Nine Dirty Little Secrets of the Travel Industry

It’s not all glossy brochures and white-sand beaches out there. Here are nine dirty little secrets that airlines, rental-car companies, cruise lines, and others don’t want you to know. Hint: “Don’t drink the water” is good advice in a lot more places than you might think. I’d be surprised if any of these come as a shock for the BoardingArea frequent traveler community. Once again, thanks to Janice from Yahoo! Travel for sharing each of this week’s “top list posts” with PMttP readers! Back to regular content next week.

Dirty Hotel Beds – It’s bad enough that most hotels don’t change the bedspreads between guests (only the sheets), but did you know that the mattresses themselves are probably pretty filthy as well? Many hotels don’t use waterproof mattress covers to protect the mattresses from the millions of skin cells, bodily secretions, bacteria, dust mites, and other allergens that guests leave behind. And as for those not-so-fresh bedspreads, Reneta McCarthy, a lecturer at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, tells CNN, “Is it possible that a bedspread might only be changed four times a year? Yeah, it is.” Sweet dreams!

Dirty Airplane Water – Tests conducted by the EPA a few years ago found that 14 percent of tank water in planes tested did not meet federal safety standards and contained bacteria like E. coli. Some airlines use tank water for more than just the airplane bathrooms—they use it to make coffee and tea, to fill the large bottles of water on the beverage trolley, and to make ice. Thankfully, not all airlines follow these practices. But do you really want to chance it?

Furniture Polished Glasses – Jacob Tomsky, author of the tell-all book Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality, worked as everything from a valet to a front-desk employee for more than a decade—so he’s seen some things. One of those things? Housekeepers cleaning hotel-room drinking glasses with Pledge. Apparently it keeps glassware looking spotless and streak-free—so we suggest you just admire the sparkle and drink from disposable cups instead. Related see – Scary & Disgusting Hotel Housekeeping Video

Check out the final six “secrets” here.


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  1. I’ve always wondered about the glasses, and how much the Starwood policy is followed ( I’ve never once seen any glasses being taken to a room for replacement – not to mention people walking around the hotel in gloves.

    Wasn’t the purpose of a lot of hotel switching to white comforters to show that they’re actually clean? Do those hardly get changed also?

  2. I saw a hotel review on TripAdvisor lately where a person was upset that they didn’t have real glasses in a non-luxury hotel. Upset because they only had plastic disposable cups. Funny. I never touch the glasses because I don’t know if they are actually cleaned.

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