Choosing the Right Hotel

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I spend a lot of time on the road for work, and even more time choosing the best place to stay (as my family and associates know very well).  This all started during my work as a social media consultant for one very large hotel chain, when I helped introduce a number of different properties to review sites like Yelp! and Trip Advisor.  I began to appreciate the little differences in a hotel.  Some of my “mandatory” requirements:

  • Free Internet.  Nothing bugs me more than tacking an additional $15 to my hotel bill for the “privilege” of using a never-very-fast WIFI network.  I don’t understand why the Courtyard can afford to give it away, but the full-service Marriott insists on charging me for it.
  • A Convenience Store in the Lobby.  Not a mini-bar in my room, that overcharges for drinks and snacks.  But a fairly-priced, well-stocked “closet” of items ranging from the practical (Advil, Deodorant, Toothpaste, cold bottled water) to the indulgent (Ben & Jerry’s, Microwave Popcorn, Muscle Milk).  I don’t always have a car, or the time to get to a 7-11, so having these options inside the hotel is critically important.
  • Free Breakfast.  It doesn’t have to be overly elaborate, but some combination of waffles, breakfast meats, toast, cereal, yogurt and eggs means that I don’t have to spend an extra hour finding a restaurant early in the morning (or spend an extra $25 at a buffet that I really don’t need).  Oh, and lets include free (decent) coffee in that as well.
  • Self-Parking.  I understand having to pay in an urban setting, but let me park my own car if I want.  I hate having to wait for the valet, especially during a busy check-in/check-out time or if I’m in a hurry.
  • Good Management.  I like it when the manager introduces himself, when the front desk clerk greets me by name (in person and on the phone), and when they can answer my questions about the area or solve any issues I might have.  You’d be surprised at the difference this can make.
  • All the comforts of home.  This includes an HDTV (with HD channels, please), comfortable beds (with clean sheets and modern bedding), plenty of electrical outlets (that don’t require me moving furniture around), name-brand soap and shampoo, a refrigerator and microwave (you know, for the popcorn and water mentioned above), a couch or chair I can sit in.  Whether I’m someplace for one night or two weeks, I like to be comfortable.

Some of my favorite chains these days tend to be either new construction or recently updated:  Homewood Suites by Hilton (especially the new ones), Courtyard by Marriott (especially the new ones – even though I have to pay for breakfast in the morning, it is quick and easy), Cambria Suites from Choice Hotels (when I can find one) and the newly-updated Embassy Suites (although not many of them are around).  I’m staying at a Springhill Suites by Marriott this weekend, which also meets my requirements.  (And yes, when I can indulge on a Kimpton Hotels property or a full-service W hotel, I’m willing to make an exception to ALL of my requirements.)

Here’s a link to a recent report by the American Customer Satisfaction Index ranking the top hotel chains.  What was most interesting to me was that Marriott’s Fairfield Inn ranked number one of ALL chains in customer satisfaction.  I always thought of that as a somewhat tired brand, not quite as nice as the Courtyard and not quite as new or roomy as the Springhill Suites.  Maybe I’ll have to give them a shot and see what the buzz is about.

When you’re traveling, where do you like to stay and why?

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