This past summer, my fiancée and I stayed at a bed and breakfast. It was charming and had a great ocean view. But when she hopped out of the shower the first time, she discovered our room lacked a hair dryer.
As a frequent traveler, I was shocked. I’ve come to expect basic things from hotels: soap, shampoo, conditioner, and a hair dryer. Maybe I shouldn’t. Either way, this week I’m taking a look at some of my favorite hotel perks and some amenities that I think all lodgings should have.
Let’s start with the good ones.
Every road warrior knows that if you forget deodorant, a razor, or any other basic cosmetic, the front desk probably has an emergency replacement for you. A few months back, the W San Diego handed me a stack of single-use toothpaste packets, saving me from searching for a pharmacy.
Hyatt is particularly generous in this department, offering sometimes-necessary items like Woolite, lint rollers, combs, and—for families—baby shampoo. Hyatt hotels also loan or sell phone and computer chargers, power adapters, steamers, and yoga mats. (A full list of items can be found here.)
The biggest space hogs in my carry-on bag are my running shoes. Westin has partnered with New Balance to offer a solution: the lending of shoes and workout clothing for $5 per stay. The workout gear is delivered to your room, and you get to keep the new pair of socks. I tend to still bring my own shoes since I often stay at multiple hotels on a trip, but hope to try this out this year.
A free bottle of water is also a nice perk. But several upscale and boutique hotels are now going one step further, offering free sodas, juices, potato chips, and candies in the tiny in-room fridges.
The Langham Place Fifth Avenue, in New York, lets guests customize the mini-bar. They can replace all the water for free with Yoo-hoo, Vitamin Water, Red Bull, or another nonalcoholic drink of their choice. The Caneel Bay resort, on St. John, welcomes all guests with a minibar stocked with a complimentary bottle of private-label rum and mixers such as Diet Coke. Hotel Vermont, in Burlington, offers a filling station with still and sparkling filtered water in reusable bottles in its pantry. And, one of my favorites, Hyatt's Andaz brand offers local sodas, juices and candies at its various properties around the globe.
Sometimes hotels will surprise you with the extras that they offer. On a recent ski trip to Colorado, I was pleasantly surprised when a quick call to the front desk at the Westin Snowmass landed us a humidifier to help with the dry mountain air.
The Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles goes so far as to offer baby diapers, baby powder, baby shampoo, and sunscreen in a basket at the pool.
Then there is special access. Families know that staying at a Disney hotel gets you extra time at the theme parks. But what about for business travelers?
The Westin Detroit Metropolitan Airport has its own security checkpoint to the airport, just for registered guests (though by now every road warrior should be enrolled in Global Entry or TSA PreCheck and not need a special line). And in London, the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel offers guests in its suites a fast-track service to Eurostar trains to Paris and Brussels. Guests can stay in their rooms until 30 minutes before their train is due to depart.
So what about the features that I’d like to see?
The obvious one is free Internet and bottled water. Lower-level hotels typically include both, plus free parking and breakfast. I’m not asking for all of that, but a bottle of water can go a long way in the goodwill department.
I give InterContinental Hotels Group kudos for supplying all members of its loyalty program with free Internet. Plus, they can hop on the Web for free in the lobby, even if not staying at the hotel. That’s classy. I hope other chains take note.
Along with Internet access comes the ability to charge all of our electronic devices. Way too many hotels don’t have enough electric outlets or make you crawl around under the desk to plug into them. Road warriors put up with a lot, but we shouldn’t also have to bump our heads just trying to plug in our laptops. If you don’t want to splurge on fancy furniture with built-in outlets, how about adding a power strip nearby?
Next, I’d like to see more common-sense use of technology. Forget the fancy TVs that let you order room service or the iPad app to request extra towels. Hotels like the W San Diego and the Grand Hyatt in Denver let you text the valet to get your car. Great idea.
A company called Zingle offers the same valet texting service at some Marriott hotels. It is also working to offer such a service for extra towels and other in-room amenities at hotels, including some Four Seasons properties.
To help us all sleep better, hotels should look at proper window thickness—especially those at airports or facing highways—and better blinds. While traveling, many of us don’t have too many hours for sleep between meetings.
When we do go to sleep, we want those hours to be restful. I’ve spent way too many nights tossing and turning at airport hotels with inadequate windows. And when I am deep in slumber, I don’t want a ray of sunlight bursting through the shade to wake me prematurely.
To get the day started, how about some free coffee and tea in the lobby? The in-room machines are nice, but it’s even better when someone else does the brewing.
Finally, please give me some good hangers. I’m sick of too few spots to hang my clothing in the closet. And do you really think I’m going to steal them? Maybe some folks do, but please don’t treat me like a thief. Make me feel like a guest.