Every time I see an undercover investigation on TV about what could be lurking under the covers at any perfectly respectable hotel, I cringe. Do I really have to be THAT concerned when I'm staying at a hotel about what the previous, temporary tenants may have left behind?
I've stayed in hotels that range in age from brand new to over 100 years old. Age does not determine cleanliness, and neither does the price you pay for the room. I've stayed in hotels that seem just as - well - downright icky that were brand new and $300 a night as I have great rooms in older places and at more reasonable prices. There are tons of factors that go into how clean a hotel actually is, and rather than beat yourself up trying to find the cleanest deal around, here are some quick things I can recommend to quell your inner germaphobe.
1. Take hand sanitizer wipes, lotion or gel. You can always find hand sanitizer in sizes that easily accommodate the TSA's three-ounces-or-less rule that you will be able to take through airport security. The gel is great for when you're in a hurry and want your hands to dry quickly, but I do keep a bottle of lotion with me, too, in case I'm traveling to an arid climate and need the moisturizing capacity of the lotion. The wipes are fantastic because you can use them on just about anything - rental car steering wheels, remote controls, hair dryers - you name it.
2. Take extra plastic bags or plastic wrap. If you're in a pinch and out of hand sanitizer, drop the remote controls or handles of hairdryers and other objects into a plastic bag or just put a piece of plastic wrap around them and use them normally. You can also buy a cheap box of lightweight, disposable gloves and carry extra pairs in your suitcase.
3. If the bed linens give you the creeps, you can request fresh linens be brought up. ALWAYS check your bed linens before you crawl in. ALWAYS. Sometimes, I will take a towel from the bath and wrap the pillow in it, or I will take a hooded sweatshirt, sweats and a light pair of socks to sleep in so I'm fully covered, and lay down towels on top of the bedspread to sleep on.
4. Take shower shoes - Yes, this may hearken you back to your college days, but shower shoes are a good idea no matter where you're planning to stay.
5. And always put your toothbrush in a cup or buy a travel case for it - never leave it or anything else that touches your face (e.g. makeup brushes) on the counter. Don't leave it for housekeeping to move - they may have just come straight from cleaning the bathroom.
As they say - it's better to be safe than sorry. Always, if there are any issues with your room (unpleasant odors, suspicious looking linens, etc.) politely contact the front desk for another room. If the hotel is sold out, request new linens and maid service. If neither are available, be glad that you're prepared with your travel kit.