Choosing the Right Hotel.

First, a disclaimer: I am by no means an expert on this subject, but I can legitimately claim to have stayed in a lot of hotels—some good, a few not so good. That said, over the years I’ve observed several things about individual hotels that are of little or no consequence by themselves, but it only takes  one or two of these little irritants to add up to my being disappointed with my stay when checking out. 

The extraordinary lobby in The Palmer House in Chicago.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the qualities I look for (and look out for) in a hotel.

1.  I start with the published daily rate. If it fits my budget and I do book a room there, I ask myself if my stay was worth the money when I check out. I don’t need a specific reason.

2. If I find a property that looks promising, I spend a little time on line comparing what they say about themselves with comments from previous guests. I ignore the chronic complainers.

4. If you are a member of a hotel chain’s frequent guest club—such as the Hilton Honors program—be sure they know that when you check in. In addition to earning free stays, membership often results in little perks you might not even notice, but which can make your stay a little bit more comfortable. Being assigned a room close to the elevators, for example.

4. If a hotel touts its “FREE BREAKFAST BUFFET”, be wary. Much of the time, that means standing in line for over-cooked, tepid scrambled eggs that have been sitting on the steam tray for too long. If that’s true for the eggs, it will surely be true for the rest of the supposedly hot breakfast dishes.

4. I check to see if “Eggs Benedict” is on the breakfast menu. This classic dish is not hard to prepare, but the poaching of the eggs takes some tending by one of the cooks. It’s a good sign if they will go to the extra trouble to offer this particular dish.

5. If you ordered fried potatoes with your breakfast and the ketchup is brought to the table in the original, half-full bottle, the rest of the breakfast had better be pretty damn good.

6. Does your breakfast coffee come in a cup or a mug? If it’s a mug, the  hotel is saving pennies by not having to wash saucers. What other  corners are they cutting? 

7. Don’t hesitate to complain. Be nice. Be polite. But if the hotel is expensive and breakfast turns out to be ordinary or the service is poor, let them hear about it. I know this sounds obvious, but the more your breakfast costs, the better it should be.

8. Send in an “Atta Boy”—a letter to the hotel’s General Manager praising his staff for some small, but genuinely nice or helpful service performed: the bellman who ran through the rain to a nearby drug store to pick up a medication you needed.

9. Don’t be a chronic complainer. Life is too damn short!