D’you know who sneaked into my stateroom at three o’clock this morning? … Nobody, and that’s my complaint!
- Groucho Marx, Monkey Business
Apparently Groucho was alluding to the lack of some “unclassified” amenity in that film scene. But all jokes aside, travelers often give an exaggerated sense of importance to certain amenities in the hotels they patronize—even if those amenities were not promised in the first place.
Amenities depend on context. In some remote properties in exotic or undeveloped areas, a mosquito-free or even a rat-free environment could be regarded as a desirable amenity. However, in major cities these and other conveniences are taken for granted and regarded as givens, even by undemanding travelers.
Budget-savvy travelers, often well acquainted with the written and unwritten rules of international hospitality, seldom make complaints about the non-presence of amenities, knowing that each additional (non-essential) service renders the property less and less affordable. This is not true, however, for a growing group of more naïve travelers that expects hotel services that are not necessarily essential. According to the accumulating experience of hotel proprietors and staff, these latter travelers’ demands often border on unreasonable.
Many small cheap hotels in Paris, for example, have very basic amenities (if any), and this contributes to their simplicity and affordability. Which amenities are indispensable to me? Provided the basic hotel qualities are met (cleanliness, hygiene, honesty, safety, a civilized environment, reasonable infrastructure, a comfortable bed, etc.), I can do perfectly well without the rest.
Here are many of the major amenities you’ll find listed for most hotels. What do I, as an ultra-cheapo, think of them? Let’s investigate!
No longer an amenity. Looking for—and demanding—a smoke-free environment is no longer a personal preference but a vital health imperative—an individual and social obligation. Nowadays, almost all Parisian hotels are smoke-free, though some of them are known to not fully enforce the regulation, as hinted by the pervasive stench some guests have noticed. Still, some properties keep a few rooms for inveterate smokers (such as the Hotel des Boulevards, nonetheless a Cheapo favorite).
The great majority of quality budget hotels in Paris offer free Wi-Fi, in contrast to their luxury counterparts, which usually charge a considerable rate for it. To me, Wi-Fi is one of the most significant amenities—if not the most significant—that a hotel can offer. However, with the numerous Wi-Fi hotspots that Paris offers at the moment, if your hotel doesn’t have it, pas grave! (See the related article on where to find free Wi-Fi in Paris.)
I find the concierge to be a costly and fully dispensable amenity. In more expensive hotels, the concierge is usually in charge of special services for guests, such as arranging tours or tickets. Undoubtedly, a budget-conscious and knowledgeable traveler in the EuroCheapo vein knows well how to deal with his/her touristic duties. Being street-smart and self-reliant saves you euros! Having said that, a few quality cheap hotels (incredibly enough) do offer concierge services in Paris.
A simple French phrasebook or, even better, a functional understanding of the local language may help the frugal traveler deal with everyday hospitality-related interactions. Keeping a multilingual staff is usually costly for a hotel and even more so for a budget sleep; this “amenity” tends to be disproportionately reflected in the final bill. However, as I have remarked before, many of our favorite Cheapo-friendly properties have managed to assemble a multilingual (and very friendly) staff without imposing undue charges on the prudent traveler. Kudos for Le Laumière, de l’Espérance, Paris Villette, Champerret Heliopolis, Perdrix Rouge, Marignan and many others.
Unless you’re a hardcore Tour de France fan and travel to Paris for the exclusive purpose of watching the TV transmission of the famed race, going to one of the most alluring cities in the world and wishing to spend time in front of a TV is something of an incongruity. Still, a substantial proportion of guests at Parisian hotels complain bitterly that there are only French language shows (!). I personally couldn’t care less for a TV set in my hotel. And, each year, I am able to follow the whole Tour from the faraway comfort of my own home.
Air conditioning/Ceiling fan
I’ve never been to Paris during the hottest peaks of summer, so the lack of air conditioning in my hotels has never bothered me. The common ceiling fan (or portable fan borrowed from the front desk) usually suffices in case of moderate heat. However, I reckon that trying to sleep in the July-August sweltering heat is an ordeal most travelers from temperate countries are not willing to endure.
Some consider it the quintessential tourist trap. This small snack and beverage bar offers its inventory at generally very high prices (when compared to the equivalent items purchased in grocery stores). A certain type of hotel guest is easily tempted with the minibar. Our EuroCheapo-friendly properties generally have no need to offer one.
Fully dispensable. I always take mine everywhere I go. Fine as token lightweight souvenirs for the children back home, but not as an additional and unnecessary item on your bill.
Most of my acquaintances have told me they prefer to take their laundry loads to a laverie once during their stay, and so do I. If I tried to iron my clothes with a hot iron, my life insurance premiums would rise by several orders of magnitude, so in this entry I save by not using an iron.
Ninety percent of responders to a recent survey stated that they didn’t care for this feature when booking a hotel. I’m glad to be counted as part of the majority on this item.
A sensible device. I’ve never needed one but many do, and I should consider using it.
I seldom use direct phones in hotels and my impression is that they are becoming less and less indispensable.
No thanks! I can manage…
A useful device for some. I’ve never actually needed one, except in one lone occasion in an emergency situation.
Very stylish, but no thanks! Another pointless sort of “gift”, which will be eventually reflected in your bill.
Maybe… but I will pass and get my coffee from a café!
What hotel amenities could you not live without? Leave a comment below.