Hotel Stays – Comfort is in the Details

By - May 30, 2011 (Updated: November 21, 2014)

Is this a great hotel room?

Is this a great hotel room?

Andrew and I have been travelling quite a bit recently and that means spending our nights in hotels. We’ve been fortunate to stay in a few really fantastic hotels over the years; Castles, beach resorts, incredible cottages, even a church.  But normally when we travel, the hotel itself is not as important as the destination. We just want a clean, affordable place to lay our heads at night. 

Through our travels we’ve discovered the cost of a hotel room does not always reflect how good an experience we’ll have. Sometimes, it’s the small details that make all the difference to a comfortable stay.

While hopping between B&Bs and hotels in Ireland, Andrew and I discussed what little touches we look for in our rooms. There are a few small things hotels can do to score big bonus points in my books:

  • Of course, I want to see a comfortable bed in any hotel room. Bonus points if there are soft linens that make me want to stay in bed in the morning.
  • I hate getting pillows so flat it feels like putting my head down on a book. Bonus points for big fluffy pillows. Double bonus points if there are two pillows per person.
  • There are few nights I don’t read, at least a few pages, before I go to sleep. I can’t tell you how few hotels have decent reading lights. Either there are no bedside lamps at all, or the wattage is so low I have to take off the lampshade to see my book (Yes, I have actually done this). If there is a nice, bright halogen book light on or beside my bed, this scores big bonus points with me.
Comfy beds and reading lamps

Comfy beds and reading lamps

  • I rarely use mini-bars in hotels, although I am always glad they are there for emergency late night potato chip cravings. What I do need, every night, is a big glass of water, to take my medication. While I can live with tap water in North America and Europe, bonus points go to the hotels that offer a complimentary bottle of water – double bonus points if they replenish it every night.
  • Big points for shower heads with hot water and good pressure. I don’t want to spend 15 minutes trying to get the shampoo out of my hair under a trickle of tepid water.
  • While I’m not a girly-girl about most things, I do love a bubble bath. If a hotel room has a great big tub, I’m in heaven. Double bonus points for Jacuzzi jets.
Love that big tub with jets

Love that big tub with jets

  • Speaking of baths, let’s talk toiletries. I’m not too fussy about brands and I don’t spend a lot of money on shampoo and conditioner. However, I do like to travel as light as I can, so I tend not to bring them with me. Decent shampoo and conditioner in a hotel room is a nice touch. If it smells nice enough for me to want to take it with me, double bonus points.
Nice Toiletries are a big plus in hotels

Nice Toiletries are a big plus in hotels

  • On the subject of hair, it’s always great to have a good in-room hair-dryer (and those things you mount on the wall to dry your hands with do not count).
  • I also need a spot in the bathroom to put my stuff. If you have a pedestal sink, without a counter, please give me a big shelf to put my toiletries on.
  • One of the first things I look for in the hotel room is the big book of hotel amenities. I’m really impressed when this also includes local attractions and restaurants. Double bonus points if there are free maps.
  • Two words – Normal coat-hangers.

Moving outside of the hotel room, there are a few things we look for in the hotel itself. Food, as you know, is an important thing for us, and hotel food can be very hit and miss.

Breakfast is Andrew’s favourite meal of the day so we always prefer if breakfast is included in our room rate. There are a few things about hotel breakfasts that bug us.

Hotel breakfast included please!

Hotel breakfast included please!

  • We’ve been in hotels that charge over 30 euro, just for a breakfast buffet. That’s bad enough, if you plan to start your day with a big meal. I however, normally just want coffee and a croissant. If I have to pay for breakfast, allow me a light breakfast option with a reasonable price.
  • We’ve all seen those breakfast buffet scrambled eggs that look like they are swimming in water – not appetizing. Bonus points if you make my eggs to order. Double bonus points if you have an omelette bar.
  • I’ll also give bonus points if local specialties appear on the buffet or menu. I didn’t travel just to eat the same thing I can get at home.

Not all hotels have restaurants and room service, but for those who do, Andrew has one big request – keep it simple. When he’s travelling for work, he often gets back to his room late and just wants a burger or sandwich. He gets annoyed when hotels try to ‘fancy up’ their menu (usually charging way more in the process).

One last thing that scores big with me is good design. I like hotels with a bit of originality, even if it’s a chain hotel. Recently, we stayed at the Crowne Plaza in Antwerp. Although the rooms were pretty generic, the hotel lobby, bar and restaurant had been recently redecorated. I was impressed with the design and attention to detail. While in these public areas, I wouldn’t automatically think I was in a chain hotel.

Not your typical hotel bar

Not your typical hotel bar

As long as my hotel room is clean, quiet and the staff is pleasant, I’ll be happy enough with my hotel stay. But attention to the small details can make a visit much more comfortable.

What little things do you like to see in your hotel room? What annoys you about accommodations? Share your comments below.

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Alison Cornford-Matheson
Alison Cornford-Matheson is a Canadian freelance writer and travel photographer and the founder of She is the author of The Foodie Guide to Brussels: Local Tips for Restaurants, Shops, Hotels, and Activities. Alison landed in Belgium in 2005 and, over the years, has become passionate about slow and sustainable travel, in Europe and beyond. She loves to discover hidden gems - be they museums, shops, restaurants, castles, gardens or landscapes, and share them through her words and photos. She has visited 45 countries and is currently slow travelling through North America in an RV, with her husband, Andrew, and two well-travelled cats. You can also follow her work on Google+
Alison Cornford-Matheson
- 17 hours ago


  1. Comment by Marta

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Marta May 30, 2011 at 22:09


    A great list – I totally agree with everything but would like to add one thing on my list.

    Triple bonus points for good water pressure in the shower!

    I have long hair and getting conditioner out requires fabulous water pressure – even though I have been known to make due with cold water and a kettle when traveling around the world…

    But still – triple bonus points!

    Thank you – lovely post and photos.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison Cornford-Matheson

      Alison May 31, 2011 at 11:56

      Absolutely! I hate it when you just get a little trickle. 🙂

      • Comment by Marta

        Alison Cornford-Matheson

        Marta May 31, 2011 at 16:28

        Totally! 🙂

  2. Comment by Bluegreen Kirk

    Alison Cornford-Matheson

    Bluegreen Kirk June 21, 2011 at 17:02

    I think my wife would have to agree with your list especially the tub, pillows and food. Im more of the reading so the lights are a must for me and HOT water is must.

    • Comment by Alison

      Alison Cornford-Matheson

      Alison June 21, 2011 at 17:06

      Agreed Kirk, There’s nothing worse than a chilly shower!

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