The race is on at resorts when it comes to the free amenities they're offering to their guests. As people continue to travel both domestically and worldwide, hotels and resorts are getting increasingly competitive and offer numerous free amenities to lure customers away from other resorts. Amenities range from simple expected items like bars of soap or the small bottles of shampoo, all the way up to a full pillow menu. Many resort amenities are touted as “complementary,” which guests think of as free, but experts explain how they should be considered included in the cost of the room, not as extra.
Just because an amenity is listed as complimentary doesn't mean it's actually cost-free. Some resort amenities are not just designed to lure a guest in but to also help part that guest from some of their money. Other resort amenities have a more sinister side and might be making their guests sick. Still other resort amenities seem superfluous or even downright silly. Resisting the siren call of the free resort amenity is so difficult, but it might be essential for good health and a positive traveling experience. For our health, our sanity and our plea for common-sense vacationing, here are 25 Free Resort Amenities That We Wouldn't Touch With A 10 Foot Pole.
25 Showers equipped with 'studio recording'
We agree that there's something magical about the shower—we get our best ideas, solve the world's problems, and belt out the next Despacito—but maybe installing recording equipment in the shower is a step too far. Aloft Hotels has gone the extra mile anyway and has fitted out several rooms in its hotels in London, Kiev, Munich and Brussels with 'shower studios,' according to Complete Music Update. Guests who are certain they've got a steamy hit on their hands can even submit it to the Project: Aloft Star talent competition. Big hotel brother is listening...
24 Pooling Resources
Resort pools might be a breeding ground for the pesky Cryptosporidium parasite that can cause diarrhea, as well as Pseudomonas and the bacteria that causes Legionnaires disease, as per NBC News. Chlorine—even the typically high levels that are used in hotels—is not enough to destroy the tough crypto; it can live for up to seven days in even very chlorinated water. A single diarrheal incident is all it takes to contaminate the entire pool, and it usually goes unnoticed, spreading to potentially every swimmer. Pseudomonas, another common pool pest, can cause the common ailment known as 'swimmer's ear'.
23 Ice Machine Ick
It's not just the ice bucket in the resort room that can make guests sick—the ice machine could be an even bigger culprit, explains The Sun. Investigations reveal that machines are often not cleaned, and can develop a slime or biofilm despite the cold. Ice machines are not always cleaned regularly, and expensive resorts could be just as guilty as less costly budget motels. Ice machines could be harboring mold spores or the bacteria that causes Listeria. Many guests might be willing to take their chances, but those with compromised immune systems might be better off with room-temperature drinks.
22 Where's That Workout Gear Been?
A fast-growing trend in luxury hotels and resorts is to cater to the exercise-addicted and health conscious guests by providing complimentary workout gear. Guests can borrow workout clothes or even yoga mats and return them when they're finished, as per Forbes. Many exercise enthusiasts are very excited about this, but we are just a bit concerned about wearing clothes that soon become soaked with our body sweat, then thinking about how many other bodies have perspired into the same clothes. Similarly to the yoga mat, which can get pretty sweaty and may not be disinfected between guests.
21 The Scent Of A Pillow - not for those who are sensitive to smell
Many five star resorts are manic in their quest to one-up each other with luxury amenities. One trend popular among the fanciest resorts and hotels is the scented or aromatherapy pillow, as per Tafer Resorts. Guests are given a pillow menu, which allows them to select not only the type of pillow but also what scent they'd like to fall asleep to. This might be a luxury perk for some, but for those who are sensitive to smell or allergic to strong scents and perfume, waking up in the middle of the night with congestion doesn't sound like a luxury.
20 Hair Dryer Horrors
We thought hair dryers were just for drying hair, but maybe resort guests are finding unusual and less sanitary things to do with them—hair dryers are some of the most contaminated items in the room, according to Travel + Leisure. When microbiologists swabbed different items in the resort rooms, they were at first shocked by how dirty hair dryers were, but later theorized that hair dryers are probably overlooked by cleaning staff and rarely wiped down. Investigators warn that it's not just the case for dive motels— high-end hotels that cost hundreds of dollars a night showed the same levels of contamination.
19 That Vintage Shower Cap
Years ago, women would go to the salon to have their hair washed and set, and in between beauty parlor visits would take protective measures to prevent their hair from getting wet. Thus, was born the shower cap amenity—but people wash their hair more often now. It's rare, but a shower cap that is inside a box and not plastic-wrapped could have been on someone else's head, and that's just what ashamg2k experienced, according to their review on TripAdvisor. More likely, the shower cap is old, and the fact that people rarely use shower caps for their hair is obvious from websites like Tough Nickel.
18 Hot Tub Heebie Jeebies
Although we've cautioned about using resort pools, the good news is that they are less likely to sicken guests than the hot tub. The bad news is that an alarming number of resort and hotel hot tubs test positive for fecal matter and bacteria, as per Today. The water in hot tubs is usually treated and chlorinated, but because it remains toasty warm, the bacteria stand a better chance of surviving the chlorine chemicals and can live much longer, awaiting an unsuspecting host. A common condition is “hot tub rash,” which is caused by Pseudomonas, a common hot tub pest.
17 The Crusty Coffee Pot
The coffee pot in the hotel or resort room is about as dirty as the average office coffee maker—and that's not very clean, as per Smarter Travel. A lot of resorts have moved beyond the regular old coffee maker and are upgrading rooms with Nespresso machines, but they aren't cleaning them as often or as well as the machine guests might have in their kitchen at homes. That means multiple guests are using machines, which might be sitting there in between uses with who knows what growing inside. Other investigations have found cleaning staff washing out coffee pots with disinfectant.
16 Exercise Room Recoil
As resort travelers demand more and more health-related amenities, the hotel exercise room could become a more common perk included in the room price. Guests should exercise some caution when it comes to resort gym equipment, according to the New York Times. Often, the equipment isn't maintained as frequently as exercise equipment in the gym, and it may be a different machine than a guest is used to, increasing the risk of injury. It's rare that a fatal accident happens, but it does, and often the equipment plays a big role.
15 Talking Toilets Are Too Weird
Bathroom business is an unavoidable fact of life, but most travelers are more than happy with a standard-issue toilet that just takes care of waste removal. One toilet feature that many travelers find rather unnerving is a toilet that talks or plays music while the user attends to the matters at hand, according to Taiken Japan. Many luxury resorts and hotels have jumped on the high-tech toilet bandwagon, but customers rank a talking toilet pretty low on their list of preferred free amenities. A talking toilet feels like someone is there in the bathroom with the goer—no thanks.
14 Kicking The Ice Bucket
Ask a traveler which parts of the room are dirtiest, and very few would point to the ice bucket, but in fact, it can be one of the germiest objects in a resort room, as per Southern Living. Ice buckets are very rarely washed out so that innocuous-looking bucket could be harboring nasties like Listeria. Other surveys of the cleaning habits of the hotel staff have documented housekeeping staff wiping out the bucket with the same harsh disinfectant with which they wipe down the bathroom counter. Either way spells bad news for the health of the guest.
13 All Charged Up
Some resorts and hotels are offering guests phone chargers and ports, but it might be better for guests to skip the resort's charging station and just stick to their own phone's charger. Not only can the resort's charger damage the phone's battery or charge slowly, but public ports can expose the guest to hackers, according to CNN Business. Public ports and charging stations open up a phone to any hacker with access to the compromised port. Emails, photos and passwords can be obtained through the power cord, and some hackers can even “video jack” everything visible on the phone's screen.
12 Too Much Sharing On The Network
No matter what the resort says, no one is truly safe on public Wifi. When there's no real way to know who can access the router or the data passing through it, then everyone using the public computers or public Wifi runs a risk, as per USA Today. It's become easier than ever to share files from one phone or computer to another, and nearly everyone travels with a phone, tablet, laptop or combination of the three. Most guests don't proactively check their OS settings to ensure that they're not open to sharing files they don't intend to share.
11 Bedspread Blues
Contemplating the actual policies of major hotels and resorts when it comes to their bedding is downright depressing. In fact, many major chains only clean the bedspreads around four times a year, and many hotels teach housekeeping staff to visually check bedding for soil or stains, meaning that bedding isn't washed nearly as often as travelers think, according to Travel Truth. A resort might promise regular “deep cleanings,” but that might actually only happen every three months—if at all. Bedspreads are often multi colored or patterned designs because those hide stains and soil better from unsuspecting travelers.
10 Wifi with restrictions
Travelers should be wary of any resorts offering free Wifi—chances are, they're still paying through a resort fee. Both on- and off-the-strip hotels in Las Vegas routinely charge a resort fee that can vary between $30 to $50 a night, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Other hotels charge a flat fee, or a tiered fee depending on how fast of a Wifi the customer wants, as per Hotel Scoop. More and more resorts are providing no-strings-attached Wifi, but not all—some allow free Wifi for a specific period of time, then charge for any time usage over that.
9 The Hotel Happenings Channel
One free resort amenity that often ends up costing a bundle is the TV and the preset in-house hotel channel. Although it's often touted as a great informational service, this in-house programming is a not-so-subtle advertising ploy to encourage guests to explore the other amenities that come at a cost, like pay-per-view and, ahem, adult channels, according to Popular Mechanics. These lucrative resort channels are often run not by the resort but by a third party, and they are marketed to suck extra cash out of the traveler's pocket. Often only a fraction goes to the hotel itself.
8 ET Phone Nope
Everything that people touch and handle has germs—but not everything that people touch gets cleaned on a regular basis. Those old landline phones that we still use to call room service or dial out to order pizza are rarely given a swipe with the housekeeper's rag, as per Smarter Travel. Just like other frequently touched items like the remote control and the hair dryer, other guests handle these often without washing their hands, so gross germs take up residence until the next unsuspecting traveler books into the room.
7 Not Remotely Interested
Every time investigators go to hotels and resorts to sample the different surfaces for bacterial counts, the one item that consistently ranks as high as bathroom surfaces, or higher, is the remote control for the television, according to Global News. From high-end resorts down to lowly motels, the remote control is teeming with all kind of gnarly bacteria—and it's often the first item that guests grab. While the TV in the room has long been on the list of free amenities that most places offer, guests might want to reconsider touching before disinfecting.
6 What Lurks Beneath The Turn-Down
Once a bastion of high-end resorts and hotels, the turndown service may be finally fading. Once upon a time, a guest would come back to his room in the evening only to find that a maid had snuck in at some point before he got back to turn the covers of the bed down and possibly even leave a chocolate on the pillow. Customers are not always jazzed about a staff member coming into the room and rearranging their stuff for them, as per Bloomberg. One of the reasons that turndown service isn't as popular is that we value our privacy more.
5 The Pillowcase
While some resorts are on the up-and-up and clean their pillows and pillowcases regularly, many others merely fluff the pillow and place it right back on the bed after a guest checks out, according to Oyster. Just because housekeeping changes the sheets, it doesn't mean they're also gathering up the pillow in the same bundle. Other resorts might change the pillowcase, but once again not clean the pillow, and the pillowcase is a thin barrier easily crossed by lice or bedbugs. Other yucky things like bodily fluids or pathogens could also remain on the pillow if it's not cleaned properly.
4 Not Raising Our Glass
Although the issue may have improved in the last few years, experts still warn that one potential hotbed of germs and contamination is the glass tumblers that many hotels and resorts place in the room for guests to get a glass of water, as per Bustle. In multiple investigations, housekeeping staff was seen wiping the glasses out with the same rag that also wiped the bathroom counter or toilet. Since there's no way to know if the glass was cleaned properly in the dishwasher or polished with a toilet-rag, guests might want to just steer clear.
3 Couched In Mystery
People are strange—let's just admit that. Now, let's think about what could be on the resort room's couch—or maybe let's not. Experts warn that guests should be cautious, because bodily fluid stains are often hard to spot on couch fabric but can still harbor bacteria, according to Reader's Digest. If we think about how often we deep clean our own sofa at home, we'll realize that the resort isn't sterilizing every couch in every room after every guest. Deep cleaning a sofa isn't that easy, so guests might want to think twice before lounging on the in-room sofa.
2 No Cause For Alarm
In the distant past, when customers wanted to be awoken at a certain time they'd notify the front desk, who would send someone to knock on their door at the preordained time. By the 1980s, even high-end hotels and resorts had switched to an automated system that often failed to produce the phone call notification at the correct time. This free amenity became an obstacle for many resorts, according to the New York Times. This failure, coupled with the ubiquitous cellphone, means that the wake-up call isn't a necessary part of the travel experience the way it once was.
1 In-Room Whirlpool Woes
Many resort rooms feature huge bathtubs for a total relaxation experience, complete with whirlpool jets. While at first (and second) glance this seems like heaven, guests might want to think again before relaxing in the whirlpool jets, as per CBS News. While a wash-up or antibacterial wipe can fix a lot of the dirtiest areas in any resort room, experts explain that the whirlpool jets are a perfect breeding ground for all the nasties that can cause pneumonia, rashes or even urinary tract infections. It's a bummer, but it might be better to skip those fun whirlpool jets.
References: Hotel Scoop, Forbes, TripAdvisor, Tough Nickel, Southern Living, Travel + Leisure, CNN Business, Smarter Travel, USA Today, NBC News, Travel Truth, Popular Mechanics, Smarter Travel, Global News, New York Times, Bloomberg, Oyster, Bustle, Reader's Digest, New York Times, The Sun, CBS News