When you start to travel extensively you start picking at the small things that others do not notice. Sure it is great to have a free standing bathtub where to soak the day’s worries away but, “who wants a scratchy towel to dry your softened body afterwards?”, wonders Paula, the main voice behind Contented Traveller. Not me!
After spending the last decade on the road I have become quite the “naggy old lady” with some of the smallest things. I almost even look for them as soon as I walk into a hotel room as a measure of the hotel’s service level and attention to detail. The AC always set to Siberian levels, the light switches somehow hidden or requiring an engineering degree and the luggage you left with the valet that you are wondering where, between the reception and the room, it got lost in. My list could go on and on. But am I the only one? You will be happy to know that you need not unfriend me, picky travelers, like picky eaters, abound!
On all fours
If there is one thing that supremely annoys me and gets my blood boiling are unpractically and often awkwardly located sockets in hotel rooms. And this is something that can rally all experienced travelers behind. Paraphrasing Alouise, from Take me to the world, “We are talking about high-end or new properties where one needs to squat down on all fours to reach out for the plug that is located behind the bed’s head rest (really?)”. Where are we all supposed to plug the two cameras, one selfie stick, the GoPro, three mobile phones, two laptops and one battery bank? With just one power outlet, you bet we spend our time monitoring charging levels, waking up in the middle of the night to switch electronics and stay at the hotel just a tiny bit longer to make sure we set out fully recharged. To add salt to the wound, as we say in Spanish, it is even more frustrating when the room’s electricity is turned off when you take the key card out. And you were just given one! Room service it is then!
Missing bits and pieces
Some travelers get really wound up with incomplete hotel rooms. Let me explain. Apparently, “tables and chairs at the correct heights are a vanishingly rare piece of furniture in today’s hostels or Airbnb’s”, says Chris, from One Weird World. He continues, “I can understand hostels trying to say the kitchen table is the only place to work, or the twentysomethings can settle into a beanbag chair”, but what about the older folk like me who are starting to sport a hump because of the years in front of a laptop at the height of a bedside table? My back, not Chris’s.
Closet drawers are another increasingly hard-to-find element, says Vicki from The Vicki Winters Show. You end up leaving your underwear and accessories inside your carry on or scattering them around the room’s shelves. “I would rather whoever is designing these room without adequate clothing storage actually thought about that instead of trying to create something COOL.” As you can see, frustration is rampant.
Another item that seems to be missing in action at some hotels is the familiar in-room tea and coffee making amenity, complains Vanessa from The Island Drum. Not because they are not there but because they are minuscule. Thanks for the kettle and the coffee and tea bags, but please next time, she says, “give me a larger cup and a bit more than just a few teaspoon sized packets of instant coffee, creamer, sugar and a couple of tea bags. This is considered a convenience for the guests, but not only are the cups ridiculously small, any true coffee or tea drinker will usually blow through their daily supply allotment far sooner than any reappearance of housekeeping staff.”
End to end service
Then there are those who care for their complete well being, end to end. For Erin, from family blog Travel with Bender, a happy ending is key. No, really. “When you book a 5 star hotel you are usually expecting a certain level of comfort. A pillow top bed, no mould in the bathroom, luxury bath products and… nice toilet paper. I’ve seen 5 star hotels with L’Occitane toiletries and sandpaper for toilet paper. Why would anyone go to that much detail to make sure people have a great stay to only harm their customers butts with scratchy paper? Major pet peeve. I would like to see all hotels take on a “ply per star” policy. For every star the hotel is, they should have that ply toilet paper!”.
The hippie conspiracy
Grooming seems to be at the top of the list for hotels trying to make traveler’s lives difficult. We have all had to ask our significant others to hold the phone’s camera while we try to finish blow dry our hair without a mirror but shaving is a little more dangerous to be done against a camera image. For self-defined “Struggling Beard Cultivator” Sankeet, from Nomadic Lives, hair grooming is a matter of style. “Why do hotels that cost upwards of $100 per night not have the decency of placing a safety shaving plug in the bathroom?”. Perhaps we have to conclude that traveling enforces a hippie, wash-another-day mentality we are all trying to resist. Tough towels we don’t want to wrap ourselves in, harsh toilet paper we don’t want to use and lack of grooming options to look good. Hotels do it so that we can let our hair down.
Aside from bedrooms, some hotels do not seem to have evolved with times and they insist on charging for things that should be a given.
We have all been met with the ever surviving WiFi charges, sometimes as ridiculous as $20 per day. Or the annoying room key deposits, despite plastic room cards cost only a few cents (in fact I have a collection at home). It is not so much for the deposit in itself but for all the associated inconvenience that comes with it.
Josh, from Peanuts or pretzels, speaks for all when he puts his hands on his head and exclaims: “Sometimes the deposit isn’t that much, but other times it is, like the 500 Hong Kong Dollars we had to pay last week! The truly pesky part is when you’ve just arrived and it’s late at night. Either you don’t yet have the proper currency, or you have very little (perhaps exchanging what you had from the previous country when you crossed the border). When it’s late and you are tired after traveling, the last thing you want to do is run around in the dark (in a new city) looking for an ATM just so you can get your room key! As if that headache isn’t enough, when you are check out, you might be leaving the country right away and now you have way more currency than you need!” Yes, hotels are out to get us all!
The most ridiculous of the charges is the infamous “resort fee” you have to pay in resorts in Las Vegas or Hawaii, tells me Carole from Travels with Carole. And I find this one completely onerous and shameful. You think you got yourself a really good room deal only to find out at check in that the rate did not give you access to the resort’s facilities and that there is an extra fee for that, which you cannot avoid.
The hotelier’s perspective
I asked a veteran General Manager of an international luxury hotel chain for his thoughts. Are travelers exaggerating?
“Some hotels still charge for things like WiFi and coffee because they make easy money with it, but this practices will soon be rooted out like charging for local phone calls was in the 90s”. On the design flaws and the missing furniture pieces he blames the hotel designers and, “the high costs of retrofitting older rooms from the time when sockets and electronics were not important”.
Remember that time when we had those brick Nokia phones we could only send SMS or make calls with? Their battery lasted for a week!
Some travelers are more forgiving of hotels and less of other travelers. Hannah, from Eat Sleep Breathe Travel, just hates people who jump queues and, really, who doesn’t? In London, Hannah had to queue for 30 minutes to take her chance at getting into Hogwarts. “My worst experience was in Kings Cross Station, waiting to get the iconic photo with the trolly halfway through the wall and the platform 9 3/4 sign. I stood in line, because there IS actually a spot queue, but people just kept bypassing it and jumping in front of others who were clearly waiting their turn. Maybe I’m just too much of a stereotypical polite Canadian but really, is it so hard to wait a couple minutes so everyone can be happy?”. Queue jumping seems national sport in some countries.
Not enough of us actually get upset at disregards for the environment. I have shared posts on responsible tourism on my facebook page since the year started in the hope that this will bring in more awareness to the topic but there are some simple things we can all do to minimise our impact on the environment. Lucy, from Lucy Smiles away, shares her frustration. “My travel pet peeve is people who flippantly disregard the environment while travelling. You could easily buy a five litre bottle of water and keep refilling (or better yet, filter your water) a smaller one, but sometimes it seems like people are so quick to boast about seeing the world that they forget to look after it too”. Under the mid-day heat of Bagan you just need water to survive but, have you ever thought about bringing your own bottle?