mine on. Good for catching up on the news.
  • Clock radio - A more pleasant way to be woken up than a wake-up call.
  • Paper & pen - I gave up packing these when I realized every room I'd ever stayed in supplied them. Actually, I gave up writing when I got a laptop...
  • Bible - For those Christian types there is always a Bible (Old and New Testaments) placed by the Gideons. In some places I've also seen copies of The Teaching of Buddha (donated by the Society for the Promotion of Buddhism).
  • Ironing board and Iron - Most hotels supply a small iron and an ironing board in the room. Many UK hotels have a Corby Trouser Press too. I tend to iron shirts before packing them. When they are unpacked they will still be essentially straight but will have a few creases from the journey. Ironing these out on arrival is a simple task.
  • Hairdryer - In the bathroom there will be a small hairdryer. Usually puny and underpowered but it saves a lot of space.
  • Clothes hangers - Another essential. Many places employ devious schemes to prevent these being stolen. See the section on 'Souveniers' below.
  • Toilet paper - Yep. As much free toilet paper as you could require.
  • Kleenex - It's pretty surprising not to see a box of tissues. Usually to be found in the bathroom.
  • Telephone - Often expensive to use for long-distance calls but a nice luxury to have. Laptops can be plugged in to a data line, too. US hotels increasingly have DSL for your convenience.


These items are rarely-to-never supplied by the hotel. The staples you need to bring from home are: ...and of course any clothing you intend to wear. I find it helpful to keep a toothbrush, a small tube of toothpaste, an electric razor and a can of deoderant in my 'going away' bag. This prevents me having to collate these items from my bathroom before travelling.


Things which are only sometimes provided by the hotel. If any of these is really important to you then bring it along just in case.
  • Mouthwash - This kind of luxury is a sure sign that you're in a respectable hotel.
  • Laundry detergent - For handwashing clothes in the sink. Hotels supplying this get bonus points on my hotel-o-meter. Some people like to travel really light. Detergent allows you to pack less underwear.
  • Shoe-shine sponge - Not shoe polish you understand, just a small sponge impregnated with space-age shoe coating. If your shoes are clean you can achieve a brilliant shine in seconds. If they're scuffed and dirty you'll need to hunt for a shoe-polishing machine in the corridor.
  • Hairbrush / Comb - Another rare treat.
  • Clothes brush - If you can't see one try looking in the wardrobe.
  • Q-tips / cotton swabs - For cleaning out your ears (and, according to a girl, "remarkably good for dealing with smeared eyeliner and mascara monstrosities"). Expect to only get one or two per day. I love cleaning my ears, so I bring a small bundle of these things from home.
  • Sewing kit - Sometimes a one-off thing (on the table by the phone). Sometimes a restocked-every-day thing (near the sink). A small sewing kit will contain cotton thread in varying colours as well as needles, buttons and safety pins.
  • Lint mitt - My favourite well-appointed hotel room accessory. A bag with one sticky pad, revealed by peeling away a paper cover. Just like making a sellotape glove for removing trouser-lint, but tidier.
  • Water - Sometimes bottled water will be left in the room but it's not always free. If it's there, and you're expected to pay for it, there will probably be a note around the neck of the bottle detailing the price.


When your stay is over and it is time to pack, don't steal things from the hotel. It's OK to walk out with the soap and shower cap and sewing kit, because you were expected to use them anyway. It's not OK to leave with the towels, bedding, TV, clock radio...

Some hotels display a price list of things you can buy at the hotel. If this list includes pillows and hangers, it's a safe bet that they will charge you these inflated prices for any missing items. When you checked in you probably used a credit card, so even stealing things on the day you check out won't help. The hotel will still be able to charge for anything that's missing after you leave.