During a sweltering season in Europe, many travelers were steamed to find their vacation rentals and boutique hotels didn’t have air conditioning.
But it’s not just a problem limited to European destinations — or, in many places these days, to just a few months of the year. Temperatures are still soaring in the American West as we write this. And indoor climate control could make or break your comfort on trips to many hot weather vacation destinations, such as to Mexico and the Caribbean.
There may not be much you can do to fully cool down a hotel room without air conditioning in the middle of a very hot day. However, there are some ways to at least improve your experience. Here are a few tips and tricks to think about before you depart — and once you arrive.
Sign up for our daily newsletter
What to pack in case your hotel doesn’t have air conditioning
- Refillable water bottle: This will keep your cold drinks cold. Popular brands to consider include the Yeti Rambler and Hydro Flask.
- Portable travel fan: Keep the air flowing in your room with a Treva 10-inch portable fan. It’s foldable and fairly strong. The EasyAcc desk fan is smaller and more portable, but you’ll have to keep it pretty close to your face if you want to cool off. You can pack a portable fan in your carry-on as long as it doesn’t exceed your airline’s carry-on size limits.
- Cooling travel pillow: It’s hard to sleep if you’re sweating. The ComfEz memory foam pillow comes with a soft wicking, bamboo-fiber cover to keep your head cool.
- Lightweight, moisture-wicking clothes: They’re essential for comfort in hot, stuffy hotel rooms. ExOfficio has a tried-and-true collection of dry-fit clothes, from men’s and women’s underwear to its popular line of Give-n-go T-shirts.
- After-sun cooling spray: This is a must if you plan on being in the sun during the day. Sun Bum is good for sensitive skin. Aloe vera gel can provide deep, lasting cooling and healing.
- Travel sheet: Coolmax‘s moisture-wicking fibers make it an ideal lightweight sleep cover for a comfortable night in a hot hotel room.
Related: Best travel clothing to beat the heat
What to do in a hot hotel without air conditioning
In addition to packing the right gear, there are a few steps you can take to keep cool in a hotel lacking air conditioning.
First, before accepting your fate on a steamy day, be sure to check to see if any other rooms at the hotel have A/C and request a room change if possible.
Also, if the hotel promised air conditioning on its website but does not actually offer it when you arrive, or if the air-conditioning unit is broken, request that they change not just your room but — if that’s not available — move you to another property. This may be a situation where travel insurance can help you, but the conditions at the hotel likely would have to be “uninhabitable” for the insurance to reimburse you.
Related: 7 things to look out for when buying travel insurance, according to an expert
Should your room feel unbearable but not technically uninhabitable, your best course of action may be to change hotels on your own and request a refund from the original hotel (whether through your credit card issuer or from the travel agency you used). While there’s no guarantee you’ll get the refund, it may be worth heading elsewhere to preserve your mental and physical health.
If you do decide to stick it out in a hotel room without A/C, here are some techniques to help alleviate the effects of the heat.
- Take a cold shower: This will quickly drop your body temperature and keep you feeling fresh. You can also soak a washcloth in cold water and put it on your forehead or on the back of your neck. If your hotel has an ice machine, add a few buckets to the shower or tub to cool your feet. (Note: Do not do what a friend of mine did and place a frozen fish on your forehead in place of a washcloth. If you fall asleep with it on your forehead, as she did while staying in a hot hostel room with no screens on the windows, it will not be a pleasant awakening.)
- Keep hydrated: Drink plenty of water — with ice, if possible. It won’t cool down the room, but it’ll keep you from getting dehydrated and possibly sick.
- Open the windows: Take advantage of airflow by opening windows on multiple sides of the room (and even the door if you feel comfortable doing so). You may also sleep with the window open, using a white noise app on your phone to drown out street sounds. However, be aware of potential safety concerns if your window is accessible to the public on the street or on an easily accessible balcony or fire escape. You likely won’t sleep well if you’re worried about potential intruders.
- Pull down the blinds when you leave the room: This can prevent the sun from elevating the temperature. You may also leave the window partially open, but, again, should only do so if you’re securely on a high floor or if the window has a locking mechanism. This will enable a little airflow into the room while still blocking the hot sun.
- Ask the front desk for an electric fan: Given how many hotels offer loaner items like umbrellas and hair straighteners to guests, it can never hurt to ask if an electric fan is available to borrow. If the hotel’s staff doesn’t have one and you’re desperate, just purchase one. It’s a small investment that may immensely improve your quality of life during your stay. Pay it forward and leave the fan for the next guest.
Related: TPG’s best tips for traveling during a heat wave