Hotels

HOW I RATE HOTELS

Over the last few years,  my wife and I have been traveling a lot more than, well, than before we both retired and became empty-nesters.

In the course of these travels, we have stayed in quite a number of hotels, and in this post I will share with you the delights and mostly frustrations we have encountered with various hotels along the way.

SUBJECTIVE GRADING – A through F

Of necessity, any grade I give a hotel will be subjective. But it will be my best considered opinion, and I will have good reasons for giving a hotel a grade of A, or B, or C, or even down to F.

Just so you know, I have not yet encountered a hotel that rates A+, nor have I encountered one that rates an F.

GRADING CRITERIA

Standard Amenities

A hotel is expected to have these “standard amenities.” If they have them, they start with a grade of C. If they are missing any of them, their starting grade may be less. If they offer more than these amenities, that’s when their grade will go up.

CLEANLINESS

I expect ALL hotel rooms to be clean. This means no smell, no stains on any fabric, no dust, dirt, or smears of any kind on any smooth surface. This includes desks and table tops, walls, mirrors, bedspreads, bathroom countertops and fixtures.

AIR CONDITIONING

Today, I expect all hotel rooms to be air conditioned. This doesn’t mean just HAVE a unit for the room – it means the unit must work, and it must allow me to change the temperature of that room so it is comfortable in the daytime (about 70° plus or minus 2), and comfortable for sleeping (between 64°F and 68°F). It should also have a very narrow “swing” range, meaning if I set the sleeping temperature to 66°, the unit better not wait until the room reaches 75° before kicking in.

INTERNET (Wi-Fi)

This should be included with the room, and it should be fast enough to allow me to stream shows on my iPad.  When I have stayed at any hotel in the Hilton chain, they always try to get me to pay an extra $5 a day for high-speed internet. This was intensely frustrating until I realized I could stream shows using their free tier.

COFFFEE

There should be decent coffee available in the morning, from the lobby. Coffee in the room is okay, but who knows when the last time the coffeemaker was cleaned, and the coffee packets they supply to the rooms barely make an 8 oz. cup. I want to fill my travel mug, and that usually happens in the lobby.

FRIDGE and MICROWAVE

Most hotels these days have a mini-fridge, so it’s pretty much expected. And it needs to be working.

Many hotels also have a microwave oven, and this is a good thing to have to heat up the other half of the meal you couldn’t finish last night.

COMFY BEDS

This should go without saying. But I HAVE stayed in places where the beds were so hard or lumpy it was nearly impossible to get comfortable.

THE “EXTRAS” – HOW TO UP A GRADE

The items in this section answer the questions so often asked by those surveys hotels send you after the stay. You know, those “We have to send these so the customer thinks we care, but we really just throw them away” surveys.

But if any hotel truly wants to raise their head above the crowd of other hotels shrieking for my business, they should pay attention to ALL of these.

ACCESSIBLE ELECTRIC OUTLETS

There are two main places we guests NEED to have accessible electric outlets: On each side of each bed, and at the desk.

By “accessible,” I mean NOT low-down on the wall, behind the headboard or a piece of furniture or night table. I mean immediately evident on first glance, and easy to plug something into.

We guests need these outlets to plug in several things, including medical equipment – such as CPAP machines needed for sleep, cell phone chargers, tablet chargers, e-reader chargers,  laptop computers, and many things you will never think of.

It astounds me that anyone designing a hotel room could think that guests do not NEED electrical outlets, or that perhaps only one person staying in the room needs them. Or they put outlets in the room, then load completely fill them up with hotel-supplied “conveniences” that we rarely use.

I have stayed in (and just about left right after checking in to) rooms that only had 3 electrical outlets, and every single one was completely full of hotel equipment. Not a single one I could use, except in the bathroom. This is totally unacceptable. I wound up unplugging several of the hotel items and stowing them (alarm clock, coffee maker, hair dryer) in the top of the closet.

Rooms that have been recently updated often include lamps with several outlets in the base. This is fine, and these outlets are handy and actually adequate.

EXTRA POINTS for outlets/plugs that also have USB charging ports available.

HORIZONTAL SURFACES to put your “STUFF”

This one also amazes me – when a hotel has barely enough room on its horizontal surface to put a small box, and they have ONE suitcase rack/stand in the closet.

Are your designers total idiots?

Do you truly believe that every single room in your hotel will have only ONE guest, and that one guest will have only one suitcase? Do you believe that a second person in a room won’t have their own suitcase or need a place to PUT it?

WAKE UP, people!

Here’s what we guests need: as much horizontal surface space as you can create for us.

Do NOT crowd our horizontal space with bolted-down TV sets (hang them on the WALL!), coffee makers, alarm clocks, and other things most of us do not want and almost never use.

We NEED THAT SPACE.

When my wife and I travel, we usually have a larger and a smaller suitcase EACH. Plus we also have a food box (who travels without their own food?), a laptop computer for each of us, a tablet computer and an e-reader for each of us, and an ice chest. Plus we have a laundry basket with our own pillows, since hotel pillows are rarely good for anything but going underneath our real pillows.

Over the last 6 years, we have been in only ONE hotel that had sufficient horizontal space for us to put down our “stuff.”

NIGHT LIGHTS

The deplorable lack of nightime dim lighting in hotel rooms is a lawsuit waiting to happen.

People staying in hotel rooms will not be familiar with the layout of the hotel room or especially the bathroom, and when someone gets up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, they will be half asleep and disoriented anyway. If the room and bathroom are totally dark, there is an excellent chance that person will trip on something, and maybe fall and break a bone.

That’s a lawsuit waiting to happen.

To fix this, EVERY hotel room should have a dim orange or red light that allows people to navigate to the bathroom when they get up in the middle of the night. It should be built in to each room, but failing that, you can get them at a big box discount store for less than a buck apiece.

I carry two night lights in my suitcase for this very reason.

Over the last six years, I have encountered only ONE hotel that had adequate night lighting. I have encountered maybe half a dozen that gave me the choice of total, blackout darkness, or glaring, keep-you-awake light from leaving the bathroom light on. All the others allowed me to turn on the bathroom light and mostly close the door. Not ideal, but safer than total blackout.

QUILT ALTERNATIVE

It seems the “in thing” for hotels these days to do is to put on each bed a sheet and a two-inch-thick quilt. Higher-class hotels put another sheet or bedspread on top of the quilt.

EXCUUUUUSE me?

It’s like the designers of this room are telling me, “You can either freeze your buns off by sleeping under only the sheet, or you can roast your buns off by adding the quilt. There’s nothing in between, and too bad for you. If you don’t like it, you can lump it.”

That’s what it feels like they are telling me.

That’s also why I travel with my own just-right-weight blanket.

Whenever I encounter a room like this – about 95% of the time – the first thing I do in that room, is trip the quilt off the bed, wad it up, and throw it into an out-of-the-way corner, so I won’t trip on it in the middle of the night. Then I put my own blanket on the bed.

Why can’t hotels just give us the right weight covers to begin with? I guess they just want to seem “cool” or “with it.”

Over the last 6 years, I’ve been on ONE hotel that had the right weight covers, and that was one that hadn’t been updated in years. I fear if/when they ever DO update, they’ll go the “with the crowd” quilt route.

Sigh.

ALARMLESS CLOCKS

In at least HALF of the hotel stays I’ve had in the last year, the wretched ALARM CLOCK woke me up way too early, and I had NEVER SET THE BLASTED THING!

This is because either the room cleaners thought it would be funny to wake up the guest at a horribly early hour, or because a previous guest set it and never un-set it, or because it automatically set itself when it was first plugged in.

In my most recent stay, I buried the alarm clock under three pillows on the other bed, and it STILL woke me up at 4AM. I wished I had the hotel owner’s or general manager’s home phone number so I could have called him or her when that happened, just to let them know how delighted I was with their accommodations.

From now on, whenever I see an alarm clock in a hotel room, the second thing I do (after stripping the thick quilt off the bed) will be to unplug the fool thing and hide it in a corner or drawer somewhere.

ATTENTION HOTEL MANAGERS/OWNERS: Here’s a hint – take ALL the alarm clocks out of ALL the rooms, and ask each guest on check-in if they want one. I’d be willing to wager that almost none of them will want one.

Everyone has an alarm on their phone these days. And everyone is also used to looking at their phone (if not their WATCH) to see what time it is.

Get RID of those fool alarm clocks, or expect a call from me when it goes off.

NO (wired) PHONES

Yes, there are still hotels that have wired phones in the rooms. Pretty much all of them do, in spite of the fact that everyone these days carries their own phone.

Here’s another hint for hotel owners/managers: Take all the phones out of all the rooms. Ask each guest on check in if they want one, and if so, give or bring it to them.

I’m guessing no one will.

Worse yet, please DO NOT call us after check, in just to see if we need anything. We are busy. We do not want to be interrupted. We may even be napping after an exhausting drive. If we want something we will call you.

In lieu of putting a phone in the room and taking up that valuable horizontal space, get a plastic placard listing all the hotel’s phone numbers (if there’s more than one) and stick it to the desk or night stand. We can call those numbers on our own phones, and you won’t have the expense of a physical phone and you won’t take up our horizontal space.

4-WHEEL LUGGAGE TROLLEYS

Over the last few months (in mid-2021) I have noticed a growing tendency for hotels to abandon the old 4-wheel luggage trolleys in favor of these new, triangular-shaped, 3-wheel trolleys.

PLEASE KEEP THE OLD 4-WHEEL TROLLEYS! Get rid of the 3-wheel travesties.

These new 3-wheel trolleys are too short, such that they don’t hold nearly as much, and their triangular shape lets anything on them easily fall off. They are also too wide, so you cannot get on or off an elevator or through a room door without banging one of the wheel hubs against the door or door frame, sometimes scraping off paint from the door.

They are horrible, and need to be banned.

No hotel with these 3-wheel trolleys will ever get a grade of “A” from me.

BONUS TIPS

Here are a few things that can help any hotel rise above their competition.

BREAKFAST

Most hotels these days offer breakfast as part of the price. This is a good thing, as it more easily justifies the mostly exorbitant prices charged.

If the only thing you offer is laden with sugar and carbohydrates, then shame on you. You are perpetuating the horrible health that afflicts our country these days.

PLUS UP if you offer Keto-friendly, gluten-free, and paleo options. Mostly, this means any meats, cheeses, eggs, and whole dairy products (real butter, whole milk, real cream, etc.), and if it can be organic and all-natural, then double plus up for you. I’ve never seen that, however. So I eat mostly my own food I bring with me.

HAIR DRYERS

Neither I nor my wife use these, but I imagine many others find them useful.  If they are affixed to the bathroom wall (NOT taking up counter space) and have a built-in night light, then thumbs-up.

You might consider keeping them at the front desk and asking guests on check-in if they want one. You’ll probably save a ton of money on hair dryers that way, and reduce pilferage as well.

PARKING

To get a grade of “A”, a hotel must have free parking with easy access to several doors, AND (this from a recent stay in Branson) if it’s raining, we should not have to wade through a 3 inch deep river to get to the entry door.

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