It’s easy to assume most everything you find in a hotel comes at a price — especially if you’ve been burned after raiding the minibar in a desperate state of hanger.
But beyond the tiny bottles of shampoo and continental breakfast pastries, there are lots of complimentary amenities available at most hotels — you just have to know to ask for them. This is especially true in four or five-star locales where they want to ensure you have the most pleasant experience possible (and come back to keep spending money).
Below, some of the most common items you can snag for free — and how to ask for them.
Toiletries, Electronics, and Other Small Necessities
New York-based travel writer Tracy Kaler says she was on a recent trip with a friend when her companion realised she’d forgotten to pack a toothbrush.
“She just asked and they said ‘sure.’ Most hotels keep things like that,” Kaler says, adding that she’s often gotten other free toiletries like nail files or shaving cream. “Most hotels want to make your stay as comfortable as possible; somethings they’ll even go out get it and not charge you.”
Most places will also provide extra shampoo, hairspray, band aids and aspirin to save you the hassle of running out to a drug store, adds Virtuoso luxury travel expert Karen Goldberg.
Some hotels may even provide a phone charger or adaptor if you’re travelling internationally and realise you don’t have the right plug.
And if you’re out of town for business you should see if they have a free shoe-shine kit and complimentary pressings to make sure you don’t have any wrinkles before a big meeting.
While most minibar items are for sale, many hotels will provide a free bottle of water each day, which can come in handy if you’re planning to do a lot of walking.
And if you consider upgrading to a suite, then you may get a complimentary fruit basket, chocolates or bottle of wine, Kaler says (though of course, that likely doesn’t offset the cost of the more expensive room).
Apart from free goodies, many hotels lend out necessary items for free or for a small charge, like umbrellas if you wake up to an unexpected downpour or even workout gear if you forgot your own and want to use the gym.
Hotel expert Tiffany Dowd says she’s taken advantage of that perk at some Westin hotels, which will let you borrow New Balance shorts, a shirt, socks and shoes for just $5. And they even let you keep the socks, for obvious reasons.
Many hotels also now provide yoga mats in their rooms in case you don’t want to head out of your room for exercise.
If you need a more comfortable nap after working out make sure to check if they offer a “pillow menu.” Many places will provide you a choice of pillows so you can find the perfect softness or firmness for you.
Food and Drink
Speaking of wine, you should look out for wine and cheese mixers with hotel staff. Most places—from Kimpton to the Jane hotels in New York — will host them, experts say, and you just need to check with staff about when they’re taking place.
“That’s a really nice perk,” Kaler says. “Instead of going out and spending $25 on glass of wine, you can just go to the hotel and get a couple glasses and have a little cheese and that will tide you over until dinner.”
That can also be a good way to get to know a hotel manager and/or concierges who can lend tons of advice about maximizing your time during your visit.
Some other upscale spots, like the Greenwich Hotel in New York, may provide a free basket of snacks and candies, Dowd says. Certain hotels, including the Dorchester in London, may even replenish your snack or fruit basket each day.
You should also always make sure to check if your hotel provides a free breakfast. The quality at most places has been improving, experts say, and it’s an easy way to save money on one meal per day.
Concierge Services and Transportation
Many travellers fail to take advantage of one of the best resources a hotel provides, concierges who are not only experts on what’s going on culturally, but can help snag you a table at that impossible-to-get-into restaurant.
“These people are the most networked people in the city,” Dowd says. “It’s not just about getting a dinner reservation, it’s getting a good table.”
The concierge can also help you get prime theatre tickets, that perfect gift for a loved one, or even help you plan a proposal.
You should also check with your concierge about house vehicles. Some hotels have a few cars on hand that will drive you for free within a certain radius.
Kaler says she was checking out of the Peninsula Hotel in Manhattan and was “ready to schlep to the subway” with her bags when the manger stopped her and said there was a car at the ready to take her from midtown to her home on the nearby Upper West Side.
Bottom Line: Just Ask
Hotels are in the business of serving you, so if you’re unsure if an item or service is provided, don’t be shy about asking—even before you get there.
“Use social media to tweet to the hotel and ask anything,” Dowd recommends. “Just ask and hotels will always try to accommodate you.”