They may not ever be perfect (although some come close), but there’s a lot to love about hotels. And after staying in countless different types of accommodation over the course of my travel writing career – from castles to caves, lighthouses to log cabins, coaching inns to country pubs, tents and caravans to luxury island resorts, and a whole gamut of other temporary abodes – I’ve revelled in those that offer great service, tall tales, ghost stories and glamour (not all at the same place).
This year I’ve stayed in 51 hotels, sometimes on holiday but mostly on assignment. Most of them were wonderful, and I’ve already talked about my pet hates. But to make it clear, I actually love staying in hotels, and here are just some ways in which some hotels get it right (in no particular order).
A room with a view. Yes, please! And a balcony, if possible. But if it’s ground floor, a lovely garden will suffice. Just don’t make me look out on a brick wall, a car park, or the hotel rubbish bins. I’m willing to pay more for a view, because it adds so much to the experience, unless I’m sure I’m only going to be there to sleep (for example, in an airport hotel).
Sustainable and eco-friendly policies. These days, most hotels ask guests to hang their towels up or choose not to have sheets changed every day…but I’m also impressed when I see those that go the extra mile by offering incentives of some kind for guests to help reduce emissions or waste.
A good club sandwich. This is my test of the room service menu. It’s standard fare, and when done well is a satisfying and simple meal in front of the TV or a movie if I’ve got a night off. With a glass of cold crisp Pinot Gris or Savignon Blanc.
Twin duvets. European hotels have it sorted out when it comes to bedding. No fighting your partner for a fair share of the covers…even the double, queen and king beds have two single duvets. Perfect.
Hotels with a hook. As a travel writer, I’m always looking for a hotel with a story. Hotels that host as part of a structured “familiarisation” tour like to have a mention, but if it’s boring and bland and just like every other hotel, it’s a hard thing to accommodate (pardon the pun). So let me rest my head somewhere that’s interesting, historic, has a great location or design features…something that I can weave into my story and give it a sense of place.
Quirky stuff. Whether I can write about them or not, I still love little quirks that make a hotel memorable. Art hotels are particularly good for this, and the quirks are usually found in boutique hotels rather than the big ones.
Windows that open. I promise not to jump. Apart from the delight of fresh air or balmy tropical breezes, the other problem with fixed windows is that they are so often dirty. Or at least dirty enough to make it difficult to photograph that wonderful view.
Bathrobes. Forget the slippers, but I love hotels that have white towelling or cotton bathrobes to slip into. So much so that I’ve bought one to wear at home. But the best I’ve seen was at the luxury Palazzo Versace hotel on Australia’s Gold Coast…the robes there were a very practical and glamorous black.
Rubber ducks and teddy bears. It’s a homely touch to have a teddy bear on the bed or a yellow rubber ducky on the side of the bathtub. They may be more decorative than anything, but I like it. Years ago, on a trip through Scotland and England, I found bears in almost every hotel I went to…an experience that lent itself nicely to a little story. And sometimes you even get to take them home…
Personal touches. Messages spelt out on the bed or the doorstep…or wherever! Surprises are wonderful. Thai hotels are very good at it, I’ve found. And towel art too…swans, flowers, elephants…creative touches that add joy to a visit are always a plus.
Someone else makes the bed. Not having to worry about cleaning the bathroom or making the bed is such a bonus! And those fresh pure cotton sheets, without a wrinkle…bliss!!