In 1900, the infamous Oscar Wilde lay dying in a squalid Paris hotel. Reportedly, after surveying his grim surroundings, Wilde's last words were: "Either that wallpaper goes, or I do."
I know just how poor Oscar felt. A few months ago, I had the misfortune to stay in a hotel that advertised itself as "historic" and "charming," yet with modern amenities--including free wireless Internet access throughout the building. The reality, however, was entirely different. "Historic" could only have been a reference to the in-room coffee pot. "Charming" must have been a misspelling of the word "Charmin," because the bed sheets were as thin as toilet paper. Worst of all, I could only pick up the wireless network signal in the lobby--and only when I sat right next to the front desk, where I had to endure the bored clerk's incessant chatter.
And now, to my point: It isn't easy to find a good business-class hotel, particularly if you're on a budget. Here are some tips and resources for finding a room where you can eat, sleep, and work in comfort.
Start your research by reading comments about hotels, posted online by people who've actually stayed in them. Here are some sites that specialize in user reviews:
- TripAdvisor is one of the better sites in this regard. The site features lots of hotel reviews written by guests, as well as forums that many travelers use to post questions.
- At Hotels.com, guest reviewers rate a particular hotel from 1 to 5 on service, general condition, room cleanliness, and room comfort.
- Hotelshark is another place to check out guest reviews of hotels, though the site doesn't use a rating system.
- MyTravelGuide offers user reviews of hotels, attractions, and restaurants.
- At TravelPost.com, reviewers rank hotels from poor to excellent on price, check-in process, quality of service, quality of bed and furniture, and so on.
- HotelChatter has a wealth of hotel news, gossip, and reviews. The site offers a list of the best hotels for Wi-Fi (which includes Kimpton Hotels, Omni, and Holiday Express), as well as a Worst WiFi Hotels list (including Marriott, W Hotels, and Four Seasons).
The Web sites of mainstream publications may also offer some guidance. For instance, Travel + Leisure publishes an annual reader survey of the best business hotels. And USA Today's Travel section features a worthwhile column, Hotel Hotsheet.
Once you've found a prospective hotel, call the front desk directly--not the toll-free reservation number. Ask to speak to the concierge or to a knowledgeable front desk clerk. Then grill them (politely), with such questions as:
- Does the hotel offer in-room Internet access? If so, is it wired or wireless? If it is wireless, is the signal strongest in certain areas of the hotel? Is there a tech-support number to call if problems arise? Is access free? If not, what is the charge?
- Does the hotel have a business center? If so, what equipment does it offer--such as printers, fax machines, and PCs? When is the center open, and when is it usually busiest? (For more tips, read my column on hotel business centers.)
- Are there any public hotspots nearby? An Internet caf
éaround the corner may offer a convenient backup in case your hotel's access is sluggish or nonexistent. If the clerk doesn't know, locate the hotel on a map and search for nearby businesses.
- Does the hotel offer in-room safes? If so, are the safes large enough to accommodate a laptop?
- Do guest rooms have flat-screen TVs? Unlike many older hotel-room TVs, in-room flat-screen TVs often offer connections for hooking up a laptop, MP3 player, portable DVD player, or other component. If you have the appropriate cables, you can connect your laptop to watch DVD movies on the large screen, view a presentation, play your music through the TV's speakers, and so on.
- Are any guest rooms specifically designed for business travelers? Some chains--particularly extended-stay hotels--offer rooms geared for business guests, with an emphasis on dedicated work areas. Among those with rooms for business travelers are AmeriSuite ("Taking Care of Business" rooms), Days Inn ("Work Zone" rooms), and Quality Suites (Executive Rooms, which are often separate rooms within the guest quarters).
Vote for Your Favorite
What is your favorite hotel for business travel? Send me an e-mail to vote for your favorite, and tell me why you like the hotel.