The Real Reason Hotels Have Ice Machines

There's one person in particular you should probably thank.

Most hotel rooms have things like fresh sheets, blackout curtains, a Bible, and free ice machines. Although the last one might seem like a random amenity, ice machines have a special place in hotel history and American culture. Find out some more about the things you’ve always wondered about hotels.

The free ice trend is mostly thanks to Kemmons Wilson, the founder of Holiday Inn, which was the first hotel to offer guests free access to ice machines, according to Slate. Wilson introduced these machines in his hotels after staying at competing hotels that charged high prices for ice—yes, people had to pay for every cube. As the Holiday Inn franchises spread, the free ice trend spread across the country, too. This love of ice, however, didn’t really extend across the pond—here’s why the British don’t like ice.

Wilson is just one example of how much Americans love ice. At one point it was an expensive luxury good, but as ice became more plentiful and less costly, more and more people had a hankering for cold drinks, Epicurious reports. Before refrigerators and freezers, people also only had ice boxes requiring a large block of ice to keep food cool and prevent it from spoiling. Keeping up with ice demand is pricey for hotels, so when ice machines came along, hotels were some of the first customers, per Slate. The machines not only make it easy for customers to get their own ice, but they also keep costs down for hotels, too. In a few years, these hotel amenities might not exist.

Nowadays, hotel guests still use ice machines for everything from serving cocktails to filling up their coolers. Although you can take ice from your hotel, remember that these are the 6 things you can’t take from your hotel room—and 4 more that you can.

Emily DiNuzzo
Emily DiNuzzo is a former staff writer at Reader’s Digest. There’s a 90% chance Emily is drinking tea right now, but when she’s not writing about food and health with a cuppa by her side, you can find her lifting at the gym, listening to murder mystery podcasts and liking one too many astrology memes.