What Are Your Hotel Must-Haves?

Tyler Cowen writes about what he looks for in a hotel.

1. Very flat pillows so the head can lie almost flat.
2. No fawning from service people.
3. Numerous ready to access electrical outlets, including a laptop outlet right next to the bed so I can lean up against the pillow while blogging.
4. A non-ventilated bathroom which allows you to steam clothes into submission, and clothes hangars which support the same.
6. NBA-relevant channels on the TV and an easy to operate remote control system which does not trap said user in irrelevant menus.
7. Good breakfast choices which do not have an excess of carbohydrates.

On number 1, I suspect he doesn’t ask the hotels he stays in for the pillows he wants. Quite often they can accommodate, and not just when they offer the pretense of a ‘pillow menu’ in the room, that’s just a piece of cardboard that gives you the idea.

On 2, I prefer unobtrusive service. If I’m checked in in the room, I want them to leave as quickly as possible. Don’t show me the room, I can discover it myself. Every interaction should be short, efficient and to the point. It should solve a need. A resort stay is different, though, talking with hotel staff can serve as a window into the area (they know it better than you do) and if they are honest with you as a window into the local culture.

On 3, “this room has too many outlets” is something said by no hotel guest, ever.

4, I will introduce Tyler to Downy Wrinkle Releaser. It’s found a place in my Freedom Baggie.

Tyler’s taste in NBA basketball isn’t my own, I’d just recommend the LodgeNet app to control many hotel TVs. It doesn’t just provide a consistent remote experience, but your smartphone is likely cleaner.

Here’s my list.

  • Free bottled water
  • Quality in-room coffee with cream or half and half or at least a 24 hour coffee solution
  • High-speed wireless internet with a good signal everywhere in the room
  • Lots of outlets
  • Bed and bedding similar to Westin Heavenly or Sheraton Sweet Sleeper
  • Natural light in the room, and ceiling lights that illuminate the room not just lamps
  • Separate sitting area, contra Tyler I prefer to blog at a desk…
  • “Do not disturb means do not disturb.” (It doesn’t mean ‘knock instead of walking in’ and it doesn’t mean ‘call the room instead of knocking’. It isn’t an emergency.)
  • Don’t turn off the a/c when you service the room. And overriding the hotel’s thermostat should work in warm climates.
  • I want it ultra-clean, and a bathroom with big shower with quality toiletries since Downy Wrinkle Releaser in my Freedom Baggie means no room for shampoo.

There are plenty of other things that can make a stay good or even great, but these are my besics for comfort.

What are your hotel ‘musts’?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I don’t need *lots* of outlets, but one near the bed..preferably on the same wall as the headboard, and one near the desk that you don’t need to be a contortionist to reach.

  2. Soundproofing, expansive bathroom countertops, strong water pressures, and face soap that’s not excessively drying. Only chain that’s ever met that last point is Hotel Indigo.

  3. My dry throat tells me it would be nice if the room had a humidifier, I shouldn’t have to wake up in the middle of the night to sit/stand in the bathroom with hot shower on on frigid single digit temp night because I put the heat up to 73. Matter of fact, in winter I find rooms to be too dry, I know moisture causes mold but some sort of balance would go long ways to preventing me from getting a sore throat and being sick. No I did not ask to see if they had a humidifier but I will tonight.

  4. Ironed cotton or linen sheets – no synthetic materials – and real down in the pillows with no synthetics

  5. A good iron (I love the SPG family of hotels, but find their irons to be terribly cheap compared to other brands). This may be another debate, but running water to steam clothes just seems to be an inexcusable waste.

    Pillows that vary in thickness so I can find the most comfortable one.

    Wifi that works well.

    An AC unit that has the option to run constantly (some less expensive hotels have units that only have an “auto” mode that shuts off when it hits the desired temp…I want it on for the white noise.)

    I personally find beds at Hilton to be waaay more comfortable than Westin/Sheraton beds.

  6. *MUST-Haves?”

    There are lots of things I prefer, like more outlets and so forth but must haves are a smaller list…

    A desk

    A halfway comfortable chair to sit at the desk with

    A power port near the desk for my laptop and another one someplace near the bed. Often of course its behind or under it which is AWFUL but still sufficient.

    A decent network connection for the laptop, with download bandwidth at least approaching 1Mbps during non-peak times, and that doesn’t take MINUTES to load say Yahoo’s homepage at peak times

    A bed with a sheet

    A room temperature between 68 and 72 or that can be made that way OR if its colder, a decent comforter

    A shower

    Soap, shampoo, towels, running water that gets hot in no more than a few minutes.

    Wi-Fi that covers the room and is usable is NICE.

  7. Your must-haves are similar to mine. One addition: when I am in a non-English-speaking country, I like to have at least one free English TV entertainment channel (not news). If CNN, BBC World, Fox News, etc. are your only English channels, it gets old really quick.

  8. A truly QUIET room. Also reliable, reasonably fast Wi-Fi (or at least wired Internet) in the room and in public/conference areas.

  9. Curtains that actually close completely to block out light.

    Enough clothes hangars for a week’s worth of clothing.

    Agree 100% with Tyler on the steamy shower; works wonders.

    Desks that are NOT glass top (unlike the hotel desk I’m at right now) so my optical mouse will work.

    Ability to run room fan 100% of the time for background noise, such as to block out the sound of the CTA L trains which are rattling my 10th-floor window as we speak…

  10. @Gary — How do you deal with the cream / half & half issue in certain parts of the world? We just got back from Kuala Lumpur, where they looked at us like we were crazy for asking for cream or half & half. We have experienced this many times in many places. Do you buy your own at the local mini-market? Do they even sell half & half in locations where it seems to so foreign to the wait staff?

  11. @Gene – not every place has half and half, but i find those that don’t do seem to understand heavy cream or in an absolute worst case “whipping cream”

  12. @Gary — Sadly, that full cream stuff is pretty gross if you don’t mix it with the milk in the correct proportions.

  13. My must haves are bed (sans bedbugs) and working locks. I’ve had the experience of bedbugs and non-working locks and don’t think I’d go back to those places 🙂

    Things that I prefer to have:
    * Desk
    * Free Internet (Though with LTE, this is less of an issue these days)
    * Windows that can be opened
    * Bathroom in the room

    (Yes, I’ve been a place without a desk or bathroom in the room. You often save quite a bit)

    Things that are nice to have:
    * Free breakfast
    * Attached bedroom
    * TV Set that supports HDMI
    * More power outlets, though if you have a power strip in your travel bag, this isn’t a big deal.
    * Ability to credit into some loyalty program, even if it’s hotels.com
    * Coffee Maker with real cream and sugar
    * Bottle of water, though I’ve gotten in a habit of just picking these up in the airport past the theatre checkpoint

  14. My “musts” center around ability to sleep. Fully room-darkening curtains. A room fan/HVAC system that is near-silent (they do exist) or can be turned completely =off=.

    An accessible outlet near the head of the bed that is NOT already occupied by clock and lamp. I am far from alone in having a CPAP that needs to be plugged in.

    Fitted bottom sheets please, or duvet-style top linens instead of a military drumhead that dooms guests to unmake the bed as soon as they try to occupy it. Shoving sheets back under the mattress is even less pleasant than fumbling around blindly behind the bedside table.

    One final item “amenity”: breathable air. NO POWERED PERFUME-MISTERS IN THE ELEVATOR LOBBIES! Or anywhere else! Those things are inexcusable.

  15. I have to agree with LarryinNYC (#4): I “must have” very little. I want a clean bed, a place to secure my things, and quiet. I’m amazed at how many pricey hotels don’t bother to soundproof rooms and I find sleeping with earplugs quite uncomfortable (though I always carry them just in case). Bonus points for wi-fi and 24 hour coffee, though I’ll forego both of those on-site if they are easily accessible elsewhere.

  16. I have a white noise maker that I bought on Amazon. Works great but just heard about a white noise app for your phone with different sounds. It’s free, I believe.

    Blackout shades a la Vegas is critical. I like to sleep in and don’t want the sun harrassing me.
    You can also ask to be put in a room where the windows face west but expect perplexed looks and the pulling of blueprints. Yes, they have done that.

    If I get a late checkout to 3pm, the front desk should make housekeeping well aware. But most of the time they don’t and housekeeping will ignore the do not disturb sign and try to open the door or they knock incessantly. Very annoying.

  17. @Gary — Yeah, but it’s just milk! I, too, love my half & half. It will probably kill me one day, if the champagne doesn’t kill me first…although, I hear that Krug clears half & half from your veins. 🙂

  18. Multiple luggage racks (to avoid bedbugs!)
    A nice plastic bag for dry cleaning to repurpose for dirty laundry.
    Sheets around the comforter that stay in place you’re never touching the actual comforter.
    And, of course, outlets.

  19. 1. Hotels should have great head pillows, but most don’t, five diamond properties included. When I check a bag, I typically pack my home head pillow. Otherwise, I make do with the default pillow options, perhaps with a few extra pillows if my room comes with three or fewer pillows.

    2. I love being fawned on by service people, so long as they cease their fawning upon my request. This isn’t usually an issue in most hotels; if I’m staying at the Peninsula or a Park Hyatt, I make sure to have plenty of small bills if I plan to regularly take advantage of the excellent service.

    3. No hotel guest should ever say “this room has too few outlets” — I always carry either a full-size six-outlet power strip, or in limited circumstances that demand mobility a three-plug international power strip, whenever I plan to stay at a hotel. Of course it’s great when you can leave your power strip in your luggage, but expecting a hotel to have enough outlets to power a standard accoutrement of devices (smartphone + tablet + laptop + personal device, e.g. electric razor, electric toothbrush, etc.) is foolish in this day and age.

    4. If you really need to steam clothes in your room, use the hotel’s pressing service of bring a travel iron. Lots of nice hotels feature bathrooms with permanent ventilation. Sure, it’s a nice plus when the bathroom fan is user-controllable, but that’s a rarity these days.

    6. NBA-programming? Really? As a tech-savvy, media-loving frequent traveler, a hotel room TV should have readily accessible HDMI inputs; anything else is gravy. If I want to watch pro sports, I’ll do so on my laptop, connected to the room HDTV if possible. I always bring a mini DisplayPort to HDMI adapter for this very reason. Every major pro sports league offers a season package that includes high-def Internet streaming of every game; assuming the hotel has a decent Wi-Fi connection, there’s no need for a separate NBA channel.

  20. Larry ur scaring me. I’m not a New Yawker. Nevertheless our answers were the same.

    Only thing you left out is the Bed must be one I feel comfortable sleeping in. Let’s face it . Hotel beds aren’t like home.

    But if you want to toss in some extravagance, and a little sum thin sum tin . I’m game if you’re game.

  21. Great post, Gary. My hotel must-haves would include:

    * An alarm clock that doesn’t wake me up at 5 a.m. because that’s the hour that the previous guest set it for.

    * An in-room lighting system that doesn’t take a degree in engineering to operate.

    * A view that’s as advertised. “Ocean view” should not mean having to stand on the radiator and crane my neck just to glimpse the water.

    * A key card that does not get mysteriously deactivated (whether through proximity to my cell phone or some misunderstanding about my check-out time), forcing me to trek all the way back to the front desk.

    * An in-room safe that’s actually large enough for my most valuable possession: my laptop. (Even better: An electrical outlet in that safe.)

    Actually, I have a complete hotel wish list you might relate to, here:


  22. I love @Steve’s suggestion of packing binder clips to better seal the window shades to get the room darker so you aren’t woken up by the sun at like 5am. My solution is actually to use the clips on the pens that are already in the room or that I happen to have with me. Works almost as well as binder clips and one less thing to remember.

  23. Lots of great ideas above. I would add:
    1. Check and replace laundry bags each day (this NEVER happens).
    2. Good lighting in the bathroom.
    3. Doors that do not slam when they are closed (gee, what a novel idea for a place that is built for sleeping).
    4. Never ever, ever, give me a room with an adjoining door unless I ask for it.
    5. Soundproofing on adjoining room doorways.
    6. Clocks that can have the time corrected.
    7. Don’t change my radio station when you clean the room.

  24. A clean room with no bugs.
    A comfortable bed without lumps.
    Enough space in the room to be able to at least slide around it after storing luggage.
    A clean bathroom with a shower, preferably, but not necessarily private.
    Temperature control 68 to 72 degrees F.
    Free or reasonably priced breakfast.
    Location convenient to transportation (or walking distance) to where I want to go.
    Free or inexpensive transit to and from the airport.

    Charm would be nice, but not necessary. Except for first and last nights, I love staying at B&B’s, or at some of the better hostels, and will pay for same.

  25. Bathroom lighting that allows me to apply make-up without looking like a hooker, i.e. good lighting is mandatory. Having a hair dryer with decent power is a real time saver. Please leave me some cheap disposable glasses in the bathroom that are sealed in plastic. How do you think those bathroom glasses are normally cleaned? Yuck.

  26. Sadly enough “clean” seems to be an important inclusion these days. 2013 was not a good year for me in terms of getting a room that was clean. There were a few too many run ins (multiple!) with bloody sheets and sticky substances coating certain items in the room

  27. The Waldorf Astoria in Key West could learn how to manage the electronic key that Wendy mentions………

  28. Flat pillows are a must, the Westin has Pure sleep rooms with a air purifier in the room, they also have some of the best mattresses. Good towels is another one I like. I fly for the airlines and I hate when hotels blow us off, because we pay for anywhere from 10+ rooms every night 365 a year if were there or not.


    I can tolerate most things, but if the room is not CLEAN all the rest of the things do not matter…I will leave!

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