The Well Connected Hotel Room

Since I spend a good deal of my time traveling for business, I get to stay in a lot of different hotels all over the globe. Many times I have a choice in hotel properties and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I have to stay at a particular location for logistical reasons based on the event or meeting that I'm attending. However, when I have a choice in hotels I'll always remember the ones that met my "tech" needs first. It's a given that we want a clean, safe and quiet room when we're away from home. So that's where I would start the scale at zero. After that, for me it's all about the availability of connections in the room itself. Here's what I demand:

 

Nothing ticks me off more than not having enough power outlets

I'm still amazed that some of the most modern hotels in the world only have one or two available outlets in their guest rooms. At a minimum I want to be able to plug in my notebook and charge my phone SEPARATELY from my computer. So yes, that means an outlet with TWO available plugs. It's fine if you don't want to rewire your rooms, but for God's sake at least put in a power strip. Marriott Hotels typically do a good job of providing lamps in the room with power outlets built right into the base. More and more hotels are doing this as a way of making it so that you don't have to crawl around on the floor or worse, move furniture to plug something in. You should definitely be installing these outlets as soon as they are available. I'm also finding lots of hotel rooms these days that have iPhone/iPod dock compatible alarm clocks. It could care less about playing music through these (although it is nice at times), it's more important to me that they give me an easy base for charging. Of course this sucks if you don't have an iPhone. My travel power solutions are here.

 

Outlets near the bed

Even if you have lots of outlets in the room, I need some near the bed! As much as you might have that "desk" well connected, the reality is I work more from the bed than I do the desk. My notebook sits on the nightstand and I wake up in the morning and one of the first things I do is check email. I'm not going to get up and go over to the desk to do this. So power near the bed is really where I want it. Stop making me choose between having a lamp and having a clock (the clock will lose every time) plugged in.

 

Wireless vs. Wired Internet

It's common these days to find Wired internet in hotel rooms and WiFi in the lobby. I actually prefer wired internet in my room. This way I can plug in my travel AirPort Express and setup my own WiFi hotspot to share the cost of ONE connection with my multiple devices or family/friends that are traveling with me. So unless the WiFi in room is FREE, Wired works out best for me. Yes, that's a piece of black tape over the LED on the AirPort Express because I HATE bright lights on at night when I'm trying to sleep. It floors me that Apple doesn't provide a more high tech way of turning these indicators OFF. Which leads me to my next point:

 

Keep me in the dark

Sometimes I fly all night and arrive to my room in the wee hours of the morning. So I want to CRASH when I get to my room. Therefore I want the room to be TOTALLY DARK! I don't want ANY sunlight coming in when I close the drapes. There are a few hotels that get this and they install the proper window darkening drapes/linings. If I don't have to be up first thing in the morning, I don't want the sun to be my alarm clock. I don't like wearing eye masks either.

 

Water, minibar and late night room service

At this point, I EXPECT a couple of bottles of drinking water to be in my room. Free or not, I expect them to be there. Just do it. Also If I get there in the middle of the night because of some travel delay I may not have had time to grab dinner, so I either want a late night room service/restaurant option (limited menu is fine) or at a minimum decent snacks in the minibar in the room. They usually charge an arm and a leg for these snacks anyway so why not provide them? By the way, the last Westin I stayed in had the room service menu posted on the in room TV entertainment system. The only indication of this was a sticky note on the TV itself. OK, fine. I get it. Let's save paper and printing costs. I'm all for it. However, the menu system to go through the room service menu was horrendous. There was no freaking back button. If you wanted to go back to a previous page, you had to hit the main menu button and start all over again. Seriously? Why not put the menu on your website ALSO? That way at least I'd have a better navigation experience. 

 

A little bit of overkill

A few places I've stayed in have gone all out with multi-media hookups in their room to tie in to the HD TV's in the rooms. Yep, that's right you can hook up an HDMI cable, stereo audio and pipe it right into the HDTV. As geeky and techie as I may be, I have very little use for this. I don't hold meetings in my room very often and therefore I don't need to do presentations there. However, once I did hook up my notebook and ran SlingPlayer to watch my DVR from home on the HDTV in the room while I ironed a shirt. Again, this was overkill but hey, it worked. By the way this same hotel pictured above (a Westin) didn't have any plugs near the bed. I'd much rather you invest in that first before all the cook HD hookups.

 

Having a Starbucks on site never hurts

I'm not big into the whole designer coffee thing. As a matter of fact I've had less than 5 cups of coffee in my entire life, but the point here is that Starbucks is a well known brand around the globe and when a traveler encounters one they already know the menu. They already know what they want and they can get their fix on the spot painlessly. I bet if I asked you what you wanted from McDonald's you'd be able to tell me without asking me "what do they have? or can I see their menu?" See my point.

 

The Bottom Line

The most well connected, techie's dream room that I ever stayed in was actually in India of all places! It was the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai. I could live there! Although the Oberoi is a highend chain, they're prices were in line with most places abroad and their "standard" room was better than most suites I've stayed in. They got 5 stars on every single point above and should be the model for any modern hotel room today. If I ever go back to Mumbai, guess where I'm staying?

Hotel owners/managers that may be reading this. You have LOTS of competition out there and I'm going to give my business whenever possible to the properties that nail the list of things above. I'm also going to come back to those properties over and over again. I may even pay more per night to do so because, you guessed it, those things are VERY IMPORTANT to me. As far as hotel chains go, I would have to give the nod to Marriott for getting most of this right with Hilton being a close second. I'm finding myself in more Hiltons lately because they're more of them abroad. My loyalty is only as far as you're willing to go to meet my needs. A year ago I hardly ever stayed in a Hilton, now…

19 Replies to “The Well Connected Hotel Room”

  1. Its amazing that every one is curios es to know about the updated information . I am waiting for updated information , up till now i really happy for the information ,thank you very much.

  2. What hotel had the multi-media hookup? I’ve never seen one of those. I’m wondering who makes the box itself and if there’s one identical to the on you have pictured, but also with DVI. We need to put one of these in our conference room at work!

    As for hotels, I don’t travel much anymore and certainly never travelled as much as you do, but I will say the “W” Hotels have consistently been the best for reasons you describe above. The most elegant hotels have been the Four Seasons, but they seem to be 100% comfort and quiet and personal ameneties, more than technical…

    One thing I try to do is pick up a case of water at a local drug store and have it handy in the room. $4 for a case, versus $4 per bottle.

    1. That particular one was in a Westin in Denver, but I’ve seen them regularly in Marriotts too. Yep, I do the water thing at a store too whenever I can.

  3. I’ve been screaming (quietly to myself and sometimes complaining outloud to anyone who would listen) about the total lack of outlets outside the bathroom in my motel/hotel room. I always thought they deliberately covered all outlets with furniture to prevent their use! I never thought to look at the base of the lamps! Thanks for the headsup on that. Another one of my pet peeves is inadequate lighting. I hope all hotel/motels everywhere read your blog and take note. :0) Great post.

  4. Great post, Terry. I too do most of my work from the bed — not from the desk — and so outlets near the bed are key. But for me, the most important part of a hotel stay is the pillow and the shower pressure. Sure, I have work to do, but it’s far more important for me to get a good night’s sleep and a great shower to start the day. I prefer shower pressure like a fire hose (and really hot water). Also, some hotels give you a choice of pillows (some even offer a “pillow menu”) — which is key. I know some people who bring their own pillows on the road with them, which I’ll never do because it would require me to check luggage.

  5. Along similar lines, everyone who carries gadgets/cameras/etc wen they travel should have a 3-outlet adapter like this one in their bag: http://bit.ly/9l98qa

    It costs a whopping $3 from Home Depot, and takes up very little space and weight in your bag.

    For a few dollars more, you can get this one, which also has 2 USB ports and a surge protector. It costs $10.88 from Amazon: http://amzn.to/bFC5Jm

    One last option. This one costs $13, and has only 1 USB port, but the outlets are spaced further apart so you can plug things in that have large plugs: http://amzn.to/cvDfo5

    It also has a short cord for when the outlet is in an awkward place.

    Bonus: When you’re stuck at the airport and every outlet is already occupied, you can save the day by using any of these to plug yourself plus two other people into one outlet.

  6. Thanks, Terry… great stuff and all true. May I add one more thing?

    HOOKS!

    Hotel rooms need hooks on the wall (and not just on the BACK of the bathroom door, where things are more likely to be left behind).

    I want to hang up my purse where it’s handy, not in the closet (on a hanger? on the ironing board?).

    And that sign up on the sprinkler that says PLEASE DO NOT HANG ANYTHING HERE? A hook would work better than a sign. Don’t they wonder why people use it as a hook?

  7. I recently stayed in a new Best Western. The computer desk had many outlets. The room was beautifully decorated and had heavy dark curtains… perfect for any vampire. They also had an iPod compatible alarm clock. I didn’t end up using it but found it an unusual perk that I haven’t seen before in Hotel rooms.

  8. Very nice article and I agree with just about everything in it. I don’t work in my bed, but I still want outlets near it. I usually have an iPhone and now, iPad, to charge up overnight. I also tend to use my iPhone as my alarm, since it’s a consistent experience. Nothing worse than thinking you set the alarm and realizing you screwed up the AM/PM or Volume because you weren’t familiar with the model. OK, maybe some things are worse, but it’s still on my list.

    I am a tireless proponent of Internet access being included as part of the room rate. I don’t pay extra for plumbing because people expect to brush their teeth and shower in their own room. We’re at the point now where Internet access is equally requisite. Low-end hotels toss it in for free, but business and resort hotels still charge additional fees for it. That’s absurd.

  9. Terry, I totally agree on the power outlets issue. My gosh, maybe some hotel execs should stay in their rooms overnight more often during the week when they have a big preso due the next day. You need to be able to plug in an work seamlessly. I am staying at Kimpton’s Eventi hotel and its amazing but I had to struggle to find an outlet. Having a nice chilled glass of white wine and a small snack waiting for me (after I have hauled luggage for hours) when I get in to the room would not hurt either. 😉 So far Kimpton is winning me over, but not enough locations.

  10. I have done a lot of business travel over the last 4 years, and I’ve always laughed at the fact that the more the room costs, the less is included. To wit:
    a $75/night Hampton Inn comes with water bottles, free wifi internet, Fridge, Microwave, and sometimes the room has a living room/bedroom arrangement.

    a $175/night Marriott comes with: Water bottles that you have to pay for, internet that you have to pay for $10/per night, no microwave, no fridge, etc.

    Can anyone explain this phenomenon?
    I agree wholeheartedly about the number of outlets.
    But one of my biggest pet peeves is how dim some hotel rooms are. You have to turn on two lamps over the two beds, the lamp at the desk, the lamp in the corner, the little lamp by the bathroom entrance, and the light in the bathroom, and then it’s still dim in the room!

    For gosh sakes, this is 2010!!! put in some friggin lights in the room that turn one with ONE SWITCH!!! Ha ha!
    Great Article.

    P.S. Does anyone else love the infamous Hilton clock? The one which doesn’t allow the user to set the time? I stayed in a Hilton where the clock was 10 minutes fast. In order to set it correctly, I had to call the front desk to send “engineering” to come set my clock.
    ENGINEERING!?!?!?!? Ha Ha!!!

  11. Great post, Terry!

    The best well-connected hotel room has one simple upgrade: an honest-to-goodness rolling office chair.

    As I write this, I’m on the road in a hotel that you’d think would know the needs of business travelers. (It’s got a convention center, fer cryin’ out loud.) The chair I’m sitting in is a straight backed chair. I don’t know where hotel chains buy these things, but they come with seat padding that must decompose within days of being put in the room. The end result is a seat that, once you sit down on it, compresses so far that the wood frame starts pressing into your thighs and cutting off your circulation.

    These chairs are wretched…impossible to work in.

    Out of necessity, I came up with a work around. In a Chicago hotel, the chair was so bad I took the ironing board out of the closet and set it up next to the bed. It worked surprisingly well! It’s padded (for your wrists), height-adjustable, and has more usable space than some hotel room desks.

    Some hotels have heard the cry for better chairs and are installing better chairs. Even so, the ironing board trick is handy. Especially if, like me, you frequently have more than one laptop you need to set up.

    I second the previous poster’s recommendation for a three-way power tap, especially if you need to route your power 90 degrees to clear obstructions. Cheap and oh-so-handy!

  12. Great post and so true about the typical lack of outlets. I had a job two years ago where I had frequent travel and stayed in a bunch of hotels that cost in the range of $150 to $300 a night. While the rooms looked very nice, had comfortable beds and were clean and quiet, it seemed like many of them couldn’t get the basics right.

    Like a couple posters said, lighting is often an issue. One quite new, fancy hotel (Westin VA Beach) had a nice closet to hang all my clothes, but it didn’t have lighting either in it or even anywhere near the closet so I could even see what was in it. Another far older hotel in DC (Lombardy) actually got it right with good lighting in the closet that turned on or off with the closet door (just like any refrigerator). However, they tacked on a charge for internet usage even though it wasn’t requested or used. (You really have to scrutinize the bill when checking out.) The Westin in VA also had a very nice, large flat-screen TV in the room, but the room didn’t have the usual printed list of channel numbers and networks, nor could the front desk even provide a photocopied list of the channels–very frustrating.

    Also, what’s with the towel racks in hotel bathrooms? There usually seems to be a disconnect between the number (too few) and size or placement of the racks (too low above the commode) with the size of towels. Do they assume that everyone wants to just throw their bath towels on the floor after one use?

    Another pet peeve of mine is shower faucets that don’t let you change the volume of water. Unlike poster Mordy, I don’t like being blasted by the shower. I was at a hotel in hot, dry Lubbock or Ft. Worth, Texas where you’d think they would care about water conservation, but the shower could not be adjusted down from full blast. For the comfort of their guests, water conservation or just economic reasons, you would think hotels would want adjustable faucets, but I have run into many hotels where the faucet can’t be adjusted to medium or low flow.

  13. This story really hits home for me. As a pilot I spend half my life in a hotel. My number one problem is outlets. Half the hotels never have enough outlets. I sometimes have to move half the room around to be able to use them. More and more hotels are starting to use the lamps with the outlets in them, so I have been using them as modified extension cords so I can use computers and/or charge iPhone next to the bed. I too agree the marriot’s attempt to put all the gee wiz attachments in are mostly useless.

    I recently got an iPad to take with me on the road and am looking into the airport express when I run into wired connections. Do you have a review of it on your site or any other recommendations?

    Thanks and I enjoy reading

  14. Besides too few outlets, and outlets located behind headboards or behind desks, my hotel room peeve is that many of the outlets are switched (so you can switch on room lights when you come in the door). Last place I stayed in, one set of duplex outlets had the top outlet switched, but on the other side of the room the _bottom_ one was on the switch. Discovered this after I found my phone really had not been charging while I was asleep, after I’d turned the switch to Off. Grrr.

  15. Aside from crawling all around to find an outlet in the hotel last week (the clock lost out), I was also in need of a place to attach my Kensington security cable to when I left my room. Only one hotel I’ve been to, Marriott in Schaumberg, IL., had a metal bar made into the desk for that purpose.

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