European survey says “bugs in the room” the worst hotel experience

European hotel booking site Trivago just released the results of their “worst hotel experience” survey. In total, 4,876 people were included in the survey, from 8 different countries.

The results are actually quite surprising, as 22% of the respondents put “bugs in the room” at the top spot.

And now I think about it, my worst ever hotel experience was indeed bug related. At a hotel in Spain, I lay in bed watching in horror as a whole bunch of cockroaches made their way up onto my nightstand. The hotel management removed them, but I don’t think I slept much for the rest of my vacation.

Other annoyances include theft, noise, bad food, bad staff and get this – chlorine poisoning from the pool.

After the jump, the complete results of the survey. Don’t forget to add your own “worst hotel experience” to the comments!

5 Gadgets to improve your hotel stay

When it comes to staying at a hotel, there are plenty of ways you can improve the comfort in your room. Some of these come with the room – things like the view, or a decent air conditioning unit.

Others can be brought along with you, and even the simplest gadget can make your stay just a little bit more enjoyable. Here are 5 gadgets that can help make your stay a little more comfortable or entertaining:
The Air-O-Swiss portable humidifier

Ever woken up in your hotel room with a dry mouth and eyes that feel like someone sprinkled sand in them? If you have a tiny bit of spare room in your bag, consider the Air-O-Swiss portable humidifier. This $50 device takes water from almost any small water bottle, and is powered using a compact (international) AC adapter.

Check out my review of this device here.

The Chip Clip

Hotel gadgetry doesn’t get much easier than the chip clip. In fact, any clip will work for this purpose. The purpose? Blocking annoying sun light from waking you from your deep sleep.

The hotel is probably the one time and place you can sleep in without worrying about heading to work or getting the kids ready for school.

Anyone who has spent some time in a hotel will know how annoying it can be when the sun shines through the drapes and wakes you up, often hours before you had planned to be awake.

A $2 clip can clip the curtains together, and prevent you from being woken up by the bright sun.

Of course, if you are anywhere with the kind of tourists that like to grab themselves a lounge chair by the pool at 5am, then being awake extra early may not be such a bad thing!

The MP3 player AV kit
The best cure for hotel boredom? Movies! Instead of suffering through the horrible selection of hotel TV channels, bring your media player (filled with movies) and hook it up to the hotel TV.

Most players can be equipped with an AV cable kit for about $20, and more and more hotels are equipping their TV’s with the line-in jacks required to add some of your own content.

You’ll of course need access to some movies on your device, but that isn’t too hard with online stores like the iTunes movies store.

The pocket projector

Are you regularly stuck in a hotel in the middle of nowhere? Does that hotel block the use of the line-in jack on their TV’s? Then consider spending $300 on your own pocket projector.

Simply hook the projector up to your computer or media player, and point the projector at a wall. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy your new pocket big-screen TV.

Sure, you’ll need a dark room, and anyone entering the room will probably think you are a nerd of the highest order, but you’ll end up with the last laugh.

Check out our review of a pocket projector here.

The Kensington laptop lock and USB power adapter

Two of my favorite gadgets on the road are the Kensington 4 port USB mobile device charger and the Kensington MicroSaver keyed retractable lock.

The 4 port USB charger is perfect for those hotel rooms with just one spare outlet hidden behind the desk. With just one charger, you can charge 4 devices at the same time.

The MicroSaver keyed lock is what you’ll need when your room does not come with a safe. Sadly more and more rooms lack a safe nowadays, and theft is not decreasing. The keyed lock allows you to attach your laptop to something sturdy.

When you are done with the lock, the steel cable simple retracts into the device, making it nice and compact.

Hotel review – The Hotel On Rivington – New York

The Hotel On Rivington is a New York boutique hotel, right in the middle of the Lower East Side. The hotel is probably one of the easiest to locate in the entire area, because it stands 21 stories tall between the 4-5 story buildings.

The Rivington describes itself as a full-service boutique, and of all the hotels I’ve tried in New York, the Rivington is the one that will be the most memorable. I’ll admit right away that I am not a big fan of boutique hotels, as many of them tend to use the term to justify tiny rooms and snotty attitude. The Rivington proves that smaller boutique hotels can be welcoming, while staying true to their roots.

The building itself is fairly narrow, and Rivington is a pretty busy street, so don’t expect a large open check-in area (or lots of parking space, though Valet service is provided). On the ground floor is their restaurant (THOR) and the check-in desk is on the second floor.
Check-in was quick and efficient and I was quickly on my way to my 9th floor suite. It took me a good 20 seconds to unlock my door, as the hotel issues RFID keys which have to be held up against a small black square on the door. I wish the check-in clerk had mentioned this to me. Since this is a boutique hotel, they keep the hallways nice and dark, which of course does not help in locating the door key tag reader.

Once in my room I was pleasantly surprised by the layout and space available. The room is narrow, but long and consisted of a living space, bathroom and bedroom/work area. The living room has a pretty minimalistic design, but still offers a leather sofa, table and flat screen TV. Floor to ceiling windows let in a lot of light during the day, and provide an awesome view during the night.

The bathroom is equally well designed – some rooms offer a basic shower, while others have an in-room bath tub and steam room. The shower in my room took a little getting used to, as the top portion of the windows are open, and your private parts are only shielded by a frosted pane of glass in the bottom half. Still, it was pretty damn cool to shower at night while looking out over the city. (Apologies for the poor photo).

The bedroom has a (very small) desk and a Tempur-Pedic bed. This room also features floor to ceiling windows, and the bed looks right out over the city. There is something soothing about opening the (remote control) curtains and looking out at the Empire State Building while you drift off.

Along the hallway are closets, one of which hides the minibar and a safe (large enough for a laptop). The minibar is surprisingly well stocked, though not surprisingly, the prices are insane. In the minibar, you’ll find everything from full size bottles of Champagne and Tequila to 3 different “intimacy kits”, though you’d better be pretty damn desperate if you are willing to pay $23 for 3 rubbers and a tiny bottle of lube.

The hotel has very capable WiFi, though you do need a login key (which was provided at check-in). The desk area is far too small to get any real work done, and there was just one open outlet under the desk.

Rooms at the Rivington are not cheap, especially if you want something more than a basic room ($225). Higher rooms or corner suites start around $380/night and go over $650 for a “unique room”. If you need something really insane, you can spend a night (or two) in their 3 level penthouse suite which includes a massive 21st floor patio and hot tub.

The hotel provides in-room breakfast or a free breakfast in their ground floor restaurant. I ordered a room service breakfast which came to $44 with tip and service fee. I ended up eating the breakfast off the large headboard of the bed, since the desk is just too small to hold anything larger than a laptop. The french toast with fresh fruit was delicious, as were the grilled potatoes, but the $4.50 bagel was cold and did not taste fresh.

I had a very enjoyable 2 night stay the Rivington, and have become less judgmental about hip hotels. Sure, I’m still not hip enough for most of them, but I can see the Rivington being the perfect destination for a romantic getaway. The area around the hotel is much cooler than I had expected and the hotel is a real gem. Prices are high, there is no denying that – but this is New York City, and in New York City all hotels are expensive. Even a big brand name hotel near Times Square charges $349 for a basic queen bedroom. At that price, I’d say the Rivington is absolutely worth checking out.

Hotels chains – picking the right one and how to become a loyal guest

Welcome to the Gadling hotel month! There is no better time of the year to learn more about hotels, how to pick the right hotel and how to become loyal to one chain. In today’s article, I’m going to teach you as much as I can about picking the right brand and how to become (and stay) loyal to one chain. Before we continue, let me explain something really simple about the hotels:

The world is made up of 3 different kinds of hotels:

  • Chain hotels that are part of a large hotel group
  • Chain hotels with just one brand
  • Stand alone hotels, B&B’s and any other property not part of a group

We’ll start with chain hotels that are part of a large hotel group – you’ll find some of their logo’s printed above. These are the leaders of the hotel world (sure, I may have missed a couple), but the bottom line is that a handful of companies own and/or operate a huge amount of the hotels in the world. There are some pretty big advantages to each sort of hotel operation, and when you pick the right one, you’ll increase your chance of having an enjoyable stay.
Chain hotels that are part of a large hotel group

Chain hotels are the ones you are most likely to come across when searching for a hotel. Chain hotels are the Starwoods and Hyatts of the world. These chains have been around for years, and the largest of them operate as many as 3000 properties.

Of course, none of these companies own every single one of their locations, but they do provide marketing, booking systems and branding for anyone who meets their standards and would prefer owning a branded hotel over just another “hotel”.

The most important reason to pick a hotel that is part of a large chain is simple – consistency. Granted, a Hyatt in Spain may not look exactly the same as a US Hyatt, but the hotel will be held to the same standards as its US counterpart. Picking a consistent hotel is great if you want to feel a little more at home. There is something oddly comforting about driving through a weird city, then arriving at your favorite hotel brand. Outside may look, smell and sound different, but inside the hotel, its all vaguely familiar and reassuring.

The largest multi-brand hotel chains in the world are:

  • Starwood – operates the Sheraton, W Hotels, Aloft, Four Points, Le Meridien, Westin, Element and Luxury Collection properties
  • Hilton – operates the Hilton, Conrad, Doubletree, Embassy Suites, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton, Homewood Suites, Home2 Suites, and Waldorf Astoria properties
  • Hyatt – operates the Grand Hyatt, Hyatt Regency, Park Hyatt, Hyatt Resorts, Andaz, Hyatt Place, Hyatt Summerfield Suites and Hyatt Vacation Club properties.
  • Marriott – operates the Marriott Hotels & Resorts, JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts, Renaissance Hotels, Courtyard, Residence Inn, Fairfield Inn, TownePlace Suites, SpringHill Suite and Marriott Vacation Club properties
  • Choice Hotels International – operates the Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites, Quality Inn, Sleep Inn, Clarion, Cambria Suites, MainStay Suites, Suburban, Econolodge and Rodeway Inn properties
  • Wyndham Worldwide – operates the Wyndham hotels, Ramada, Days Inn, Super 8, Wingate, Baymont Inn, Microtel, Hawthorn Suites, Howard Johnson, Travelodge and Knights Inn properties
  • Intercontinental Hotel Group – operates the Intercontinental hotels, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites properties
  • Carlson – operates the Radisson, Park Plaza, Country Inns and Suites and Park Inn properties
  • Kimpton hotels – operates the Hotel Palomar, Hotel Monaco hotels as well as a variety of Kimpton boutique properties

These chains offer something in almost every price range – take for example the hotels that are part of the Intercontinental Hotel Group. This chain can offer you a $300/night room in their Intercontinental hotel, or a $59/night room at a Candlewood Suites. The hotel you pick will depend on the level of comfort you want, the amenities you desire and of course, your budget. Whichever way you go, this one hotel chain will have 7 different hotel brands to pick from, often with up to 30 or 40 properties within a 50 mile radius.

Hotel brands offer more variation than just price and comfort. The hot trend in the hotel world is offering lifestyle hotels. Most chains have opened, or are working on opening at least one brand of hotels focusing on a younger, hipper guest.

Starwood has been quite successful in this segment with their Aloft hotels. This spinoff from their (equally successful) W brand offers rooms in a modern environment – you won’t find the old worn carpet at these destinations. A similar brand is being developed by Starwood with a focus on extended stays – their Element hotels are a spin-off from the Westin brand, and offer rooms with a focus on healthy living. 6 Element hotels are already open, with another 20 opening in the coming years.

A good example of another new hotel brand is the Cambria Suites concept which we reviewed here on Gadling. This hotel clearly shows how a hotel operator designed a new brand, and built a fantastic hotel around it.

A great benefit of a chain with multiple brands is the ability to earn and redeem points within the chain. If you are a frequent guest at an affordable Hilton property, you can save up all those points, and redeem them for some free nights at a Conrad. Turning cheap stays into free stays at a really expensive property is a fantastic perk.

Here are the pros and cons of picking a large hotel chain with multiple brands:


  • Consistency amongst brands
  • Ability to earn points/free stays within the various brands
  • Easy booking system for multiple brands on a single booking site


  • Consistency tends to become boring for frequent guests
  • Prices are often higher than local unbranded options

Chain hotels with just one brand

Single brand hotel chains are owned and/or operated by just one company. Instead of offering multiple brands, they focus on one famous name, and all hotels adhere to that name and the standards set by the brand.

Best Western is a good example of this – they operate over 4000 different hotels, in 80 countries. Unlike the chain hotels mentioned previously, Best Western does this under just one name (technically they also offer several upscale properties called Best Western Premier).

The largest / most popular single-brand hotel chains in the world are:

  • Best Western
  • La Quinta Inns and Suites
  • Four Seasons
  • Mandarin Oriental

Here are the pros and cons of picking a large hotel chain with multiple brands:


  • Large number of properties
  • Ability to earn points/free stays within the brand
  • Amenities and services are usually very consistent from hotel to hotel


  • Often large differences in quality between various properties
  • Despite similar amenities and services, prices can fluctuate greatly between locations

Stand alone hotels, B&B and any other property not part of a group

The third and final segment of the hotel industry is the stand alone hotel. These hotels usually operate just one or two hotels under their name, and are not part of a chain or other “mother brand”. These properties vary from a 2 bedroom B&B to a 1500 monstrosity in a busy downtown area.

Stand alone hotels can often be a much more enjoyable place to stay as you don’t have to deal with corporate rules. That said – smaller chains don’t have the support and technology often found within larger chain hotels. Investments in new technology are not as common, especially in the booking and reservation systems.

Here are the pros and cons of picking a single hotel or a very small chain:


  • Hotels often offer a more comforting environment, without the busy branding of a large chain
  • Properties can often be more personal for frequent guests


  • Frequent guest programs are only available at one property making it harder to earn points/free stays
  • Booking systems are often primitive or hotels do not participate in large third-party booking engines like Expedia or

Picking the right hotel is not too hard – if you just need a hotel for your yearly trip, your most important factor is going to be availability, amenities and budget. A vacation hotel won’t be better or worse for you if it is part of a larger chain. If you are a more regular traveler, then it really does start to pay to pay attention to your brand loyalty.

With generous bonus awards and perhaps an affinity credit card, you could be on your way to a free stay after just 4 or 5 nights. I recommend signing up for every program you can, and trying to avoid staying at a hotel without being part of the frequent guest program. Even if you never stay with them again, adding your membership number to your reservation will save you the hassle of having to request the points after your stay.

If you are traveling for work, be sure to pick a hotel chain committed to offering the services and amenities you need – don’t settle for a chain that has the balls to charge for Internet access.

If you start to stay at a chain on any regular basis, you’ll slowly start to see the rewards of that loyalty. Besides the obvious stay bonus, you may be eligible for a room on a “preferred floor”, and you may even get access to the hotel lounge. To burst your bubble and dreams of the hotel penthouse – a real valued guest is someone who’ll stay with the hotel chain over 75 nights a year.

That entry level silver or gold card is going to be generally useless. Before you move all your dollars to one chain, do the math and check whether it is going to be worth aiming for the top tier. If you only have 10 nights planned all year, the platinum or diamond tier is going to be way out of your reach.

Once you do hit a high(er) tier, it may be time to shop around for a new chain. When I traveled for work, I was top tier with 3 hotel chains, but when one of them screwed up (badly), I decided to see whether brand X was interested in my business. As it turns out, they were, and a quick fax of my statement with hotel brand Y got my status “comped”, as well as some other perks that made it worth my while to switch my business.

Bottom line is that you should pick a hotel that makes you feel welcomed – if you don’t like the vibe of a specific hotel brand or chain, find something that fits your style. With so many new hotel concepts, it isn’t too hard to find the style that fits you best. You no longer have to settle for a boring room with a flower pattern comforter and a loud window mounted AC unit.

Hotel review – Choice Hotels Cambria Suites

Today is the first day of the Gadling hotel month. As Grant mentioned earlier, we’ll be posting our usual awesome content, along with a ton of great hotel related articles. We’ll kick the month off with a review of a brand new hotel chain – Cambria Suites.

Cambria Suites is a brand of the Choice hotels group, who also operate hotels under the Comfort Inn, Comfort Suites and Clarion brand names (along with a bunch of others).

The Cambria Suites concept is positioned as a “lifestyle hotel”, and their properties try to stand out in the busy market by offering upscale rooms and low prices. Rooms are designed to be 25% larger than the average hotel room, and each room has a separate living and work area.

New hotel concepts pop up all the time, and it is hard to develop a new chain that really stands out, so how well did the Cambria Suites perform? Read the rest of the article to see!
The hotel I reviewed was located in Appleton, Wisconsin. The property is conveniently located right off the highway and has plenty of free parking around the building. The hotel itself looks quite nice and features a large 2-story atrium and a covered entrance. The lobby area had plenty of (new) luggage carts which is a step above some hotels where you’ll only find one cart with working wheels.

The check-in area and atrium are bright and well designed, and while they may not be as warm and cozy as your own home, the decor does provide you with a welcoming attitude. Check-in was swift and I received my key to a room on the third floor.

On my way to the room, I passed the 24 hour coffee bar/cafe, more about that later.

The room is of course the most important part of any hotel stay, and I’m happy to say that the rooms at the Cambria Suites are incredibly well designed. As with most hotel rooms, the bathroom is directly to the right of the door. The hallway is home to a small bar area (no sink), but you do get a microwave, small fridge and coffee maker.

The room itself is split in half – the rear portion is where you’ll find a spacious desk, a wall mounted TV and a large sofa. The front of the room is for the bed. The room is divided by a nice wooden lattice work filled with some ceramics.

The desk area is quite large and whoever designed that area has obviously spent some time in hotels because there are 4 outlets right next to the desk (THANK YOU!). The desk phone is cordless, which means you’ll be able to take that really important call while sitting in the bathroom.

The desk has an Ethernet cord in a holder, and Internet speeds at the end of the day were quite good (>2.5mbit).

The best part of the in-room Internet service is that you can print documents from your own computer, and send them to a printer in the lobby. When you print, you pick your own PIN number, and simply enter that PIN downstairs to release the print job to the printer – brilliant! In addition to the wired Internet access, the hotel also offers wireless access throughout the property.

The bedroom is nothing special – you get a bed, a decent size closet and a flat panel TV. Still, the bed was very comfortable, and since the property was new, the mattress was not yet saggy and worn. There is an easy to program alarm clock with line-in cable and a spare outlet, which is perfect if you like to sleep next to your charging Blackberry.

The TV’s all have accessible AUX inputs and even USB ports for plugging in a USB drive for music and photo playback. The TV channel lineup in the Appleton location offered almost 100 channels, including HBO and multiple channels in HD.

The bathroom is as well designed as the rest of the room, but the real treat here are the Bath and Body works amenities. Seriously, coconut lime verbena and warm vanilla sugar amenities are so much better than most of the generic stuff I come across on the road. Needless to say, I snagged those bottles for my TSA friendly toiletries bag.

The bathroom has a shaving mirror, which is also quite rare nowadays. Under the sink is a hair dryer, and the shower has the usual curved curtain you’ll find in most other hotels.

The 24/7 coffee bar is surprisingly cool. I’ve wasted hundreds of dollars at hotel bars, and never really felt too impressed, but the cafe concept at Cambria Suites is different. The cafe serves Wolfgang Puck drinks (coffee, tea and cold drinks), an assortment of alcoholic drinks, warm dishes, sandwiches and deserts from the Cheesecake Factory.

The dinner menu features the kind of food you’d expect at a hotel – pizza, salads, pasta and sandwiches. We tried the chicken Caesar salad and a roasted chicken and garlic pizza. Each dish was about $10 and arrived in under 15 minutes. I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality – both dishes were huge and very well put together. Boxes are available, so you can enjoy leftovers in your room the next morning.

Breakfast is served in the same cafe and is offered a la carte or buffet. The breakfast buffet costs under $10 per person (kids under 12 are half price) and is a huge step above the usual hotel breakfast buffet.

The lineup has sausages, pepper bacon, various breads, fresh oatmeal and cereals. I would have preferred to see a free breakfast, but given the size and quality of the spread I didn’t feel too bad spending $10. (apologies for the poor photo, I did not have my flash with me during breakfast!).

The hotel is also home to a pool – though “pool” may be a little too generous for this amenity. It really isn’t suited for swimming a couple of laps, but it is sufficiently big to accommodate 8 or 9 guests who just want a quick dip after a hard days work, or a family with younger kids.

The spa is only large enough for 4 or 5 people, but like with the pool, at the end of a long day most people won’t care too much.

The fitness room is well equipped, and was very clean. Towels are everywhere and access to the pool and fitness room is restricted by room key readers.

The lobby is equipped with 2 Sony Vaio PC’s, both connected to the shared hotel printer. The connection here was also nice and fast, making it perfect for printing your boarding pass or sending out some last minute emails. This desk also has a spare Ethernet jack, so you can plug your own laptop in and work in the lobby instead of your room.

Behind the check-in desk is a guest sundry shop, selling everything from microwave meals to blank DVD’s and USB flash drives as well as a full assortment of ice cream, drinks and snacks.

I’ve regularly spent over 200 nights a year in hotel rooms, so I tend to think I know a thing or two about what to look for in a hotel, and I have to say I’m very impressed by the Cambria Suites. It is obvious from the small touches that someone put a lot of time and effort into the layout and amenities.

The staff at the Appleton location were fantastic, and I was greeted by smiling staff everywhere I went. The cafe is a real highlight of the hotel, and is miles ahead of what most hotels have to offer. Being able to order a freshly made lemonade and a great salad is a much better way to have dinner at the end of the day then heading to the nearest fast food joint and eating on your own in your room.

Rates at the Cambria Suites start around $109 for a room with king or queen bed and a sofa sleeper (room for 4 people). Suites start at $179 and provide 2 bedrooms and a sofa sleeper (room for 6 people).

All in all I’m very impressed and suggest that anyone heading towards a city with a Cambria Suites property check the rates. Properties located near an airport provide a shuttle service. I found the hotel just as suitable for a family with children as it is for a business traveler.