3 Questions To Ask Before Checking Into Your Hotel Room

Travel guru Peter Greenberg shares three useful and unexpected questions that can make a huge difference when booking a hotel room. Inside, learn how to avoid digs next to the inevitable construction and instead score the room with a shower strong enough to clean a stinky elephant.

The three questions:

  • 1. Ask how close your room is to the construction. Hotels are constantly undergoing renovations, so it’s safe to assume that your is no exception.
  • 2. Listen Rapunzel, ask for a room below the eight floor. Firefighters aren’t scared of height, but their hoses can’t reach past the eighth floor.
  • 3. Ask for a room on the same floor as the booster pumps. They make your shower strong, like Ukraine.

Tips on Choosing the Right Hotel Room [Peter Greenberg]


Edit Your Comment

  1. easy2panic says:

    Hi, I’m on my iPhone which does not (yet) support Flash. Could someone please type out the three questions? Thank you.

  2. dlynch says:

    @easy2panic: 1) how close is my room to the construction, 2) can i have a room under the 8th floor, 3) which floors have booster pumps?

    i stay in a lot of hotels, and will never ask any of those questions. this “travel guru” looks to be more of a “travel scammer” to me.

  3. Leah says:

    -> is my room under the 8th floor? (this is in case of fire, as fire departments supposedly can’t fight fires above the 8th floor)

    -> how close is my room to the construction? (since apparently most hotels have some sort of construction going on)

    -> is there a booster pump on my floor? (if there’s a water pressure booster pump on your floor, you’ll have better water pressure in your shower)

  4. mgomega says:

    Sounds like good advice, but seeing as how I usually look to spend less than $100 on a room I doubt I’ll ever have the opportunity to use it.

  5. Rando says:

    Bad advice.

    Just stay in a no-tell-motel

  6. bohemian says:

    I wouldn’t bother front desk people with that kind of questioning. I would rather save that good will for something more important.

    The best trip planning advice I have found is off of trip advisor. People post about the typical pitfalls of a specific hotels, where parking is cheaper, where to eat or not to eat etc. They usually post the hidden fees too.

    The other useful ones are the sites that show you what hotels are what in places like Priceline & Hotwire and what people historically got rooms for.

  7. Me - now with more humidity says:

    dlynch: Peter Greenburg is the Today Show’s travel editor. The guy knows his stuff.

  8. nysports says:

    I take it if they don’t have any rooms below the 8th floor you should ask for a discount up front because in case there is a fire you will apparently be too dead to collect it.

  9. missdona says:

    I am always friendly to the front desk and on check-in I always ask if my room is “good” or if they can pick a “good” room for me.

    If it’s a non-cookie cutter hotel, it works out most of the time.

    I don’t care about the 8th floor thing. I work on the 35th floor, so if I was concerned about dying in a fire I would never make it to work.

  10. thirdbase says:

    He looks a little smarmy, kinda like he could use one of those booster pump showers.

  11. Sudonum says:

    The “booster pump” is BS. I’ve worked the engineering department of hotels most of my adult life. The hotels with 15 or fewer floors have a pumping system in the basement and pressure regulator valves on all floors to ensure even pressure. There will still be less pressure on the upper floors regardless, but there won’t be that much variation between the upper floors and the lower ones.

    Hotels with more than 15 floors either use a water tank on the roof with gravity feed, or they use pumps in the basement with booster pumps on the upper floors, but still with pressure regulators on each floor.

    Most plumbing devices such as shower valves and faucets won’t last long if the pressure is greater than 60 psi. They operate best at around 40 psi. The pump pressure at the main pumping system is upwards of 125 psi.

  12. humphrmi says:

    Three questions I’ve never asked when I’ve booked a room, and I’ve never had a problem (with those items).

  13. erica.blog says:

    Wow! I usually leave my stinky elephant at home, fearing that the hotel shower water pressure would not be enough to clean him. Now I can drag his pachyderm stench with me on vacation, and have no worries! Thanks, Peter Greenburg and Consumerist! ;)

  14. ptkdude says:

    He seems concerned enough about fire safety to ask for a room below the 8th floor, but he doesn’t ask what the fire alarm sounds like. When a noise wakes you up at 3am, how long will it take you to figure out what it is when you don’t know what the fire alarm sounds like? Is it a constant buzzer, a constant bell, a repeating buzzer or something else? If you know what the fire alarm sounds like, you’ll react more quickly and get out faster.

  15. Ciao_Bambina says:

    I agree with missdona’s tactics. Then if I get upstairs and find that my “good” room is wanting in a major way, such as construction proximity, etc., I immediately go back down to the front desk (I NEVER call!) and talk to the person who checked me in.

    I am almost always able to get a very nice upgraded room when the first one isn’t satisfactory, but I am careful not to overuse this “ability.” It helps that I am a small, non-threateningly attractive woman and that I dress well but modestly.

  16. firefoxx66 says:

    @easy2panic: Agreed.

    I was just thinking the other day about how good Consumerist had gotten about writing out transcripts or overviews of posted videos for those of us who can’t watch them for some reason (the computers at my school don’t have flash, and you can’t install it). Please keep it up, Consumerist, otherwise it makes posts like this irritating for those who are left out.

  17. Justinh6 says:

    Very funny.

    “Can you call the engineer, and ask where the booster pumps are?”

    Any front desk in America would tell you to screw yourself in a polite manner upon hearing that question.

  18. zolielo says:

    Ask if:

    There are any discounts – government, club, etc.

    There are any corner rooms available – stat wise the problems happen in the middle, and logically you have one less common wall.

    They can tell you what is the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) – if you are on the edge of a city or county with a neighboring municipality that has a lower TOT, the hotel will often cuts it profit to match the TOT induced prices.

    There are any rooms that have not recently been repainted – rooms get repainted for all the wrong reasons such as suicides, murders, and vomiting…

  19. weave says:

    Er, the bell hop that takes the bags up to your room with you will ask you if the room is OK. Look around, out the window, etc, while he waits there for the tip. If not, give him $20 and ask him if he can get the front desk to move you, which he’ll do. You’ll get a better room. When he comes back, and if it’s an upgrade, give him another $20. In any decent hotel for the week this will be a small percentage of your overall bill anyway.

  20. zolielo says:

    Ask if:

    There are any rooms near the caretaker’s suite – hotels often fill that one only when there is 100% capacity, so they are generally the nicest and least used. (Applies mainly to small hotels which have an overnight caretaker.)

  21. bravo369 says:

    i figured he’d say to ask questions like what are the hidden fees. also he said that you’ll only be in your room to sleep and shower so what does it matter if you’re by construction. they won’t be blasting or whatever at night. i guess you might be woken up at 8am but you can take that as a wakeup call and go enjoy your vacation.

  22. wav3form says:

    I’ve never had a bell hop ask if the room is ok. Save the 40 bucks, man up, and ask for another room if you need to.

  23. DeltaPurser says:

    Greenberg is a total moron… He promotes himself as some type of travel expert, but every time I see or hear him it’s always some nonsense, obious crap we’ve all known about for years. “For an inexpensive vacation, consider Colorado in the summer, or Disney World in August.” Oh, REALLY?!?!??!!? It’s cheaper in the off season? Let me get my notebook out…

  24. alexiso says:

    I work at a hotel and have no idea what “booster pumps” are and I just polled our Front Desk agents and they don’t either.
    Making an agent call engineering to ask that question will make the agent hate you so don’t expect anyone to be on your side if something goes wrong with your bill!

  25. weave says:

    @wav3form: True, but being good to the staff, tip wise, will almost always get you preferential treatment and benefits. It’s all about the money.

  26. Amy Alkon000 says:

    Booster pumps? Booster pumps?!

    I smile and talk to the staff (at hotels or coffee shops or in parking garages, to name a few examples) like they’re humans, not servants, and, in a hotel, if I come back down with a problem, I find that the person I’ve chatted with is usually very helpful.

  27. timmus says:

    Ask for a room on the same floor as the booster pumps

    I would wager $50 with anyone that this will elicit only a braindead “whaaat? booster what? booster seats?” from the clerk.

  28. nevergod says:


    ya, and the twin towers were designed to take the impact of two jumbo jets, so i’ll take the 8th or below please.

  29. UpsetPanda says:

    @DeltaPurser: A lot of fluff material gets put into “travel expert” features…for the real story, a good travel guide is the only thing I trust.

  30. ceylonceylon says:

    As DeltaPurser says above, Greenberg is an incompetent know-nothing. His “travel tips” are useless information–any barely competent traveler has already figured these things out for him or herself long before figuring it out from this unreconstructed idiot.

    Newbie travelers, do not ask the front desk a stupid a request as “Place me on the same floor as the booster pumps.” You’re more than likely going to be placed in a room next to the vending machine or the laundry. And fat f*cking chance that you’ll get the engineer (or one of his staff) to answer that for you.

    And a room away from construction? Please. In my thirty-three years of work-related travel, I’ve been to Reno, Chicago, Fargo, Minnesota, Buffalo, Toronto, Winslow, Sarasota… You get the picture. I’ve been everywhere, stayed at every chain, and hundreds of mom-n-pop and boutique hotels.

    Construction can be a pisser. So can street noise. So can the f*cking train. So can les misérables hotel guests. You’re not going to win for trying on this. Just do your best to live with the best you can negotiate. And if they f*ck you over, don’t ever stay there again.

    I remember every bad hotel I ever stayed at (and there have been dozens). But if I took the advice of this wanker, I would have had to remember dozens more.

  31. Mary says:

    Um, I’m pretty sure that hotels have other safety features going on to deal with the lack of hoses on upper floors. Like maybe…more hoses. All the reports of the Monte Carlo fire in Vegas earlier this year said that they were aiming hoses out of windows to get the exterior of the building where the fire was.

    I’m almost positive that you wouldn’t be allowed to actually have a hotel that wouldn’t have proper precautions in case of fire. I’m pretty sure that’d be illegal.

  32. Mary says:

    @ptkdude: All the hotels I’ve stayed in recently actually had voice instructions with the fire alarm. Once it started to go off, you could actually hear and distinguish the words “This is the fire alarm, please evacuate the building” or some such.

  33. Joedragon says:

    Most of them have voice and some even have 2 way voice ie they can talk to you and you can talk back to to them

  34. Snowlovers says:

    “Ask for a room below the 8th floor”
    “Ask for a room on a floor with booster pumps”

    I’ll wager that if you do find someone who even knows what a booster pump is and can find out where it is located, it will be ABOVE the 8th floor.

  35. horkles says:


    All the hotels you’ve stayed at recently had the fire alarm go off? That’s unfortunate.

  36. rlee says:

    I’ve read his “The Travel Detective” book and found the advice decidedly mixed. Personally, high on my list is whether the room is very close to the elevator or the ice machine.

  37. DrGirlfriend says:

    The 8th room bit seems a little Chicken-Littleish.

  38. spinachdip says:

    @DrGirlfriend: Easy for you to say. I mean, what’s going to put out a fire if you’re too high up for the fire engines to reach? A sprinkler system? Preposterous!

  39. @easy2panic: ugh i hear ya on the iphone thing. they figured out how to hook up stuff like quicktime and pdfs, i don’t know why they can’t use something so common like flash.

  40. Crazytree says:

    ask them about ripoff “RESORT FEES”.

  41. SkyeBlue says:

    As them also when you check in if your room has a “connecting door” to the room next to yours. We stayed at one last year that we did not know had a “connecting door” and I was awakened at about 1 am by the loud sounds of the couple in the room next door being ‘affectionate”. A connecting door does not leave much between your room and theirs. Nor to the imagination.

  42. @firefoxx66:
    I think you should send an EECB to the administrators at your school, requesting that Flash be installed on all the computers.

  43. rlee says:

    SkyeBlue: Yeah, good point. I’ve run into that problem a once or twice, too.

  44. MyCokesBiggerThanYours says:

    I dont think I’d ever ask these questions. Seem kinda dumb, like an amateur blog writer responding to the latest tv commercials for a hotel rating site that over dramatizes the pitfalls. Seriously, who books a room afraid it will catch on fire!? If you think the hotel is about to go up in flames, you shouldn’t rent a room there at all. Here are 3 USEFUL questions: “Have you fixed the cockroach problem? Are the sheets clean? Do you have internet access?

  45. richtaur says:

    @MyCokesBiggerThanYours: Yup, I was about to say something similar.

  46. SpenceMan01 says:

    @DeltaPurser: Walt Disney World in August?!?! It’s hot, hurricane season, and with the kids still out of school, busy as hell. If you want to go to Walt Disney World, go in late October/early November, early December or mid to late January. Weather is decent and the crowds are the lowest of the year.

    Back on topic, I wouldn’t bother asking these questions. If you end up with a crappy room, just ask for another one or suck it up.

  47. algormortis says:

    I tend to ask where the water pressure’s good, where i can be far from an elevator, no connecting door, and i don’t really care about the view as long as i’m not by the ice machine. I tend to only ask this if i’m going to be there more than one night, in which case i only ask about the connecting door. i can live with the other stuff. always ask as sweetly as possible and sympathize with their plight that people ask for “so much stuff.” partially because they DO and partially because few people seem to show hotel employees any human kindness.

    Then i slip the person a 20 if i’m gonna be there more than one night.

    I don’t really want to go into detail how well this works, but suffice it to say that Mr. Jackson opens doors very well. I have one hotel in SLC where i am treated like a rock star because i fixed their wifi at 1am (not even our branded wifi!), one hotel in Vegas where i seem to get every comp coupon they can throw at me (“Hey, $10 of blackjack credit?”), and one in Sacramento where i seem to always get the same lovely suite.

    I have no idea why. I know i’m charming and cute (but by no means magnetic or beautiful), my fair telecom company pays a ridonkulously low daily rate for a basic room, and i’m only Starwood Preferred Guest gold, just like seemingly everyone else. Ah well, mustn’t grumble…

  48. I work at the front desk of a fancy hotel. I have no idea where the booster pumps are. Best bet? Be specific about what you want in your room. Say you want a quiet room, away from the elevators with a specific view if that is what is going to make you happy. We aren’t mind readers, let us help you!My life is considerably easier if you actually enjoy your stay.

  49. algormortis says:

    oh yeah, and one more thing: if they don’t know where the ice machine is or where the water pressure’s good or the like, don’t act up. give your room a chance, as 9 times out of 10 the hunch of the front desk clerk is right with or without the knowledge of where the booster pumps are. btw, some hotels don’t have booster pumps and do just fine.

  50. quail says:

    These questions seem more apt for the giant, convention and vacation oriented hotel. About 90% of the hotels I stay in never fit that category. Better advice would simply be to ask the front desk clerk to put you in a room where you could be sure to get some rest. Away from the elevators, the vending machines, the pool, etc.

    As to the 8th floor bit, that’s just paranoia. Although if I traveled in some countries with poor building codes I probably would consider it.

  51. Jackasimov says:

    I don’t plan on staying in the hotel while they’re fighting the fire. The higher up I am the less chance I’ll run into a stream of firefighters running up the stairwell while I’m running down.

    #4 be sure to ask when they last washed the bedspread in your room.

  52. deserthiker says:

    Doesn’t this dork know that the front desk people know less about a hotel than just about anyone else? They spend their entire day AT THE FRONT DESK! They know how to check you in but that’s about it. A bellman in a good hotel can get you the room you want since he’s been in every one. If you don’t like the room, tell him and let him know what you’re looking for. If he can get you a room you like give him a good tip and if it’s a hotel you go to a lot remember him for the future. If he remembers you as a good tipper he’ll be sure to get you a good room.

    If you’re paranoid about staying in a hotel above the eight floor maybe you should pack 150 of static 10 mm rope, a harness and a rappelling device. Or if it’s a really tall hotel pack some BASE jumping gear and parachute to safety.

    These tips are worthless.

  53. jfischer says:

    The idiot needed to talk to a fireman before needlessly scaring his viewers. Fear not, enjoy the skyline from the upper floors. You need only look for sprinklers in halls and rooms.

    1) High-rise fires are NEVER fought from the outside, and this is why buildings have all those weird-looking pipes in the stairwells. They allow the fire hoses to be deployed where needed. See this animation [www.usatoday.com] for an overview of how these pipes work.

    2) Sprinkler systems are your friend. If you are in a modern building with sprinklers, you are assured of not being in “The Towering Inferno”. Sprinklers put most fires out before the first firetruck arrives in the overwhelming majority of high-rise fires.

    3) Since the National Fire Protection Association started tracking fires in the 1920s, there has NEVER been multiple deaths in a building due to a fire with a fully functioning sprinkler system.

    3a) 9/11s World Trade Center was not counted in the above, as the planes destroyed the sprinkler systems when the impact took out the “services core” where the pipes ran.

    4) Water pressure is not as much an issue for shower pressure as the “energy-saving flow-limiting” devices built into nearly every showerhead sold these days.

  54. LTS! says:

    About the only worth I can give to the tips is the fire department one. A fire COULD delay rescue and if the ground hoses can reach to your floor the likelihood of a fire spreading in those areas would be less. After all, if the fire fighters have to get to the 12th floor to battle the fire that high you better hope they CAN get there.

    That said, if you are that paranoid you better not cross the street in a city. You should opt for the dirt lane road in rural Wyoming because there’s less cars.

    I don’t travel much, but if I am with my family I simply tell them that I am traveling with my family and I have young children. I would like to be as little a problem to your guests as possible so if you have something in an area a little less populated that would be good.

    Boom, quiet room, no problems. Of course my children MIGHT get that loud, but it’s unlikely.

  55. mrmysterious says:

    @jfischer: What about the fire in the MGM I believe in Vegas in he early 1980’s?

  56. tootingbec says:

    Here are the three questions I always ask at check-in:

    1. How close is my room to the obese guy with apnea?
    2. Which floor’s balconies are most suited for toddler-dangling?
    3. And which floor has the booster pumps? Booster pumps make my buttocks look uber-svelte.

  57. MightyCow says:

    That is one of the least user-friendly websites I’ve visited recently.

  58. JeffM says:

    Is it April 1st already?

  59. deweydecimated says:

    After my family’s last stay in DC, I’m tempted to add “If you have any *ahem* regular short-term female guests who bring in brand new acquaintances, could you make sure that we’re not going to be woken up by their 2 AM performance?”. And no, this was not a skeev place.

  60. emjsea says:

    Video “articles”, do not want.

  61. burgundyyears says:


    Where the MGM Grand fire started (not in the hotel itself), there were no sprinklers. Also, the alarm system was only manually activated, and was not able to be activated from the casino/restaurant.

  62. Raanne says:

    um, where is this idea that their hoses can’t reach above the eighth floor? you mean the outside hoses. Because inside the hotel there should be hose connections every 100′. I’m not sure i would rely on the outside hose for indoor protection – I believe that is mainly to save the skin of the building, and to prevent the fire from “jumping”.

  63. Pop Socket says:

    @SkyeBlue: I had guests in the next room start a poker party at 1 am. It took three calls to security to get them quieted down.

  64. Mary says:

    @horkles: Yeah, actually, it has become a bit of a pattern. For some reason I always seem to be there on the day they’re testing the alarms ; ) None of them have been an actual fire though, either a test or some kid pulling the alarm.

    I probably should have said “most” because I’d say it’s about 4 out of 5. But I also counted the hotel I worked at but never stayed in.

  65. Mary says:

    @jfischer: Thank you. I was hoping somebody with more knowledge on building codes/firefighting would be able to elaborate.

    I’m absolutely baffled that people would think that just because a standard fire truck hose wouldn’t reach that there’s actually an increase in danger. Firemen and engineers think of these things before they build tall buildings. It’s their job.

  66. greatgman says:

    As a firefighter, thats ridiculous. All commercial buildings have to be fitted with standpipes (thats what those funny looking pipes in the stairwells are called) which allow water to be pumped up to the tops of even the tallest buildings. If you absolutely need a fire-related rule try staying at the 10th floor or below, as almost all ladder trucks in the USA can only reach up 100′. But even then you really don’t need to worry.

  67. CharlieSays says:

    Just one question: If I turn on a blacklight in my hotel room, will it resemble a Jackson Pollock masterpiece?

  68. rolla says:

    i doubt the person taking reservations knows where the booster pumps are

  69. econobiker says:

    @CharlieSays: Ahhaha aha good one- I saw that news report also.

    The question I would ask the hotel is ” Is there are visiting group of church/ sports / high school/ middle school students staying for an event?

    Nothing worse than the room next to the stairs with the kids running up and down to the indoor pool opening/closing the door all night long. This also make the pool facilities worthless as they are filled with the kids during the evenings.

  70. If you are staying for two or three day, or longer, make sure you ask a desk clerk who did not check you in for a key to your room, and see if they ask you for identification. If a clerk will give you a key to your room without seeing a driver’s license, state identification card, or passport, they will give a key to anyone who asks them for one.