A to Za’atar’s elements of a perfect hotel.

A to Za’atar’s elements of a perfect hotel.

On average, I stay in a hotel at least once a month (and usually more nights than that).  While the majority of my experience is in the GCC, I have been to a few other countries (and took the research of my novel pretty seriously).  In all this, a few trends have emerged.  Certainly, everyone is welcome to their own opinion, but I thought the subject was worth exploring (and how it all adds up to the Four Seasons Sayan being my favorite resort in the world).  For now, my list will focus mainly on the room itself, because I think tackling all the elements of a perfect property or resort would yield too long a post.

So, what are the most important features to me when I book a room?

  • Privacy (~quiet).  Anyone with misophonia understands that a total lack of sound = heaven.  While of course, I know that no room can be devoid of noise, but a place that stands apart from weird sounds in the hall, upstairs, or outside can be the difference between a fantastic, relaxing time and me shouting at the ceiling, ‘What is that noise?’ Except with more expletives.  I tend to always make the request ‘a quiet room is appreciated,’ but there have been numerous occasions where I’ve had to call down to the front desk to ask for a room change (ask Hubs, I’m pretty sure he hates me).  In my opinion, nothing ruins a trip faster than being distracted by what’s going on any other place than your private space, and I’m certainly willing to pay a premium to make this happen.  I realize I am more sensitive than most when it comes to this, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for.
  • Updated technology.  As often as I visit properties, I’m still shocked when newer hotels do not have USB/power connections near the bed.  This, to me, is unacceptable and I’m stunned at how many hotels do not have an outlet that is easily accessible.  Of course, if staying at a more quaint location, I completely understand, but for some of the larger luxury properties, I cannot fathom how out of touch this lack of attention to detail is for a modern traveler.  I won’t name and shame, but there is nothing more frustrating than having to move furniture to unplug a lamp to hope that your USB cable is long enough so that you can wake up and not have your phone be at 21%.
  • Private pool. Yup, this is one of the first things I look for.  Sure, they are most often found with resorts in tropical locations, but I can’t think of anything more luxurious than my own pool.  Whether in the desert or over the water, it’s the ultimate ‘treat yo self’ experience.
  • Club rooms.  Cocktail hour?  Yes, please!  Breakfast away from the masses?  You bet!  Separate check in?  *Raises hand*  To this day, the Grand Hyatt Roppongi Hills in Tokyo has the bar set for all other executive lounge experiences, with some of the very best food, generous portions (refilled regularly), and multiple options of bubbles and wine available on a nightly basis.  It was also a fantastic out of the way location to wait for our flight after we checked out.  The benefit to a club room to me always justifies the price.
  • High-end toiletries.  I realize this is not an eco-friendly choice, but I do love me some designer lotions, shampoos, and conditioners.  While there are many to enjoy, thus far, I liked Natura Bisse from the Viceroy Palm Jumeirah Dubai, both Jo Malone and L’Ocitanne (pre-selected!) from Casa Angelina, and also Hermes from the Sofitel Macau the best.
  • Lots of light.  Having stayed in the dungeon that was Hotel Hotel in Canberra, I now realize how important light is to me in a room.  I don’t particularly enjoy dark spaces, so a touch of natural light throughout the entire room (including the bathroom) is always appreciated.
  • Proactive staff.  Here’s where the Four Seasons Sayan jumps straight to the front of the queue.  When I’m on vacation, I’ll admit that I pretty much want to interact with as few people as possible (that’s the ‘I’ coming out in my INTJ).  I’m a relatively well-traveled person and am certainly capable of taking care of my own schedule.  Thus, when a driver (that I arranged) hadn’t turned up, I was content to wait and take care of the issue myself.  Enter, one of the fabulously professional hostesses at the property.  She saw we were calmly waiting and immediately took things into her own hands.  She quickly sorted the driver without us ever even having to ask.  This was only one of a few examples at the property.  I’ve never experienced anything like it (before or since).
  • Instagram worthy.  Funky art.  A unique lobby.  A state of the art suite.  Anything that stands up to be noticed.  I love design for design’s sake and like sharing with the world just as much. (And yes, I’m shallow enough to want to make others jealous!)
  • Ice.  You laugh, but I’ve thought about starting a separate blog or Instagram account that simply measures the length of time to get ice in the room (yes, in the Middle East we do not have ice machines in the hotel as they exist in the States).  Thus, my best experience with this was both the Shangri-La Boracay and Four Seasons Sayan who simply had ice waiting for us.  Deceptively easy and yet memorable.
  • Ultra comfy bed.  To date, the W in Bangkok has the most comfortable place to sleep in the world (with The Old Clare in Sydney runs a close second, and the Fairmont Fujairah is not far behind).  Although it’s more a detail you notice after arrival, I’m talking about over the top thread count, super cozy pillows, and a bed you sink into and never want to get out of.  A bed that makes you think, ‘I don’t care what the cost, I want to have this in my own home.’
  • Incredible on site restaurants. There is perhaps nothing better (or easier) than enjoying a fantastic meal and walking back to your room.  Most recently, Automata at The Old Clare, The Tasting Room at Le Quartier Francais, and House on Sathorn at the W Bangkok have had the most impact.  Of course, had I been staying at the Waldorf Astoria Amsterdam, I’d be able to include Librije’s Zusje on my list as well (or maybe just go to the venue on its own because it’s that good).  In Dubai, it’s nearly required that a great restaurant is attached to a hotel, so visitors to the city are all but ensured this element (personally, those staying at The H are spoiled the most, with both Zahira and Play).
  • ALL the television stations.  Sure, we all like to believe that on holiday we’re out soaking up culture, running around cities and never stopping for a moment… But the reality is that sometimes you just want a lazy morning (or afternoon) in bed.  And when that happens, I like a big television with tons of the channels.  You can tell me I’m wasting my holiday, but after walking 15K+ steps before lunch, sometimes you just want a bad movie in the privacy of your own room.
  • Easily found (and managed) basic components. Let us not speak of the time(s) where I could not find the controls for the air conditioning, only to boil alive or freeze in bed.  The best example of a well-managed room I’ve experienced is the ‘everything in one’ iPad from the St. Regis Maldives, which made anything possible from one tablet.  Such easy.  Much simple.  So basic.
  • Separate toilet facilities.  There also seems to be a trend recently where the W.C. has been one of the focal points of the room.  Why?  I can’t even begin to imagine.  Friends, nothing takes the romance out of a relationship faster than er, ‘noises.’ Give me a completely shut off and enclosed toilet any day of the week.  Bonus points if it’s in another room entirely.

What do you like best in a hotel room?  What elements set places apart from you?

3 thoughts on “A to Za’atar’s elements of a perfect hotel.”

    • Vacation is so precious to me, as is what I’m willing to spend on a hotel room, so the ‘see how I feel’ wouldn’t ever work for me. However, I have a completely different view if I’ve been requested to review a place. I’m much more relaxed when I’m ‘on assignment’ than when I’m paying for myself (if that makes sense).

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