When travelers book a hotel room, they can usually count on finding many of the conveniences of home, from clean bedding to tiny shampoos. But for routines that go beyond sleeping and grooming, a hotel room may fall short.
These hotel-room hacks will help you transform your sleeping space into a place to keep off extra weight, keep up with your inbox, or keep your kids safe and entertained.
You need: A personal gym
No hotel gym? You don't need rows of elliptical machines or even a lot of space to keep up your fitness routine on the road. While you probably shouldn't attempt pull-ups on the doorframe or swing around a jump rope, the average hotel room affords plenty of space to do squats, pushups, jumping jacks, crunches, lunges and triceps dips.
If your normal workout involves weight training, substitute barbells with resistance bands, which are lightweight and portable enough to fit into any carry-on. You can even use the luggage itself as weight resistance (just don't overdo it--you still have to get it into the overhead bin on the way home).
For a more structured workout, pop a workout DVD into the room's DVD player or your laptop, or find free videos on sites like YouTube and BodyRock, many requiring no equipment except your own body weight.
Travelzoo Tip: Kimpton Hotels offer a yoga mat in every room.
You need: A productive office space
Many hotels have business centers that can provide the conveniences of the office and a distraction-free place to work. But if a room is all you have, then a reliable Internet connection is priority number one.
Free Wi-Fi is an increasingly common hotel amenity, but some hotels still charge by the hour and even by the device. Frequent business travelers should invest in a Wi-Fi base station like the Apple AirPort Express, which turns a single wired Internet connection into a Wi-Fi hot spot, so you can connect all your devices without extra charges.
Using Skype for business calls can help you avoid racking up cell phone minutes or room-phone charges. For hands-free calls, get a Bluetooth headset and Bluetooth adaptor for your laptop if it doesn't already have one. Groups of coworkers on the road should consider a portable, wireless speaker like Jambox, which can connect to your phone via Bluetooth so you can hold conference calls while ensuring everyone in the room can hear clearly.
Some hotels are short on sockets -- carry a small, three-port mini power plug to maximize availability.
Travelzoo Tip: If your charger got left behind during the packing rush, you can charge your USB device using the room's TV.
You need: A childproof playroom
Some hotels are already equipped with child-friendly gear like cribs and outlet covers -- just call ahead and they'll set everything up before your arrival.
For childproofing on the fly, remember: a single roll of masking or duct tape goes a long way. Use it to cover outlets, tape washcloths to sharp corners and keep drawers from closing on curious fingers.
These additional steps will help create a kid-friendly space: remove the plastic bags from trash cans; remove table cloths that can be pulled down; make sure windows are securely locked with furniture moved away; tie up loose cords, like on window blinds, so they're out of reach; unplug electrical devices like hairdryers and coffee pots and keep them in a locked or out-of-reach drawer; check all surfaces for small objects that can be choked on; put away potentially hazardous products like shampoo and mouthwash; and lock balcony doors.
Of course, none of these tips will keep away another threat to families: boredom. If bad weather has you stuck indoors, have the kids build a pillow fort, write postcards to friends back home, or hold a treasure hunt with convenience-store finds like candy and stickers hidden around the room. Or plan ahead by bringing DVDs, coloring books and portable games like Pass the Pigs.
Travelzoo Tip: Some hotels offer on-site day care with fun activities for kids.
--Kelsey Rexroat is a Travelzoo Deal Expert based in New York. Travelzoo has 250 deal experts from around the world who rigorously research, evaluate and test thousands of deals to find those with true value.