As a traveling family, we’ve stayed in a lot of hotels. Some of them one star, some five star, but most in between. While we expect a lot of differences between a five and one star hotel, it’s often surprising how much difference there can be between hotels in the same class.
These are some of the little things we look for when comparing hotels and their reviews that make the difference between an ordinary stay and a great stay.
Here’s our list in no particular order:
Towels folded to resemble animals. They’re art, great playthings for kids and just bring a smile to our faces.
Free and fast WiFi. Oddly enough, the more expensive the hotel, the less likely it is to have free WiFi. Oh, and the hotels that offer free WiFi, but limit use to an hour and then charge you? There’s a special place in hell for you, I’m sure. Kidding. Sort of.
Free tourist maps. Sure, we use our iPhone map and apps a lot, but sometimes it’s nice to go old school and pull out a physical map. Nothing says lost tourist more than an over-sized attraction map! Believe it or not, sometimes that’s a good thing.
Menus for local restaurants. I’m surprised how many hotels don’t have a listing of local restaurants, and even fewer have actual menus in the room. There’s a good reason the term “Food & Lodging” exists. We almost always need both. 😉
Affordable room service and mini bar. Not really necessary but oh so nice to have! Double points if it includes alcohol and chocolate in there!
Enough suitcase holders for more than one suitcase. We travel as a family of four, and have way more luggage than I’d like to admit. Spreading suitcases on the floor and over chairs gets a bit old.
A welcome gift. It doesn’t have to be much – just a few mints or a bottle of water, but freebies always make me happy.
Nice toiletries, including hair conditioner. My daughter and I both have naturally wavy locks, and a night away from conditioner and our hair starts to resemble a poodle’s hairdo. Not good.
Lots of shelving and places to set things. Since there’s always something we need/want to keep out of the little ones hands having a higher shelf to put a few things is essential for us.
Free, no hassle late checkout. We’ve had hotels want to charge us $100 for an extra one hour stay. I understand that sometime’s the hotel’s booked, and a late checkout’s not guaranteed, but that’s no excuse for getting greedy.
Free, secure luggage storage. When we have a late flight and want to be able to enjoy our last day unfettered, having someplace safe to store our luggage is vital. For example, on our last day in Hawaii we went on a submarine ride, swam in the ocean, played in the park and then went to a luau all while our luggage sat comfortably in secure storage.
No charge for cribs or cots. We don’t need them often but sometimes it just makes life easier.
Chocolates on the pillows at night. Preferably not melted.
Towels folded to look like animals. 🙂
Free Parking. I’m paying a ridiculous amount for a room already, paying a bunch more just to be able to park my car outside just doesn’t make sense.
A good selection of affordable restaurants nearby. Unfortunately it’s not like the hotel can wave its magic wand and make these appear, but it is a nice feature regardless.
Raised beds, with the underneath blocked off. There are two reasons I love this: 1. I know there’s nothing nasty hiding under there, and 2. When we do our sweep of the room for lost toys, socks and the like, I don’t need to kneel on the hotel floor and peer under the bed. Nasty.
An air conditioning and heating unit that doesn’t roar like a jet engine and blow out massive amounts of air. Most a/c units in hotels without central heating (the ones that are stuck below windows) won’t let you sleep between the noise, the air blast, and the trouble controlling the exact temperature.
Easy to set alarm clocks. We’ve been in hotel rooms that had alarm clocks that required an engineering degree to operate. Make it easy and make sure that it has a radio alarm as well as that annoying buzzer.
Free local and long distance calls. Sure, we have Skype and Google Voice, but it’s a treat to be able to use a real phone to call someone at home. Sometimes we do things just because we can.
Vending machines with healthy food options. We’re not health nuts in any way, but having the ability to buy a granola bar to munch on isn’t too much to ask. Is it?
Lots of pillows. Great for fort building, pillow fights or even sleeping on.
Easily accessible electrical sockets. Too many times we’ve been in a room where we had to unplug lights and move furniture just to be able to plug in our laptop. Why offer a desk without a power plug?
Black out curtains. Necessary for kids to get a decent sleep, especially in a different timezone after a long flight. Also encourages everyone to sleep in when we’re not in a rush that morning.
Unlimited hot water, and good water pressure. No one likes a trickle and cold water showers should stay in the domain of hostels and camping.
Bonus points for any hotel that avoids putting out $7 bottles of water in the room. I’ve lost track of how many bottles of water I’ve had to wrestle out of our kids’ hands to avoid the pricey charge. Relates directly to number 9.
Free Breakfast. It’s funny that there seems to be a direct inverse correlation between the cost of breakfast and the cost of the room. Cheap rooms usually offer the best free breakfast. Expensive rooms rarely offer anything for free and what they do charge is usually ridiculous in regards to the quality. Is a free muffin, apple and coffee too much to ask for?
Duvet covers with fresh linen. It seems that using duvets with washable covers is slowly becoming the norm. Everyone knows the staff changes the sheets every night but when was the last time you saw them changing the comforter? Using a duvet with a fresh cover gives you one extra layer of distance from the previous sleeper.
Did we say towels folded to look like animals? If not, we’ll say it again, and again and again. 😉
We've been traveling around the world since 2003, first as a couple and now as a family of four. We love sharing our adventures and the lessons we've picked up on the road. Contact us or check our About page for more info.