Being an enthusiastic traveler and a light sleeper isn't exactly an ideal combination for getting the most out of my journeys. Fortunately, over the years, I've picked up a few tricks and tips along the way to help avoid the frustrations of noisy neighbors and thin hotel walls to make the most of my nights on the road. Here's hoping these 10 ways to get a good night's sleep in a hotel room help you achieve some sweet dreams, too.
1. Choose your room carefully. When making your reservation or checking in, always, always, always request a quiet room – i.e., away from noisy elevators, stairwells, ice and vending machines, housekeeping, pool areas, and any construction zones. In my experience, quieter rooms tend to be those at the end of the hall (assuming there's no housekeeping nearby) and on upper floors, away from traffic and street noise.
2. Pack the essentials. That means earplugs (forget those squishy versions they sometimes hand out in business class on flights and go for the moldable silicone ones; Mack’s Earplugs are solid standbys) and a comfortable eye mask. You may feel like a diva at first, but trust me, getting a good night’s sleep far outweighs that sentiment.
3. Ask the front desk to hold your calls. Have the reception desk take messages or send calls directly to voice mail during your specified hours, which helps prevent you from getting woken up by a wrong number.
4. Use white noise if you need to. The in-room HVAC unit (whether set on the fan function or air conditioning) can be a great tool to block out unwanted noise, as is the bathroom ventilation fan, if there is one. Another option: Download a white noise app onto your smartphone or tablet (two good ones: White Noise and Ambiance).
5. Bust out the Do Not Disturb sign. If you’re planning on sleeping in past 8am and you forget to do this, you’re almost guaranteed at some point to be woken up by a knock at the door and a timid voice calling, "Housekeeping? Housekeeping?"
6. Set backup alarms. Stressing over whether your alarm will go off or the wake-up call will come through is no way to fall (and stay) blissfully asleep. Increase your peace of mind with backups: your cell phone, a trusty travel alarm clock, a wake-up call, and/or the in-room alarm clock.
7. And about that hotel alarm clock… If you’re not using it, always, always, always check to make sure it’s turned off. Nothing is more infuriating than being jolted from peaceful slumber by the blasting beeps set by a previous guest.
8. Don’t wait to report noise. Most hotel room walls are so wafer thin you can hear every imaginable act on the other side – which some people don’t realize. If your neighbors are talking, watching television, or doing other things loudly, don’t seethe in silence: Either rap the wall a few times with a polite request to keep things down, or call the front desk.
9. If that doesn't do the trick, ask to be moved. Yes, packing up your stuff in the middle of the night bites, but it far outweighs the ensuing fatigue and frustration of a sleepless night. You might even get an upgrade, which happened to me at The Benjamin in New York City when a pack of children continued screaming up and down the hall at midnight, despite repeated calls to the front desk from me and other guests. (No word on whether the hotel threw the families of those little monsters out – I was too busy settling into my new suite on another floor to notice – but I sure as heck hope they did.)
10. If you can’t move, then ask for a discount on your stay. A few years back, I was in Chicago to run my second marathon. On top of pre-race nerves, I had to deal with construction on the aging duct work in the hotel (I must have blocked out its name due to sleep deprivation), which transmitted loud bangs at all hours, as well as next-door neighbors who partied loudly and late following a wedding. The hotel was full, so the manager couldn't move us, but upon checking out, I negotiated one of our three nights for free. It didn't quite make up for the inconvenience, but it helped (as did making two revenge calls to the room of the offending partiers when we groggily woke up at 4:45am for the race. Guess they weren't familiar with Tip #3).
What are your hotel sleep essentials and how tos?