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Recently I've been on a business trip in Germany and I had a temperature problem in my hotel room.

Since it was an attic room without air conditioning the temperature rose to uncomfortable levels during the day and my only solution to sleeping somewhat comfortably was taking a cold shower right before going to bed. (I don't particularily like cold showers).

Are there some things and/or life hacks I can apply when I have to face unpleasant temperatures in a hotel room? This could be things to ask for, buy or just simply do.

Also my example is related to heat but I'd also be interested in a solution to a way too cold room.

Note: I tried opening the windows but in the end it didn't really cool down and I had a couple mosquitos in the room...

13 Answers 13

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Air conditioning is unfortunately not universal in Germany. There is only little you can do:

  1. Keep the window shades closed during the day (when you are likely to be absent) if they are on the outside or relatively bright.
  2. Ask at the reception if they have a fan that you can borrow.
  3. You already found that you can take a cold shower.
  4. Opening the window only works well if the temperature on the outside is lower than on the inside. To avoid mosquitos, you will need to switch the light off once the sunlight is gone or your room is pretty high up, so mosquitos don't reach your altitude.
  5. If the floor is cooler and your bathroom has a fan, you can leave it on for some time to transport air from the floor through underneath your room's door into your room. The effect will be quite little, however.
  6. For severe cases: Keeping a wet towel on your chest while trying to get some sleep should provide some (temporary) cooling. Not sure if that's a good idea for the skin (or the mattress if you happen to turn around while sleeping), though. Also, this will increase the humidity in the room, which makes sweating less efficient.

The fourth point is only for completeness - you probably know that already. Cold rooms tend to be less of a problem in Germany since all hotels have some kind of heating that can be switched on and you can always wear some additional layers of clothing.

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    Opening the window only works well if the temperature on the outside is lower than on the inside., that isn't true. Opening the window may create a draught which makes any heat more tolerable. – gerrit Jun 25 at 9:37
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    so mosquitos don't reach your altitude. I've had mosquitos find me on the 8th floor of a hotel. I'm not sure that they understand that they're not allowed to fly that high. – Peter M Jun 25 at 12:28
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    gerrit it's a very rare hotel room that has multiple windows on more than a single wall, which is the main condition that allows drafts – user61942 Jun 25 at 19:23
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    You don't need multiple windows for a draft. The gap under the door, if such exists, would be sufficient (though much less effective than a window of course). – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Jun 25 at 19:36
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    To avoid mosquitos, you will need to switch the light off once the sunlight is gone Mosquitoes are not attracted by light but by CO2 and water vapor (see for instance en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bug_zapper#External_traps or other reliable sources which mention light vs CO2) – WoJ Jun 26 at 11:17
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It seems contradictory, but keeping the windows (and shades/shutters) closed during the day really help prevent too much heat accumulation. It works best if you can close them while the morning is still cool. Then as soon as the evening is cooler than your room, opening the windows allows the heat to escape more optimally. When I moved to the South of France my neighbors used to laugh at me throwing the windows wide open when the forecast was high - they were right, when I learned to close the shutters instead I did much better. Most hotel windows in Germany should be equipped with shades/curtains and possibly shutters.

I also like the suggestion to ask the reception for a fan. If you are in the same hotel for a significant amount of time, like a week, it might even be worthwhile for you to just buy a fan at a local hardware store. Smallish expenditure, much increase in comfort.

  • The building I work in (in Germany) does this fully automatically. – gerrit Jun 26 at 14:22
  • Another advantage of closed shades/shutters is privacy. Then you can strip down to your underwear, or even nude. – nigel222 Jun 27 at 9:23
  • The problem with this is that the cleaning staff will typically come in and open all shades / shutters during the day to brighten up the room. – Eric Jun 27 at 19:33
  • You could try a note with a tip? – user61942 Jun 27 at 22:21
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    @nigel That’s a concern if you’re on the ground floor or perhaps even the first floor, but hardly in an attic room. It’s perfectly normal to walk around the house in whatever state of undress you prefer in many parts of Europe, regardless of shades and shutters. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 28 at 5:58
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If the bed has duvet, then take the duvet out of its cover. Then use the duvet cover as a light blanket/sheet. This will provide minimal insulation, and make the bed feel cooler.

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    I do this at home in the summer. Works great and means you still get nice design sheets. – Notts90 Jun 25 at 23:05
  • Or just remove the duvet and sleep nude. Especially good coupled with a fan. Has to be extremely hot before you want both! – nigel222 Jun 27 at 9:21
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You can acclimatise to heat. After all, humans evolved in a warm climate. According to the University of Connecticut, it takes one or two weeks:

Heat acclimation is a broad term that can be loosely defined as a complex series of changes or adaptations that occur in response to heat stress in a controlled environment over the course of 7 to 14 days. These adaptations are beneficial to exercise in the heat and allow the body to better cope with heat stress. Heat acclimatization describes the same process, but happens in a natural environment. In either case, the positive adaptations that occur include reductions in:

  • Heart rate
  • Body temperature responses
  • Skin temperature responses
  • Perceived exertion

So the solution is: adapt and get used to the heat. Rest a lot and stay hydrated. Don't over-exert yourself, in particularly not during the first days. It probably helps to not spend much time in an artificially cooled environment; from personal experience in the USA, where air-conditioning is present and often much colder than I find comfortable or healthy (I've caught colds), I've found that air conditioning hinders the heat acclimatisation.

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A hot shower will cool you off more than a cold shower. Hot water will increase blood flow to the skin, which will make your evaporative cooling work better.

Reference https://theconversation.com/health-check-do-cold-showers-cool-you-down-71004

The verdict Our bodies respond more to changes in skin temperature than core temperature. So, if we cool part of the body (for instance with a cold sponge, or cold shower), skin blood flow decreases and skin temperature falls.

Here we “feel” cooler because cold water causes cold temperature receptor activation in the skin. We may also feel more comfortable, as our skin temperature enters the comfort zone. But because there is less blood flowing to the skin, we’ll actually keep more heat inside, thus leading to an unintended overall increase in core temperature.

A cold shower to “cool off” might seem a good immediate choice. We feel cooler because of the combination of the cold water and the decreased blood flow to the skin, but in fact our core will get warmer because of reduced heat loss from the body without skin blood flow. Some minutes later, we feel hot again. But a warm sensation on the skin will lead to increased blood flow to the skin, increasing heat loss from the body.

So, keeping cool in summer will be more effective with a warm shower (water temperature about 33⁰C) rather than a cold shower (water temperature 20-25⁰C). It will seem warm initially but after a few minutes will provide better comfort in the long term.

  • This is an interesting claim that seems to go against what many people believe, can you back it up with some sources? – gerrit Jun 26 at 14:21
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    The source gives 33 degrees as a good temperature; this is not a "hot" shower. In fact I'd call it a nice cool shower. A hot shower is 37 degrees or more. – AndyT Jun 27 at 10:25
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    The down side of taking a hot shower is that now you have a hotel room full of hot, moist air instead of hot, dry air. So you might have cooled off somewhat, but now the room is even more uncomfortable. – Mike Harris Jun 27 at 14:12
  • As a curious note, cold showers have you feel less cold. – lucasgcb Jun 27 at 14:57
  • From personal experience, this does not really hold true. Granted, I’ve not tried with the rather limited temperature range suggested here (33° is a coolish shower, 20–25° is a cool shower – not that much difference), but I know from experience that taking a hot shower (~38°) will leave me sweating profusely for about an hour, while taking a cold shower (a properly cold shower, that is, ~10°) until I’m freezing will prevent sweating almost entirely for at least an hour and allow me to get to sleep. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jun 28 at 6:12
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I've realized that this seems only common practice in Southern Europe (Portuguese here), due to the other answers, but the first thing I've learned to do during the summer while growing up is to always have the shutters down and the window(s) open.

Especially if where you're staying is directly facing the sun, because this avoids the heat coming in but still allows the air to flow.

Adding to this, taking the cold showers (like you did), drinking fresh fluids (water is ideal) and having wet towels (with cold water, obviously) around to keep your body refreshed. If you wanna use clothing, make sure to use "breathable" clothing and light colours.

  • Light colors? So if I wear light colors at a hotel at night I will be cooler? Yellow or light blue? – blankip Jun 28 at 5:29
  • It was more for the "during the day" part but yellows, light blues, white, light grey, beige, light greens are great. Preferrably would be white and light grey clothing. Make sure the clothes are breathable (like sports t-shirts), otherwise it's kinda pointless. – Filipe Carvalheira Jun 28 at 8:47
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You can acquire a small portable fan for not very much money at all (£10 for a reasonable one) and they are surprisingly powerful. Get one that can be plugged in and you can bring it with you and leave it running at night to give yourself some airflow.

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The other answers offer some tips with dealing with the heat, but they'll only take you that far. Cold rooms are easy to deal with by using your jacket or asking for an extra quilt. But a hot room is simply intolerable for most.

So although in the OP you ask what to do if there is no air-conditioning, the real answer is to never get into that situation again. Most hotel-booking websites allow for filters in your search, so use them. Never again book a room with no A/C if the weather forecast is above your comfort zone.

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    I was at a hotel in Italy towards the end of May which had Air Conditioning but they didn't have it switched on, despite the rooms being sweltering hot. I was told they were not legally allowed to use it until June due to climate-control regulations, although I don't know how true that was. So just because the website says it has air-conditioning doesn't mean you'll be okay. – Dragonel Jun 25 at 18:42
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    Or even if it is in your comfort zone. OP's enemy wasn't hot weather. It was solar load. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jun 25 at 19:24
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    +1. It's pretty perverse that "change room" and "change hotel" are not the obvious answers here. – abligh Jun 26 at 2:08
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    If the A/C is disabled or broken and the conditions are such that the room is substantially uncomfortable, that would be good cause to go to another hotel (and it would often be reasonable to expect a half-decent or better hotel to waive cancellation fees in such conditions). It's a business trip, not backpacking. It should be possible to stay in a hotel where you're not uncomfortably hot. – Zach Lipton Jun 26 at 3:46
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    @Dragonel In my humble opinion an hotel advertising A/C that guests cannot use is simply lying to them. – Dmitry Grigoryev Jun 26 at 12:36
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The only solution that actually works is getting some sort of AC, or other active cooling to lower-than-ambient temperature, of your own. Evaporative cooling is useless in most climates; it just adds humidity that makes the heat more unbearable. Compressor-based AC is going to be bulky and hard to travel with. Some less conventional options that remain are:

  • Thermo-electric cooling (peltiers). It's going to be hard to effectively move heat outside or get enough to make the room climate bearable, but they're tiny and dirt cheap and you can literally strap them to your body, then just move the high temps off the hot side with a room fan. It won't make the room comfortable but it will keep you cool.

  • Dry ice, if you can get it where you are, will absorb a lot of heat as it sublimes, and make any surface it's in contact with sufficiently cold to rapidly condense moisture out of the air, fixing the humidity problem that's probably the main reason the heat is so unbearable. In the US it's easy to get for $2/lb at grocery stores. Not sure about elsewhere.

  • Plain ice. Lots of it. With fans blowing over it. If you can put a large smooth surface against it you can probably condense water out of the air too to lower the humidity, but a good deal of it will evaporate as well as it melts.

In either of these options, keeping the condensed or melted water in sealed containers (so it can't evaporate back into the room air) can absorb more heat; once it reaches equilibrium you can pour it out. Or you can drink it while it's still cold to cool down.

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To answer the question about what to do in a room that's too cold, a hot water bottle can help a lot. Even if you haven't planned in advance and brought one with you, they are relatively inexpensive. If your room has hot drink making facilities you can use those to fill it with properly hot water, but if not then even just the hot water from the tap will make it warm. If the hot water bottle doesn't have a cover, and you want to fill it with hot rather than warm water, you can wrap it in a towel.

You can take the hot water bottle to bed with you. Depending on personal preference, and how cold the room is, you may want to cuddle it or otherwise have some part of your body in contact with it (provided it is either filled with water that is not very hot or else is securely wrapped in a cover or towel!), or just have it under the blankets with you at some distance from your body. You can also place the bottle in the bed a few minutes before you get in yourself, so that it warms the place where your body will be.

You can also use it while you're still up. You can place it on your lap or under your feet (having removed shoes) so that your hands are free. (Again, make sure that either the water inside is not too hot, or it is wrapped up in an insulating covering!)

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Building on @BKlassen's answer, you can purchase cooling towels that will make a difference, but only if the humidity isn't so high that evaporative cooling can occur.

When we travel to SE Asia, we bring them with us. You soak the towel in water and drape it over your neck so it touches the skin by your carotid arteries. While not super effective in high humidity, they still work, just not as well as they do in lower humidity.

I don't know how readily available they may be in Germany, but they're easy to find in the US. Google "cooling towel" and you'll find many examples. Failing finding them available, a microfiber towel will do quite well. You can find them at auto parts stores, department stores, etc. You may have to read labels to find out what the towels are made of. Some of our towels are labeled "viscose" and that type of fabric will work well too. We keep a couple of those on our boat.

Another thought I had, can your hotel move you to a room on a lower floor? Heat rises, and if you're basically in the attic, you're the recipient of all the heat rising inside the building.

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According to this question on history SE about how ancient desert civilizations stayed cool allowing water to evaporate can help a lot with cooling.

Answers to this question mention wrapping oneself in a damp blanket that will draw the heat from you as the dampness evaporates. Answers also mention filling water pots around the room which may be applicable if cookware pots are available in the room.

Other answers are likely not applicable once a hotel has been selected as they relate to building construction.

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If having extra items with you is not a problem (e.g. you travel with the car), you could bring your own small fan or a portable A/C unit with you. There are A/C units which cool air by evaporating water from a reservoir: those won't cool an entire house, but perform better than a simple fan, and can be quite small (some are USB-powered). Compressor-based portable A/C units also exist, though it may be a challenge to find one which is reasonably small to bring along.

Speaking of water evaporation, you don't have to take a cold shower to cool off: any shower will moist your skin which will keep releasing that water for some time. Trying to cool off quickly with a cold shower can make you catch a cold, and the effect of cold water is pretty much over by the time you're out of the bathroom.

  • I can see how a water-based room cooler may work, but where would a compressor-based portable A/C dump the heat it extracts from the air it's blowing out? – gerrit Jun 26 at 14:25
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    "Trying to cool off quickly with a cold shower can make you catch a cold" I'd like to see a reference for this. – Johnny Jun 26 at 22:38
  • Evaporative cooling does not do anything useful (actually makes heat worse due to increasing humidity) unless you're in an extremely dry climate like Arizona. – R.. Jun 26 at 23:30
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    @gerrit: There are portable units that have accordian-type ducts that can be vented through an open window, with a rectangular frame to go around it an mostly block movement of air in/out except through the duct. – R.. Jun 27 at 0:04
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    @R.. Seems impractical when visiting a hotel. – gerrit Jun 27 at 8:27

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