What Makes A Top 100 Hotel? (Business Traveler Edition)

The readers of Travel + Leisure magazine  have rated their top hotels, and the magazine has produced a “top 100” list from the results.  The hotels feature a lot of beautiful views, enormous rooms and posh furnishings, and extremely expensive prices.

mint_pillowThat’s all well and good, but it’s pretty much irrelevant to the travel that most of us experience.  We’re business travelers, and except for rare occasions we don’t stay at places by lakes — unless you count those artificial ponds with the spraying fountain in the middle — or any staggering natural beauty.  We’re in downtown areas for the most part, on a block of a city grid that looks pretty much like the next block over.  So, the Travel + Leisure ratings might be interesting, but they don’t have much application to our daily business travel lives.

So, what do business travelers care about?  Speaking for myself, I’d say the baseline needs are a place that is quiet and clean.  Quiet, so I can try to get a good night’s sleep after after a busy travel and work day, and clean, so that I don’t notice dust bunnies under the bed or something left by the person who stayed in the room last night, and I can at least maintain the pretense that I’m not staying in a room that is probably used by hundreds of total strangers every year.  After those basics, I’m looking for a room that has the right functional furniture — a desk is a must — a comfortable bed that isn’t covered in accent pillows that need to be thrown on the floor and that might trip me when I go to the bathroom, and an easy-to-use coffee maker that can make at least two cups of decent regular coffee.  If you then throw in a shower with lots of hot water and decent water pressure, you’ve got a top 100 business hotel in my book.

No need for a mint on the pillow, or turn-down service, or a huge room.  Just make sure I’m not awakened in the middle of the night by a party down the hallway, and I’ll come back.

Get Up Early, Or Go The Night Before?

I’ve been on the road a fair amount lately, and I’ve been facing the classic business traveler’s dilemma:  I’ve got to be in another city for a meeting that begins at 10 a.m.  Should I get up early and take the first flight of the day that will get me there just in time, or should I give up a night at home and head to the location of the meeting the night before?

IMG_6548My position on this unenviable choice has changed.  I used to be all in favor of staying home and spending as much time with my family as possible, and then getting up before the crack of dawn, hitting the airport, and trusting in the benevolence of the Travel Gods.  Then I had one instance where the Travel Gods weren’t kind, my flight was delayed and then rerouted, and I ended up missing an important meeting.  The people involved were gracious about it, but I vowed that I would never let that happen again.

One other thing changed that also altered my perspective:  I realized that I simply never got a good night’s sleep the night before, no matter what the circumstances.  My subconscious brain was so worried about oversleeping that I was tossing and turning all night, waking up every 15 minutes to look bleary-eyed at the clock radio before finally, wearily, giving up on trying to get some shuteye and getting up even earlier than I really needed to to make the flight.

So now I always — always — go in the night before.  If the Travel Gods are unkind, as they frequently are, I’ll just get in even later than planned.  But I’ll still be there in time for the meeting, and in the meantime I just might get some sleep, too.

I Will Never Rent A Car From Avis Again

  

Avis’ familiar slogan is “We Try Harder.”  Hah!

Today I had my worst car rental experience in more than 30 years of business Teavel.  I flew to Denver with an Avis car reservation in hand.  When I got to the Avis terminal I had to wait in line for more than an hour to get my car — and then when I went to the car I learned that it had also been promised to another traveler.  

There is simply no excuse for this.  I’d be willing to bet that most of the Avis customers had reservations, so Avis had to know how many people were coming — and should have staffed up.  Obviously they didn’t, and they thereby showed that customer service is not their priority.  I won’t forget that.

There are lots of car rental options; I could easily have picked one of Avis’ competitors.  Next time, I will.  Congratulations, Avis!  You’ve just lost one customer forever.

Disposable

IMG_20150616_065837

In a hotel room, you always get a sad half cup.  A measly, generic shot of Joe to start your work day.

No actual china or stoneware coffee cup for you, my friend!  No, you’ll sip your brew from a paper cup that immediately gets stained by coffee splatter and looks like something you’d find in a bus station trash can.  It’s temporary and disposable, just like you.  Sure, we call you a “guest,” but we both know that in a few hours you’ll be gone, scrubbed clean from this room like you never stayed here.  So you’ll make do with this cheap paper cup, won’t you?

It’s not exactly an inspiring way to start the travel work day, but sometimes it’s better to be slapped with the harsh realities of the world before you go too far down the road.

The At The Airport At The End Of A Long Day Roundelay

IMG_20140417_211130I’m at the airport, sad to say
I sing the airport roundelay

I left before the dawn’s first ray
Long hours ago, to my dismay

I’m at the end of a long day
At which I’ve had all work, no play

The seating area has a strong bouquet
The guy next door brought Chipotle

I’m hoping there’s no flight delay
Were I religious, for that I’d pray

So don’t tell me of travel’s cachet
I sing the airport roundelay

That Generic Hotel Lobby Atrium Look

IMG_4918Some time in the distant past, someone designed, for the first time, a hotel lobby with a towering atrium and glass elevators and concrete walkways that allowed you to look down on other patrons far below.  It apparently was a hugely successful design, because it has been copied again, and again, and again.  My current hotel is just another example.

So many hotel interiors have that interior atrium design that the look has become generic, giving business travel a kind of mind-numbing sameness.  It’s one big reason why I like to stay in old hotels if I have that option.  At least the old hotels tend to have a dash of individuality and flair.

O’Hare

O’Hare.  Mention it to any business traveler, and you are likely to hear a groan and a war story about some travel mishap.

O’Hare.  The fifth-busiest airport in the world.  Named for World War II flying hero and Congressional Medal of Honor winner Edward Henry (“Butch”) O’Hare, who bravely faced down a group of bombers heading for his aircraft carrier.

O’Hare.  It’s unavoidable if you live in Columbus and need to go just about anywhere to the west.  You’re likely to be routed through O’Hare on the way out and on the way back.  You keep your fingers crossed that there won’t be a line of thunderstorms, or snow storms, or wind storms that blow out your travel schedule and bring the nation’s air traffic system to its knees.  Otherwise, you’ll find yourself wandering through one of the bustling concourses at O’Hare, wondering how you’re going to get to where you want to go.

O’Hare.  I spent the night there once, after my flight in from the west coast was delayed and I arrived at O’Hare at about 1:30 a.m. to learn that every hotel room in the airport was booked and my flight out would leave at 5:40 a.m.  There was no place to sleep and no where to go so I walked back and forth on the concourse, like one of the dazed passengers on The Poseidon Adventure, counting down the minutes until my flight left.  It was probably the longest four hours of my life.

O’Hare.  I’m heading there today, and I’m hoping it doesn’t rise up and bite me, again.