Travel & Activities

Hotel Secrets – The Third Room Rule

When it comes to checking into a hotel, there are plenty of people who always accept the first room they’re offered.

I am not one of those people.

I learned many valuable things from my mother, a woman who developed a number of methods for coping with life’s little challenges. Our family called the strategy she developed for checking into hotels “Mom‘s Third Room Rule.”

“Always hold out for the third room,” she told us. “It’s only after you reject the first two rooms they try to give you that they realize you mean business and will give you a Good Room.”

When you check into a hotel, the folks at the front desk size you up.  Are you a business traveler in an expensive suit? You’ll get the best the hotel has to offer. But our Midwestern family of four — Dad and Mom and two little girls, in two adjoining rooms? They probably figured that we‘d settle for less.

Mom was never the kind of woman who’d settle for less. And she taught me well.

For instance? My recent stay at a resort hotel in California. When I checked in, the desk clerk gave me a room that turned out to have two beds rather than the one king-sized bed I’d requested.  I was a woman traveling alone; the last thing I needed was two beds. Plus, the beds were rather small.

As, for that matter, was the room itself.

I returned to the front desk and politely asked for another room.

Room Number Two did have a king-sized bed. But the room faced a wall! The view out the window was entirely filled by a vast expanse of cement.

It was the perfect room — if I were a nudist.  I could walk around in here all day, naked as a jaybird, and never have to worry that anyone might catch a glimpse of me through that window.

I’d looked forward to a nice view of a lovely California town. Looking out this window, I might as well have been in Cincinnati.

Not only that but because of that vast wall, the room was also quite dark. And it had a noisy air conditioner.

“The second room they give you will usually be worse that than the one you’ve rejected,” Mom always told us.  Why? Perhaps to punish you a little for not just accepting that first room. Maybe because hotel staff assume that, seeing the second room, you’ll give up and just take what they’ve given you.

Not my mother!

I grew up watching Mom doing the Three Room Shuffle whenever the Warren family checked into a new hotel. (My dad, who wasn’t persnickety about this kind of thing, wisely left these negotiations up to his wife.) As my sister and I got older and became more aware of the situation, it became a game to critique what was wrong with Rooms Number One and Two.

Our favorite place to play this out was New York City’s Waldorf Astoria, where we stayed for a week each December while my dad attended a conference. In a classic hotel like this, the rooms within a price range can vary wildly. Our goal? To get good ones.

The first set of rooms they gave us was always mediocre and we rejected them.  “This won’t do either,” Mom would say after a brief look at their next offer. After which we’d troop, again, with all of our luggage, back down to the front desk. Where mom’s  perseverance would finally be rewarded.

I have fond memories of our family, after turning down the first two sets of smaller,  darker, drabber, noisier rooms we were offered, walking into an adjoining set of splendid, large, high-ceilinged hotel rooms with wonderful views.

“This is more like it,” Mom would say happily. It was our signal to unpack and settle in. If they’d existed in the 60s, we would have shared a family high five.

With this in mind, I took one look at The Room That Faced A Wall and returned to the front desk. “Call me a kvetch,” I said to the desk clerk, “but  a room that faces a cement wall doesn’t say “spa vacation’ to me. It says ‘incarceration.’ Let’s try again.”

As she handed me yet another room key, I thought of Goldilocks and The Three Bears, a story mom often told us as kids. First room? Beds too small. Second room? Faces a wall. But the third room?

The third room turned out to be a large, quiet corner room on the fourth floor. There was a comfy-looking king-sized bed. A lovely reading chair. And a view of Walnut Creek with the California hills in the distance.


“Thanks, Mom,” I thought, as I opened my suitcase and started to settle in.

Rosalind Warren (aka Roz)

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  • Mickey

    Excellent. My sister settled for the second room but if she visited now, I would try this ‘third room’ play. Thank you, Roz. And we thank your mother.

  • Shel Harrington

    I have definitely learned to speak up when the room wasn’t as promised – and the few minutes of angst that causes is definitely worth the trade-off in the quality of the stay! While I’m good with the second room if the problem was corrected, it sometimes does get to the third time being the charm! Go Moms!
    (Btw – was introduced to you at BSL)

  • hillsmom

    Good advice which I’ll be sure to use. Already did when we were put in a “smoking room”…ugh…after specifically asking for “non-smoking”. You could smell it all the way down the hall. So we got a proper room and on a different floor. Thanks to Roz’s Mom, and of course, “Our Roz”.

  • joan leof

    Always great to give a thanks to Mom for lessons learned! High five for practicing “Mom’s Third Room Rule” and bringing Goldilocks along.

  • Carpool Goddess

    Third room (or restaurant table) is always a winner! Our family does the same thing. I sometimes joke with hotel front desk clerks and restaurant hostesses to just skip the first two lousy rooms or tables and show me the one they know I’ll eventually like.

  • Beth Ann Chiles

    I love it! We had a very bad experience in Vegas one time which started with having a room that was a conference room complete with table and chairs set up. Imagine our surprise when we opened the door. 🙂 They got it right by the fourth room but that was not until the next day …..will never forget that hotel or stay in it again.

  • exinkygal

    Nice, Roz. But my husband would kill me if I kept going back to the front desk, and he had to carry the luggage back and forth. Guess we’ll be stuck with the mediocre first room.

  • Camille

    Great tip! Glad you got a nice room with a view. I live a few miles south of WC in San Ramon. Hope you enjoyed your visit to NorCal!

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