Four Thoughtful Things all Luxury Hotels Should Offer
Leah Walker February 28, 2014

As my roster of five-star hotels grows, I find myself increasingly more persnickety. I think this is perfectly normal considering the more we experience, whether it be food, fashion, wine, airlines, or something as simple as cable service, the more selective we become. Though, I do feel like I’ve been ruined a bit.

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Now, a perfectly lovely hotel gets picked apart. However, it wasn’t too long ago that I would have to actively search in order to find fault. Now that I’ve been exposed to multiple luxury brands across four continents, my eyes immediately go to two things: What sets this luxury hotel apart from the rest? What is this luxury hotel missing? I sometimes find this disconcerting. For instance, I’ll catch myself griping about how my slippers weren’t laid out during turndown service. Really? Like I’m incapable of walking over to the closet and pulling out the slippers myself?

After slapping my face for sounding like a spoiled brat, I then rationalize that it’s part of my job to notice and report these sorts of things. This critical eye has become innate and thus difficult to turn off. It’s like my inability to read anything, even menus, without editing, which I attribute to ten years of teaching English. My pickiness has taken a bit of enjoyment out of experiencing luxury hotels. I know that’s difficult to believe and realize that it’s a first-world problem, so to speak.

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On the other side of the coin is the excitement I feel from finding an amenity or service that I’ve never experienced. Given my most recent stays in Asian and Paris hotels, this has happened quite often. It may sound silly, but I just love discovering little nuances that I’d not seen previously.

This past summer I wrote the article, “Six Simple Amenities that All Luxury Hotels Should offer,” where I applauded everything from adapters in the room to a hotel branded quart-sized Ziploc bag, perfect for carrying the unused toiletries in your carry on. I suppose you could say that this list is a more sophisticated follow up. So, without further ado, here are four thoughtful things that have utterly spoiled me.

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Fragrance

 

I adore beautiful scents, whether that be in the form of perfume, candles, lotions, or soaps. Fragrances trigger memories. One sniff of Bath and Body Works plumeria lotion and I’m back in college. On my first trip to Paris, I made sure to pick a unique perfume that with one spray would take me back to the City of Light.

I don’t believe I’m alone in regard to scents evoking memories, which is why I think it’s a brilliant marketing move for hotels to include a special scent for guests to take home. For instance, Hotel Fouquet’s Barriere in Paris offers a branded fragrance line. There are a couple of different scents, which are prominently displayed at the front desk.

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That alone is interesting, but what makes this more memorable is the travel size of fragrant oil I found in my bathroom amenities. Now, I carry the bottle in my toiletries bag, and every time I spray it, I think of Foquet’s, which is probably one of the objectives of including the scent in the first place. In addition, Mandarin Oriental in Munich places a beautiful smelling bath oil on guests’ pillow for turn down service. Don’t think that didn’t make its way in to my bag. Genius, I say.

Safe

 

Stay with me here. I know that most hotels, even three-star, offer in-room safes. However, what sends tingles up and down my spine are the safes that are large enough for a laptop. My computer is probably the most important thing I have in regard to my business, so why would I just leave it sitting out in the open or tuck it under the mattress {which is useless}? Given the high volume of business travelers staying in luxury hotels, why isn’t a safe capable of holding a laptop not a standard amenity? I certainly don’t know.

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Now what really gets me excited is a safe that also includes an electrical plug. I first encountered this last month while staying at Paris’ Hotel Napoleon. I never even considered this as an option, but now it’s something that I look for in my luxury hotel stays. Think about it. Having a plug in the safe allows you to charge any of your electronics, while still keeping them protected. Well played, Hotel Napoleon.

Motorized Curtains

 

Wanting to close the curtains at the push of a button may sound incredibly spoiled and lazy, but hear me out. Most luxury hotels feature thick curtains, many of which are floor-to-ceiling. These enable guests to black out the room and sleep comfortably without the sun burning holes through their eyelids. Since these drapes are heavy, it takes a Herculean effort in order to close them.

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Now, imagine guests jerking on these curtains like an Olympic weight lifter throws a barbell above his head. If every guest does this multiple times per stay, how long do you think these curtains will actually remain attached to their track? Not long at all, I’m afraid. I’ve actually torn drapes down on a few occasions. Though, when I was at the Shangri-La Kowloon in November, I simply pressed a button to reveal the gorgeous Victoria Harbor and once more to block the bright lights of the Hong Kong skyline. And most recently at Carlton Hotel in St. Moritz, buttons to open and close the sunshades were on either side of the king-sized bed and in the hallway. Simple and no call to maintenance is required.

Hair Dryer

 

Do not underestimate the importance of the hair dryer in a hotel room. It’s one of the very first things I notice. Sub-par equipment will totally make me re-evaluate my entire hair-washing schedule, and I know I’m not alone on this one. I’m stricken with horror when I see a hair dryer mounted to the wall, no matter how many stars a hotel has. Obviously men, probably with no hair, think this style of blow dryer is a good idea. It’s not.

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I’m here to tell you that these things should be banned like lead paint and asbestos. I recently stayed at a European five-star hotel that had a wall-mounted hair dryer, and the cord was so short that I had to enter into three different yoga positions just to do my hair. Folks, this was no small feat considering I can’t even touch my toes.

What tickles me to no end is finding a monster of a hair dryer lovingly placed in its own bag. I’m talking about a machine with a motor that could have been built by Boeing. In my room at the Mandarin Oriental in Paris, I encountered one such machine, and it was a thing of beauty. And if you’re lucky enough to find a Black Mambo dryer like at Paris’ Hotel Fouquet’s Barriere then you’re lucky enough. It’s the Holy Grail of blow dryers, and I am Galahad.

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I suppose I’ve become a bit of a hotel collector, though not for some sort of bragging rights. I genuinely love the experience of staying in a hotel. All the extras in regard to service and amenities are what separate a good hotel from a great one. It’s the little things that make a place special, and I’m constantly on the hunt for something different. A hotel’s effort is definitely not lost on me.

Note: There are affiliate links in this post, meaning I make a small commission if you make a purchase through my links. It costs you nothing more, but helps keep me stocked in French wine {and a roof over my head}.

Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, The Daily Basics, Bonjour Paris, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's thrilled to call Paris home after being awarded the coveted three-year Compétences & Talents visa from France, though her talents don't extend to speaking French. Yet.

45 Comments

  1. We’re so with you on the motorized curtains. Closing or opening them can be such a chore. And considering what you’re shelling out to stay in a luxury hotel, this sort of pampering should be standard.

  2. Dead on with the amenities and also with your self-analysis about whether it makes one spoiled or simply observant to critique these things. I don’t have the global experience you do, but I continue to find it surprising that within North America and even within the same chain, some amenities vary so widely. My newest fave I discovered just last night at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek – their new room decor includes an easily movable floor lamp with 2 outlets AND a USB plus a gentle LED reading lamp.

  3. I totally agree! They had to call up the IT guy to find out how the curtains worked in my last 2 bed room suite, which looked bad on the luggage guy (and reflected bad on the hotel as well). I have not even thought of looking inside of the safe, as I rarely use them, but feel stupid to leave my $2500+ equipment laying around. (I lock mine up in my luggage, which I guess they could just as easily stroll away!) And a hair dryer is a must, for a gal like me with so much hair! Loved the article!

  4. Oh, I think everyone becomes a bit more persnickety as the more they travel and it doesn’t even need to be luxery travel. I remember my 18 year old hiking the Colorado Trail by himself and reporting to me the differences in the hostiles that he stayed in. Never in a million years would I have guessed that he’d even notice.
    I couldn’t agree with you more about the hair dryer and think the wall ones should be done away with as well.

  5. Like you, I so appreciate the amenities and expect them in luxury hotels. I too photograph those that are special, as well as those that tick me off. Thanks for the great article.

  6. Love this post. I’m exactly the same and regularly have to stop myself from saying this too often because I sound like such a brat! When you’re paying so much for a luxury hotel you do expect a few little extras. When you stay in a lot of hotels it’s easy to forget them so all hotels, even budget ones, such offer a little something for you to remember them.

  7. Ooo I’ve never stayed at a hotel where they offered a fragrance. That’s a fantastic idea, especially because as you noted fragrances really do evoke memories of a time or place. Two things I love in a room are a personal keurig coffee maker and a fantastic balcony.

  8. I think every luxury hotel or resort chain should develop a ‘signature scent’. That is an effective marketing for them! I absolutely adore going to places that offer lotions or other products in ‘their scent’!

  9. A quality hairdryer is paramount, especially when visiting humid locales. One of my favorite amenities? Mouthwash! While its not exactly luxurious it is one less thing to pack. I also love when hotels leave you something fun like the rubber ducky I got from the Hotel 1000 in Seattle.

  10. Funny as I was thinking about the amenities I wish all hotels would offer when I was in NYC this past weekend. Good shampoo and conditioner are at the top. One less thing I have to pack, but if it’s crap I have to pack my own. I’d also like a sound machine, especially in busy city hotels. Guests are noisy, so are the streets and the doors when they close. I travel with my own, but I bet some people wish they had one at 2am when the neighbors are still chatting it up after a night at the clubs!

  11. Hotel amenities are key, but if everyone starts offering everything, then they will not be special. Most lux hotels have been experimenting with fragrance for over 15 years, and it is lovely to walk into hotel X and recognise it by smell. Hair dryers are key and some hotels still have a long way to go – but I think you are on to something with the safe situation. They need to be able to accommodate technology. But all these things will come with a price tag, I know that everyone wants them, but the question is, will they be willing to pay for it? When I pay $400 for a room, I expect x, but when I pay $800, I expect x and y. Not always easy to manage those expectations.

    1. There are different levels of luxury, that is not in question. The amenities are an opportunity to set a hotel apart from its competition. Just because hotel A offers a scent doesn’t mean that hotel B can’t do the same in a different way. The key is to make it their own. There’s nothing new under the sun. It’s just a matter of interpretation.

  12. I’ve been married more than 14 years to a naturally curly haired woman who spends a lot of time straightening and doing who knows what else to that hair. So I long ago learned the importance of a good hair dryer. And, yes, the one in a bag is better than attached to the wall. But to go with that, mirrors in well-lit spaces with plugs for those hair dryers. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard her complain about that. The more complaining she does while getting ready means the longer it is before we go out to start the day. And it has nothing to do with luxury or paying a higher price; it’s common-sense design. And a safe that fits laptops and works with technology, that shouldn’t require a higher price tag. These hotel companies can up the rate by $1 a night and make that money back in a week. Hotels must constantly change with the times, and that includes updates that go along with technology.

  13. It is always cool to come across an amenity you have not seen before. I would love to see complimentary fanny packs for people walking around town. Why not? Many hotels have umbrellas.

  14. Leah, do not get me started on hair dryers!! We both have long hair, you know what I’m talking about… I don’t have 30 min. in the morning to dry & style my hair, so don’t blow lukewarm air! Oh, and an attachment for styling hair would be nice too. There, it’s off my chest now…

  15. I’ve definitely gotten more picky from staying in luxury places. This is a great list and I’d like to see these anywhere I stay! With one caveat… I’m ok with the fragrance thing as long as it’s in the bottle and not all over the room/hotel space. Fragrance is such a personal thing and there are scents I can’t stand that others love, not to mention people with allergies!

  16. The resort chain that I frequent in Mexico offers a gift to its repeat guests of an ‘owl eyes’ sleep mask and a passport cover with their logo on it! Very cute!

  17. hair dryer and motorized curtain seem to be on different levels…. not to mention, I’d love to see those yoga positions when hair drying…. but I agree with you on curtains, however, I want complete curtains… they need to provide complete darkness… sometimes in luxury I need to sleep a little in the daytime, whether it was long-haul travel or the prior night escapades, darkness is key in the day… make it so luxury places, make it so.

    stay luxurious, Craig

    1. I took myself a little nap in broad daylight yesterday. The sunshine was pouring in, but thanks to the thick, velvet curtains, I thought it was midnight. And no, you don’t want to see the yoga positions. You’d hurt yourself from laughing.

  18. hahaha Craig. i know just what you are talking about with blackout curtains and previous nights escapades…cuz we practically stayed up til sunrise in DC! extras are great. as long as the place is clean, has soap, body wash & lotion plus a decent hair dryer….wait, i don’t even think i need that. the coffee in the room (with real milk please) is my biggest priority.

    1. YES to in-room coffee, lola. and i get more and more picky about it. i also really need nice linens. if a luxury hotel doesn’t have a comfy bed and big, cozy towels, then i’m way less likely to splurge on a return.

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