Travel Etiquette: Rental Home Bedrooms and Hotel Cooking

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In this edition: Assigning bedrooms in a vacation rental home; cooking in your hotel room.

Q: My mother-in-law, my parents, my husband, our three kids and I are sharing a beach house for a week next month. The house has a master bedroom with a king-sized bed, a bedroom with a queen bed, a bedroom with a double bed, and two bedrooms with bunk beds.

I assumed my parents would take the master suite, seeing as there are two of them (and my husband and I wouldn't feel right taking it away from older people). I assumed my mother-in-law would take the double bed, my husband and I would take the queen, and we'd put the kids in the bunk beds.

Well, you can probably see where this is going. My mother-in-law doesn't want to sleep in the double bed. She is a rather large woman and has a king-sized bed at home, and she told my husband she just assumed we would get her the same thing. She doesn't understand why my parents don't take the queen bed (because that's what they have at home) and why my husband and I don't take the double.

What should I do? If she doesn't get her way, she's threatening not to go, which would be a serious issue within the family… but I don't feel like she should be able to take more space for herself than anyone else will be getting just because that's what she's used to. My parents, for what it's worth, said it's no problem to switch (they know what she's like) but I just hate that she's trying to guilt-trip us like this.

A: I see the word "assumed" three times in your question, and that's the reason you're having this problem. Assume nothing if you're sharing a rental house. Unless all the rooms are exactly the same (which is rare), you need to talk with everyone about sleeping arrangements before you book the house.

I think your plan for assigning the rooms sounds very reasonable, but unfortunately, that doesn't matter unless someone can make your mother-in-law see it that way. Have your husband talk to her. If he can't make her see reason, though, you basically have to choose whether you stand your ground and deal with her anger or give in to her demands. I'm sorry, but I can't make it any easier.

Q: I just heard there are a lot of creative ways business travelers use the coffee maker, iron, etc. to cook meals in their hotel rooms. But it got me thinking—isn't this kind of rude to the next guest (and the hotel itself)?

A: I'm impressed by the ingenuity these folks have shown, and I sympathize with their plight -- restaurant meals can indeed get tiresome and/or expensive after a few days. And I suppose there's almost a Top Chef challenge element to it that could make a long business trip a little more exciting. But you have to think of the next guest. If I tried to iron a shirt and got grease all over it because the previous guest made a grilled cheese with the iron, I'd be rather perturbed. Nor do I want to find crusty ramen noodles in the coffee pot. If you want to boil water in the coffee maker and pour it into a cup to make instant soup or noodles, that's fine, but I think actually cooking with the coffee maker or iron is not a terribly nice thing to do. I would suggest booking a room with a microwave instead -- or, if you'll be in one place long enough and the hotel's fire code doesn't prohibit it, buying a little hot plate.

Lesley Carlin has been writing about travel and etiquette professionally for more than 10 years. As one of the Etiquette Grrls, she is the co-author of "Things You Need to Be Told" and "More Things You Need to Be Told" (Berkley). Have a travel etiquette question of your own? E-mail Lesley at