Comfortable hotels – why are they so rare?

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“Your home away from home” is how many hotels like to market themselves. It’s an easy slogan to use, but for many hotel owners I am fairly sure that if they had to live in the properties which earn them a living, they wouldn’t put up with many of the irritations to which they are happy to subject their paying guests. So what are the most basic things a hotel should include to make a guest feel comfortable?

Of course there’s a complication here, in that every person has different requirements and different opinions on what is most important for them in a hotel room. So my wish list is just about my own preferences. But I think the points that annoy me probably annoy most people who stay in hotels (I would think that, wouldn’t I?)

Anyway, here’s what would make the perfect hotel stay for me. Best of all for hotel owners, none of these things are particularly expensive.

1. Decent pillows. Not the ones which are so flat you could post them home in an envelope. And not those which are full of uneven lumps. And no, I don’t want to phone reception to request a pillow from your menu. Just leave a good quality pair of pillows on the bed, and a slightly harder and softer option in the cupboard. Cheap pillows make you look… cheap.

2. A strong, easy-to-use shower. Fancy hotels can be the biggest culprits here. I want to get in the shower, wash myself and get out. I don’t want to spend 10 minutes trying to work out which lever to pull to make the water hot or strong. If you need to explain to guests how to use a shower, you need to change your interior designer.

3. Showers that don’t flood. In an average year I stay in 30 to 40 different hotel rooms. I reckon in at least 10 of those I’ll step out of the shower onto a soaked bathroom floor. Again, the incidence of flooded bathroom floors is not related to the class of the hotel. It’s all very well saying that the cleaner will take care of it, but there’s no fun using a bathroom and getting your feet soaked as you get ready for the day ahead. It’s usually a simple design fault, caused by a hotel choosing style over practicality.

4. Bathroom amenities which don’t need a magnifying glass to work out. It’s not rocket science. Most people over 45 (and many younger ones too) need glasses to make out small print. Glasses are the last thing you think about before going into the shower. And yet most bottles of shampoo and shower gel include tiny writing, often written in a ridiculous font and in a colour that’s almost certainly been chosen to make deciphering them as hard as possible.  Large, clear print would make life a lot easier for many guests – believe me, they might even stop cursing you while they take a shower.

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5. Free WiFi without hassle. Fortunately, the majority of places now offer free WiFi. Too many places however still make the process of logging on a real pain. Again, it’s the posher hotels which are often the worst, with separate passwords for each device which have to be entered every time you reconnect your phone or laptop. Why so many hurdles? Are you really scared of outsiders (or even former guests) returning to the hotel and stealing a few precious MB of your WiFi? Don’t make life unnecessarily difficult. A one-time simple log-in should be all that’s required. Nobody would put up with this at home.

6. Decent lights. Having 24 light switches in a single room is annoying enough, especially when there’s no master switch and you have to try and switch each one off before going to bed. Worse still is when all those lights combined still provide little more than a dull glow in the room. How about a central light which lights up the whole room, along with a few lamps at desks or chairs – you know, like you’d have at home? For some reason I’ve never been able to work out, this appears to be too difficult.

7. Painless check-in and check-out. When I arrive at a hotel I want to be in my room as quickly as possible. I don’t want anyone to come up and show me how the lights work, and I don’t want to wait for a welcome drink. 5 minutes should be the absolute maximum time between entering the hotel lobby and being left alone in my room, with all my luggage. And that thing when I’m made to wait at check-out while someone goes into the room to check I wasn’t lying when I said I hadn’t taken anything from the minibar? Not a good way to end things. If a hotel is going to adopt that approach, better to do without the minibar altogether.

Enough of a rant for now. There’s plenty more to add to this list, but I reckon if I stayed in a comfortable hotel that managed to adopt these simple steps (along with great service of course, the definition of which is another topic entirely), I would be singing its praises to all who would listen.

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Freelance travel writer

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