Hotel hacks

Blaise Hopkinson
Blaise Hopkinson

If you’ve ever detected a whiff of boiled cabbage when using your hotel room kettle to heat water for a cup of that disgusting “free” three-in-one faux coffee, it probably is a distinct whiff of boiled cabbage.

Boiling cabbage in the hotel room kettle is the least of my corporate backpacker friend’s survival-based transgressions. She’s a nice looking, partly vegetarian, woman of a certain age who hates dining in restaurants alone.

Her confession came after I told her you could grill steak, bacon and sausages on a small sandwich iron if you let it get hot enough. Dinkum! Keep the bathroom lights on and the extractor fan will stop the smoke detector going off.

Anyone who describes business travel as “glamorous” needs to get out more. It sucks! Sure, it is fun now and then to check into a client-paid five-star hotel, where the receptionists welcome you “back” when you have never actually set foot in their inn before. And the bellboys smile broadly at the tip, and the room service waiter (they are seldom women because of what people from the IMF sometimes do to staff) will always ask if that will be all.

Dining solo in hotel restaurants is not much fun.
Dining solo in hotel restaurants is not much fun.

Dining solo in hotel restaurants is not much fun, room service becomes tedious and you get the sense that those little dishes of salad get transferred, untouched, from tray to tray as the night wears on.

Laundry is another bugbear for the corporate backpacker. Most contracts or company travel policies stipulate the “incidentals are for your own account”. My shirts cost less than what they charge of launder one in most hotels, and for prolonged stays you see the costs mounting.

Thus, always take a few spare wire hangers, as many hotel room variants cannot be removed from the rails, plus a little Tupperware of washing powder with you and demand an iron and ironing board from housekeeping when you arrive.

You can buy beer or wine for the price they charge for washing and ironing shirts. Underwear is ridiculously expensive to have laundered, and somehow my whites always come back a tad grey anyway. That is what those pull out washing lines in the showers or above the bath are for. The sink will do for y-fronts, socks, and the odd shirt.

I hate instant coffee so always take a small French press, a Tupperware of ground coffee and hope for the best when it comes to sachets of sugar. Even there I pile a handful into my bag from the airport coffee shop, just in case.

Shoe care is another annoyance. Remember the days when you just put your shoes in the passage and they returned shiny and sweet smelling. You have to be very old for those memories! Most hotels give you a useless little shoe mitt and a sponge impregnated with some gunk that doesn’t work. Try and get Doha desert sand off your Bally brogues with those!

If you want to actually keep a morsel of cheese or an apple in the minibar fridge, good luck. They are too small and are designed for the rip-off tinctures the hotel just knows you will drink at 2am after a conference call to a client or contact. Oh, and don’t get clever by replacing what you drank with stuff from the grocery store, because most chains have a discreet marking system to catch you in the act.

My cabbage boiling buddy also says hairdryers nailed to the bathroom wall are good for getting creases out of a suit, drying bloomers, getting the dust off your pumps or – should you be so lucky – the beach sand from between your toes.

hotel swag
Hotel lotions, potions and soap swag

Those little “free” soaps and nick knacks are yours for the taking as they are part of the room cost. Same goes for those silly little slippers, but woe betide you if you filch one of the dressing gowns provided. I still have one from the Conrad in Hong Kong that I thought was “free” but ended up costing HK$100!

Another thing that irks me about longer stays in hotels is that the room cleaners get cheap and stop replacing those dinky little note pads and hotel branded pens each day. And they forget to put the coffee creamer sachets on the tray, and the soap dispenser runs on empty.

So nothing to see here. Move along, then. Until your next enforced corporate backpacking migration!