The world's best hotels offer accommodations far more luxurious than our own bedrooms -- whirlpool tubs and butler service, anyone? But travelers on more moderate budgets often find themselves in sterile business hotels, dated roadside motels or cheap pensions that make the comforts of home seem much more appealing.
The next time you walk into less-than-welcoming accommodations, try using the following strategies to make your hotel room more comfortable.
Slippers serve a couple of purposes on the road: making you feel more cozy, especially in chilly climates, and keeping your tootsies off stained carpets and dirty bathroom floors at cheaper hotels. Pack them in your carry-on, and you can wear them on the plane too.
Santimon makes unisex travel slippers that collapse into a small pouch for easy transport. Another option for women is this pair from World's Softest, which looks even more comfy and comes in a wide range of colors and patterns.
Keep It Clean
Many cheap hotel rooms aren't exactly a vision of sparkling cleanliness. Give yourself peace of mind by doing a quick bed bug check on your mattress and box spring (see How to Find a Clean Hotel Room for more about these insidious pests). Then run an alcoholic wipe over the spots in the room most likely to be covered in bacteria, such as the TV remote, phone and doorknobs.
Bring Your Own Toiletries
You never know whether you'll like the scent of your hotel's body lotion or if its conditioning shampoo will send your curls into frizz mode. Using products you rely on at home will help you maintain your comfortable routine and surround yourself with familiar scents.
Does your hotel room have a bathtub? Indulge yourself by bringing along a travel-size bottle of bubble bath and having your own spa night.
Take Control of Noise
Honking horns, the hum of traffic or voices from the TV in the room next door can keep some travelers up all night. Meanwhile, for city dwellers, the lack of noise at a quiet country inn can be just as disturbing.
To ensure a comfortable night's sleep, you'll want to come prepared with earplugs and/or a source of white noise. We like this travel-size white noise machine from Marpac; alternatively, you can run the hotel's fan or air conditioner, or use a white noise app on your phone.For more tips, see 33 Ways to Sleep Better at a Hotel.
Keep Yourself Entertained
Ever found yourself in a foreign country where there's only one English-language TV channel, or at a budget hotel with just a handful of stations to choose from? In these situations it's important to bring your own entertainment, whether that's a Kindle stocked with bestsellers, an iPad with your favorite tunes or a laptop you can use to stream movies. An HDMI cable is useful if you want to hook your laptop up to the TV and watch a flick on a big screen.
And don't forget about charging all these devices. Older hotels tend not to have enough outlets for the tech-savvy modern traveler, so consider bringing your own portable charger with multiple plugs and USB ports. (Pair it with a universal travel adapter for use in foreign countries.) That way you aren't crawling under the bed or moving a heavy desk to get to the last free outlet.
Bring Some Nibbles
You can't bring your whole pantry on vacation, nor should you -- trying local specialties is part of traveling, after all! -- but if you love waking up to a little biscotti with your morning coffee, or if you can't fall asleep without a mug of Sleepytime tea, throw a few biscuits or teabags into your carry-on. They won't take up much space, and they'll give you a little taste of home.
Clear the Air
The smell of stale smoke or astringent cleaning products can be an unpleasant surprise when you first walk into a hotel room. If you're sensitive to smells, pack a travel-size air purifier such as the GermGuardian GG1000, which plugs into the wall and kills germs in addition to reducing odors, or the Hayata Mini-Mate, which can be worn around your neck or placed on a nightstand.
Another alternative is to bring a travel-size linen spray; a quick spritz can mask disagreeable odors. Those with allergies may even want to pack their own pillowcase from home; not only will this let you sleep next to a familiar scent, but it may also help prevent allergic reactions to the hotel's detergent.
Bring Your Thing
Almost everyone has their "thing" -- something they're picky about, or an object they just don't feel comfortable without. (And we're not just talking about kids with their favorite teddy bears.)
For one IndependentTraveler.com staffer it's her hair dryer; she's been disappointed so many times by lousy ones at hotels that she always brings her own, despite the space it takes up in her suitcase. Another staffer never leaves home without a nightlight, while a frequent business traveler we know always packs a small framed photo of her husband and kids to put on her nightstand. Whatever your own thing is, pack it -- it'll help your hotel room seem more like home.
Travel with Fluffy
We know this isn't feasible on every trip, but if you're used to sleeping with your dog curled up at the foot of your bed, it might feel wrong to leave home without him or her. Many hotels accept pets, even boutique properties such as the Kimpton chain -- and nothing will make a room feel more comfortable than cuddling up with your furry best friend. Check out our tips for Traveling with Pets.
--written by Sarah Schlichter