The Perfect Hotel Clock/Radio and Three Hotel Bathroom Pet Peeves

for four of the past five nights i’ve been living out of a suitcase at hotels near a client’s worksite. which hotel, exactly, has been at the mercy of others (over the weekend) and priceline (during the week, since i’m not picky, as long as it’s clean). as an aside, i’ve gotten two great deals on priceline, especially for weeknight stays where rooms are normally more expensive than weekends. tonight i’m in a four-star (hamilton park, independent) for $72 (69% off, says priceline), and last night i was in a different four-star (hyatt) for $84 (63% off). i was in a hyatt house, their newly-rebranded upscale extended-stay suite hotel (used to be known as summerfield suites and hotel sierra), over the weekend. p.s. kudos to tonight’s hotel and hyatt house for their free wifi, though i must say the $11.95/24 hour wifi at the hyatt, which i only bought because i needed to download a 1.5 GB file, was quite speedy as far as hotel internet goes.

in any case, all this exposure to different hotels has gotten me thinking about what i like and don’t like about each. i’m normally not picky, but like everyone, i have idiosyncratic things that either delight or dismay me.

the perfect hotel clock/radio

The Sharper Image Sound Soother Alarm Clock (at tonight's hotel)

(preface: i’m most definitely not being compensated for this — i just happened to discover the joys of this clock radio when i got to my room this afternoon)

except to tell time, i hardly ever use any of the functions on a hotel alarm clock. i’d rather just tell siri when to wake me up (yes, i’m that guy), or as backup, set up a wake-up call. this alarm clock, however, i just want to hug and take home. not only are the buttons big and clearly-marked, but the display is large, too. the best part, though, is the ipod/iphone dock connector and the top door that turns into a tray to hold your gadget.

why is this a step above just a regular AUX/headphone connector (which is also available)? it charges my phone — which many radios/clocks don’t, either because they weren’t set up to charge i-devices (i.e., you get just the AUX/headphone connector) or they charge using an older charging method which does not work with newer models. this means i don’t need to fish out (and potentially forget) my charger from my bag!

also, the “adjustable slot” for holding your phone or music player is great for those who don’t have an apple product and can’t seat them in a dock connector tray, and perfect for those of us who don’t trust dock connectors to hold up a phone, even with a support on the back. as a bonus, it has a sound generator for “rain”, “surf”, “brook”, and “aviary” and can play “jazz”, “guitar”, “spa”, and “lounge” songs (i’ve played both “rain” and “spa” tonight while working). i’m currently listening to some streaming music and to my untrained ears, it sounds pretty decent. (i would never pump up the volume in a hotel, and at lower listening levels, i certainly can’t complain.)

i’m sure this cost much (MUCH) less than the geneva sound system they have at the andaz in new york, and while the sound, i’m sure, isn’t comparable, i’ll take the sharper image one any day, thankyouverymuch. do you know how long it took me to figure out how to work that thing? (it was so irritating — one of those form over function pieces of crap — that it sticks out in my head almost a year later.) amazeballs hotel, uninspired radio. most definitely not soothing like this one!

three hotel bathroom pet peeves

(a non-exhaustive list of first world problems i’ve noticed over the past couple nights)

  • you get face soap, body soap, shampoo, conditioner, and even a tube of toothpaste, but NO LOTION! [hyatt house]
  • no soap holder in the shower/tub [hyatt] (although those wire rack-type holders are blech as well, since small bars of hotel soap tend to fall right through them if you don’t place them just so and the shampoo bottles never stand up straight, so you have to make sure they don’t tip over and leak)
  • when they place the towels on the other side of the bathroom and you don’t notice until you’re emerging after your shower (hyatt)

Last-minute Hotel Deals Via Phone App & The Affinia Manhattan

i recently discovered several apps that will help you get a deal on last-minute hotel reservations — Hotel Tonight (btw, if you sign up using that link, you can get $25 off your first booking and i’ll get $25 credit as well [transparency!]) and old hotel-deal-standby Priceline (as in, The Negotiator, as am i, as am i).

of course, there are some restrictions–you have to book the day of your first night, and you don’t know what hotels will be available and at what price until a certain point in the day, in the case of Hotel Tonight, noon in the time zone of the hotel (not sure about Priceline, but i think it’s likely similar since i didn’t see any Tonight-only deals when i checked early this morning).

i’ve included some screenshots of both applications below. Hotel Tonight is definitely the snazzier-looking app and has more deals than Priceline — thirteen today in the NYC area compared to three Tonight-only (though, of course, Priceline also has regular and name-your-own-price rooms available through their app as well). Priceline has the benefit of user reviews, whereas Hotel Tonight may give TripAdvisor ratings in the description of the hotel but often does not, so you may have to do some switching between this and TripAdvisor or Yelp or whatever you use for informed decisions, although they claim they listen to user feedback and remove hotels that aren’t up to snuff.

UPDATE (2012-01-29): a Hotel Tonight customer service rep replied (a personal reply to your post-stay survey!) that they are working on adding TripAdvisor ratings to the majority of their hotels.

i can’t say for sure which app i like better, though i know i will definitely be comparison shopping with both. by the way, i booked at the Affinia. i didn’t give much thought to the Priceline hotels this time since i had a $25 sign-up credit with Hotel Tonight to use.

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UPDATE: not only did i score a deal with Hotel Tonight, but i got upgraded at check-in for no reason at all* (as far as i know) to a suite! not like i know what to do with two bathrooms and two closets and a kitchen, but i like it!

* i have a feeling the staff is well-trained (she noticed i booked via Hotel Tonight), and she wanted to nab me as a repeat customer and thus gave me the upgrade. they even hint at the power of the “Impulse Book” as a marketing tool on their site:

We only sell rooms for the same day, so once those Impulse Bookers are introduced to your hotel they’ll book directly through you in the future. HotelTonight will never compete with you for their business again.