Who doesn’t love little bottles of hotel toiletries?
I don’t usually collect stuff, but I turn into a kleptomaniac when it comes to these bottles. They’re the perfect size for travel and they’re practically free souvenirs.
There’s nothing wrong with taking these bottles home, despite how illicit it may feel. (It’s common for people to call it “stealing”, which I don’t think is accurate.)
Besides the fact that my bill covers the cost of these free hotel items, hotels actually want guests to take the toiletries home. These things remind guests of the hotel and advertise the brand to everyone else.
But what other things can you take from the hotel room? Where do you cross the line and commit theft?
The rule of thumb is you can take whatever you’re meant to consume or whatever the hotel will throw out after your stay.
While doing some research for this post, I learned that things are not as clear-cut as I thought they were. Some things that I would never consider removing from the hotel room turn out to be there for the taking.
So seriously, what can you take home from a hotel room?
I. The obvious freebies
Most hotel guests know these items are freebies, so let’s quickly get them out of the way.
According to a recent study by Hilton, 73 percent of hotel guests take toiletries home, then use them for cleaning shoes, give them to friends or place them in guest bathrooms.
I personally take bathroom items so I use the small containers for future trips. Sometimes I stay at AirBnB properties and they don’t always provide toiletries.
7. Shaving cream
These items are usually cheap versions of what you can buy at your local grocery store. I stash some of them in my suitcase for future trips.
11. Sewing kit
12. Shower cap
Some travelers recommend using a shower cap to pack a pair of shoes, separating them from clothes. I usually stuff shoes into plastic bags and only use hotel shower caps (as shower caps) when I happen to stay at a place where they’re not provided.
13. Plastic bags
These are great for separating dirty clothes from clean ones, keeping liquid bottles apart from things that need to remain dry and generally organizing the suitcase.
14. Shoeshine cloth
I honestly can’t remember the last time I bought pens or pencils. I don’t write much by hand anymore, so I’ve been using the same Marriott pen for years now.
You can keep the newspapers left by the door, but books are usually off-limits and magazines are tricky.
If a magazine is meant to be left behind for the next guest, there’s usually a sign or a sticker that says it should stay on the hotel premises. Sometimes, there are free or weekly magazines you can keep. To be safe, ask the hotel staff if there’s a magazine you really would like to bring home.
Some hotels provide two types of packets: the free ones at the coffee/tea-making station and the premium ones placed with the mini-bar items. Make sure you know which one you’re taking.
23. Artificial sweetener
II. The ambiguous freebies
Now we’ve come to the fun part. Travelers who spend a lot of time at hotels probably know these items are freebies, but it may not be as obvious to other hotel guests.
Slippers tends to get left behind, although hotels generally want you to take them home. If you don’t, they’re going to the trash after you leave.
However, there are exceptions to the rule; some hotels reuse their (usually nicer) slippers.
You should assume the food and drinks inside the hotel room are not free, unless they’re marked as such. Some hotels place chocolates on pillows as welcome gifts, for example.
When it comes to the common areas of the hotel, though, it’s safe to assume you can take the provided drinks, fruits and snacks for free. You may be able to keep some in your bag in case you get lost on your way to dinner.
26. Card keys and “Do Not Disturb” signs
If your hotel uses magnetic cards as keys, you can take them home. Same deal with flimsy paper “Do Not Disturb” signs. I have no idea why anyone would want them, but they’re free for the taking.
27. Bottled water
In places where the tap water is not safe to drink. hotels often place free bottles of water in all the rooms. In countries where you can drink the tap water, you may only find free bottled water in premium hotel rooms.
These bottles are usually clearly marked as complimentary. Again, unless marked otherwise, assume the food and drinks inside your hotel room come with price tags.
28. Gideon Bible
Who would’ve thought it’d be okay to covet and even steal the Gideon Bible in the nightstand drawer? Oh, the irony.
Although the Gideons don’t explicitly advertise this, they’re actually okay with people breaking the Eighth Commandment when it comes to their Bibles. Seeing as the Gideons International basically exists to give out free Bibles, this makes sense. They regularly replace missing Bibles because they want anyone who wants a Bible to have one.
III. The I-can’t-believe-they’re-freebies freebies
The following items are, as a general rule, not free at most hotels. However, some hotels do provide these items for you to take home.
When it rains, some hotels provide umbrellas for guests to use. These umbrellas are usually meant to be returned to the hotel, but they often go missing. As a result, some hotels now consider them a free amenity.
Bathrobes are some of the most frequently stolen items from hotels. They’re usually meant to be left behind in the hotel room.
However, a handful of high-end hotels give out their bathrobes, even going to the trouble of embroidering the guests’ names on them.
Most hotels don’t allow you to take their coffee mugs home, but you may be able to keep one if you ask nicely.
32. Bathtub ducky
Yes, the bathtub ducky is reusable. However, it’s also cheap and the hotel probably won’t mind if you take one home. Just ask the hotel staff before you do.
I have heard of hotels giving out free teddy bears, stress balls and Rubik’s Cubes to their guests.
Some luxury hotels really go above and beyond, coming up with novel ways to impress their guests. This is why it’s hard to come up with hard-and-fast rules about what you can and can’t take home from hotels. Generally, unusual freebies are clearly marked as complimentary.
Crazy things people have stolen from hotels
Some people take things too far and grab anything that’s not nailed down in a hotel room, such as:
Bed linens, pillows, blankets, shower curtains, coat hangers, hair dryers, alarm clocks, coffee makers, ice buckets, trash cans, ashtrays, luggage stands, lightbulbs, lamps, batteries from the TV remote, the TV remote and the TV itself.
Even items that are nailed down aren’t always safe. Showerheads, door numbers, bathroom sinks, door hinges and bidets have all gone missing from hotels.
But if we’re talking about the craziest cases, the following stolen things have got to take the cake: a grand piano from the lobby of one of the Starwood hotels, the marble fireplace from the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire Hotel and the $300,000 Andy Warhol artwork from the W Hotel in Hong Kong.
So…should you take that thing you really like from your hotel room?
Because of the many gray areas, it’s often tough to tell whether you can take something home.
When in doubt, ask the hotel staff. These people will tell you:
- to take it home; or
- that it’s available for purchase; or
- that it should stay in the room.
If you take something that’s not supposed to be removed from the room, the hotel may charge your credit card after realizing the loss. Remember how you let the front desk take an imprint of your credit card when you check in? This is the kind of thing the credit card imprint is for.
To deter theft, some hotels have attached electronic tags to their linens, so a credit card charge may not be the worst thing that can happen if you take a couple of towels home.
There are rare cases where the hotel has pressed charges for petty theft. In Japan, a couple was arrested after taking $300 worth of hotel amenities, including bathrobes and an ashtray. A woman in Nigeria who absconded with two towels and an iron from Transcorp Hilton Abuja was also arrested.
Wanna know what else can get you locked up abroad? Click here to find out.