... we salute you. This entry is dedicated to all of the colleagues with whom I have sat and discussed one of the traveler's perennial problems: hotels. Before I begin I must, if I may, place one disclaimer. For all of my friends who bunk down in cockroach infested bunks in war zones and under mosquito nets in jungles all over the world, this entry is not for you. It's for the pasty, pampered, powdered-ass corporate business travelers. Like me.
First of all, the inspiration for this post. I'm on the road. Right now I'm in St. Petersburg, Florida and I'm in a regular business hotel. Last week I was in New York City staying in an up market 'boutique' style hotel. I noticed, when I arrived at this hotel that I was almost embarrassingly happy to be here. This post is an attempt to explain that odd fact and, finally, to put into words all of those conversations I've had with fellow road warriors about designing the perfect business hotel. This one is for you, F-Troop.
First of all, this is a nice idea but not wholly necessary. It's a power socket in the bedside lamp. So that if you want to work in bed and plug in your laptop you don't have to yank the bed away from the wall and thrust your hand down into places that you really don't want to think about for too long. Just to get some juice.
It used to be, just a few short years ago, that the amount of cables and power supplies I carried was nothing short of staggering. I staggered through airports and staggered into hotels carrying all this stuff. These days most of my stuff is 'bus-powered', that is to say, it takes it's power from being plugged into my laptop. Here are three Firewire 400 hard drives and one Firewire 800 hard drive plugged in. The Lexar card reader is also Firewire 800 and plugs straight into the back of the G-Tech drive. All neat so far.
So with that being said the shortage of power sockets in hotel rooms is rarely an issue these days although this idea is neat. The two power sockets I do need (laptop and camera battery charger) are both built into the lamp stand. Again, no fiddling on the floor under the desk just begging for the cleaner to come in, see you and lead to you being cited as the reason for her quitting the profession. Notice, also, the ethernet. Ah yes, the internets. A critical part of everyones life these days. Here's a tip if you're building a hotel; make it easy, make it everywhere and make it free. Charging me 20 bucks for 24 hours of internet is like charging me for the water in the taps. I like having the option of a wire, it allows me to create my own wireless network in the room if the wireless signal ain't up to much.
So here it is all plugged in.
And yes, even this little doodad is synced and charged directly so I only need the USB cable and no charger.
So what else? Well the rest is rather basic but amazingly arsed up by a great deal of hotels. Give me a comfortable clean bed with sheets that feel like they might have been made sometime within the years I've been alive on this planet. Pillows that feel like they are stuffed with the packing material you can eat don't work either. And don't put 58 other assorted items on the bed. I can't tell you how many times I've had to spend 10 minutes placing bolsters and fluffy embroidered carefully on to the floor just so that I can get into bed. Actually they usually get flung across the room in a bizarre 'padded cell' parody of a Rolling Stones style hotel room trashing. I also don't want those odd Scandinavian style make-it-yourself beds. One last thing; no recognisable bodily fluid stains. Please. For the love all that is good, I don't want to see that.
Hot water. It seems so basic. It is. It's one of the three essentials I'm paying you for... bed, hot water and a crapper. It's what I need.
Shower pressure. Seriously, the hotel room I stayed in last week was right beneath the water tower on the roof and had zero water pressure. It had a funky trendy 'rainhead' which kinda drizzled on me which was fine for an overall misting but I really need some kinda hot high pressure hose for a decent scrub down. They also had one of the hand held shower heads that you pull off the wall to wash those, er, tricky to reach areas. If you turned it upside down the water simply stopped. What do you want me to do with that? Use it as a loofah?
Give me some space around the sink. I don't have much but I'd like to be able to put it down without having to balance things.
These are the basics. Now let's have a gander at some really nice things to have that really aren't difficult. A decent iron and ironing board. The key word is decent. I don't need to brand a sheep, I need to occasionally press a shirt. And spend the extra two bucks fifty to buy the irons that you can put water in...
A coffee machine. Anyone that knows me knows that I really don't like to be up in the mornings. I certainly don't want to have to talk to someone. Having to talk to someone before I've had coffee is almost painful. Having to make my first conversation be my ordering of coffee is going to make the rest of the day just seem Sisyphean. So put a small coffee machine in the room. I'm not asking for beans that have passed through a small animal and been sifted from their stools. Farmer brothers will do at a pinch. And, yes, I know that Farmer Brothers tastes like it's been passed by someone but you catch my drift.
A fridge. I know you might put your fridge in there. It's full of tempting goodies that seem value for money when it's 2am and you really feel like a bottle of water. But I'm really not going to respect myself in the morning when I've been taken advantage of by paying 10 bucks for a bottle. For those of you out there that make signs saying, 'please don't put your own stuff in the fridge', what's wrong with you? What possible damage can happen? Give me a fridge. If I'm staying somewhere for a few nights I'm going to want some basics from the store. I need somewhere to put them. I'm not going to put them in a bag of ice and hang 'em out of the window. We've moved on since then.
Working air conditioning. My least green requirement but when I'm on the road and working anywhere up to eighteen hours a day someone had better let me sleep the remaining 6 or else I'm going to get cranky. Can you tell? A hot room is my fastest way to hotel room misery.
That's about it really. Some other things which are nice are things like an in-house guest laundry room. Awesome. Serves two functions; gets your clothes clean without needing a mortgage AND makes you realise that you aren't that hot shit and that you do put your pants on one leg at a time like anyone else. Oh and this bit is green... have you seen the elaborate packing from the hotel dry cleaning service? Silly and unnecessary.
Inexpensive and easy valet parking is nice too. The hotel in NY last week charged 50/day which, actually, is not bad for Manhattan but at the very least give me in and out privileges. They wanted to charge me 50 each time I brought it out. Imagine that. Two trips out and you're on for 150 for that day's parking. Obscene. Breakfast too, make it nice, easy and quick. I frequently skip the buffet in hotels that charge 22 bucks for it. Because even a fat biffa like me can't do 22 dollars worth of damage to a breakfast buffet.
A couple of other niceties. Lay on the odd decent sunset, it's always appreciated by the weary traveler.
And when I shut the curtains make it look like this.
To this end, the Courtyard Marriott is pretty much the perfect hotel. All of the above pictures were taken there. Decent room rate. Valet is thruppence ha'penny with in and outs, internet is free and the breakfast is 9.50 all you can eat. And, yes, I can do that much damage to a breakfast buffet.