How hotels should be

In the last few years I have spent way more time in hotels of every kind than I ever though I would. This has led me to the realisation that there are four essential items for a hotel to be acceptable:

  • Free fast wireless
  • Windows that open
  • Good food—especially breakfast
  • Decent bed and bedding. (I.e. something you can sleep on without waking up feeling broken and which is also clean.)

You’d be amazed how many hotels can’t manage any of these. It fills my heart with sadness.

What are your bare minimums for a hotel?


  1. Karen Smith on #

    The second point is less a deal-breaker for me, but I definitely require the other three.

    However, I’d add “a pool, preferably indoor, and a whirlpool/jacuzzi/hot tub thing, for the love of gods”–especially if I’m going to be on my feet a good bit throughout the day.

  2. Julia Rios on #

    Good bed with clean, nice bedding.
    Floors that I don’t mind walking barefoot on.
    Heating/cooling that is controllable from inside the room, or at least set to a reasonable level.

    The rest is all negotiable. I prefer to have free wireless and good food, but I can deal without them. I don’t know if I’ve ever been in an American hotel with openable windows.

  3. Liann on #

    I care about the last one, plus I need a shower that runs warm water without having to cycle between boiling and freezing.

    No wireless/open windows/breakfast is okay with me! I prefer to bring my own food to each anyway.

  4. V on #


  5. Nicholas Waller on #

    As well as your requirements, I prefer a bath/shower with the room (though it’s not essential and one down the hall is OK for a short period in the right kind of old-fashioned small cheap pub-like B&B place).

    But I do like a decent-sized working desk with power and a proper desklamp. In one place I had to use recently (writing up notes and reports on old-style paper) the “desk” (a sort of dressing table with mirror) was way too narrow and badly lit. I ended up using the deep shelf by the door where you’re supposed to place your suitcase for unpacking purposes.

    I don’t need lots of big glass and marble foyers with enormous pot plants and tons of facilities and casinos I’ll never use. I don’t need a gym but I do like a pool. (Obviously, a B&B won’t have a pool). And a basic bar.

  6. crankynick on #

    A functional iron, and a large ironing board – when I’m traveling on business, at least.

  7. Marisa on #

    Hm…as long as it has a heater and locks, I guess I’m good. Once, though, I stayed in this hotel during the winter in Tennessee, and there was no heat! It was freezing! So now I just worry about the hotel having a heater. 🙂

    Wi-fi is nice, too.

  8. Justine on #

    I’m a little astonished that so few of you care about fresh air! Do you really enjoy breathing aircon fumes? [shakes head in bewilderment]

  9. Amber on #

    I agree with your list. Except I can live without wireless, it’s just not as pleasant. But if I traveled enough it would be a necessity.

    My order would be
    1. Clean sheets (a MUST!!)
    2. good food
    3. wireless
    4. windows that open (simply because I don’t use them that much)

  10. Lili on #

    i’d have to say a hotel should have the shower knobs IN THE SHOWER or at least on the same side of the room, or as a bare minimum, in a reachable place. and if the tv is too high up to reach, there should be a remote. oh, and drunks should not wake you at 2 a.m.
    i love (and by love i mean despise) barcelona =)

  11. marrije on #

    – I need warm water in a way that I can understand how to operate (UK hotels drive me crazy with this)
    – Also, warm water, period is essential. I once stayed in a v. expensive hotel in London that made me take a cold shower.
    – Good bed, with enough blankets, but preferably a duvet.
    – Wifi! Free! None of that arm-and-a-leg nonsense.
    – Something odd. I want my room to have little things I can explore/find/discover, like odd toiletries, or a crazy little fridge, or a weird gift magazine. Something fun.
    – This also goes for breakfast: I want some weird and wonderful things there, foodstuffs I don’t get at home that really make me go “ooh!”.
    – And no fire alarms in the night. A false alarm at three in the morning is so no fun.

  12. John H on #

    There seems to be (at least in the U.S.) an inverse relationship between the price of the room and availability of free wireless Internet access — the more expensive the hotel, the less likely they will be to offer it for free. Which to me is bass-ackwards — if I’m paying an arm and a leg for a fancy-schmancy hotel room why should I have to also pay for Internet access? Especially when the cheap-o motel down by the highway has it for free.

    Another head-scratcher — I recently stayed several nights in a Courtyard hotel which had fairly new flat-screen HDTV sets. Yet the picture quality totally sucked. It looked no better than the old sets…

  13. caitlin on #

    Decent towels, pillows, sheets that are clean and not scratchy otherwise eew! I adore fresh air at all times of the year.

  14. Malcolm Tredinnick on #

    The free + fast wireless item is a tough one. Although you didn’t include “affordable to people on mid-range incomes” in your points, so trading that away might give you the wireless one.

    Speaking as somebody who’s helped build systems to provide internet and on-demand stuff in hotels and conferences, it’s hard. Hotels, particularly, because it needs to run always and gets abused by customers. The result is that it’s expensive if it becomes at all popular (esp. in Australia, where last-mile internet costs are pretty outrageous).

    I agree with your wishlist (and particularly with the comment that it internet, esp. wireless, should come with the more expensive rooms for free), it’s a tough bullet-point to meet for many hotels. Particularly if they don’t require character references for customers to ensure they won’t abuse the system.

  15. Ellen on #

    Wow, hotels with free wireless exist? How come I’ve never stayed in one of these?!

  16. John H on #

    Malcolm @14: Many of the mid-level hotels in the U.S. (Marriott Courtyard, Holiday Inn, Red Roof Inn, et al) offer free wifi access. They make you acknowledge certain terms and conditions, such as not using their Internet connection for sending spam, and force you to their internal adverts before you can get out. But that’s a small price to pay for free access. Internet providers here are really competitive on price, which is probably why the hotels can offer it so easily.

    Ellen @15: See my list above to Malcolm…

  17. Ted Lemon on #

    Every cheap hotel I’ve stayed at in the past three years has free wireless (well, except the hotel in Dharamshala, but I forgive them). For-pay wireless is only ever even available at spendy hotels, and that’s because they figure if you’re staying at a spendy hotel, you’re on an expense account and therefore don’t care how much it costs to connect as long as it’s not enough to set off any red flags.

    My requirements for hotels vary depending on how desperate I am. If I’m not desperate, what I want is a room that doesn’t smell bad. I refuse maid service when I’m saying the week because I don’t want them spraying additional “air freshener.”

    A window that opens is desirable, but generally not available in conference hotels. I’ve never run into a problem with non-opening windows in hotel rooms that I pay for myself (i.e., cheap). Funny, that.

    I’d love it if there were hotels that had decent food, and there are in Oz, but here in the U.S. that’s pretty much a sad relic of the past – I can’t think of a hotel I’ve stayed at in the U.S. in recent memory that had decent food. So my preference is actually no food at the hotel (i.e., I don’t want to be charged for the crappy breakfast), and decent food nearby.

    Obviously good bedding is a requirement, except that there’s no way to know if it’s good until it’s too late. We frequently bring our own pillows when we do road trips.

  18. lisa on #

    Wow, you have a much higher minimum standard than me, I usually stay in very low rent kinda places. So my minimum standard would be clean sheets, no bedbugs or other crawlies.

  19. Yanni on #

    I like your 4 qualifications. However, in the “good” hotels, I find I’m lucky to get one (good bed and bedding). I’ve had the free wireless, openable windows and decent breakfasts pretty much only at the more “frugal” m/hotels. For some reason, the posh hotels always always always charge between 15 and 20 dollars a day for internet! And I suspect due to liability (Eric Clapton anyone?) I can’t remember the last time I saw a hotel over two floors with windows that open!

  20. Lunamoth on #

    Beach view is an ideal, though not required. Especially if there are doors/windows opening onto it.

    Clean floors that don’t make me want to keep my shoes on when I’m about to take a shower, or getting out of it.

    A shower that isn’t so tiny, the curtain is rubbing against me. I’m a rather small person, so if that’s happening, you know it’s a tiny shower.

    Lots of fresh towels, especially full body ones. I don’t want to dry off from that shower with a face cloth thankyouverymuch.

    WiFi is always nice. A working outlet where I can plug in my rather old laptop is also helpful.

    I recently drove myself and all my belongings from Texas to Pennsylvania, and made a lot of these decisions in transit (except for the beach one).

  21. Ju on #

    Your list pretty much matches mine. I’m willing to do without, but I’m well aware of the places that have either met or done their best to meet the requirements and I like to go back to them.

    One of the Rydges in Melbourne, for example has an -omelette station- where the chef would make you your very own fresh omelette. They also let you order off the breakfast menu as part of the set breakfast price, and only charged for non filtered (barista made) coffee on weekends – and the cost was piddly. Best hotel breakfast EVER.

    They didn’t meet the other bits, but the breakfast was awesome enough to make up for an awful lot 😛

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