Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Your Guide to a 4.5-star Hotel Stay

Perhaps you are way cooler than I and don't need such a guide.  And by cooler, I mean "richer".  When I was growing up, we often stayed in a tent because hotels were too expensive. And if we did get lucky enough to stay in a hotel, it was a Super 8, and half of us were sleeping on the floor.

In fact, a couple of years ago, my sisters and I took a trip and stayed in this:

Look at that lopsided loveliness! I may have told you at the time, but it's more that the fact that it was getting old enough that you couldn't pitch it straight (because my sisters and I may not be that handy, but we can pitch a tent properly when it's not so decrepit); the door that you see in the picture is sewn shut and we had to crawl in and out of the large back window.  All in the interest of saving a few bucks so we could do a road trip.

Anyway, last weekend I decided that I wanted to get away.  Many of my weekends are full, but when they're not I don't know what to do with myself.  There was this one area that I had really been wanting to go take some pictures, so I decided on Friday that if I could get a hotel room for a decent price then I was going to go for it.  Now, I'm still not rich, but I hate Su.per 8 and try for something a little nicer.  I decided that would try for something along the lines of a Hamp.ton or a Hol.iday Inn Ex.press at a price that would be normal for the Midwest (rather than the inflated, gouge-the-tourist price) and just see.

Here's your first tip for your next stay at a 4.5 star hotel- Hot.wir.e.  I love that website!  All of my normal choices (usually rated at 2.5- 3 stars) were normal prices, but then I noticed that there was a 4 star hotel for the same price as those 2.5 star ones!  Sign me up!!  I admit that I was a little suspicious (what's the catch?), but I had to try it once.  Turns out that it was an off-season ski resort that was just trying to fill up during the summer.

Here's something to keep in mind if you ever do this.  Immediately after I paid, then they told me about a couple of extra fees that I would likely incur.  I hate hidden fees, but in some ways I was glad I didn't know.  It ended up being an extra $30 in my case, which was doable and worth it for the experience.  If I had known, I may not have signed up and then I would have missed out.  However, that can be a budget-buster sometimes, so be aware.

One of the fees cracked me up.  It was the fee for the valet parking!  You have to understand; I'm from the Midwest, and we park our own cars, thankyouverymuch.  My experience with valet parking is from watching TV, so I wasn't real excited to give up my keys.  I wasn't too concerned with any of the scenarios that I usually see on TV, like Ferris Bueller's problems, or a crime show that I recently watched where the valet stole the car and used it in a drive-by or things like that.  However, they give you a ticket to say that they aren't responsible for any damage that may occur... Really? Like if you run it into a post it's not your fault?  But I didn't have a choice, and you know what?  By the end of my stay, I got kind of used to having my car brought to the front door and waiting for me.

I pulled up to the hotel with a little trepidation.  First there was the valet thing, and then there was the sheer fanciness of this place.  I felt like I needed to be dressed up to go in the front door, and there I was in my hiking clothes.  They open my car door for me and ask if I would like help with my bags.  Umm, I think I  can manage my one overnight bag, thanks.  It's funny to have someone opening all the doors for you... walking you to the elevator... pushing the button.  It's nice, but I also wanted to laugh the whole time.  I'm used to "Here's your key, and the stairs are over there."  It was certainly one of the "Dorothy, you're not in Kansas anymore" moments.

Here's the room (actually, they called it a "studio"; I thought that was just for apartments, but I guess it does sound fancier than just a plain old "room"):

Down that hallway to the right was the bathroom; I didn't get a picture of the shower, but it was a very nice stand alone number.  I liked that they had shampoo and bodywash bottles, large ones.  That meant that they didn't have to put out new little ones all the time.  Very environmental of them.  There was a note that if you wanted to take the bottle with you, you were welcome, but there would be a $45 charge. Yeah, no souvenirs for me, thanks.

To the left of the hallway was a full kitchenette. Is that an oxymoron?  If it was full, wouldn't it be a kitchen? Anyway, the point is that there was a stovetop, microwave, refrigerator/freezer and a full set of dishes and silverware.

Not that you can see it too well in the picture, but there you have it.

King bed; that blanket on the end is all soft and furry.  I'm sure it was synthetic; this establishment was way to environmentally correct for it to be anything else.  However, between that and the fireplace,

I desperately wanted to come back in the winter.  This place would be awesome after a long day of skiing.  Actually, since I've never skied, I'd be okay with hanging out in the room while it snowed outside.  Alas, this place will be WAY beyond my price range that time of year.

Now, there's two other features of this room that we need to discuss.  One is the tub:

Let's just discuss that this thing really is the perfect size and shape for a good soak.  It was A-mazing.  Now let's discuss that you can see the bedroom in this picture because one of the walls of the bathroom was glass.  Really?  I get that this is going to be a romantic getaway for couples a lot of the time, but I still have issues with it.  Maybe if the toilet was hidden behind a screen or something... I know I'm single, but nothing screams romance like taking a dump in full view, am I right?  Yes, there is a shade that you can pull down, but it's still a little odd.  Apparently, though, this is the thing to do.  I was discussing this with someone that has the money to stay in these kinds of places most of the time.  She just shrugged and said it was the way a lot of these places were.

Whatever.  Unless I meet some rich sugar daddy, it's not like I'm going to have to deal with it very often. I will say that when I forgot a book, it was very convenient to be able to watch the TV in the bedroom while I enjoyed a good soak.

Oh, also.  When you pay the lowbrow prices for the highbrow establishment, you don't necessarily get the nicest room.  I mean, my room was very nice, but it was right over the driveway, so I heard the car doors from those hardworking valets kind of late into the night.

In summary:

1) Beware of hidden fees.
2) Valet parking is actually kind of nice.
3) Customer service is out of this world.
4) "Full kitchenettes" are nice, too, because from the looks of the restaurant on site, it was pricey.
5) Watch out for curious glass-walled bathrooms.
6) And if you have a tub like that in your room, take a soak in it, whether you want to or not!


  1. Ooooohhhh, I want a bathtub like that. Sounds like you had a wonderful getaway. Sometimes that's all you need, I'm so glad you are taking care of yourself. And yeah, I've never seen the toilet without walls, but that would definetely not be OK by me. I can pee in company, but I have to be alone for the other!

  2. What a wonderful trip! Hope your hiking was just as fabulous! Amazing Life