Travelling – Complimentary Shampoo and Shower Gel

Complimentary Hotel Shampoo and Shower Gel

“I still enjoy travelling a lot. I mean, it amazes me that I still get excited in hotel rooms just to see what kind of shampoo they’ve left me.”  –  Bill Bryson

Just like Bill, I too get a thrill from throwing open the bathroom door, turning on the light, waiting for it to flicker into life and the accompanying hum of the extractor fan and looking straight away for the complimentary shower gel and shampoo all neatly arranged as though in a chemistry laboratory next to the wash basin.

Never mind the number of stars the place boasts on TripAdvisor or proudly displayed as a certificate at the reception desk for me this is the really true measure of a hotel.

I can’t really accurately remember when these little gifts first started to appear in hotel bathrooms, certainly not on my early overseas adventures that’s for sure. On my very first holiday to Sorrento in Italy in 1976 I am absolutely certain there were none and there wasn’t a lot else either – no mini-bar of course and no television and it was light years before WiFi and Internet access.  I think it may have had a small bar of soap!

Guests were expected to provide their own toiletries in those days and without baggage weight restrictions holidaymakers used to lug an entire bathroom full of lotions and potions half way across the World and then take most them back home again!

Thinking about it, I suppose they first came to my attention in 1995 when I was on a coach tour holiday of some of the National Parks in the USA and each motel bathroom that we stayed at had these little bottles of gooey bathroom goodies and every night I greedily collected them up and secreted them in my wash bag.

Soon the bag was full and the zipper was straining fit to burst but at some point along the trip we stopped at a shopping mall where there was a ‘dollar shop’ and my brother, Richard and I found some nice little wicker baskets that were perfect for keeping them in and giving away as gifts for family and friends when we returned back home.

The beauty of this of course was that none of my family and friends had ever come across complimentary give-away cosmetics before either so they all thought that they were getting a really genuine gift.

I had never been to one of these out-of-town shopping malls before either and I remember thinking that they were really dreadful, sadly, we now have these soulless, pointless places all over the UK as well.

Complimentary potions

Who started it I asked, well, claiming credit on its web site for introducing complimentary gels is the  Canadian international luxury, five-star hotel chain, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts but I am certain there will be some conflicting claims from elsewhere.

These days any self-respecting B&B or hotel has free shampoo in little plastic bottles.  Except those that have large squeezy containers that are screwed to the wall so that you can’t take them away and for me this always loses the place a couple of points when I complete the post stay satisfaction survey.

When staying in the room I always remain reluctant to use the giveaways because I view them as a sort of holiday bonus, a trophy and together with the sewing kits and the plastic combs, the pointless shoe horn and cheap toothbrushes I collect them up and take them home (except the plastic shower caps which always remind me of the rain bonnets that my mum used to wear and look completely ridiculous).  I mean next time you are tempted to pull one over your head make sure that you lock the bathroom door and then just take a moment to take a look at yourself in the mirror.  I guarantee that you will look ridiculous!

I can’t explain why they excite me, they are not top-quality products after all, I’m sure that most of them are based on some sort of industrial soap that probably doesn’t have many scalp or skin improvement qualities anyway.  Sometimes Kim gets carried away and will say something like “Oh look, there is Moulton-Brown products in the bathroom”, I know that it is really cheap washing-up liquid but I say nothing and tactfully keep this devastating information to myself.  In fact I am almost certain that although they may be different coloured liquid in the bottles that they are all the same product anyway with a bit of food colouring added and the shampoo works just as well as bubble bath and vice versa.

Back at home they sit in a box in the bathroom and every so often it overflows and the cabinet door won’t shut properly and it has to be cleared out and the little bottles disposed of – these days I take them to a homeless charity in the town and hope they come in useful somewhere.

 “Hotels have plenty of items, all cute and travel-sized, waiting in store rooms and all you have to do is pick up the phone and ask. And checking out from the hotel isn’t like going through airport security. No respectable hotelier is going to want to pry open your luggage and search for shampoo. We hope you take the amenities. We want you to use them later and think of us.” –  Jacob Tomsky – ‘Heads in Beds’

Apart from complimentary shampoo and shower gel what else do you own up to when taking things from a hotel room?

1 The tea bags and the coffee sachets?

2 The Kettle?

3 The Coat Hangers?

4 The Bottle Opener in the Mini-Bar?

5 The Gideon Society Bible?

6 The Notepaper and Pencil?

7 The Towels?

8 The pictures on the Wall?

9 The Carpet?

10 The Bedside Cabinet?

Hotel Shampoo

38 responses to “Travelling – Complimentary Shampoo and Shower Gel

      • In my younger business days three of us used to travel around the country, to together, staying in Crest Hotels as you got stamps on a card for free weekends. We’d meet up on a Friday and compare how much stuff we’d accumulated and/or nicked from these hotels. One week two of us created a spoof letter on Crest notepaper accusing Wayne of “inadvertently packing the curtains…” on his recent trip to Glasgow. He nearly wet himself!

        Liked by 1 person

      • That’s a Blast from the Past, I just about remember Crest Hotels!

        Nice Trick!


  1. The bedsheet? May I digress on one point? When we have a long hair, we need to wear that useful ‘ridiculous’ thing! 😉


  2. I can’t resist the fold out leaflets about the local attractions that you often find in the lobby . I always spend a good quarter of an hour taking one of each. Some I have had for years as they make good book marks, and in many cases, a reasonable alternative to reading the book!
    I’ve never ever been tempted to steal a Gideon’s Bible or coat hanger as we have a thriving colony in one of the wardrobes.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. the shower cap. which i have never used one in my life.


  4. Before of those toilettes only from 5 star ok but most are cheapo items. I take a good soap or pen and that is it.


  5. I always take the combs. I have long hair and a lot of jackets. There is a comb in every coat I own. I will also raid the maid’s cart if it’s left unattended.
    My peeve is the hookless hanger. Hate those things.


  6. We saved them as well and used them for guests to use.


  7. A great post, Andrew. Now can we have one on café sugars, ketchup, mustard, brown sauce, etc.?


  8. I totally disagree! We are drowning in plastic already, we don’t need all these wasteful little bottles. I prefer hotels with refillable dispensers on the wall, much greener. I admit I don’t always take my own stuff – flying can make that tricky – but if I don’t, I take the bottles on to the next hotel until they are finished. I get really annoyed to come in and find housekeeping has replaced an unfinished bottle with a new one.


  9. These days since you always have to use a credit card to secure a reservation, I suspect if you were to take more than those silly little bottles of shampoo, or whatever, you would find an additional charge for a larger item at an inflated price. I remember one hotel listing what they would charge for a sheet, or towels, or blankets, etc. I wonder if that put a end to the pilfering, or if they followed through on the threat.
    Have to agree with Anabel about the waste of using all that extra plastic.


  10. I had never been to a hotel that didn’t supply little bottles of cleansing liquids until I visited the UK in 1977 (my first trip outside of North America) and was shocked to see they even expected you to bring your own facecloth!!


  11. I take the body creams as I get through a lot of this, but nothing else. I nearly succumbed once to a towel when we stayed at the Hotel Sexi (meanly 6th) in Spain somewhere near Cadiz because of the name. My favourite hotel in Thailand, the Dusit Thani Hua Hin, gets an extra mark because it provides small containers of talc.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This was a fun post and I’m so glad you just came right out and admitted that you take the freebies! I too, was mesmerized in the beginning, and took all the bottles each night, just to watch the magic of them being replaced the next day. But now, my own “lotions and potions” are selected with care typically, and only a rare hotel soap will win my delight. It seems to me that there is an increasingly high quality of amenities found in the bathroom; perhaps it reflects the quality of hotels I choose. On two occasions I have loved the little shampoos and soaps so much that I tried to buy the product online. In both cases, the product was not available in regular-sized bottles, but only in tiny hotel sample sizes, and only sold in bulk.


  13. I’m glad I’m not the only one who gets excited to see what complimentary toiletries are in the hotel bathroom. Japan was by far the most exciting with, toothbrushes, toothpaste, hairbrush and razors!!


  14. My favorite take away, so far, has been a pair of bedroom slippers from the Fairmont in Heliopolis. Wasn’t sure whether taking them was kosher or not, but I fell in love with them. They now go with me wherever I travel!


  15. How about the bed? We certainly love the free shampoos too but I agree it’s all probably just the same lol! If you have a second I’d love your thoughts on our travel blog😊


  16. A great post! I’ve always found that Kimpton hotels have great bathroom products. as well as plenty of items you can request from the concierge – many of which are yours to keep!


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