The Art of Judging a Hotel
We stay in a LOT of hotels – more than 30 per year. We don’t get to pick our hotels. That would be too chaotic. There are way too many people traveling with Roush Fenway Racing for us to each select and book our own hotel rooms. Roush actually has one person whose job is to coordinate travel – hotels, flights, rental cars, etc. That’s why I’m focused on judging a hotel, not picking one.
There are a lot of ways to judge a hotel. But I find what’s most telling is the towels. Are your bath towels the size of a beach towel? Or are they barely larger than a hand towel? Are they plush like a bathrobe? Or are they slightly softer than 400 grit sand paper?
The reason I judge a hotel by its towels is two-fold. First off, who wants to use a 2’x3’ piece of sandpaper to dry off after a shower? Really, it’s just practical to judge a hotel by its towels. But just as importantly, the towel is usually an indicator of how the rest of the hotel will be.
If you’re using sandpaper to dry off, there’s a good chance the sheets are rough too (and likely not too clean). More than likely bad towels mean bad pillows, a TV from 1982, and a coffee machine that hasn’t worked since Vanilla Ice was cool. Besides, bad towels usually mean you shouldn’t set your expectations too high for the continental breakfast. If you’re lucky, you’ll find some limp bacon, a scrambled egg-like product, and some brown mushy bananas. If you’re unlucky, the bagels are stale, the milk is a frozen solid block, and there’s only Decaf Coffee (yes, all of this has happened to me).
At one hotel, I failed to check the towels upon check-in. I went into the room, found sticky gunk on all the tables and nightstands, found exposed wiring in the walls, and the smoke detector was missing. Sure enough, I checked the towels and (based on sizing) I couldn’t figure out which was the washcloth and which was the bath towel.
But when you find a hotel where the towel is as plush as a bathrobe, you know you’re in for a good stay. These are the hotels that may have hand-squeezed orange juice. They likely have a Belgian waffle machine. The bacon is nice and crisp. And it’s not just about breakfast. You’re more likely to find friendly employees and less likely to have something stolen from your room (yes, this does happen).
But it’s not all about the money. A cheaper hotel can have nice towels, and an expensive hotel can have fiberglass insulation for towels (the pink stuff with the Pink Panther cartoon character on it). I recently stayed at a swanky hotel in Boston where the rooms were so wonderful they were worth writing home about. The towels were plush, but the bed was slightly more firm than a piece of plywood. My back was so sore the next morning that I woke up the next morning and had to roll off the bed onto my hands and knees in order to stand up. Nice hotel, nice towels, bad beds – bad hotel. Proof my system doesn’t always work.
But for the most part, I’ve found you can determine how well your hotel stay will be… simply by checking out the towels. Unfortunately, no matter how nice the hotel I still have to fly home at the end of the race weekend. And I HATE flying.