What makes a good hotel stay? Lots of things. Summer is almost here, and since we are hoping places are opening up more, travel is on lots of people’s minds…including mine. I’m always researching hotels.
Over the course of my 53 years of life, I’ve stayed in a lot of hotels. When I was a kid, a couple of things were important for me at hotels: a swimming pool and good vending machines. But times change. My wish list is different now. If you ever visit a city I’ve visited in recent years, I’m happy to give you my own review of hotels where I’ve stayed, and here are some of the things I will mention:
- Friendly Staff. I love outstanding customer service. Our favorite hotel in the Los Angeles area knows how to do it, and I love it. A hotel can have beautiful facilities, but if the staff isn’t friendly and helpful, I don’t want to return. There’s a reason I listed this first…because it is important to me. When I visit a hotel, I like for the staff to smile and look like they enjoy being there. I like to feel like they are my friends. If I get that vibe in a hotel, I’m likely to remember it, and I’m going to return. I write dozens of complimentary letters a year, because I appreciate great service, and I love when someone gives me a reason to write one.
- Large rooms. I simply like to feel comfortable. I don’t want to feel like I’m living in a closet for days. When I’m booking hotel rooms, I always look at the square footage. Unless the hotel has something special to offer, the size of the rooms is very important to me. For example, if I’m looking at two hotels in New York, and they have similar pricing and quality, the size of the rooms can be the tie-breaker. One is 350 square feet and the other is 550 square feet? You know which one I pick.
- Air Conditioning. In the United States, most hotels are air conditioned, but they don’t all have good air conditioning. For me, it means the difference in a fabulous stay and a terrible stay. I need air conditioning to sleep at night, and that’s a fact…and it needs to be good air conditioning that actually keeps me cool. Preferably, it needs to be a relatively quiet air conditioner, but I can always cover that noise with white noise from my smartphone. So if a hotel room can’t reach a nighttime temperature of 67 degrees, I don’t want to stay there…and I won’t return. I also carry a small, folding fan in my luggage. I put it directly on my face. You can purchase one here.
- Room Service (preferably 24 hours). Nobody loves room service more than I do. If I’m traveling for my daughter’s sports, I can suffer through a night or two with no room service, but traveling for pleasure? I want room service. It makes a big difference. I love to wake up to delivery of a pot of hot coffee and sometimes, a light breakfast. And if I’m going to have late nights, I like to know I can order a late night snack delivered to my room. When we are at hotels for my daughter’s sports teams, though, the hotels are rarely luxurious. But all the Marriott properties (Fairfield Inn and Suites, Towne Place Suites, Springhill Suites, etc.) have had market shops near the front desk, so we can get snacks or necessities 24/7. That helps. See the Marriott website here.
- Location, location, location. In bigger cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, the location of the hotel is crucial. I like to be where I feel safe. I like to be close to the places I want to visit…or centrally located between them. In New York, I prefer to be near Central Park. In the LA area, I prefer Beverly Hills, and in Chicago, I prefer the Magnificent Mile. In addition to location, if the hotel offers a courtesy car for nearby restaurants/shops/attractions, that’s a big plus. On islands or in beachy resort areas, unless a hotel is in a remote area for a reason, I prefer to book hotels/resorts that are relatively easy to get to. I don’t want to waste two or three hours on the front end or back end of the trip getting to and from the resort and airport. It ruins it for me.
- Good restaurant(s). Ideally, a hotel has a restaurant where I want to eat, and ideally, the people who work there are friendly. I love knowing I can walk right down the hall to enjoy a great meal or snack. And I love knowing I will feel comfortable there.
- Good bar. This mostly refers to vacation hotels for me. I don’t really care about a bar when I’m traveling with my daughter’s sports teams, but when I’m on vacation, I want my hotel to have a good bar. I want some people-watching. I want good drinks and friendly servers. I want a bar menu. I want a place to relax with friends over a cocktail…or two. I want to want to spend an afternoon there, and I want to have a nightcap after dinner.
- Private Outdoor Space. No one loves private outdoor space at a hotel more than I do, and it’s likely no one uses it more than I do. Of course, in some cities, it’s not as feasible, but in places where the climate is mild, it’s a fabulous addition to a hotel room. I love ordering room service and having breakfast on a patio or balcony first thing in the morning. Coffee tastes better outdoors. Am I right? For me, a private patio or balcony is just an extension of the room. And cocktails on the patio in late afternoon are pretty great too! When we went to Cancun for spring break last year, I loved sitting on our gigantic patio overlooking the water, watching the people on the beach and the clouds in the distance.
- Comfortable beds. We’ve all stayed in hotels with uncomfortable mattresses. We suffer through it and pay for it the next day. If a hotel has comfortable beds, I remember. I love to wake up thinking, “I slept better than I sleep at home!”
These are just a few things I look for in a hotel. Like I said, some hotels we stay in for sports tournaments are purely functional, but if they have the extras, well, that’s a bonus. But when I’m on vacation, I look for the extras. And a friendly staff might mean I’ll overlook imperfections in a hotel. A few years ago, in Chicago, we stayed in a hotel (in a great location) that was in need of a facelift. The rooms were comfortable, but they looked tired…as did the public areas. But you know what? From the moment we arrived, we were greeted warmly. The bellman rushed out in the rain to help us with our bags…and he was smiling! The front desk staff chatted us up at check in, and when we had some questions for them later that evening, they acted like old friends! Everyone there was so friendly, and though I haven’t had the opportunity to stay there again, I wrote a complimentary letter to the manager. I also gave a glowing review on TripAdvisor, and I’ve told friends to stay there when they were traveling.
My favorite resource for researching hotels is TripAdvisor. I can weed through the reviews that are “outliers”..like the ones someone wrote when they were angry about something. I also look at the profiles of the people who write the reviews and try to get a feel for the person who wrote them. I look at where they have stayed before to see if we have similar taste. My own profile on TripAdvisor tells my story…I’m a 50+ mom who often travels with my teenage daughter…sometimes we take luxury vacations, and sometimes we have to travel with sports teams. I give a lot of outstanding reviews, because I do my homework before I travel, so I know what to expect. I recommend TripAdvisor to everyone I know. See it here.