20 Common Hotel Amenities: Are They Actually Free?

Soap - take. Bathrobe - leave. Dryer - definitely leave.Read More

Towels – don't take them. (Source: Shutterstock / Kzenon)

Depending on your vacation digs, you may find yourself drowning in spoiling amenities – and it all seems too good to be true. Unfortunately, however, hotels will often present something as a gift or free inclusion when, really, it’s not. To help you navigate this sticky scene, we’ve profiled 20 common hotel amenities below and their corresponding level of complementarity.

1: Towels – Not Free

Seems obvious, but no, you can’t take those fluffy bath numbers with you. Or the hand towels. Or washcloths. While lower-end chains often stock thin, less-expensive towels that seem like a dime a dozen (like others of their hotel amenities), they’re regularly washed and bleached for future guests. Here’s the exception: ultra-high-end chains, like The Four Seasons, may occasionally treat a special guest to monogrammed towels as a gift. But this is by far and away an exception – not the rule. In sum: Leave the towels.

2: Slippers – Sometimes Free

You know those cottony slip-ons hotels sometimes tuck into bathrobes? Most of the time, you can take those with you. Nobody really wants to wear a pair of slippers someone else has had their bare feet in, and even though they can be washed, they often get warped and stretched. Not ideal for reuse, so feel free to take them with.

If, however, your hotel offers a more durable pair of slip-ons, then think twice before taking them – serious slippers, flip-flops, and other like footwear are too expensive for a hotel to give away.

3: Bathrobe – Not Free

Nothing punctuates a soapy soak or long, hot shower better than the embrace of a fluffy robe, right? Ah, the things we never think to enjoy at home. But don’t be tempted to take this magic hotel amenity with you; they are, in fact, washed and offered to other guests. Like towels, you may find high-end chains that offer them (occasionally) as gifts, but this is rare.

4: Soap – Free

In most hotels, the soap on offer is pretty standard – it comes in a nondescript wrapper/container and does the job, well, adequately. Most people don’t even think to take the leftovers with them. If, however, you land in a posh spot with name-brand bath supplies, you can take them with you – but only what’s already stocked in the bathroom. It’s poor form to ask for more just so have some at home. (And yes, if you’re flying solo and staying for a single night, the staff will know something is up if you ask for five more Hermes soap bars.)

Soaps are fair game. (Source: Shutterstock / Angelo DAmico)
Soaps are fair game. (Source: Shutterstock / Angelo DAmico)

5: Mouthwash/toothpaste – Free

This is all for the taking. Most mouthwash and toothpaste products are inexpensive to make and stock, so feel free to take a tube or container with you. Again, it’s not couth to ask for extra just to horde, but you can nab what’s already in the room. These actually make great travel toiletries, so we’ve been known to snag some for future treks.

6: Booze – Not Free

Imagine stepping into a plush suite and finding a crisp bottle of Chard on your bed or the makings of a delightful delicious martini on your desk. How sweet of the staff to treat you to a drink! Trust us, though: These bottles are almost never free and are actually quite expensive. You won’t see price tags, and in some cases, you have to hunt for a “room menu” that lists prices, but no hotel that we’ve seen gives these away for free – unless you’re part of a special media trip or an honored guest. If they truly are a complimentary gift, there will likely be a note attached from the concierge or front desk.

In any case, it’s always good to look for a room menu with prices before you pop the cork; even if you don’t finish a bottle, you’ll be charged for it.

7: Snacks – Not Free

Another hospitality lure, snacks follow the same approach as booze. You’ll see them nested in a quaint basket or on a chic tray, but they’re not just for the taking. These, too, come with a price tag – though not a clearly identifiable one. Most are priced on the same menu as the booze, so when you find that menu you’ll know what everything costs. Just refrain from ripping open that bag of chips until you’ve found out what they cost – some will set you back as much as $10.

If you drink (or eat) what's stocked in your room, prepare for a hefty addition to your room bill. (Source: Shutterstock / MsEmerald)
If you drink (or eat) what’s stocked in your room, prepare for a hefty addition to your room bill. (Source: Shutterstock / MsEmerald)

8: Pillow chocolates – Free

Finally. A free hotel amenity – and food, no less! Yep, if you’re lucky enough to land a room at a hotel property that puts chocolates on your pillows after turn-down service, snack away. I mean, why else would they put them on your pillow, right?

9: Coffee – Free

We’ve yet to come across a hotel that offers a coffee machine and then charges you to use them. You may have to pay for coffee from the bar, café, or restaurant in the lobby, but in your room, coffee should be complimentary. The coffee machine, however, stays put.

10: Pens/pads – Free

While it would be sign of poor etiquette to stuff all the hotel room pens and pads in your bag, you technically can. The hotel staff replaces these regularly and expects that guests will use them (although less so in the digital age).

11: Hairdryer – Not Free            

Suffice it to say, any appliance stays put. And actually, many hair dryers in Europe are attached to the sink or bathroom wall so you can’t take them anyway.

12: Iron – Not Free

While not attached to anything, this stays in your room – just like the hairy dryer, TV, and lamps. Don’t take those either. Actually, here’s a good rule of thumb: Anything with a cord stays.

13: WiFi – Sometimes Free

WiFi is tricky. Sometimes it’s one of those hotel fees included in the cost of your room, but more often than not, it isn’t. Be sure to ask in advance of your stay if it’s covered and, if not, what the cost is per day. Keep in mind, however, that WiFi is usually free in common areas like the lobby, fitness center, and pool; use it here if you want to avoid extra fees.

Caption: Our advice: Just stick to regular TV and avoid premium stuff. (Source: Shutterstock / diy13)

14: Cable TV – Sometimes Free

Another cost-questionable amenity, cable TV is usually something you get for free – unless you end up ordering Pay Per View shows or other premium programming. Depending on the setup, this can be very easy to do – so easy that you might assume it’s free. Just be sure you check the hotel guide in your room or ask a front desk agent before clicking too fast. You could rack up quite the bill.

15: Phone calls – Sometimes Free

I know, who uses hotel phones anymore? But if you get the urgent (or find yourself needing a landline), be prepared for free local calls but costly long-distance ones. We couldn’t even tell you long-distance rates, but the hotel staff will know – or it will be posted in the room next to the phone. Check before you call that long-lost aunt in Prague.

16: Pool – Usually Free

When hotels advertise a pool, it’s typically an amenity they offer free to all guests. However, we have stumbled across some nicer hotels that charge daily rates to use the pool – usually in conjunction with the fitness center or spa. If you need a pass to get in, double-check to make sure each swipe doesn’t add to your bill.

17: Exercise room – Usually Free

Like the pool, you may find your hotel’s exercise room/fitness center is either free – usually the case at lower or mid-range chains – or gated with an extra fee attached, as is sometimes the case at higher-end hotels. Again, if you need to swipe to enter or there’s any kind of concierge service, you may need to pay. Check with staff to confirm.

18: Business center – Free

When we first stumbled across a business center, we were less concerned about being charged for internet and more concerned about the cost of printing. I mean, surely they charge for copies and paper and ink, right? Nope. We have yet to find a hotel that offers a business center that itemizes cost for your printouts. If you find one, avoid it – nickel and diming is always a bad sign.

If you don't already have a laptop or tablet to work off, a business center should be a nice (and free) substitute. (Source: Shutterstock / MintImages)
If you don’t already have a laptop or tablet to work off, a business center should be a nice (and free) substitute. (Source: Shutterstock / MintImages)

19: Vending machines – Not Free

Vending machines are just another way for a hotel to make some extra money, so no, their wares are not free. You’ll have to swipe a card, slip in some quarters, or slide in a couple of bucks like every other vending machine out there.

20: Parking – Sometimes Free

This is truly hit-or-miss. Sometimes, where/when parking is readily available, guests will not be charged to park their vehicle for the duration of their stay. However, urban hotels often charge as space is at a premium. It’s important to know daily rates as you’re planning your trip, so ask about this before finalizing your reservation.