Whenever I travel to conferences, I like to make sure that I know the layout of my hotel room by asking questions for hotel familiarization. Since I have low vision, it can be difficult to find certain items or adjust things independently, so even though some of the questions may seem silly, they can help improve my experience in a hotel drastically. Here are ten questions to ask for hotel room familiarization, aimed at low vision, legally blind, and blind travelers.
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How do I get to my room?
Many of the hotels that are used for conventions have several different sections or buildings for hotel guests to stay in. When I check in, I have the front desk confirm to me how to get to my room, noting the location of elevators and towers that I will be going to. Trust me, wandering up and down the hallways isn’t much fun when you have a heavy suitcase.
Do you swipe or tap the hotel key to get in?
Speaking of getting to the hotel room, how do you get into the hotel room? Many newer hotels now require guests to tap their keycard against a special reader, instead of having to swipe to get in. There are still many hotels that use swipe access though, so make sure you know the layout of the door.
Another cool feature is that some hotels allow you to open the door with your phone. While I don’t come across this feature frequently, it is certainly helpful to have one less card to look for!
Can you verify how to log on to the internet?
Many hotels give guests a piece of paper with internet log-in information on it. While there are options for having text read out loud on your phone, I prefer to ask someone how to log on to the wifi, so I don’t have to try and remember passwords or log-on details later. It also helps to know if the wifi connection expires after a certain amount of time or if it is good for the entire stay.
Do the doors have knobs or do they slide?
One of my friends who has no usable vision spent several minutes moving their hand across the bathroom door, trying to find the doorknob. They ended up sending me a picture of the door and asked where the doorknob was. They had no idea that the bathroom had a sliding door that was fairly heavy to open and close. The same goes for closets- figure out how the door opens/closes so there is much less stress later on.
Where is the thermostat?
Remember how I said that the answers to some of these hotel room familiarization questions can make a huge difference? When I checked into my hotel for ATIA in Florida, my room was freezing cold. I called the front desk and asked where the thermostat was so I could adjust the temperature, and they were able to guide me to the thermostat’s location, which was behind a sliding door. Room service can also adjust the temperature if needed.
How do I work the shower?
Figuring out a shower can be difficult for people of any sight level, but having a hotel employee give instructions for how to work the shower can be very helpful. Besides using a hotel employee, guests can also take advantage of an app like Aira or Be My Eyes that pairs vision impaired users with sighted guides 24/7, and the guide can help them figure it out.
Where can I get food?
I don’t like to walk by myself at night to get food, so I like to talk to hotel staff about options for finding food inside or adjacent to the hotel, as well as delivery options for having food come to my room. Some hotels may have specific rules for food delivery, i.e not letting delivery staff in the elevators, so make sure to ask first. My favorite delivery service is DoorDash, and I usually have the delivery staff wait for me in the hotel lobby so I can get my food.
If I need assistance, how can I request it?
Uh-oh, the internet is out or the toilet just overflowed. Knowing how to contact hotel staff for assistance is important, so make sure to program the phone number for the hotel into your cell phone. This is easier than using the hotel phone and trying to read what the buttons are.
What time is breakfast?
For hotels that have free breakfast, verify what time breakfast is served and ask about the layout of the breakfast area. For example, some places have all of their food against the wall, while others have food in the center of the lobby. If needed, you can also request assistance during breakfast to ensure that you get the foods you want.
How do I get rideshare services?
Many hotels have shuttles that take people to and from the airport, or to other destinations in the area by request. Most of this information can be found on the hotel website, though it never hurts to ask the concierge for any other information. Plus, if you request a ridesharing service, it helps to know the pick-up location in advance.
I love having the opportunity to travel to different conferences and stay in hotels, and knowing what questions to ask for hotel room familiarization has helped me a lot with preparing to stay somewhere. While I don’t ask every single one of these questions whenever I stay somewhere, I do make sure to ask relevant questions that I know will help me increase my independence. With these tips, low vision, legally blind, and blind travelers will be able to know everything they need before coming to their hotel and enjoy a pleasant stay.