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The dirt on hotel rooms

Bed bug istock.jpg

We asked several industry insiders to help us peel back the covers on your home away from home. Here's how to make the most of any stay. 

"Eco-Friendly" Actually Means "Dirty Sheets"
Here's a travel tip you might not have heard: Bedspreads are often cleaned just once a month. But sheets can dodge detergent, too. 

"Some hotels take a unique approach to the water-conservation trend," the housekeeping director we interviewed said. "Unless they look soiled, sheets may not be changed."

The solution: Ask for fresh sheets. 

"When I travel, I change my own sheets," one hotel director said. 

Know what else you should change while you're on the road? Your diet. (Find out how one Men's Health reader wedged tough workouts and smart dining into his busy schedule.)

Your Bill is Bogus
The average business traveler is overcharged $11.35 a night, according to an audit of hotel bills by Corporate Lodging Consultants, a firm that helps companies and governments trim travel costs. Beware of fees for fridges, or anything labeled "local."

The solution: Question every charge, especially at the end of the month, one hotel controller said. 

"It's unbelievable what managers do to make budget." Even worse than the managers are some of the offerings at the morning buffet. (Avoid these 8 killer breakfast foods.)

Upgrades Can Come Cheap
Here's a travel tip from insiders: Upgrade at check-in. Full occupancy is rare - the average is 63 percent, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association, and suites are often vacant. 

"A smart manager knows that the cost to clean a suite is roughly the same as for a regular room," one manager said.

The solution: Make the hotel more money. Offer 20 percent more than your current rate for the upgrade; you could be sleeping in a suite. (Just make sure you're sleeping in style with this well-traveled wardrobe.)

Some Souvenirs Have Legs
Hotels are a haven for bedbugs. Pest-control companies say hotels account for more than 37 percent of their bedbug business, according to Pest Control Technology magazine.

The solution: Search for your hotel on bedbugregistry.com. Scan mattress and couch creases for the reddish brown bloodsuckers and their black droppings, Jason Rasgon, a public-health professor at Johns Hopkins, said. At home, dry your clothes on high for 45 minutes to kill stowaways.

The Bathroom is Cleaner Than the TV Remote 
Often, the worst germ incubators are the frequently touched surfaces: the thermostat dial, phone, and remote. Chuck Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona, actually found more traces of fecal matter on these surfaces than in the bathroom.

The solution: Use hand sanitizer, and wash your hands frequently. A recent study reported that cold germs linger for more than a day on surfaces.