What Makes A Great Hotel Room? It’s All About The Details

by Shelli Stein

Even though traveling right now is at a standstill,  I can’t help but reflect on past hotel stays. It keeps me hopeful that traveling will resume again in the near future.

Have you ever thought about what actually affects your hotel stays? For me, small details often add up a lot more than extravagant indulgences. The details become the best hotel room features.

Given how much I usually travel and how often I’m in Hyatt hotel rooms, I have built a hotel room checklist to help assess my hotel stays, no matter which hotel room I find myself in. Sure, there are aspects of a hotel experience that can’t necessarily fit on a list, but there are certain features that are essential to great hotel rooms; thus a checklist.

Here’s what I find most essential about my rooms:

1. Lighting = Natural

Natural lighting and bright enough bulbs with ways to dim lights. I can’t imagine anyone who doesn’t notice whether or not a hotel room has good natural lighting. It doesn’t necessarily have to be floor to ceiling windows, and it’s not that we even spend a lot of time in the rooms. I just know I feel better when there’s good natural light, so it’s something I notice.

Hotels that score high: W Santiago, especially the corner rooms, have great natural lighting. Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor has windows that let in lots of light. And the amazing views of the harbor and city ain’t bad either!

a bedroom with a large window overlooking a city

The W Santiago hotel scores high in the natural light category. Image by W Santiago Hotel.

Hotels that score low: As much as I love the Park Hyatt Milan, the rooms have very small windows and often face the courtyard, so they offer very little natural light. The Westin in Dublin has very small windows and very little natural light.

a window open with a view of a building

The Park Hyatt Milan has cute windows that offer great views, but not much in the way of natural light. Image by Park Hyatt Milan.

2. Windows = Operational

When is the last time you were in a hotel room and could open the window? Seems like that’s becoming a rare experience, particularly in newer hotels. There are certain hotels I know so well that I even know which floor has the rooms with windows that open and which don’t. I’m weird, right? The very first thing I do in a hotel room is open the window if possible. The cleaning products hotels use smell awful, so I can’t wait to air out a room.

Is there a view? Score some extra checks in that column if the view is a good one. I think I’ve been lucky as I’ve had some spectacular views from hotel rooms. Petronas Tower in Kuala Lumpur, for example. And I don’t mind urban views as long as I’m not facing a building a few feet away.

a hotel with a circular building

The Hyatt Regency La Jolla is a rare hotel with operable exterior windows. You’ll have to ask for a room that comes with fresh air, though. Image by Hyatt Regency La Jolla.

Hotels that score high: My home Hyatt, the Hyatt Regency La Jolla, has windows that open, but not on every floor, so you’ll have toask at check in. The Sheraton in Edinburgh has windows that open. So does the Sheraton Lisboa.

3. Bathrooms = Towels

I definitely notice bathrooms and how they’re set up and function. I have this pet peeve about not having enough hooks for towels. Some bathrooms make me wonder where I am supposed to hang my towels! And yes, I’m one of those people who likes to see a bidet in my bathroom.

a bathroom with a mirror and a white robe

A great bathroom, like this one at the Grand Hyatt Dubai, can be more memorable than a great bed. Image by Point Me To The Plane.

Rooms that score high: The Park Hyatt Aviara is tops in this category. Most hotel rooms score somewhere in the middle where one or two more well-placed hooks or towel racks would bump them up to the top. However, the Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor is the worst room for hooks and racks. One small hook on the back of the door and NO towel racks at all. This makes no sense to me.

4. Curtains = Not Ugly

Curtains are an interesting checklist item. There are people who prefer the old-fashioned ones which you draw open and closed. Then there are the electronic ones that you remotely bring up and down. I don’t think I have a preference as to curtain style. I do think more and more I’m leaning toward the remote up and down style. There are too many hotel rooms where the fabric draw open/close curtains are really ugly, and also I can tell they have not been cleaned in a long time.

Hotels that score high: The Sheraton Lisboa has easy to operate electronic black out curtains. So does the Park Hyatt Sydney. The Grand Hyatt in Kuala Lumpur has beautiful lace curtains for privacy and then another heavier curtain to darken the room for sleep.

a bedroom with a large window overlooking a city

The Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur has extremely tasteful and functional drapery. Image by Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur.

Hotels that score low: I’m looking at you, Hyatt Place. Your curtains need to come down and yield to some new ones that work, aren’t torn and aren’t filthy.

5. Outlets = Available

These days who doesn’t want more plugs as well as better placed plugs in a hotel room? I’m writing this from a hotel room where I’m sitting at the “work” desk and there is no easy access plug nearby. Hmm, guess I better type faster or my battery will lose power:)

a black cord plugged into a wall

The Grand Hyatt Tokyo had avaialble and functional outlets throughout. Image by Point Me To The Plane.

Hotels that score high: Seems to me that any hotel that has opened in the past five years or so does well in this category. The Hyatt Regency category of Hyatt hotels has bedside lamps that have two outlets each. They are very convenient and a good usable feature in the rooms.

Hotels that score low: As much as I like the Radisson Blu in Dublin, it was one of the worst hotel rooms for outlets. And all the lights had been changed out with low light bulbs, so even if it did have more outlets, who could see to read or work!

6. Seating = Available

I like a seating area, and a comfortable one at that. I also need a functional workspace. It’s easy to know if a hotel room will function well for me. I work when I travel, and also like to relax and read or watch movies. I don’t like doing any of these in bed. I’m fine with a hotel room that doesn’t have a formal desk area as long as there’s a table I can sit and work at. I do prefer a couch to chairs and ottomans, though I have been in some hotels that have had wonderfully comfortable chairs and ottomans.

a room with a tv and a table

Rooms at the Grand Hyatt Singapore have excellent seating areas. Image by Grand Hyatt Singapore.

Hotels that score high: I seem to enjoy good luck in that many times I’m offered upgrades in hotels, so my rooms often have pretty good seating arrangements. Couches with lounges at one end are wonderful. For example, the couch in the Grand Hyatt in Singapore is great. Even in a non-upgraded room, a comfortable chair and ottoman, such as the one at the Park Hyatt Bangkok, works well for comfortable seating. While the Hyatt Place curtains are awful, I do think the desk chair and desk area are fine for working.

Hotels that score low: The Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor has poor seating arrangements. The rooms are big enough for a couch and chairs, but all they offer are two very uncomfortable chairs and a small old wooden table. When I’m there I request that they bring in a desk and desk chair so I can work. Having a dedicated work space is a great hotel feature that is lacking in too many room rooms.

7. Bed = Supple

Ahhh the bed, probably the most talked about aspect of a hotel room. I’m a good sleeper, which is a huge blessing. That being said, it seems rare to find a comfortable hotel bed. Some people rave about the Westin bed, or the Hyatt bed, or whatever bed it is that’s great for them. I’m glad that comfortable beds help some people sleep well in hotels, but I sleep well because I am so active and walk so much when I travel that I’m tired at the end of the day! You might be surprised, but one of the best beds ever was actually at an Embassy Suites. That was a great stay for several reasons. The hotel staff actually went out to a Target and bought a stand-up lamp for me because the lighting in the room was so poor. Great customer service!

Westin hotel bed feature a pillow top, plush construction

Westin hotel beds feature a pillow top, plush construction

Hotels that score high: The Sheraton in Edinburgh has a comfortable bed, which really means I don’t notice the bed. If a bed is too soft or too hard, then I’ll notice it.

Hotels that score low: The Park Hyatt Seoul probably had one of the hardest beds ever. Even after a long day of travel and feeling exhausted, the bed is simply uninviting.

8. Snacks = In Reach

Having what I’ll call a snack area always helps me out. I do bring my own snacks when I travel, drink lots of water, and have tea at night. It’s always nice to have an area in the room that isn’t the bathroom where I can keep some food and drinks.

Emirates Onboard Bar Snacks

Snacks. Whether at the bar or in your hotel room, you gotta have ’em.

Hotels that score high: The Park Hyatt Saigon has a mini-kitchen in the room. I’ve been upgraded to a suite when I stay there, so while I’m not certain about the rooms without an upgrade, this mini-kitchen is perfect.

Hotels that score low: For me, there’s very little not to like about Park Hyatt hotels. However, the Park Hyatt Bangkok had virtually no space by the mini-bar for snacks or bottles of water. The only surface in the room was a small square desk/table area which mostly functioned as a work space. The room did have plenty of space for a bigger snack area, so I wish this corner of the room had been designed differently.

9. Floor = Not Gross Carpet

Are you a carpet person or a hard floor person? I’m definitely a hard wood floor person. I don’t mind some carpet, but carpet throughout a hotel room just makes no sense to me. If a hotel is in a warm weather, you can often smell the mold in the carpets. It’s hard to keep them clean, so carpets often have stains in them, even in the fanciest of hotels. And going back to the issue of being able to open a window because the carpet cleaning materials smell so bad. No carpets = less toxic carpet cleaner. I’ve even seen carpets in the bathroom area by the sink. This baffles me.

Hotels that score high: Wood floors score high and many of the newer hotels, especially in Asia, are using wooden floors. Also, the Park Hyatt in Buenos Aires has beautiful wood floors. The Park Hyatt in Saigon has one of the loveliest combinations of carpet and hardwood floors.

Park Hyatt Istanbul Park Deluxe Twin - Bedroom

Wood floors are great at the Park Hyatt Istanbul. Image by Point Me To The Plane.

Hotels that score low: Saddens me to say that my home Hyatt, the Regency in La Jolla, needs new carpets and has for a long time. I hate going into a hotel room that has carpets that are stained.

Final Thoughts

Everyone has a different sense of what makes a hotel great, and what are considered to be great hotel room features. I find that these small details really matter to me and often influence my satisfaction with a hotel stay more than some of the flashier elements of the hotel.

What do you think matters most?

P.S. If I’m paying cash for my hotel stays, I always use Pruvo. Pruvo is free and it’s the easiest way to monitor your reservations for price drops.

Shelli Stein is a health and fitness entrepreneur who travels the world in search of culture, food, and fun! Besides contributing to Point Me to the Plane, you can find her at Joy in Movement.


The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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A June 5, 2018 - 11:19 am

Good location, quiet, not overpriced, at least decent internet. Free breakfast is a plus.

Shelli June 5, 2018 - 2:40 pm

I agree, A. These are all pluses, as well. Good list!

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