Hotel & Motel Happiness

Sun 'N Sand Route 66 New Mexico neon photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved. Pinterest is fine, just please don't steal my work! Thanks!

Last week I stumbled across this article (press release, really) about business travelers’ behaviour and preferences. It didn’t surprise me to read that, when hotel-bound, many business travelers turn to social media apps on their smartphones and, even better, to catching up on their reading.

For some reason—probably the thought of all those businesspeople tweeting away from their hotel rooms—the article got me to thinking about hotel/motel amenities that leave me a particularly happy camper.

As y’all know, I prefer to stay at (well-kept, mind you) vintage motels like Missouri’s friendly and homey Munger Moss, Fort Lauderdale’s super-swank Blarney Castle Motel, or Tucumcari, New Mexico’s also-swank Motel Safari: at mom & pops like these you’re likely to be checked in by the owner, not a bored teenager, and they’re generally just darned fun to stay at. Every room is likely to be different, have those little touches the chains no longer offer, and, I’d say, 9 times out of ten, check off every item on the list below for me.

Still, mom & pop-style motels and motor courts always available, so you’re stuck with one of the big boys—but even these can sometimes, depending upon the management, surprise even the most discriminating retro-loving traveller! Let’s go on the presumption that the lodging we’re checking into is already in a very safe area and very clean; those are requirements in my book, not “amenities”, and let’s just presume Not Blinkingit’s well-priced, too.

Windows that open.   Finding myself overnighting in a hotel can often leave one feeling confined—especially after a day of freedom on the road. If I walk into my hotel room and can open that window even a crack, allowing some fresh air in, I can’t tell you how happy this makes me.

A sense of security. For me AND my car, even in a safe area.   Nah, this didn’t go first, because I have the means and, importantly, the will to defend myself (and often my very tall, broad-shouldered husband accompanying me to boot). Fresh air, folks! But if I ask for a room above the main floor when that’s an option, please don’t put me on the first floor. Nor do I like walking in to the lobby to see a bunch of iffy-looking people just loafing around. I like to see attentive staff noting everyone who walks in the door, a well-lit parking lot with a couple of security cameras, the ability to see my car from my lockable window (that opens at least a bit!), and every single external door saving the lobby door requiring a hotel passkey to enter.

BIG bonus points when your staff asks if I’d like someone to accompany to my car after dark (thank you, favourite place to stay in Morgantown). Additional points for having a few heavy-duty locks on the door (though I always carry a big, old-school wedge doorstop with me—wedged into the room-side of the door, it can help keep it shut and will, if nothing else, buy you reaction time).

Enviable Souvenirs

Old motel keychains from Route 66 motor courts, motels, and hotels.

A little shelf in the shower. I’m a woman. I bring a few things into that shower with me. Also, being a woman, I shave my legs. Trying to do this at the (otherwise wonderful!) Sleep Inn Amarillo, which has only walk-in showers that have nowhere to put a) my shower things or b) my foot, was an adventure, especially early in the morning!

Peace and quiet.   I don’t mind or even care if there’s a big shebang going on in the hotel. The sounds of fellow guests walking down the hall having a chat doesn’t bother me, and if my neighbor’s television is a liiiiittle too loud, even that is not going to bother me too much, particularly if it alerts me to the presence of a favourite movie being on. But if those shebang revelers begin roaming the halls shouting and laughing uproariously for long periods

Cozied Up

Obviously not a hotel, but this snap of a dozing Buckley does seem to symbolize someone enjoying peace & quiet.

of time, particularly after 11PM or so…I’m probably not going to be happy. If it’s going on after midnight, I definitely won’t be (hey, some of us have to be up early).

This happened to me once: revellers roaring about the hotel, leaving me feeling as if I were staying in a frat house, not what was supposed to be a nice place! Worse, though, the staff did nothing to calm the other guests down, so the non-stop noise continued until about 3AM. If a hotel staff is not going to keep guests from disturbing other guests at night, that’s a problem.

On the other hand, we have the Indy Hyatt that somehow managed to keep a few dozen very happy *ahem ahem alcohol was involved AHEM* flight attendant convention attendees quiet and the Hampton Inn I stopped at in southern Illinois: “You may not want to stay here, miss,” suggested the clerk. “Two Little League teams checked in and it’s probably going to get loud for a while.” He then sent me to the competition across the street. I love that clerk, and left wishing I had homemade cookies to give him.

Non-mildewy towels & non-abrasive, or at least very LOW abrasion, sheets.    Eau d’mildew. Definitely NOT the best part of waking up. Same goes for the sheets. I

Munger Moss Motel. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved

Why can’t I find faucets like this for MY house?

don’t expect 1600 thread-count or whatever the supposed minimum for comfort is these days, but always smile with a bit of relief when a quick running of my hand over the pillowcases reveals softness.

Powerful shower.    No one likes a drizzle (and as a woman with a veritable mane of thick hair, I really hate drizzles). I’d much rather be blasted through the shower wall by a powerful jet of nice, warm water. Such was my experience at the Best Western Kirkwood, not far from St. Louis’ famed Ted Drewe’s: the showerheads at this (very nice) hotel could blast dried concrete off an elephant. After a long day curled up in the front seat of the car, getting out of the car to wander around, and getting back in—well, that blast of water was perfect for my sore muscles! Way to go, Best Western. All hotel showers should be like yours.

Truly friendly, informative staff.    We’re all familiar with the sort of hotel clerk who doesn’t even know where the nearest fast-food joint is, much less a, say, Cuban restaurant, good thrift, or great used bookstore can be found. Of course, if you walk into a mom & pop, the owners are likely to give you a list of their own favourite places in addition to knowing where you’ll find what you’re looking for. If you’ve left your toothpaste behind somewhere, they’ll have mini-tubes at best or will tell you where the drugstore with a sale is at worse. Heck, Gail of the Safari lent us her wineglasses & corkscrew when we asked about wine! Ramona of the Munger Moss will offer you a Coffee Whirlpoolcup of joe and gab your ear off if you like. That’s what I would love to see from staff in every hotel or motel: A warm, friendly welcome. Assistance if I need it. DATA. I love it when I want to come back just to chat hotel owners & their employees!

In-room coffee and coffemaker, gratis.    It needn’t be fancy, particularly since when I’m on the road and need that first infusion, it’s very early and I don’t care what it is. Just java. Java that can percolate away right in my room while I’m in the shower. Please. Not having to drive to a coffee shop for this necessary infusion in this morning, not even having to trudge to the lobby for it, makes me SO happy. Oh: Tea is good, too.

Blackout curtains.   Do I need to go into this?

And To All A Good Night

Non-offensive decor.    I don’t just mean no centerfolds on the walls. Rooms with a dozen competing patterns and textures are not exactly relaxing, are they? I’m sure we can all think of a few bed-and-breakfasts still chugging along with 1990s-style, seizure-inducing “kountry” decor. DON’T DO IT. Soothing, neutral colours (but colours—not all white or all tan, ew). Take a look at the photo from the Safari, above, or this one from Kentucky’s Aspen Hall Manor to see calmingly-decorated hotel (or B&B, as the case may be) rooms. Now, some of the retro motels can and do get away with multiple patterns, I will tell you that; several I’ve stayed at boast of homemade quilts on the bed and that sort of thing, and I love it! Somehow, in a place like that, it’s different than a chain place. It’s homey (unless it’s one of those Maelstrom of Chintz B&Bs; then, I’m running out the door). Hey, it’s my list, I can contradict myself!

Room & Board

Part of our non-offensive room at Ohio’s Bailey House B&B—a truly fine place to stay. You can probably see some of my joy-inducing amenities right in this photo, can’t you?

A chair or sofa or a *chair and desk!*.    This may sound odd to some folks, but I like being able to sit on something other than the bed for reading and working in my room. Anybody else?Bedside, vintage lyre-back chair & desk photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images, all rights reserved.

A mini-fridge.   Now, this is a tall order, particularly for mom & pop motels, and it’s not a must have—again, these are things that make me happy to see in my hotel room. But even an itty-bitty, six-cans-of-soda-sized mini fridge makes me very happy, since it allows me to stash my medication (which needs to be refrigerated—troublesome on a road trip) and any food inside. If not, an ice machine nearby so I can fill the (mini) cooler is deeply appreciated!

Internet access. In the room.   I’ve stayed at a lot of mom & pops that offered free wi-fi so we can check our emails and put out any fires. It’s free. The owner says, “Oh, our guest wi-fi is ‘Z’ and here’s the password. If you have any trouble, just let me know.” Then there are places like the Doubletree, where you have to pay an additional $20 a day for in-room internet of any sort. Or you can take your exhausted self to the lobby and work there, where the internet is free. For Pete’s sake, Doubletree. Kick down already.

Munger Moss Motel Route 66 neon. Photo copyright Jen Baker/Liberty Images; all rights reserved. Pinning is fine, please just don't steal my work! Thanks.

Oh, YES.

Neon.    Buzzing, flickering, brilliant neon. If your hotel has neon signage, you automatically have my attention—particularly if it’s clearly loved neon. Bonus points for neon running along the motel itself or little neon flourishes above garage bays!

Well, those are the things that make me smile after checking out my hotel room. What about you? Any must-haves (like windows that open)?

Happy driving!

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2 thoughts on “Hotel & Motel Happiness

  1. We stayed in a cool roadside motel in Canada on our honeymoon and it was lovely! I only wish someone had a website that cataloged them, as it would be nice to stay at one again if we travel on our anniversary next month.

    • I’ve found that you really have to look around to find a good Mom & Pop, though the internet does make that easier. There are a couple of websites semi-dedicated to them, but there doesn’t seem to be anything comprehensive, that’s for sure. What about asking other travellers in a travel forum, or on a site dedicated to your location? I’ve had fair luck that way before!

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