by Nancy Bestor
I’ve stayed in a fair number of hotels in many different quality categories in my young (ha!) life. They’ve ranged from hotels where the employee checking in travelers was behind bulletproof glass, to a hotel where guests lounging poolside were offered free popsicles on a hot day.
I recently had a run of stays in several mid-level hotels in the United States that made me think about things that make a hotel “nice” and also make them somewhere I would recommend to a friend or family member. I discovered that the price of a hotel doesn’t always reflect its quality. While it probably goes without saying that a top end, $400 a night hotel is likely going to provide beds with high thread count sheets, boutique quality bath products, and excellent service, hotels that are lower end to mid-level, the Days Inns, Marriott Courtyards, and Hiltons of the world, can vary tremendously in quality and comfort. It’s very difficult to use a hotel’s own website and photos to determine their quality. Professional hotel photos can be deceiving, so I try very hard to look at travelers’ personal photos before I’m willing to book. Sites like www.tripadvisor.com and www.oyster.com offer great, unbiased hotel reviews written by regular travelers, with lots of real photos.
I don’t set high expectations for low to mid-priced hotels. Often our family stays just one night, arriving late and leaving early, so we really just need a clean place to lay our heads. Take our recent night at a Staybridge Suite in the Sacramento area. We arrived about 9pm, and were back on the road the next morning by 8am. Our room was fine, nothing to write home about, but about the quality I expect for $99 a night for four people. The price did include a breakfast buffet, which is pretty good value for four people. But a few the little things were, quite frankly, lacking. Take the bathroom door for instance. You couldn’t close the door all the way, because the latch on the door DID NOT LINE UP with the strike plate on the jam. It wasn’t even close. Really, it’s the little things. I’m not asking for much. I’d just like to be able to shut the bathroom door all the way when I am doing my business.
A few days later we stayed several nights at Four Points by Sheraton, in Culver City, California. We checked four people into the hotel, and found just three sets of towels in our bathroom. We called to let the staff know we would need another set of towels, which were delivered promptly. But for the next four days, every time our room was cleaned, we were left just three sets of towels. So we had to call for our fourth towel every day. How hard is it people? Can you not make a note of the fact that we have paid for four people, and have no interest in sharing towels?
Other low to mid-range hotels have been just lovely. From fun magnets to put on your door instead of the usual, “do not disturb” sign, to soap, shampoo and conditioner dispensers in the shower that provide plenty of product, but also save the environment by not using millions of tiny plastic bottles, I’m extremely delighted when a hotel does just a little extra to make a stay with them more unique than your typical chain hotel. Offer me warm cookies in the evening (thanks Doubletree), provide a free airport shuttle, or give me a little bigger room or bigger bed for free when I’m checking in. When I’m asked to recommend a good hotel stay, it’s these hotels who have gone the extra mile (really it’s more like 30 feet) to make my stay just a little nicer that I’m going to mention.