Last May, in a fit of bleary-eyed jet-lag, I made the mistake of checking into a hotel without running through the standard list of questions I normally ask at the front desk to ensure I get a good room.

When I got to my assigned room, it was hot, smelled like disinfectant and had a view of a large exhaust fan. The air conditioning hummed and vibrated so loudly that I thought an A380 was landing on the roof. Despite wanting to just crawl into bed and crash after the 10-hour overnight flight, I returned to the front desk and told the clerk that the room was not acceptable. A few keystrokes and a smile later, she apologized, and handed me the key to another room in a recently renovated wing on the opposite end of the hotel.

What a change! The hallway to my room was bright and new. The bathroom was spotless, the room décor modern and clean, the air conditioner was already on, and I had a nice view of airport runways without a peep of airplane noise.

I learned then that it’s always a good idea to give your room a quick inspection as soon as you enter — to avoid having to ask for another room once you’ve unpacked and settled in.

When I walk into a hotel room now, I always check the view, the air conditioning/heating and the bed. I pull back the bedspread to look for hair on the sheets or pillows, and I inspect around the mattress edges for any evidence of bedbugs. If I’m planning to work in the room, I’ll turn on my laptop and check the strength of the wi-fi signal. I also check that there are disposable plastic cups for water because I’m never sure about the cleanliness of glasses.

I’m not the only one with a checklist. Janis Cannon spends nearly 150 nights a year in hotel rooms. She’s spent her career in the hotel industry, working in sales, as a hotel general manager and is now a vice president at InterContinental Hotels Group overseeing brand management for the Crowne Plaza and Hotel Indigo chains.

As soon as she walks in a room, she flushes the toilet to make sure it is operational and checks grout lines in the tub and shower for a solid clean seal. “It says a lot about the age and overall condition of the room,” she said.  

“I also check the floor space between the nightstand and the bed, which indicates how thorough the room cleaning and inspection process has been,” she said. Like me, Cannon checks for air conditioning fan noise and looks out the window to see if there is anything that might disrupt sleep.

What are the first things you check when you walk into a hotel room? Please leave your comments on our Facebook page.

Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel