Hotel Secrets as Told by Former Employees That You Probably Don’t Know

Who doesn’t love staying over at a hotel while relaxing in your pajamas and waiting for room service and not having to worry about cleaning up afterward? We all know a bit about hotels, but like all establishments, there are definitely some things you probably wish you knew when it comes to staying overnight at your favorite hotel.
Getty Images Photo by Viviane Moos
Getty Images Photo by Viviane Moos
Hospitality employees opened up on social media and shared some unnerving insights the average traveler wouldn’t know about. Here’s their version, and what they share might make you a more savvy or more frightened traveler.

Just Sayin’

There’s a saying that goes, “the customer is always right,” the kind customer might just find their stay that much better. While being kind and considerate is always a good idea, it turns out that it might even make your stay more pleasant when it comes to treating the hotel staff with just a little more care.

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One anonymous hotel employee had this to say when it came to serving nasty customers: “if someone seems rude or mean in any way, employees are sure to make any of their requests tougher to get, and more often than not, they won’t get that special room they wanted in the first place.”

Ask for Options

When you book a hotel room, you often look for the best-priced rooms – which can end up being the worst that they have to offer. A hotel could be pushing one price and showing pictures of beautiful rooms, but it may end up being that the low price is for the rooms that the hotel still hasn’t renovated, while the pictures are of the newer ones.

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You can always flat out ask for an upgrade to make sure you wind up with one of the nicer suites, or you simply ask if they have any other options for you to see before they stick you with one room in particular.

“They Do What?!”

Even the quality of the food that’s served is lower than you would expect. One five-star restaurant within a hotel was cutting corners when it came to sticking to their budget, as reported by one server.

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“I once worked in the restaurant inside a wildly popular and state-of-the-art hotel, but all the fruits and vegetables in the meals we served actually came from cans.” For the convenience of a restaurant close by, it still not worth those hefty fees.

What a Mess!

Cleaning someone else’s mess can sometimes be distressing and even scarring. Housekeepers recounted one of their lowest moments when they “once went to clean a room, and they found pages torn out of a magazine and thrown all over the room, dirty sheets, and rude messages scored on the bathroom mirror in lipstick.”

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Now, of course, the housekeepers are going to make sure the room is as neat as a new pin for the next guests – they’re paid professionals – but if the next lodger had any idea about the room’s state before their stay, they’d be terrified.

Record YouTube

A big part of traveling is often spent on busses, trains or even waiting in line, and as an outsider, you may not always be connected. While it’s great to absorb the foreign landscapes around you, you can’t exactly stare out the bus window for 6 hours straight. What can you do?

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Download videos from Youtube. Use that downtime in your hotel to download entertaining videos to keep you entertained during those lags. There are a plethora of online converters that can do this. Just stick in the URL, and there you go.

Let Them Know

If you’re traveling for a special occasion, like a honeymoon, anniversary, or birthday, make sure you let the hotel know when you’re booking the stay. There are likely to be discount packages that come along with some really cool extras. One hotel receptionist said, “you can even wind up in the honeymoon suite if you’re really lucky.”

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In other cases, you may end up with free meals or tickets to special events being hosted by the hotel. And on the day that you check-in, make sure to mention it again to whoever you speak to at the desk.

Restock Your Minibar

Afraid of tucking into that minibar? We don’t blame you. As tempting as those goodies appear all lined up in your fridge, indulging in those treats comes with a hefty price tag. Fortunately, you can still use it, even if you don’t’ consume the snacks and drinks. You can still use the space.

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That’s right. Just go to the local supermarket and buy your own snacks and sodas. You can fill up your hotel minibar until your heart’s content. Just make sure that you separate accordingly. You don’t want to accidentally drink that expensive bottle of Perrier soda water.

Portable Beer Cooler

Seeing as you can’t exactly walk around with a sink all day, we propose that you try the mobile method. Simply take a hotel trash can (a clean one, of course), fill it with ice, and bam, you have your ice bucket filled with beers and sodas.

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Now you can sit by the poolside with your refreshments by your side and not spend any money doing so.

Speak Up

Hotels are a part of the hospitality and service industry. It is literally their main job to keep customers comfortable and satisfied, just like they would be if they were in their own home. So, if you’re ever on a trip and something happens to disrupt that comfort and satisfaction – make sure you let the manager know.

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If your room isn’t up to par or if something is broken, or if they didn’t have something that was advertised in their materials, or anything else – call the front desk, or better yet, go up there and ask to speak directly to management. Just remember to keep a level head and a cool tone when you do so. You will always catch more flies with honey…

Forget Room Service

Room service is a great way to indulge, but if we are honest with ourselves, it’s a kind of unnecessary way to spend our money. Hotels charge for this, and rightly so. 90 percent of the time, that meal is anything but tasty, and from the very first bite, it’s immediate regret. If it’s supposed to be hot and crisp, it’s probably cold and soggy.

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Chances are you’re going to be very disappointed with your meal (specifically when you have to pay for your bill.) Hotel employees recommend ordering delivery instead; with so many great options nowadays, there’s no need to compromise when it comes to food.

Forget Room Service

Room service is a great way to indulge, but if we are honest with ourselves, it’s a kind of unnecessary way to spend our money. Hotels charge for this, and rightly so. But there are ways around this that can still make you enjoy a night-in in your hotel.

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You can avoid this by simply going down to the restaurant and ordering it to go. It’s the same tasty food for no extra charge! You might lose out on the fancy plates, though, but that is a small price to pay for…well, free service.

Wash Your Clothes in the Bathtub or Sink

Having fresh and clean clothes while you’re traveling is a real hassle. It’s also never a pleasant thing to have to lug around dirty clothes at the bottom of your backpack or suitcase. If y you’re in a vibrant city, you can probably find laundromats, but those cost money. There is a better way.

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You can always wash your clothes in your hostel or hotel bathtub. Just get a small amount of detergent from the local supermarket (or sneak some from the hotel) and simply do your laundry in the tub in your hotel bathroom and then hang them up to dry (don’t forget the hairdryer trick). You will have perfectly fresh and clean clothing for the remainder of your trip.

Bring Slippers

Just like comforters, hotel floors are notoriously filthy. Some will be worse than others because 5-star resorts keep their floors a lot cleaner than some motels on the side of the highway will. Even if they vacuum them every day, it’s likely that something will be lingering around, and you want to avoid stepping on it.

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Hotel employees will be the first to tell you to never, ever walk around barefoot in hotel rooms. If you don’t want to keep your shoes on, bring a pair of slippers for when you’re ready to kick back and relax.

Take the Toiletries

Some people might feel bad about taking advantage of the hotel’s mini bottles of shampoos, conditioners. But hotel employees are adamant that you should. These hotels have endless supplies of these things, and they’re meant for you anyway! May as well make use of them.

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It can be super practical to travel around with these. They are perfectly sized to fit in your carry-on, and if you find that you didn’t use them all, you can donate them or pass them onto travelers in need.

Don’t Eat the Food

We’ve all heard horror stories about the dark underbelly that lurks in the kitchens that serve us, and the same goes for hotel kitchens.

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This account reveals all: “The kitchen at the hotel I used to work at was sickening — there was a meat fridge that reeked like dead rats, and some surfaces were never cleaned!”

Bring Quarters

You will most likely use your credit card to check-in and pay for everything, from the actual room to room service and anything else you can charge during your stay. But there will be things that require cash, like vending machines and games in the arcade – and sometimes, things happen.

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Machines break down and reject dollar bills, so it’s best to have a backup plan. Plus, a handful of quarters will keep the kids busy in the game corner of the lobby for a while.

Yikes!

While some managers may be indifferent when it comes to knowing about the dark underbelly of not-so law-abiding guests, some hotel owners don’t have a clue about the hotbed of corruption that exists in their establishment.

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“We recently discovered that our employees have been working an illegal operation right under our noses… charging people to use the rooms, and then pocketing the cash. The housekeeper will then clean up the rooms after they leave, except once when we found out about it.”

Stick to a Brand

If you’ve learned from the few above-mentioned tips, you’ll start to see that traveling perks are in large part due to customer loyalty and status. An easy way of racking up points for low cost is to pick the cheapest hotel out of a specific hotel chain, for example, Park Hyatt vs. Hyatt House or Hyatt Place, or one of the Hiltons, and stick to that.

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These places don’t cost you an arm and a leg and offer loyalty programs, and since these systems are based on the number of nights and not dollars spent get status is pretty easy. Before you know it, you could be enjoying a complimentary dinner in an upgraded room and your favorite hotel.

DIY Facial Treatment

Can’t afford a session at the hotel spa? No worries, just stay in and do it yourself. Your hotel room supplies you with an abundance of things, some of which you can use for your very own spa treatment. Right next to your complimentary coffee supplies are little packets of sugar. You can just use these as a facial scrub.

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Just add it to some lotion (you can get that from the hotel, too) and gently rub your face. Your skin will be as smooth as ever and all completely for free.

Tip Your Staff

Tipping on services is customary in the United States, although it’s easier to remember to tip some service providers than others. For instance, everyone knows you’re supposed to tip a pizza delivery driver or a server in a restaurant, but some may not think about tipping a hairstylist, etc.

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And, while the person working at the front desk of your hotel is probably making a great hourly rate, if you want them to really go above and beyond to accommodate you during your stay – slip them a $50 or so when you check-in. In many cases, they will upgrade you, and in the best cases – they’ll upgrade you and won’t accept your tip (although most will.)

Nothing Going on Here

We would all think that sophisticated hotels wouldn’t want anything to do with any sort of crime or corruption, but more often than not, hotel managers and staff are just as nonchalant about it as paperwork.

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A former employee once revealed, “The manager was well aware of the kind of shady stuff that went on …he’d say things like, ‘Oh, that’s room 294. They steal Social Security numbers and IDs,’ and ‘That’s room 376, they sell game consoles out of their room,’ and he would say this like it was no big deal!”

Take Advantage of Credit Card Sign-Up

If ever offered hotel credit cards, don’t be put off by the steep sign-up prices. According to Matt Kepnes, aka Nomadic Matt, the author of How to Travel the World on $50 USD Per Day, he says that this little trick can actually pay off.  Even if signing up has a cost attached to it.

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These accumulated sign-up bonuses can actually get you a week’s worth of free accommodation. Yup, these little hotel credit perks can really take you from your average Joe traveler to a savvy jet-setter.

Room Shopping

It’s highly likely that when booking into a hotel, you’re probably getting one of the least desirable rooms. Managers and hotel owners tend to want to get rid of these ones first. To prevent this, inspect the room beforehand; you are completely in your right to find your perfect room. You may as well get your money’s worth.

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This way, you can get the best room your money can get instead of the ugly and sunless room the hotel was trying to give you.

Plastic Bottle Covers

Have a bunch of leaking shampoo and conditioner bottles? No problem. Just remove the plastic packaging from the free cups supplied to you and place it onto the lids of the bottles.

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Screw the caps back down, and voila, you have leak-free bottles. Pop them into your bags and take them where you over. The liquid is guaranteed to stay put.

Groupon Last-Minute Deals

Not everyone is as flexible when it comes to traveling. For many, it’s super important to play it safe, but if you’re not such a stickler for planning (and nerves of steel), Groupon is your secret weapon against rookie traveling money traps. The investment banker turned full-time traveler, and writer Kriston Addis swears by the Groupon method to find great deals.

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You can pick up a room in Las Vegas for way less, but of course, flexibility is the name of the game.

Squeaky Clean… Not Really

Maybe you’re the type of person who comes as prepared as can be when arriving at a hotel, wiping everything down from light switches to every surface, but you’re likely missing the real culprit when it comes to germs: the room key!

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One employee confessed rather timidly, “I’ve had keys returned in terrible conditions: covered in grime, mud, nasal mucus, the list goes on… clean those pesky germ bearers as soon as you get them.”

Wait, What?!

Another item in your hotel room that might be infected with extraneous material is the TV remote control, which is used almost as often as your key and could be just as contaminated.

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“You might wanna disinfect those next time you slouch down on the couch and channel surf,” admitted another hospitality employee. The warning might just save you from an alarming amount of contaminants, seeing as remotes controls are apparently never cleaned.

Keep the Power on While You’re Away

To keep your room nice and warm or cool, depending on where you’re staying, leave your ket card in the power slot when you leave the room. This might not be a favorite for the energy saver and more environmentally conscious traveler, but if you’re staying in a place with extreme weather conditions, this might come in handy.

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Many newer and more modern hotels use this method of the card system to control power usage. You can also just use any old card to keep the power on.

Use Duct Tape to Childproof Your Room

There can be some hazardous things around hotels, especially when it comes to kids. It’s best to keep them out of harm’s way. The most practical way to do this is duct tape. Every travel blogger can attest to this, and can it can be any traveler’s life.

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While there are hotels that have taken precautions, you can still never be too careful. This is why duct tape can come in handy. You can tape down electrical outlets, loose wires, and even sharp corners.

Late Checkout

If you’re not an early morning person, or if you just had a late night and you need to sleep it off, checking out of a hotel in the early morning can be extremely inconvenient. Luckily, most hotels offer late checkout options for those exact situations.

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Hotel employees will know the booking schedule, and most of the time, you can only extend it by a couple of hours. But still, 1 pm is a lot better than 11 am when you had a rough night, and you need the extra shut-eye!

Use a Hanger to Hold the Door

Traveling is not easy. You have suitcases, carry-ons, backpacks, and all kinds of possessions hanging off your body. Getting them into your hotel is no easy feat, especially if you don’t have a bellboy on hand. If this is the case, you have to be left to your own devices.

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Luckily you can use your hotel hangers in your closet. Just pull one out that’s still hanging on the rail and hold open your hotel door. This way, you can come in and out with ease.

Reduce Sound

Sometimes hotels can get noisy, especially if you’re in your room and can hear the cleaning staff vacuuming down the hall. So be sure to stuff a towel under your door, this old trick can help mitigate a noisier hotel room.

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It won’t kill it completely, but it can be useful and might just make your stay a little better.

Make Use of the Concierge

Hotel front desk people may not have entered into the hospitality industry because they love pleasing people, but that’s exactly why hotels exist. So, while they’re there, they’re supposed to help make your stay as easy and fun as possible.

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This means that if for any reason during your stay you find yourself lacking something that you need, you can call the front desk, and they will do everything in their power to help remedy the situation. They can also suggest the best restaurants and shopping in the area, etc., since they’re locals and will know the place well.

24-Hour Wake Up Calls

Almost every hotel offers wake-up calls, which are extremely handy to have when you’re traveling alone, and you’ve got obligations, like business meetings in the morning.

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Of course, even if you’re just on vacation and don’t want to miss the tour you’ve got lined up with the kids the next day, take advantage of the hotel’s wake-up calls. And, if you’ve got a job where you work remotely or have odd hours, you can request them for any time, day or night.

Catch that WiFi

Losing out on all that WiFi abundance? All you need is Range Extender. This little device that you can get on Amazon or any electronic shop will give you a full range of WiFi connectivity out there.

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You will never have to scrounge for WiFi again.

Use a Box of Matches as a Nail File

Who needs a trip to the nail salon when you have everything you need right in your hotel room. Not sure what to use? Try the free matchbook. Yep, you can use the rough side of the matchbook to file down your nails. You don’t need to spend a fortune on a trip to the nail salon or even buy a nail file.

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Just use your complimentary matchbox and have manicured nails at the snap of a finger. If it starts to lose its effect, you can just ask your hotel for another one!

Get an AAA Membership

You would be surprised at the number of benefits you can get with an AAA membership. According to travel maestro, New York Times, best-selling author, and founder of the Travel Hacking Cartel, Chris Guillebeau, an AAA membership can go a long way.

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Travelers can save an average of 5% – 10% at numerous hotels. Even on the occasions that you don’t save money, cancellations can be done until the day of arrival. This kind of flexibility can serve you in the long run.

Book Direct

With the convenience of websites that show you a range of hotel options, it would be best to book directly through the hotel if you want to save money. Often these websites have a steeper fee attached, and because it’s easy, many people fall for it.

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So while it is a good idea to compare hotels and prices, you still want to contact your preferred option or book directly on their website to avoid spending your money unnecessarily.

Check With Competitors

Earlier on this list, we discussed booking directly through the hotels to get the optimal rate, rather than dealing with third-party booking sites. But there’s a way to go even further than that to make sure you’re getting the very best deal.

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Most hotels offer refundable rates and non-refundable rates. While refundable rates will typically be more expensive, hotel staff know what’s up and aren’t shy to say that you might find a better deal – and if you don’t, you always have your first choice to fall back on.

Use Your Signs

In almost every hotel room, you will have a sign hanging on the doorknob that has one side that says, “do not disturb” and another that says, “please clean room.” Hotel staff is quick to mention that the “do not disturb” sign is there to prevent any staff members from knocking on your door to attempt to clean your room, etc.

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This is a really handy tool to have if you value your privacy and have no need for service in the mornings or being bothered while you take that much need nap after a long day.

Seriously?

While most people will associate staying at a hotel as a nice getaway that means you don’t have to clean up after yourself, guests usually don’t think about the trauma they might give those unfortunate housekeepers after their stay. One guest tried their best to warn the cleaners by leaving a note that read, “Sorry, it was an accident.”

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But this apology didn’t quite cut it, as the ‘accident’ showed someone had the squirts all over the bed, floor, and bathroom.” Not only must that have been a real pain to clean up, but those poor housekeepers must have needed therapy after that!

Sneaky Bills

When you receive your hotel bill, be sure to check the math for misprints or errors. Many places rely on a policy that protects them from letting you know about incorrect charges. And what’s worse, those changes won’t automatically be amended.

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One employee revealed, “Those things do happen quite easily, but we’re instructed not to delete them unless you call and inquire.” In other words, it’s a quick way to make some extra cash.

Review Away

Running out of cost-cutting ideas? Exhausted every possible travel hack? Fear not. For this one, all you need is 5 minutes and a laptop. Yes, all you need to do is to write a review. By simply asking hotel management if they happen to be on Trip Advisor, you are pretty much guaranteed to get a cool upgrade or at least a free breakfast.

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Sabrina Iovino of JustOneWayTicket.com says this has been her saving grace when traveling and can really turn around her stay.  Be sure to stick to your word though, remember, loyalty pays.

Don’t Forget the Hairdryer

Hotels come with all kinds of useful things, shampoos, creams, soaps, mini appliances, and even hair dryers. You can, of course, use this for your hair, but you can also use this for other things! And if you packed formalwear, this can be particularly handy.

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Just hang up your suit or shirt and simply “air iron” the creases out with your hairdryer. Put it on medium heat and just rub it up and down until it’s perfect.

Ask the Front Desk

Hotels will go above and beyond to keep their guests happy. After all, they’re in the hospitality business, and their main objective is to keep you happy and comfortable. But this doesn’t just mean a clean room and friendly customer service. If you get to your hotel and realize you’ve forgotten something necessary – you can almost guarantee that the front desk will help.

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And even more than just necessities, sometimes they’ll have things you may not expect them to have – like different types of electronics, etc. So, before you panic and run out to buy a new one, check with the front desk staff to see if they’ve got any on hand!

Oops

Accidentally forgetting your personal belongings can ruin your favorite vacation when you have that “oh no!” moment and ruin the lovely memories you made. Never mind that your missing items might be found by the next guests.

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One discovery had staff working the front desk bewildered: “An elderly woman said to us, ‘we found this in the room; it must have been left by the guests before,’ and handed them a beautifully decorated urn and yes, it there were ashes still inside.” Not a great start to a family vacation.

Do Your Research

Before you book into any hotel, you need to do your research and the best way you can do that is to read reviews. Online reviews can be revealing enough for you to know whether you can expect to have a pleasant stay.

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Most accommodation booking websites have a dedicated page for reviews and there’s also Tripadvisor, Expedia, and Booking.com.

Don’t Look Now

Seriously, don’t do it. As enticing as it may be to see what’s really going on in our hotel rooms, one insider gave some stellar advice when it comes to looking at your hotel room with a black light – ‘just don’t do it.’

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Nobody would be able to sleep well if they saw just how many stains still manage to remain.

Ask for Dishware

This could perhaps be nice to counter the over usage of power and is also nice if you get take out, so you don’t have to feel that you’re eating out of boxes. Just ask your hotel if you could use some dishware and silverware. They will have no problem obliging.

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Need a bowl for your snacks? The hotel surely has one. Just call up the front desk and make your request. Remember, they’re there to make you stay as pleasant as possible. Make use of it!

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