How – and Why – to Choose a “Fast” Hotel

Travel tip: When speed matters, choose a hotel with self-service, convenient parking and quick breakfast options. Even if it means sacrificing a star.

I read Tyler Cowen’s blog post called “If they designed a hotel room just to please me” with interest. (I came across it via View from the Wing and Gary Leff’s hotel-room essentials list.) It got me thinking about how I increasingly value hotels that get me in and out quickly. And often these are not the most luxurious hotels.  No matter, since I’m not spending much time in the room, and as long as I can work and sleep adequately, that’s good enough.

Efficiency means, as Cowen pointed out, as little service as possible. At least as little of the human kind as possible. I want to carry my own bags. I don’t want to be interrupted or disturbed in my room. This is not old-fashioned five-star service, but it’s what’s important on many work trips.

It also means that in addition to choosing a hotel based on location, I think about parking. If I’m renting a car, valet parking can be a huge time suck. Someone told me recently that he loves Holiday Inn Express (and this was a five-star property kind of person) because he wants to park his car by his room so he can get to his first meeting of the day quickly.

Breakfast can be another time suck. The advantage to the free hotel breakfast is that it’s fast (because it’s certainly not the quality of the food), but club floor lounges accomplish the same thing with good food [usually]. For me, even better is the increasingly common to-go market in the lobby where I can pick up a piece of fruit and some cereal on my way back up to my room after a run.

Yes, there’s a place for slow in travel. But rarely when you’re on a business trip. When time is of the essence, choosing a hotel that gets you in and out fast can make a big difference in a trip’s success.

Are there other hotel attributes you like that speed you on your way?

Hotel Solution: One Way to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

Travel tip: There’s a simple tool in your hotel room that will close up that irritating gap between the drapes.

Have you ever noticed that hotel room drapes seem universally unwilling to close fully, so that there almost always is a gap between each side. That’s not the end of the world…until you’re trying to sleep in and the sun pours through. Good morning! Not.

The ever-resourceful Carol Margolis, author of Business Travel Success and the Smart Women Travelers blog, gave me this ingenious tip: Use one of the clip-style hangers from the closet to “clothes pin” together the drapes before you go to sleep. Problem solved.

Phone Charger Panic

Tip: When you forget your charger, borrow one from the hotel lost and found.

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of interviewing Anthony Melchiorre, whose Travel Channel TV show Hotel Impossible kicks off its fourth season in January. He mentioned that one of his favorite hotel tips is this: When you’ve forgotten a device charger, ask the hotel if they have one in their lost and found. I had already been well aware of this trick, but something happened later that day to broaden its value.

I met colleagues for an after-work drink in New York’s Algonquin Hotel lobby bar (where coincidentally, Melchiorre was once general manager). One friend was in a panic because her train ticket home was on her iPhone app, yet the phone’s battery was dead. With Anthony’s tip top-of-mind, we flagged down the maitre d’. Several minutes later he delivered an iPhone charger. A happy ending: One glass of wine later, the phone was recharged, the train ticket was restored and we all went on our merry ways.

Hotels these days have a plethora of left-behind devices, cables and chargers. See if you can hook into their storehouse before you panic when you leave yours behind. And the lesson I learned from this episode is that you don’t need to be a guest of a hotel: The lost-and-found stash holds true for bars and restaurants, too, especially in hotels.