Modern Etiquette Expert Maggie Oldham: How to Receive VIP Treatment at Your Hotel

In both my professional life as a modern etiquette expert and personal life as someone who enjoys traveling, I’ve had the privilege of staying in many luxury hotels around the world. These types of accommodations have their perks – namely, gorgeous interiors, plush amenities, top-notch service, and the overall feeling that you are a VIP.

However, allow me to let you in on a little secret…

The level of service you experience and how much of that VIP treatment you actually receive comes down to your behavior, also known as your hotel etiquette.

To elevate your next five-star travel experience here’s my top list of etiquette do’s and don’ts for luxury hotels.

Do: Say ‘thank you’ with your words…

Whenever a hotel staff member – regardless of their role or rank – does something nice for you, say “thank you.” By saying this often – even if it’s for something as simple as the doorman wishing you a nice day – you are showing appreciation, respect, and that you are a decent human being. You will be elevated from a typical guest to a charming and “preferred” guest in the eyes of the staff.

…and your wallet.

While a verbal “thank you” is easy, costs nothing, and offers a high reward, don’t forget to say “thank you” with a monetary tip where appropriate (and often expected). Many hotel employees rely on tips to supplement their income, and at luxury hotels, gratuities are usually given generously. Here’s who a sampling of who you should tip:

– Valet: $5 – $10 per night
– Porter / Doormen / Bell Staff: $2 – $5 per bag or luggage item
– Concierge: Slip them a $20 if you’re looking for a hard-to-get restaurant reservation or theatre tickets
– Anyone providing food/drink service: 20% of the bill

Do: Dress the part.

Everyone’s clothing tells a story. Love it or hate it, the way we dress can influence how we are viewed (ahem, judged) and treated. Rolling into a luxury hotel in gym clothes, pajamas, old loungewear, or an outfit that’s inappropriate will definitely not get you that upgrade you’re hoping for (sorry, but true). I’d recommend following a ‘business casual’ or ‘upscale casual’ dress code. Dress with care and respect and you’ll be treated accordingly.

Do: Be mindful of shared spaces.

I love a good lobby bar and lounge area. Sipping a glass of rose along the Promenade de la Croisette or enjoying afternoon tea by the fire in the snowy English countryside is a real treat when visiting these luxury properties. But nothing kills the ambiance more than a nearby guest conducting a loud phone call – or worse – video chat. Keep the vibe alive by taking calls elsewhere. Also, treat the space as it is – a shared space. Keep your feet off furniture and keep your personal belongings from sprawling.

Don’t: Take “freebies.”

Yes, it’s acceptable to take home the nice travel-sized toiletries that are placed for your use in your guest room. It’s not acceptable to take home bath towels, bathrobes, and the like. Many luxury brands are now embedding RFID tags into their linens to track who “accidentally” packed some linens upon departure and charge them for it.

Don’t: Have unreasonable expectations for the hotel chef.

Many luxury hotels feature top, world-renowned chefs. I once stayed at a five-star resort in St. Lucia that had one of the top chefs in the world on staff at the time. I was appalled when a young couple sitting near me at dinner asked for a substitution and special preparation for everything single dish on the eight-course tasting menu because they were on the “keto” diet. In many cultures, it is considered, at most, offensive or rude, or at least, unreasonable, to request substitutions to a curated menu.

Don’t: Complain manipulatively.

It’s one thing to alert management that an aspect of your stay is not up to standards (for example, your room wasn’t serviced or your bags were never brought to your room). However, seeking out – or worse, making up – situations to complain about in hopes of getting vouchers or a free stay is obvious and tacky. While it may work in the short-term (say, a complimentary breakfast), it’s a great way to guarantee you’ll never get preferential treatment in the future.

Follow these do’s and don’ts the next time you visit a luxury hotel and see how enhances your experience!

Maggie Oldham is a modern etiquette coach and etiquette expert. She has been featured in The New York Times, CBS, Fox News, Entrepreneur, and more. Through her classes, speaking engagements, and website, she provides expert etiquette advice for successfully and confidently navigating modern life situations for the 21st century — from upscale dinners and chic pool parties to business meetings and everyday social occasions. Maggie completed her etiquette training at the Institut Villa Pierrefeu Finishing School in Glion, Switzerland. Learn more at

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