The Perfect Hotel

What do you look for? Which hotels have nailed it? Which hotels have failed?

From Joshua Counsil
Posted April 20, 2012 at 7:50 AM
Robert posted an article about a year ago that listed the features he demands or appreciates when traveling on business or for pleasure. The article stuck with me as I agreed strongly with his points and since the date of posting, I have stayed in many hotels for both business and pleasure.

On a recent trip to New York City, I stayed at a hotel that revised my expectations of what hotels are capable of. The Jane Hotel in the West Village of Manhattan is easily the coolest - not to be confused with best - hotel I've ever stayed in.

The hotel is right on the Hudson River in possibly the coolest neighborhood in New York City, so the location alone is worth staying here for. What's truly shocking, however, is that I paid only $125/night, and rates were even lower the weekend prior. In a city that charges $300+ for a Holiday Inn, surely, I assumed, there had to be a catch.

Upon arrival, the doorman, dressed in '20s style bellhop uniforms, opened the door for me. In fact, all the employees were in period attire and all of them were exceptionally friendly. The lobby reeked of nostalgia: oak trimmings, marble counters, gothic statues, and an elevator whose analog dial rotated 180 degrees to indicate its location. In other words, this hotel is the Tower of Terror.

But I've experienced good service and cool theming at many hotels. What set The Jane apart?

From The Jane Hotel

The rooms are tiny. It's not a fact they hide from the customers. Rather, they sell it as a quirk, like experiencing what a train car was like to sleep in. I opted for the bunk bed room. Please excuse the mediocre cell phone picture quality.

From The Jane Hotel

This is a shot from the door. The room is basically a glorified closet, but oh - what a closet. Let's go through Robert's list, shall we?

Free WiFi at Broadband Speeds: No complaints here. The WiFi was free and easily accessible - there wasn't even a password required. Considering I've stayed at business and conference hotels upwards of $300+ per night that only provided WiFi for a fee, this was a nice touch.

High-definition televisions: You bet. In fact, they had one for each bed with personal remotes, digital cable with nearly a hundred channels, and no irritating "home" menu with overpriced movies.

From The Jane Hotel

Free toiletries: Bathrooms are shared and unisex, so The Jane is essentially a high-end hostel. The showers were very roomy and came complete with free liquid soap, shampoo, conditioner, and lotion. As an added bonus, each room included fresh towels, bathrobes, and slippers for each occupant. Oh, and the bathrooms were immaculately clean.

From The Jane Hotel

A powerful hair dryer: These may have been available in the washroom, but I didn't notice. If not, the front desk probably provides them free of charge, which they also do with irons and ironing boards.

Available electrical outlets: I counted at least six, all conveniently (recall the size of the room) located at the head of the bed. Further, the room had an interesting feature I've never seen. Attached to the room key was a long, metal rod that I was instructed to insert into the wall upon entering the room. This triggers the lights, alarm clock, and TV, though the outlets still operate without the rod inserted.

Free breakfast: Unlike Robert, I love going out for breakfast, especially when in a foodie's paradise like the West Village. On a theme park vacation, however, free breakfast is a plus, and this hotel did not provide it. They did have a delicious and unique breakfast menu, however. Avocado butter spread on toast? Yes, please.

Space to dry clothes: This was duly appreciated since I'm in New York for a month on business and I only packed a carry-on bag. I think the picture speaks for itself.

From The Jane Hotel

Free in-room refrigerator: Not included.

Swimming pool/fitness center: Not included. However, if you're looking to stretch, the hotel rents bicycles for free, and the adjacent Hudson River has a beautiful jogging trail. Also, you'll do enough walking in Manhattan to compensate for lost time at the gym.

Large window with a pleasant view: You may receive a pleasant view of the Hudson, though I received a back alley. Having a small room encourages you to actually leave your room and explore. When I stayed in a large hotel room in New York, I was back at the room by 5 pm every day for drinks and TV. At The Jane, I would skip the hotel downtime and go to a local happy hour. The latter option made for a much more interesting visit.

Minibars: Not included. Everything in the room was yours to use for free.

Water bottles for sale in the room: Free bottled water was provided.

From The Jane Hotel

The caption on the bottle reads, "All water is free but the bottle ain't."

Newspapers: No surcharge for an unread daily newspaper. I read my news online.

Resort fees: There were no additional hotel fees. I paid the advertised price plus tax. I'm unsure if parking was provided for free.


So there you have it. An amazing little hotel that redefined my expectations of what a hotel can be.

Let's rekindle Robert's thread. What do you look for in a hotel? Which hotels have you stayed in that compelled you to write a glowing review or recommend the hotel to your family and friends? What are some of the worst hotels you've stayed at? Note that "worst" does not necessarily exclusively imply a hotel with bedbugs and loud neighbors. A bad hotel can provide a nice room but drastically overcharged prices or a beautiful resort with terrible staff.

From Rob Pastor
Posted April 20, 2012 at 8:03 AM
Portofino Bay Resort, Universal Orlando. One word describes the experience, "PERFECTION".

From Justin M
Posted April 20, 2012 at 8:10 AM
Waldorf Astoria On Disny Property is now the best resort to stay at when visiting Orlando. Half the price of a Deluxe room and twice as nice.

From TH Creative
Posted April 21, 2012 at 6:24 AM
The Contemporary Resort. High floor. Facing the Magic Kingdom. Gold star guest service. Location, location, location -- walking distance to the planet's number one theme park. One of the country's best restaurants (California Grill). Free parking.

From Nick Markham
Posted April 21, 2012 at 7:34 AM
What it takes is for me to take just one look, step back, and say "WOW". It seems an easy or random feat, but every time such an event has occurred, the rest of the hotel never fails to impress.

Hotels which of done this for me are: Loew's Portofino Bay, Disney's Grand Californian, Disney's Wilderness Lodge

From Rob Pastor
Posted April 21, 2012 at 9:40 AM
Nick. Exactly. When my girlfriend and I pulled up to Portofino the first time, the first word out of our mouths, simultaneously, was WOW.

From N B
Posted April 21, 2012 at 11:02 PM
All three Universal hotels are amazing. Besides the parks, that is reason number two reason why we return year after year. Best guest service I have ever experienced.

The hotels are always immaculate and desk services / concierge is amazing. 58 days and counting....

From Anthony Murphy
Posted April 22, 2012 at 8:39 AM
Animal Kingdom Lodge

From Carrie Hood
Posted April 22, 2012 at 10:01 AM
In a hotel, my main concerns are "Location" and "Clean" followed by "Price". Before I sign any paperwork I always ask to inspect my room first to make sure it's exactly what I booked. Most hotels have no problem and will often escort you to make sure it meets what you booked.

I don't worry about staying in Themed hotels at parks, simply because I'm cheap. The rooms within my budget I can find outside the parks for a better value with the same perks. While I would love to stay in the big resorts at times my brain tells me "Why pay $200 a night for THAT resort when you can pay $300 a week over there and have that extra money for goodies? Besides your only sleeping there and storing your crap, not like it's a cruse and your going to be spending a lot of time in your room!" and I always follow that instinct.
I think that's why we can manage as many trips as we do every year on our limited budget (Think college students only working part-time), because we always look for the best deal and will hunt it down to get it.

From N B
Posted April 22, 2012 at 4:41 PM
Carrie, you make some good points but Universal gives you unlimited Express pass for both parks which is really expensive to purchase separately.

I just did a quick check on the Universal website. Four two-park Express Passes for 8 days would run $2127.68 (yikes) if I wanted to purchase the same thing we get for free.

The difference is the ones you have to purchase only allow to visit each attraction once where as the free on-site version is unlimited.

I then priced 2 park tickets for three adults and one child for the 8 days we will be there. That came to $1221.92

Add the two figures together and you will come up with $3349.60. Our total for the Hard Rock stay in June was $3170 which inlcudes 14 day Universal park to park and Sea World tickets, unlimited Express Plus, and of course 8 nights at the hotel.

Since I am a glass is half full person, I see the included perks and park tickets costing more than the entire stay, or the 8 day hotel room total costing $-179.60. TH will point out I have to pay to park at the hotel, so let's add in the cost at $24 a day for valet, which comes to $192.

That brings the hotel room to a total of $12.40 for 8 days..... at least in my way of thinking. :)

The Hard Rock room alone with no Express perk or park tickets runs about $243 a night for a Garden / Pool view with two queen size beds. So, yes it sounds expensive by itself, but I look at it a completely different way.

From Rob Pastor
Posted April 22, 2012 at 7:17 PM
NB: Enjoy your vacation..... We're leaving in a few days. It seems like forever since we've been counting down from our last visit in Spring 2011. And we are going to spend some time at the pool & restaurants at Hard Rock, per your recommendations. Just a short enjoyable boat cruise from Portofino. Salutations.

From N B
Posted April 23, 2012 at 1:22 PM
Sounds good Rob, have a great trip, be safe and enjoy your stay. My daughter was just figuring out how many days until vacation, I yelled out "fifty six"....

Don't forget to visit the completely revamped Chez Alcatraz in San Francisco. The food thier used to be pretty terrible, but they moved Bruce right next to it. They now have all sorts of tropical shark drinks and scrapped everything else for a real menu.

I am also going to hit the Coke Freestyle machine in Richter's Burgers for a Raspberry Lemonade Sprite. (You can custom make any flavor)

Be sure to let us know how the trip went.

From Rob Pastor
Posted April 23, 2012 at 5:14 PM
NB: Thanks for the Chez Alcatraz tip. We'll have a few there.And of course we'll have some Hurricanes at Pat O'Brien's in Citi Walk while listening to the great musicians at the piano bar...Yes, I was already planning the Coke stop. It sounds interesting...And I'm really psyched about the Spider Man update. But unfortunately I'll be too early for Despicable Me, which I predict will be one of the most pleasant surprize attractions of the year. This year's Universal segment (12 days) of the vacation is a few days longer than 2011 so we have more time to explore.

From Carrie Hood
Posted April 23, 2012 at 6:22 PM
True enough it can be a good deal but personally we're never at the parks when it's busy so we rarely even use Fast Passes at Disney and have never run into the occasion when we even thought of the need for express passes. So that's an expense we've never even considered them into our budget to be perfectly honest. I believe the only time we bought something similar was at Kings Island for "Halloween Haunt" when we got a shockingly good deal, $31 per person with a meal included so we sprung for the unlimited front line pass at $40 per person since that's what a meal and full price ticket would have cost us anyway. I have to say, that night it was entirely worth it even if it was -4.2 million degrees!

Often we'll check the online deals for months in advance when it comes to tickets, I believe in 2010 we paid around $290 for four day, park hoppers at USO as they where running at deal for those at the time. They also had another perk at the time of doing a 30 minute survey about your trip and what you plan to do would net you free parking for your entire stay, so naturally we did that also.

Everyone just has a different style of travel, perhaps when we're out of college with (hopefully) more successful (or at least full time) jobs we'll change out of our "How to be as cheap as possible" ways but for now they seem to work. Everytime I've priced the resorts out, which I'll randomly do just to check, I've gotten better deals for us staying off property. I wish that wasn't the case but for now that's what our budget allows.

Maybe in the future!

From N B
Posted April 23, 2012 at 7:41 PM
I completely understand. We go during peak Summer, so Express is essential to maximize our vacation time. All day theme park visits make for a non-relaxing trip, in my opinion.

From Robert Niles
Posted April 24, 2012 at 10:04 AM
To clarify, the last four things bolded in my original piece were things I wanted eliminated, not included, in the ideal hotel room.

From Joshua Counsil
Posted April 24, 2012 at 11:28 PM
Yes, I should have been clearer about that. With that in mind, the hotel has 10/14 of the amenities Robert requests while also being affordable and in a prime location.

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