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Eight Things You Should Do Before Anything Else in Your Hotel Room

01/27/2014 11:59 am ET | Updated Mar 29, 2014

All you want to do is kick off your shoes and relax when you arrive in your hotel room. But before you flop down on the bed, make time to do these eight simple things before anything else. Your health and safety may depend on it.

Check for Bedbugs

Scrutinize your mattress, bed frame, and headboard -- you're looking for small brown stains. Bedbugs are hard to see (they hide during the day and can run away quickly when disturbed), but they leave behind brown bloodstains when they process the blood of their victims. Be sure to check under the sheets and mattress pad, too.

Sanitize

Your room may look clean, but that doesn't mean it's sanitary. Hotel cleaners may scrub the bathroom, but do they take the time to wipe down common safe houses for germs, such as remote controls, light switches, and doorknobs? Give these items a quick cleaning with an antibacterial wipe to stay healthy during your visit.

Check Hiding Spots

Before letting your guard down in your locked hotel room, check these hiding spots to make sure you really are alone: under the bed, in the closet, and in the shower. An intruder could have slipped in before you and could be lying in wait -- or something more gruesome. You think I'm being alarmist? Maybe, but Snopes lists a number of actual incidents in which guests checked in to a hotel, complained about a horrible odor in their room, and later discovered a human body hidden under the bed or mattress. They had literally been sleeping on top of a corpse. Now who's the alarmist?

Make Sure Temperature Controls Work

Your room temperature may seem fine now, but it could become unbearably hot or cold once you're trying to sleep. If you wait until nighttime to discover that your climate controls don't work, you may be stuck if there's no maintenance staff on call to fix the problem and no vacant room for you to switch to.

Remove the Comforter

Sheets and pillowcases: easy to wash. Bedspreads? Not so much. So some hotels just... don't. Even between guests. According to Reneta McCarthy, a former housekeeping manager for a major American hotel chain, it is possible that a hotel bedspread might only be changed four times a year. And you're not even safe with a duvet that has a removable cover: McCarthy says that if there is a top sheet between the duvet and the bed, the cover might not be washed between guests. So before you get into bed, take off the dirty bedspread!

Unplug or Reset the Alarm Clock

An absent-minded or mean-spirited guest may have set the bedside alarm clock for 4:00 a.m. Make sure the alarm has been turned off when you arrive in your room, lest you be awoken or startled by an unexpected noise. Unfamiliar clocks may be tough to figure out, so if you have a cell phone, you can use that as an alarm clock instead. In that case, just unplug the bedside clock completely.

Put the 'Do Not Disturb' Sign on the Door

Unless you want housekeeping or a turndown service barging in on you unexpectedly, put the "Do Not Disturb" sign on your door as you enter. Just remember to take it off the doorknob in the morning if you want your room cleaned.

Study the Fire Escape Map

It's unlikely that you'll ever need it, but you need to have a plan for how you will get out of the hotel in the case of an emergency. Take a minute to familiarize yourself with the fire escape route from your room -- it could save your life.

--By Caroline Morse

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Read the original story: Eight Things You Should Do Before Anything Else in Your Hotel Room by Caroline Morse, who is a regular contributor to SmarterTravel.