We’ve all heard the hotel horror stories. Fear of bedbugs, filthy, rooms and disturbing discoveries are enough to make any traveler paranoid about the quality of his or her hotel room. While the details do vary from hotel to hotel, there are a handful of things worth considering before and during any hotel stay.

1. Compare rates
Call it strange but it’s sometimes possible to book a nicer hotel one at its cheaper competitor’s rates by giving them a call. So while booking online is very convenient, a call to the hotel informing of a competitive rate by a bitter competitor might just be the key to getting lower rates than any web-based reservation.

2. Check reviews
Every hotel claims to be clean and comfortable, but reviews from previous guests are the best way to get a brutally honest opinion. Oyster.com, Fodor’s, Agoda and TripAdvisor are among many hotel review sites you may want to check out.

3. Check independent hotels
Smaller hotels that aren’t part of a large chain are often open to more negotiation than brand-name hotels. You may be able to haggle your way to better rates. Hyatt, Ibis and Days Hotels may be more well-known but you’re also paying a bit higher to the brand-names they carry.

hotel_bellboy4. Call the hotel
If you’re planning to book your stay through a third-party website, give the hotel a call. They usually offer better rates directly, and it’ll be easier to make changes later on. As mentioned in item (1), calling the hotel may take longer booking than web-based transaction, but that’s sometimes how they offer rates. So pick up your phone and give them a ring — then compare their rates with what they offer online.

5. Remember the check-In time
You arrived earlier than expected and want to take a short break at the hotel a few hours before intended check-in time. This may give you a boost for your activities in the next few hours but it also means rushing staff to clean up, possibly compromising the cleanliness of your room. Never show up before the rooms are ready. You don’t want the cleaning staff to be rushed any more than they already are. Check-in time is usually 2pm so it’s good to arrange your journey so you reach the hotel at this hour.

6. Be Friendly
It pays to treat hotel staff with smile and warmth. Friendlier guests are sometimes given perks such as free room upgrades and complimentary hot meals. They’re not your servants to be treated as such. And it’s easy to get back to you — watch out those pillows, bathrobes or bathroom glasses — if you act beyond what’s socially acceptable.

7. Disable Long-Distance Calling
If you aren’t using it, have it turned off. Employees have been known to make calls from a guest’s room while they’re away. Although it’s easier to trace the call in your bill, you don’t want to be bothered with such nuisance that can cost you 15 minutes or more of your check out time.

8. Ask the bellman
Typically, the bellman has the ability to make your stay nicer, and if you ask nicely, he may be willing to slip you extra perks.

9. Inspect your room
Rooms aren’t cleaned as thoroughly as you’d probably hope. It’s best to request fresh blankets when checking in to avoid sleeping in someone else’s filth. You don’t want to end up ranting on a travel review website on how bad your experience at that hotel; just avoid the experience by doing a bit of diligence check.

10. Check the Mini-Bar
Watch for expired products and broken seals. If the staff didn’t catch it when the last guest left, you might get stuck with the bill. Easy to check, just like the long-distance phone bill, but can be very annoying to be charged for something you didn’t use or consume.

11. Steer clear of unclean hotel room accessories
Blankets, glasses, and most other parts of a hotel room are only cleaned when visibly dirty. Avoid using non-disposable cups, blankets, and TV remotes. Which brings us to advise never interrupt the cleaning routine of your housekeeping staff.

12. Watch for fake calls
Hotel staff won’t call you and ask for sensitive information over the phone, nor will they call you late at night. Scammers have been known to target gullible hotel guests. Are you gullible? We hope you’re not.

13. Tip the cleaning staff
By leaving a clearly-labeled tip for the person cleaning your room, you can get somewhat better service.

14. Avoid continental breakfasts
These are never cooked by very skilled chefs, and often come out of a brown paper sack. In general, it’s often better to eat at local restaurants and follow where locals go.

15. Postpone, then cancel
If you have to cancel your reservation and don’t want to pay cancellation fees, delay your stay first. This will get you out of the cancellation fee range.

Staying at a hotel is not as pleasing as it sounds. One wonders how your expensive room gets to have this experience. It all boils down to staff who make these hotels function. If you hear a workers of a hotel staging a protest on wage, benefits and all, better stay away from that hotel if you can. You don’t want to know how a sullen cleaning lady performs her job when she’s deprived of a honest day’s work.