Mastering The Hotel Lobby: Hacks For Non-Guests To Blend In, Use The Facilities Like A Boss

I often meet people at hotels and sit in their lobby. I’m not a guest! Is that wrong? Nobody has ever said anything to me about it.

Years ago Radisson hotels had a program called “Our World, Your Lounge” where elite members of their loyalty program were welcomed any time in any hotel for a free coffee, tea or hot chocolate for two people and to use free wireless internet. This was limited to their properties in Europe, Middle East, and Africa, and was dropped back in 2011 with the introduction of the Radisson Rewards program.

I’ve never had a problem taking a water from the refrigerator in the lobby of the Andaz 5th Avenue in New York, and I’ve found it a nice central meeting place.

Here’s someone who feels comfortable as an Honors Diamond member stopping in any Hilton while on a roundtrip to use the lobby bathroom and grab a coffee to go. It’s certainly going to be cleaner than the median gas station or rest stop bathroom.

@acoupleofcoutus He takes his Diamond status VERY seriously. #marriage #couples #couple #hilton #fypage #marriedlife #coffee ♬ Funny – Gold-Tiger

If you look like you belong, and you are comfortable, nobody is really going to notice you out of place. I’m a middle aged professional white male. And since I don’t stand out, even if a hotel noticed that I wasn’t a guest (and they aren’t generally going to) they probably won’t much care.

Still, is this wrong? Is there a difference between stopping in to use the restroom on the one hand, and either taking a coffee while not a guest like the guy in this video does – or sitting and using a couple of lounge chairs in the lobby to catch up with someone? Does it matter when it’s a hotel that I’ve stayed at dozens of times, like the Andaz 5th Avenue in New York (even if I’m not staying that night) versus a hotel with no stay history?

By the way you can also stop in and use the pool and resort facilities when you’re not a guest, too – either with permission (buying access without buying a room) or on a guerrilla basis.

Some readers will do this with… better apartment complexes, too. They have pools and lots of visitors, and may have guest parking too. Once you’ve been somewhere once you have the confidence to return, knowing where things are and able to blend in.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Hanging out in the lobby is one thing, it’s often a meeting place for people not staying there…not to mention there are often restaurants and bars open to the public. But tacitly encouraging people to trespass and use facilities that they have no right to, like the pool, that diminishes the experience of paid customers? That’s in really poor taste. Stop being part of the problem.

  2. I know a woman from India actually quite wealthy (has homes here too in the US) and she sneaks into Hyatt Place or a Hyatt House and regularly eats for free.I find it crazy as I don’t even eat there when I am paying to be a guest as I dislike them immensely
    so perhaps they even out lol
    BTW Andaz will be billing your World of Hyatt Account shortly lol

  3. I use hotel bathrooms all over the world. Never had a problem. Sometimes if you ask, the answer is no, but if you just find an open bathroom, it’s yours to use.

    I wouldn’t help myself to any food and drink, nor will you see me working out or hanging out in any clearly cordoned off areas like lounges.

    I’ve been given side eye for using hotel bathrooms in Eureka, CA and in Santa Clarita, CA. But I keep walking.

  4. Hotels are our go to place when needing to use the bathroom on a roadtrip. They have the cleanest bathrooms since by definition every guest staying there already has their own bathroom. I see nothing wrong with the practice. As long as it’s a bathroom break or taking a seat at an otherwise empty lobby. I took a coffee once. The cost to the hotel barely registers, but it’s not my common practice.

  5. I don’t see an issue when I do this at a Marriott property or at Choice Hotels properties. I stay as a paying guest around 100 nights per year. So yeah, if I’m on a road trip with my wife and we need to use a restroom, we pop into a Marriott and do so. If they have iced tea available my wife will partake. We rarely eat breakfast so they end up way on top.

  6. It’s unpleasant to know any non hotel guests using hotel facilities while paying guests pay theirs.
    however, there’s nothing I can do about it. it’s hotels discretion, I’m not the owner of the hotel.
    I would not want to stay the hotel next time.
    period.

  7. Bathroom, fine. Lobby chairs? Fine, stay all day if not asked to leave. It’s a quasi public space. Consumables without paying (bottled water? Coffee?) Not cool. Consumables occasionally if you’re an elite? I can sort of buy that rationalization, but not as a regular occurrence.

  8. I used this as a backup option when AT&T accidentally cut the fiber line to my house while installing my neighbor’s internet. The Westin, about 10 minutes from my house really came in handy. I did make it a priority to purchase coffee and a snack as a “thank you” to the property.

    If the lobby started to fill up with guests, I wouldn’t have hesitated to go somewhere else.

    This is from a person who has spent close to 2000 nights at Bonvoy properties over the years. I would feel strange doing the same at a Hilton property.

    It all comes down to being agile with the situation and respecting the others who have purchased rooms.

    I have also found using an Amex Escape lounge at my local airport by purchasing a refundable ticket.

  9. Hotel Lobbies and Bathrooms are public places.
    I use them when I have to especially when it is a toilet emergency.

  10. I’ve always asked before using their restrooms. Not just as a courtesy but also because I usually don’t know where it’s located lol. Never been denied. In fact, they’ve been unfailingly polite.

  11. I wouldn’t use the pool if I didn’t belong there. But you can go a lot of places if you look like you belong, and I imagine hotel staff will be cautious about questioning properly attired and confident people in case they antagonize “real” guests. I only did this once though, stepping onto the private beach of the Royal Hawaiian in Honolulu because I wanted to see the interior of that famous hotel. Got a questioning look from an outside attendant, didn’t make eye contact and confidently stepped right in.

  12. I’ve had to master this craft back in the day when nature inevitably called on my trips to pick up my parents from Dulles. Thanks IAD Marriott!

  13. People use the facilities at gas stations that they don’t make a purchase at also. No big deal. It is interesting to see the mild responses here but the much stronger negative responses about moving to open seats in the same class on an airplane. If that is considered theft, then this should be considered the same.

  14. I have never seen a hotel lobby with every seat taken or noticed people angling for a better seat. Nobody can pay for a reserved seat or an upgraded class in a hotel lobby. The seating is fluid, people can come and go anytime. No comparison to airplane seating.

  15. I used to milk the Radisson Silver/Gold benefit and hang out at Radisson lobbies across Europe in particular even when staying elsewhere. Some other hotel programs still have a comparable benefit for tea and coffee at hotel lobbies even when not staying at the hotels.

    I often hang out at hotel lobbies even when not staying at the hotels. It’s easy to blend in with guests who haven’t checked in when it’s before check-in time. Even otherwise I seem to often be considered to be a likely hotel guest. I guess a lot of it has to do with how you are dressed, what you are carrying along and how you interact (or don’t interact) with others around the hotel lobby or meeting areas.

    This kind of play can also be useful for bathroom access when not at a restaurant.

  16. To expand about theft, someone taking an open seat in the same class on an airplane has at least paid money to the airline (except for those getting free travel). Someone appropriating a seat in a hotel lobby where they are neither a customer nor have a reason to be there, such as meeting a hotel customer or inquiring about rates and availability, is more a case of theft than on the airplane. Hotel lobbies aren’t open to the general public, otherwise homeless people would be enjoying those lobby seats.

  17. In countries where I’ve stayed at hotels, hotel lobbies are generally open to the public and available for public use unless and until the hotel explicitly asks for the non-overnight staying visitors to leave and applies a standard for such a demanded departure in a legally permissible way.

  18. Gad, people are just looney-tunes. Of course you can use the bathroom at a hotel or restaurant or any other public place whenever you need to. The governing concept is discretion. You have to be a thinking human first. You don’t drag your entire family into a Best Western out on the Interstate to use the facilities while your kids run screaming all over the lobby. You don’t steal any coffee or water or anything else. You are polite and appreciative. End of story.

  19. This is a sickening thing you are promoting. I can see changing a diaper for a toddler or a senior citizen with special needs using a lobby restroom in a pinch, but to encourage stealing coffee and stuff is way over the top.

  20. In addition, you’ll not get turned away as long as you are clean and groomed and dressed neatly as well.

  21. I’m sort of surprised no one has mentioned hotels hosting conferences. Common areas are assumed to be places where attendees (and vendors) congregate.

  22. Whenever I check-out of a Marriott, I keep the key card. I have a big collection. This allows us to eat breakfast free at Fairfields, Residence Inn or Marriott hotels. I just wave the card and smile at any attendant. Works like a charm. You can even use the Executive Lounge at high-end properties by just hanging around til someone enters or exits. Never been questioned.

    On road trips, we always use their bathrooms and usually grab several rolls of TP and Kleenex. Comes in handy and saves money. As a Silver Elite, I believe I am entitled to these basic perks. Just saying . . .

  23. I used to do this when I drove for Uber right after college. I was in Philly and there aren’t really any spots with accessible, clean bathrooms… Except for the hotels. Sofitel was my favorite (just gotta beat the meter maids!).

  24. View From the Wing readers are knowledgeable and fantastic road warriors. From this article, we learned that we can visit a hotel lobby to grab a coffee and leave a poop.

  25. Paul may have not caught the references to “hotel lobby or meeting areas”? The latter is applicable to not just small meeting/conference rooms, but also to corridors and larger convention room and large ball room areas.

  26. My stance is simple, you can do anything that they’d say yes to. Use the bathroom without asking because they’d likely say yes? Sure. Have breakfast, use the pool, or workout in the gym? No way. We’ll, unless you ask and they do say yes.

  27. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, the beaches are public and hotels have to provide a special access point for the public, including some free parking spots. So you can literally go on the Ritz-Carlton St. Thomas property, park your car for free, and use their beach for free.

  28. I think there is a big difference between meeting a business colleague at a hotel, someone that is staying there for example, and just some random person dropping by for free coffee, that’s stealing. Why not just go by the Holiday Inn Express for free breakfast every day or going to use the pool. If this becomes a trend through morons from Tiktok then it will ruin these benefits for actual customers and guests. There won’t be free water or coffee in the lobby, the room will cost more. It’s like shoplifting.

  29. Wow!

    Gary, this is wrong and indefensible.

    Your attempts to rationalize are indefensible.

    When Hotels put up no trespassing signs in lobbies and arrest trespassers will be because of people like you.

    To Review,

    Hanging out with Guest in the Lobby or meeting room is perfectly fine as you are invited by the guest. Pool too if not crowded and no guest only sign.

    Food and Drink? I don’t need to explain.

    You know full well that Marriot etc are Hotel MGMT and Marketing Companies and are rarely the owners of the property so how many times you have stayed at that brand is irrelevant unless they specifically have a freebie program at any hotel anytime.

    If you are a regular guest at a specific property., then you are free to Request pool use or free drinks or food or a free room for that matter. The property is free to agree to or decline.

    This is NO different than people trespassing at airline lounges and stealing food and drink. Or for that matter, doing so at a Restaurant or Bar

    Looks like Gary has gone Biden on us.

  30. While I generally enjoy your well written and informative articles, i must say that this time I did not enjoy are all. I’m sorry Gary but some of the things you mentioned are, what we call in English, stealing.

    Taking something that has sellable value and using it or taking it is simply stealing from the owner.
    If you truly believe that they don’t care, simply ask them and get a confirmation.

    I understand using the bathroom is totally fine or even sitting in the lobby for a few minutes, but the buck ends there. People who are paying for their rooms are able to receive certain amenities for free (its not free-they paid, but you get the drift) and only people paying. Outsiders who come in are doing something very wrong.

    Please delete this post or better yet, explain why people should NOT be using hotel property without paying for it.

  31. Michael Que writes: “Hotel Lobbies and Bathrooms are public places.”

    No, they’re not. As long as a non-public entity controls the space, has the right to bar entrance, and pays property taxes for the space it is private property.

  32. Hotel lobbies generally are “public places” in so much as they are accessible and open to the general public. This covers any indoor or outdoor area that is open to the public in terms of customers or public visitors regardless of ownership of the premises. So a private office where visitors need to be preannounced/registered/or specifically authorized as a particular individual to enter is not a “public place” while a hotel lobby may be a “public place” since it’s accessible to customers and public visitors without individualized authorization/invitation.

  33. If your skin color was darker you’d likely be asked to leave or some might call the cops. Your move is a privilege.

  34. I keep seeing a lot of comments saying hotel lobbies are public places. Would like to make the correction that they are not, in fact, public spaces. I previously was a hotel manager and it’s private property which is why people can be trespassed. I think it’s tacky to use facilities when you’re not a guest there, I have a ton of reasons why, but if you’re already someone who feels entitled to any space you can walk in I won’t convince you otherwise

  35. Private property and being a public place in terms of accessibility are not mutually exclusive. Otherwise a hotel would have an easy time of legally having racist access barriers to the use of hotel services and facilities in the way someone can do so with access to their home or private office in a privately-owned office building.

    It’s even possible to trespass at government-owned public parks and get booted or arrested for trespassing by merely ignoring official opening hours at a public park owned by the government.

  36. Frank is correct in noting that racism is often in play at hotels in how people in the lobby are allowed or not allowed to go about such areas.

    I remember a hotel security supervisor at a “grande dame” hotel in Western Europe chasing a hotel guest out of the toilets while the hotel guest was waiting for their new room keys. The hotel security supervisor wanted to pretend as if the young “brown” American (answering in American English) was an interloper at the hotel where the guest had already checked-in. Meanwhile, the racist security supervisor before and after had made no fuss over the run of European prostitutes and their well-heeled European johns sauntering around and using those same public lobby and lobby area facilities.

  37. Brianne may way to look at what “privately owned public space” (POPS) and “privately owned public open spaces” (POPOS) are and how hotel lobbies fit into such definitions in a civilized place subject to zoning/land use rules and other laws and regulations that make a hotel lobby a “public space/place” while a private home’s entrance foyer area is not.

  38. Many years ago, I had checked out of the Marriott Beijing Northwest and was waiting in the lobby for my next meeting to pick me up in an hour, but was literally forcibly removed by security to leave the lobby and stand outside the building in the snow because I had already checked out and the lobby was only for registered guests. I was literally freezing as my winter coat was already packed and fortunately the gate guard allowed me to sit in his heated shack while I waited. Escalated the issue and received two responses from different managers to the same email – one from a European name apologising profusely and one from a Chinese name saying that this is policy to guard the safety of registered guests. Never stayed there again.

  39. As a general rule anything that is “promoted” as a hack on TikTok is inviting trouble.

    I don’t believe TT should be banned because of China, it should be banned because generally it is obnoxious and promoted stupidity.

  40. The pools at residential building with 24/7 staff in major US cities are often off-limits to visitors unless they come in with a resident or have a key/swipe pass or guest pass. Hotel pools often have the same kind of dynamic. What I really dislike is hotels having pools but charging for pool access — something I run into a bunch in Europe but first got hit by at a then-Starwood hotel in NYC during the Clinton Administration years.

  41. This is from the same people who were lecturing not last week that someone moving to an airline seat next to them in the ‘elite section’ was theft, depriving them of their hard ‘earned’ right not to have someone next to them. But apparently the situation is different when it comes to freeloading and helping yourself to hotel amenitie. I would counter with at least the airline passenger is a paying customer of some type.

    Personally I typically buy something, ask permission and use hotels and chains that I’m a frequent customer of if I want to use their services.

  42. Under section 33 of the Criminal Justice Act, 1972 here in the United Kingdom, anywhere that the public has right of way is deemed public. A hotel lobby is most certainly private property but because any member of the general public can enter without going through a gate, a barrier or passing a No Entry – authorised personnel only sign then they are legally allowed to be there. That is until the owner, or a representative of the property asks them to leave. In the United Kingdom trespass is a civil matter for most private properties. It is only a criminal offence to tresspass on certain protected sites such as Buckingham Palace or areas of railway property or land not accessible to the general public. These are governed by local byelaws.

  43. Using the toilet is one thing, stealing the food and drink I hope they come after you and prosecute you for theft and trespass as I would if I was GM of any hotel I see you in.

    And at least we have your photo to put up in the security room, thank you.

    Is this an American habit I wonder to encourage criminal activity and stupidity?

  44. Surprised nobody’s mentioned the marketing aspect. If you feel comfortable in a brands lobby as a non-guest you may be more likely to stay at that brands property later on.
    As many have shared though it’s about common sense. Use the restroom, use the lobby chairs, clean up after yourself and don’t use anything that would be out of pocket to the property owner.

    To those of you aghast at the thought- if your departing flight is later in the day have you ever stayed in the lobby for an hour or two after checkout? At that point you’re no longer a paying customer.

  45. During the tail end of having Rudy Giuliani as mayor of NYC, it wasn’t uncommon for there to be morning stragglers into a Hilton hotel in midtown who would go up to the crowded lounge and swipe breakfast. And those people stealing food (and some coffee/tea/juice/water) most definitely did not generally look like the local homeless or “below poverty line” crowd.

    At some hotels where I have more or less lived over the years, new staff at the hotel restaurants/kitchens/lounges have sometimes assumed that I may have been a straggler coming in off the street to swipe breakfast. Eventually some of them realized that I was authorized to have breakfast and not a straggler off the streets. In this regard, I am talking primarily about hotels in Europe and secondarily Asia and Latin America. In the latter two regions, sometimes they thought I was perhaps being snuck in by other guests or playing a game of booking rooms for others using my loyalty program elite status.

    It’s not an “American habit”. It’s that the world is full of all sorts of characters and hotels get them too from all sorts of places.

  46. When ever I come into NY for business and need to stop it is always at one of the hotel chains I frequent. But only for bathroom, and lounge area. I never partake in the restaurant unless Im a paying customer.

  47. Earlier this year I caught a homeless guy living in and using the phone charging facilities at a limited-/self-check-in service hotel in Stockholm, Sweden. I had seen the guy there on several occasions over several stays and found it curious that he was there as long as he was and that he was around there pretty much at most of the hours I was passing thru the lobby area. He was an older “white” guy with a beard and seemed dress ok for the circumstances. Since he sounded like a native speaker of Swedish and was more fluent in Swedish than most of the hotel staff and seemed to be able to get in showers and clean clothes often enough, he was probably ignored or presumed to be a guest. If the guy looked like the husband of the American ambassador to Sweden, it probably wouldn’t have gone over so well for so long for the guy if doing the exact same thing in that hotel lobby. It wasn’t my business to tell the hotel that I knew there was a homeless guy sort of living there, so I kept it to myself and occasionally still see the guy come in and hang out there for much of the day and even a chunk of the night. Maybe for a while the guy thought I am homeless too, but at some point he was clearly curious on how I was getting through the security doors and into the elevator and up to the rooms.

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