What Makes a Great Hotel

Squiggle art in my Baltimore hotel room. Fine art? No. Bright and friendly? Yep! April 2014.

Squiggle art in my Baltimore hotel room. Fine art? No. Bright and friendly? Yep! April 2014.

I feel for hotels. People have endlessly different preferences in what they want and like, yet hotels need to cater to enough people to turn a steady profit on the high costs of real estate, property maintenance and upgrades, management, staffing, and service.

What I like in a hotel varies somewhat depending on the purpose of my visit. If on a pampering vacation, I’ll want more bells and whistles. Though, in truth, the completely spare, slightly run down, utilitarian hotels that I didn’t mind in my leaner youth—the ones that feel like communes or like staying in your distant aunt’s spare bedroom—no longer appeal for any occasion.

Yet for most purposes, business and pleasure, what I seek in a hotel has settled into certain grooves.

The Room

I like my room clean and bright. I’d rather not stay in a hotel room with dark wallpaper, gloomy artwork in heavy frames, and faux mahogany furniture. Small and spare seems appropriate; I don’t need and won’t use a desk, seating area, or large armoire. A shower serves better than a bathtub. I can’t imagine taking a bath in a hotel. (Even when the bathroom seems clean: Ick.)

In-Room Amenities

I like a small refrigerator, wireless Internet, and a luggage stand. Refrigerators give me a space to put leftovers for breakfast and snacks. I rarely unpack anything that won’t seriously wrinkle; everything stays well organized in my packing cubes. And these days, speedy wireless Internet is like plumbing and electricity—expected and required.

Though less important, I like when the room has a hot-water maker for tea-making purposes—and I give bonus points if it provides tea bags (though, as I don’t expect either, you can count on me having tea bags in tow).

I don’t need a television or a radio clock or an appliance to plug in a music device.

Hotel Amenities

Does anyone use hotel business centers? I can go to FedEx Kinko’s if I need copies made and reports compiled and bound. Besides, I try to travel prepared.

Café-like common spaces in and near lobbies seem like a growing hotel trend. Keep this trend going, hotel world. I don’t like spending time in isolated, strange rooms. I like reading and working in these hotels’ new common areas, which feel like coffee shops or indoor piazzas. Any day or night, give me people, activity, vibrancy, life, and motion over a cramped desk piled with tourist books and magazines in a strange, cold hotel room.


My preferred hotels have downtown locations with easy access to food, cafés, convenience stores, shopping, and even entertainment. Airport hotels and suburban hotels maroon a traveler; even if I have a car, I don’t want to get in it and drive for however long in an unfamiliar place for basic necessities.

What kind of hotel do you prefer?