What to look for in a Hotel
As a frequent business traveler, I am asked quite often what to look for in a hotel. My first reaction is: “The outlet” – why do they always stack furniture and other heavy objects in front of the wall outlets. But seriously, I am very particular about the hotel where I often have to spend weeks, months, and as much as a year or more so I want to find the best hotel possible.
Here is my checklist for most important hotel features to look for:
Comfy beds mean a good night's sleep
Sleep is what you are here for after all. Many hotels are getting smart about this and replacing old mattresses that predate the Coolidge administration with nice pillow-top mattresses. They are also replacing those useless bedspreads with quilted blankets and have extra pillows of different types (foam/feather) so you can find the right one to sleep on.
If you are traveling with family, look for a hotel that offers queen sized beds rather than doubles. When traveling alone, I prefer a king.
I look for systems with a separate thermostat (not that knob on the unit itself – they never work). I hate waking up at 3AM to find that the heat did not turn itself off and the room is hot enough to smoke bacon.
My personal exercise routine includes swimming. For those of us in the arthritis years, it provides cardio without impact on the joints. It is also a good way to relieve stress. If they have a nice whirlpool (with real hot water) that can also help relax the weary traveler. An indoor heated pool is usually high on my list.
If you have ever tried any of those ‘Learn a foreign language’ tapes, one of the common phrases they teach you is ‘I would like a hotel room please’, some languages teach you to say ‘I would like a hotel room with a bathroom’. The fact that you have to ask makes me want to stay away from those countries. If you are lucky enough to get a bathroom here is what I look for: Good water pressure, towels that don’t double as sandpaper, a few niceties like soap and shampoo, and curved shower rods. At first, I thought the curved shower rod was just a gimmick, but after using them, I found that they save you from a lot of personal contact with the shower curtain, which hotels do not change or clean between guests.
I like to have a refrigerator in my room instead of trekking around the hotel looking for an ice machine so I can keep a bottle of water cold. A microwave (hopefully clean) is also a bonus to heat leftovers or frozen dinners for those nights that I don’t want to go out.
Often the higher priced hotels charge for internet access while lower priced hotels, even within the same chain, give it away free. This baffles me to no end – pay more, get less. For those of you with a Sling-Box at home you can watch your home TV channels and local sports teams from your laptop at no cost over the hotel’s free WI-FI.
I like to find a desk with a good comfortable chair, a desk lamp that is more than accent lighting, a speakerphone (for those evening conference calls), and plenty of outlets to plug in your phone, laptop, and other devices.
I like to be able to have breakfast at my hotel, preferably free. I do not like to hunt around for the first meal of the day. If you are a real cheapskate (like me), you can stash some items in your brief case for a snack when you’re stuck in the airport later.
New or Upgraded
Nothing is a bigger turn off than an old run down hotel. Hotels are supposed to do upgrades or renovations every so many years (differs depending on the chain). I like to check on how old the hotel is and when they did their last renovation.
Hotel housekeeping is not what it used to be. Instead of those strips that say ‘Sanitized’ they used to slide over the toilet seat, some should be using yellow crime scene tape. When you see the last guest’s toenail clippings on the carpet, sometimes week after week, you know they did not vacuum.
Of course clean is something you can only really determine after you have stayed there a few times, but you can be proactive. For example: Ask for a room with a new bedspread or quilt. These are not changed with the sheets and who knows what other people have been doing on them.
Business travelers often work late hours. Returning to your hotel in the evening can be scary even in low-crime areas. I will usually pay a little more for a hotel that I believe to be secure and in a safe area.
Hotels subscribe to satellite services. Some offer very few channels (20 channels with 5 all-news and 4 all sports and the others showing 24-hour reruns of CSI) while other hotels in the same area offer a wide range of options. A little variety can make being away from home more bearable.
A new, flat-screen TV with built in DVD player is another plus. If you’re like me and don’t like Television but do enjoy a good movie, it’s nice to be able to bring along a DVD and play it in the room. (I like to borrow them free from the public library – Okay call me tightwad)
Yes, I’m a Points Ho. One of the few perks we business travelers get are points that save you a few bucks on your next vacation. I usually select from one of several chains where I have status and that offer points and freebies (like bottled water or breakfast) to their frequent guests. If you’re not a member join – it costs nothing and if you end up using that chain again, you can earn free nights.
There are other, less tangible items like a smiling face at the front desk and people who remember your name that can make you feel at home, but they won’t replace a good night’s sleep, a hot shower, and cinnamon buns in the morning.