Friday, July 17, 2009

Cheap hotels and motels are better than fancy five star hotels

I have traveled a lot, both professionally and for pleasure. I have stayed at some complete dives as well as some great places, including five star hotels. Fancy hotels and five star hotels have been OK, from my point of view, worthy of only three stars. The cheap hotels and motels are generally first rate, four or five stars.

When I am traveling, I have simple needs. I want a clean room with a good shower and free WiFi. Nail those things and you get four stars. If your hotel/motel has a great location or the staff is especially helpful and friendly, you get another star.

Now let me pick on a couple of the five star hotels I've stayed at:

Ritz Carlton, South Beach
Sure, it was swanky, but they missed the details and that is what makes the difference between good and perfection. Location was good. But, the bathroom door was broken as was one of the side tables, that's pretty tacky, -1. No free WiFi, super tacky, -1. We checked in late with a tired two year old. We wanted to go straight to bed, but a knock at the door at 10pm wakes the baby. It's a steward with a some late night night complementary snack or something. Hello, we just checked in with a tired two year old! Thanks for waking him up, now get out! -1. Five minus three leaves you with two stars, bravo.

Wynn, Las Vegas
Impressive if odd designed rooms, very, very big, very spacious, totally over the top. The bathroom was bigger than most motel rooms I've stayed at. Not my style, but it is top tier for what it is. We had some trouble when checking in as well as some billing issues, but the staff were very responsive and acted with a great deal of professionalism. They knew they were working at a five star hotel and were more than up to the challenge. Rooms were clean, shower was great. But, no free WiFi, very tacky, -1. Seriously, it costs you next to nothing to offer this to your guests, you offer free HD TVs with free cable, that costs considerably more than free internet access. And the internet access charge was not all that much, so it is not like it's a big profit center, it's just tacky. Tacky, tacky, tacky. That leaves the Wynn as a four star.

Some Nameless Five Star Hotel in Shenzhen, China
I went there in 2000 and only stayed there one night and I just can't remember anything about it other than it cost me a whopping $34, it was beautiful, and the staff were great. I have vague recollection that it did have free (or maybe really, really cheap) wired internet access (2000 would have been a little early for WiFi). OK, fair enough, that really was a five star hotel.

Compared to The Holiday Inn Express in Quakertown, PA
Clean room, free WiFi, friendly staff, and though I have not tried the shower yet, the best lit bathroom I've ever seen. It's like a professional lighting studio. Not only is the WiFi free, it's also trouble free, no stupid sign in screens. I hopped on the network from both my iPod touch and my laptop. It's a little early to be calling this one, but it's at least a four star with a good chance of another star.

See, what is comes down to is, you just have to make me comfortable and happy. Oh, and don't be tacky.

What really annoys me is that all the fancy hotels have free cable TV, but I honestly can't remember the last time I turned on a TV in a hotel room. Yet, the one cheap thing that I really want, free WiFi, I have to pay for. And I have to pay for it each day. The cost is usually $10 to $15 a day. So, in as little as three days, I get to pay the hotel for internet access as much as I pay at home for a whole month!

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