I’m on the road… again. After some really great (and a few really crappy) hotel stays in the past few weeks, I started thinking about ‘what makes a good hotel’.

Recently I spent one week at a customer in a hotel where the staff obviously was hosting nightly parties down at my end of the hall- from about 2:00am – 5:30am each (yes- every) night I was there. The hotel I’m in tonight has no elevator. Yeah. @#$! That’s what I said. Twice in the past 10 days or so, I’ve been in really nice resort-hotels, so I’ve had the whole spectrum this month and last.

For me, sometimes it’s the little things… I really like it when hotels have conditioner, instead of just shampoo. I like space– so a nice work area is important to me. Of course a big soft bed and plenty-o-pillows is a key ingredient. A whirlpool or jetted tub (in the room) is icing on the cake. Exercise rooms are good, although half the time I’m too tired when traveling or have work to do (I know- excuses, excuses ;). Convenience is also a biggie- I had a run in Las Vegas where *every* room I had felt like it was a 10-minute walk just to the elevators. When I’m on-site for a customer, I also love the hotels with the do-it-yourself breakfast– I can go when I want and grab something before heading out for the day. I love the little lighted makeup mirrors… and of course a full-length for checking out the wardrobe. Plugs! I love lots of plugs. I like hotels that secure the outer doors early and require a key for access to various parts of the building.

Sometimes it’s the bigger things… Hotels with outside-facing doors make me paranoid, and obviously those in neighborhoods where your rims may disappear is not good either. I hate hotels that MAKE me valet park my car. It’s my car, my keys, I park it and I keep the keys- that’s my rule. (My Dad taught me a little trick of telling the valet boys that it’s a company car and against corporate policy for valet- it works!)

Traveling techies sometimes have unique needs or requests, and many of the ‘good list’ is universal for all traveler types.

So, those are some items from my little list… What about you- what do YOU look for in a good hotel?

# # #


Author, speaker, and recognized authority on network and wireless security architectures, Jennifer (JJ) Minella helps organizations solve technical problems and align teams.

View all posts


  • I’ve never really found this, but I would really appreciate it if more hotels either A) Did not hook up noisy fans directly to the bathroom light switch, or B) Provided some kind of (preferably dimmable) night light near the bathroom. With the curtains drawn at most hotels it can be bright outside and dark as a cave inside. Being in unfamiliar surroundings and somewhat groggy, light is essential for finding the bathroom in the middle of the night.

    Having suggested this kindly to several hotel chains, I have completely given up. I bought a Pak-Lite (http://www.9voltlight.com/ — I’m not connected with them in any way) and put it on a 9 volt lithium battery. I switch it to the lowest setting and either put it on the edge of a desk or on the floor by the bathroom. I did a lot of research, and the Pak-Lite seems to have about the highest run time on a battery, you can just leave it on all night. I suppose taking a wall plug nightlight might work also, but you can never count on where the plugs will be.

    A room safe is also greatly appreciated, but all too uncommon, so I usually travel with a lockbox on a metal cable that I can attach to the plumbing or bed frame before leaving the room.

    My worst experience was in Philadelphia. The non-smoking room reeked of smoke, the head of the bed was right up against the wall to the elevator shaft, the automatically closing doors in every room closed slowly then SLAMMED shut at the last second (all night long…), and the room was so damp everything felt wet. To top that off, each of two nights the maid collected everything in the room and put it in a plastic bag, then took it down to the front desk and checked me out of my room. The second time it happened they didn’t have any rooms left. That was the best thing that could have happened, since they paid for my room across the street at a much better hotel for the rest of the week (after returning my stuff out of my room from “lost and found”.)

  • Clean room, comfortable bed, easy to connect to high speed internet, spacious desk, good water pressure, comfortable chair, free toiletries should you forget anything, good restaurant, pool with spa, more than 1 set of washers and dryers (extended stay). Marriott Courtyard’s are nice hotels, Westin Heavenly beds are nice too.

    If traveling to San Francisco, the two great hotels are the Palace (you can relax next to the indoor pool with a pedicure almost anytime day or night) and the Courtyard on 2nd Street. The Palace is a high-luxury that’s decently priced, the Courtyard is one of the better Courtyard’s I’ve stayed at and with great city views. The Palace is especially great if you are bringing your wife with you on business, she’ll appreciate the oversize rooms, nice spa and indoor pool, your wallet will appreciate that although expensive, it’s not "overpriced" for San Fran.

    The Westin St. Francis in SF is way overpriced for what you get in return, there you really are paying for the name — although the Oak Room there serves the best cup of Coffee in all of San Francisco, that’s right, better than Peete’s, SB’s or anywhere.

    In Manhattan, avoid the 30/30. Single bed rooms, no Internet connection, dirty. And, when I informed the front desk my room smelled like a corpse had recently been removed following a prolonged NYC crime scene investigation, they told me, "Why don’t you open the window then."

  • In addition to a clean room, comfy bed, and plugs (on the desk please!) I like a hotel where I can get out and walk day or night. I like to walk. I get bored, I walk. I want to wake up, I walk, Not tired at night, I walk. I like to walk to breakfast and dinner. I don’t travel to smaller locations, so that usually walking isn’t much of a problem, but sometimes my hotel is in the middle of nowhere. Airport hotels are a good example.

    I also like a room that is low odor–smoking, cleaning chemicals, "old hotel" smell are bad.

  • Cleanliness is a big thing for me – if the rooms not clean then I’m not going to be able to sleep there. I just stayed in a cheap hotel for a night at a conference and the entire room smelled like mold. It rained hard that night and when I went into the hall the next day I discovered the source – the entire hall was wet from a leak in the roof that had obviously been there a while.

    While small, an iron is a must as well.

    Check out this blog entry from Security Second Thoughts on insecure hotel locks. I know I’ll be checking that from now on.

  • Good topic! Things I like, in order:

    1) Nice bed, not too soft. I prefer the Heavenly Bed at the Westin. Never had a comfortable bed at the Marriott Courtyard (but the regular Marriotts are fine).

    2) Air conditioning that works. I can’t sleep well if the room is too warm/stuffy. My pet peeve is cranking the A/C down to 68 (my ideal temp) and the room never really cools down.

    3) Water pressure. I don’t function well without a strong shower.

    4) A large desk with a comfortable, vertically-adjustable chair. I hate working in a wing chair.

    5) Free bottle(s) of water in the room. OK, not really a big deal but I drink a lot of water to stay hydrated and it’s nice not to have to go hunting around for the vending machine (and I refuse to pay $5 for a bottle of water from the minibar, on principle).

    6) All-night dining. I don’t like room service, but when I arrive late, it’s nice to have the option.

    7) In-room safe. Yes I’ve seen a video of Adam Laurie somehow opening one with a paperclip, but even so, housekeeping probably doesn’t know how and I’m not a trusting person.

    Things that annoy me:

    1) Insufficient bandwidth. I have to be able to work! I’m not asking for a big pipe but I have on more than one occasion stayed at a "conference resort/hotel" where you’d get 500+ ms ping responses in the evening, when lots of people were trying to connect to the office at the same time. Capacity planning, please?

    2) Those stupid theft-proof hangers. You know the ones where the hanger part detaches from the hook, so you’re less tempted to steal them? Really, you think I’m going to steal your stupid hangers?

    3) Related to #2 above, motion detectors on the A/C. Haven’t seen this yet? You will. It’s a cost saving measure that I’ve run into twice already. It turns off the A/C when it doesn’t detect movement for some period of time. So when you come back after a long day the room is nice and hot. And at night, when you’re SLEEPING, the room gets all stuffy until you get up and jump around in front of the motion detector. If I’m paying that much for a room let me use the damn A/C. This is common in a lot of European hotels and I hope it doesn’t get too popular in the US.

    4) Valet. Same complaint as you — and thanks for the tip on avoiding them. I’m totally using that.

    By the way, with the elevator thing, you can do what I usually do and request "near elevator" in your reservation. :)

  • First and foremost, cleanliness. That’s table stakes and something we can all agree probably doesn’t need to be mentioned, but apparently to some places it does! I like an updated look to the room, if you look like a Super 8 that hasn’t been updated in 40 years, you’d better expect me to pay $10/night like it was 40 years ago!

    I also like a separate living area like at a Residence Inn or one of the "Suites" hotels. Some are actually *very* reasonable in price. When all there is in the room is a bed and a desk, it’s really hard to relax–a bed is NOT comfortable to sit on to just watch TV or read.

    I expect a reasonably up-to-date exercise room as well as a bar (yeah, I worked bar and exercise into the same sentence!) that stays open as late as a normal bar–don’t close down early just because you’re in a hotel. Hotel customers want/need to drink late to forget about the day just like everyone else! Getting half liquored up and then calling last call at 10:30 is just the biggest bait-and-switch around!

    A place with a healthy breakfast included means one less thing to expense and it’s convenient on its way out in the morning. I also like a place that leaves the bill under the door on your last night–don’t make me come to the front desk and stand in line just to get the bill I need to expense it. A little "pantry" to grab munchies late at night is really nice too.

    Speaking of less things to expense, Free High-Speed Internet Access. Don’t make me pay for it, it’s just more inconvenience and it’s a given nowadays.

    Speaking of convenience, I agree that easy in/out of the hotel is nice and noticed as well. If I have to wake up 15 minutes early just to make the journey to my car, this is not the way I want to start my day!

    Oh, and speaking of starting my day, since I’m a night owl, ability to have two wake up calls is important to me. I’m not a morning person and I like to have that second one just in case I don’t get up after the first.

    Completely agree about valet parking or just paying for parking in general–downtown Chicago is $40/day… Are they NUTS?!?! I’d rather put my car (especially if it’s a rental) into the river than pay for a week of parking!

    // Chris