5 Things You Should Do Before You Unpack

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When you first arrive in Las Vegas, fresh off the plane or a long car ride, all you can think about is dropping your luggage in your room and heading out for some fun. Maybe you’ll stop just long enough to check out the view from your window or use the bathroom to freshen up. I like to unpack before I head back out to start my Vegas vacation. I hate ironing my clothes on vacation; I figure the quicker I get my clothes out of the crushing confines of my suitcase, the better chance I have of avoiding that. But there are a few things I have to do before I even unpack. If you’re a safety- and health-conscious traveler, you might want to add these 5 steps into your routine, too.

Hotel Room

What you see when you enter your hotel room

Check for bedbugs

Anyone who has ever been bitten by bedbugs on vacation has cursed the day they ever checked into that particular hotel room. Their bites result in a torment of pain and itching; they stow away in your luggage to follow you home; and they’re very difficult to get rid of. Even 5-star hotels can get infected (usually by some other unsuspecting traveler who brought them with him or her). So before you do anything else, follow the tips in this video on how to inspect your hotel room for bedbugs.

Study your escape route in case of fire

No one wants to think of something scary like a hotel fire on their vacation, but they do happen occasionally. Better safe than sorry. Study the map on the back of the door that shows you where your room is in location to the nearest stairwell (in case of a fire). Count the number of doorways from your room to the stairs. In case there’s a fire with thick smoke and you can’t see, you can feel your way there. I also bring a small pocket flashlight with me when I travel, in case I need to find my way to an exit in the dark.



Use an antibacterial wipe to disinfect surfaces

Hoteliers everywhere are going to curse me for suggesting that their rooms are less than clean.  But as a former housekeeper, I can tell you, our focus was cleaning the bathrooms, emptying trash, changing the sheets, dusting, and vacuuming. We never thought to disinfect things like door handles, light switches, remote controls, etc. Many, many hands have touched those things before yours. What if the person who stayed in your room before you didn’t wash their hands regularly? Do you want your vacation ruined by a bout of the flu, a stomach bug, or the norovirus? Didn’t think so.


Yay! A clean bathroom!

Check the bathroom for cleanliness

If there’s one thing that really skeeves me out, it’s walking into a hotel room and finding mildew on a shower curtain or other people’s hair in the drain.

Paris Room

This would have been a nice shot if I'd gotten my crap out of the way first

Take pictures of the room if you’re going to

If you plan on sharing photos of your swanky hotel room with family and friends back home, or if you plan to write a review for an online site, take the photos before you unpack. No one wants to see your unmade bed, luggage strewn all over the place, and food and beverage containers littering every surface of the room in your photos.

That’s my check-in routine. What’s the first thing you do when you check into your hotel room?

Video credit: University of Maine

17 thoughts on “5 Things You Should Do Before You Unpack

  1. Angela Myers

    CHECK FOR BEDBUGS! I am a hotel “snob”, so I never thought I would have to worry about something like this – but recent stories have made me change my mind and now I am serious about checking for these little backpackers.

    After that, I check out other areas that housekeeping tends to forget. For instance, I once stayed in a major chain hotel and next to the nightstand were TOE NAIL clippings! Yep….nasty. The hotel offered to come and vacuum them up – but I asked for a full refund and left – immediately!

  2. Gray

    LOL, “little backpackers”. That’s great. OMG, I am so grossed out by your toe nail story. Ugh. I know what you mean though. A friend and I found a used bandaid underneath her bed at Ballys one time and 4 days later when we checked out, it was still there. We sure weren’t going to touch it, but we figured somebody in housekeeping would have seen and disposed of it over that course of time. Nope. Shudder.

  3. Hetz

    Thanks Gray,

    I leave my suitcase right inside the door and immediately check the bed, etc. The suggestions to carry some disinfectant wipes and a small flashlight are great ideas. Thanks!

  4. Gray

    You’re welcome, Hetz! I was a bit surprised at him putting the luggage into the tub. I figured the bathroom floor was sufficient. I also had NO idea about the luggage rack. Yikes!

  5. Nate

    I never thought to check for bedbugs – I always figured a place as unforgiving as the Mojave would be enough to kill them off. Guess that’s something I should add to my routine from now on.

    Generally the first thing I do when I get into a hotel room is check the minibar. I was visiting Chicago a while back and, unbeknownst to me, the previous occupant had completely cleaned out the room’s minibar. I didn’t even realize it was empty until I checked out and was presented with a bill for hundreds of dollars. The hotel management didn’t believe me when I said I hadn’t even touched the thing, and they refused to remove the charges. I eventually had to call up my bank to do a chargeback, and I’m pretty sure I’m not welcome at that hotel any more. So now I check every time.

    I’ve also heard that some people stash one (or both) of the bathrobes into their luggage, then immediately call the front desk to complain about the missing robes. I, of course, am a complete saint and would never do something so horrifyingly dishonest, but supposedly less-scrupulous people do this to keep some decent-quality bathrobes without getting charged for them. This doesn’t work with the TV’s, unfortunately.

  6. Gray

    LOL, Nate! No, I don’t think that would work with the TVs, but if there were a way, someone would figure it out. That’s terrible about the minibar charges! You got totally shafted. I too, check the minibar, but it’s not something I do before I unpack. I usually do it right before bedtime, so I know what my options are in case I wake up with the munchies in the middle of the night. 🙂

  7. Rob

    Nice checklist, I have my own, and it’s always based on what the last room I had lacked. I hit Vegas a lot, so I stay in the lower end places. Thus first thing I check is that the toilet flushes, then I check to see it doesn’t rock (I’ve had two rooms recently with a “rocking” toilet and it is no fun). Then I check the water pressure in the shower. Then I make sure the heat and/or AC are working ok (depending on time of year). Also make sure the bed is ok.

    And if the hotel doesn’t offer free wi-fi, I make sure the 4G reception on my cellphone is ok in the room because I’m going to use the phone as a modem to get my laptop on the internet.

    Only after all these tests do I call down for my bags!

  8. Gray

    Great checklist, Rob! I’ve got to admit, I’ve never heard of a “rocking” toilet before, but now you’ve got me worried! How exactly do you use your cellphone 4G as a modem for your laptop?

  9. Rob

    I believe most smart phones allow you to use them to “tether” your phone to your laptop and use it as a modem. You need a program such as PDANet to make it work. It costs a few bucks but you only pay once as opposed to a daily charge for wi-fi. You only get 3G or 4G speed depending on the area your carrier.

    Here’s a link to that program:


  10. Craig H

    The first thing I do when I get into my room is check the view. I don’t normally ask or receive Strip View rooms so it’s no big deal , but I’m still somewhat interested in what they gave me. Sometimes I am surprised they have me the Strip View I know I didn’t ask for or even pay the extra $ for.
    Then I call down for my bag, if I didn’t decide to bring it up to my room on my own. Depends if I took an extra long time to get to my hotel from the airport and I’m just anxious to freshen up and go. Sometimes waiting for bags can take 15 to 20 minutes that I just don’t want to waste.
    I quickly unpack things that I know I will need every day.
    Then I fold up my duffle bag in a way that I will know if someone moved it, perhaps to see what is inside.
    Lastly I will check to see if the tv works. I don’t normally watch all that much tv on vacation but it’s nice to at least be able to check weather back home etc. It did not work for several days during my last trip and I told someone numerous times. Wrote an email about it when I got home and now I have a few comped nights because of it.
    So, it does pay to write someone about whatever you didn’t like with your room during your last stay.

  11. Gray

    Good piece of advice there, Craig. I remember someone in the hotel biz once telling me they’d rather have someone let them know about a problem while they are there, so they have a chance to fix it, then not say anything and then complain about it online when it’s too late for the hotel to make things right.

    I almost never watch TV when I’m in a hotel room, but I want the TV to work so I can use the Express Checkout. 🙂

  12. Craig H

    I asked someone a few days in a row, even left a note for housekeeping. Noticed when I came back that the note was gone, so someone saw it…. but it still took 4 days for them to fix it , which I’m sure just meant putting new batteries in the remote.
    Oh well, I benefited from it in the long run. 🙂

  13. katie

    I’ve taken travel size disinfectant spray with me when I stay at hotels and the hand sanitizer as well. I usually remove the spread before sitting/laying down as well. The flashlight idea is a good one to remember. Also, water glasses wrapped in paper are best too. I’ve purchased disposable glasses to use in my room. Great tips found on this blog. Thanks.

  14. Gray

    Hi, Katie – Thanks! I generally bring a travel mug for my room, too. Not sure I trust the cleanliness of the glasses left there. :-/

  15. Vanessa (@turnipseeds)

    I think this is great about disinfecting handles, door knobs, common surfaces. I never thought about those things when I worked housekeeping in B&Bs – you always go for superficial clean, no matter what class or star of accomodation. I think something as simple as Purell on a papertowel or a wet whip would be a big help. Knobs, remote, light switches, remote control – all germ factories. I never used to care about this stuff – but now that I’m no longer 19, it takes longer and longer to bounce back from colds and flus.

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