Sleeping in rickety old beds, eating bland food that you’re forced to cook yourself and being bossed around by hotel staff hardly sounds like a fun travel experience, but tourists in Germany are paying $150 a night for exactly that.
It’s all a part of a unique experience that gives travelers the chance to experience life as it was for soldiers in East Germany. Visitors are taken to a forest 200 miles outside of Berlin where they spend the night in the Bunker Museum, which as the name implies, is a former military bunker. The bunker was built more than 40 years ago for use by the German secret police, and was designed to become a military command center if the local area was ever attacked.Today, tourists can experience life in the bunker, which includes donning the soldier’s uniforms before peeling potatoes and cooking sausages for dinner. But don’t expect a good night’s sleep here-the bunk beds are small and uncomfortable with thin mattresses and, naturally, you’re expected to make the bed yourself.
Those who run the hotel say the experience has proven extremely popular among travelers, and quite a few of those who visit are actually former East German residents themselves.
They say traveling together will either bring you closer together or destroy your relationship, and the latest hotel design movement is certainly putting that concept to the test.
According to The Guardian, open-plan bathrooms are a growing trend in luxury hotels. Instead of hiding in a separate room, showers, baths and even toilets are now being placed right inside the bedroom. Occasionally, you’ll find walls separating the wet areas from the bedroom — although see-through glass does little to shield you from the eyes of your travel companion.A few hotels that have embraced this concept include the Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam, the Renaissance Beijing Capital Hotel and the Ecclestone Square Hotel in London (though at least here you can flip a switch to turn the glass walls opaque).
While some couples might get a kick out of the less-than-private baths or showers, the placement of the toilet leaves a lot to be desired. After all, no matter how close you are with your partner, do you really want to be in on each other’s bowel movements? And what exactly do you do if you’re traveling with a relative, friend or business partner?
Making matters worse is the fact that some of these open-plan bathrooms are not just “open” to your roommate, but also to the public. At The Standard Hotel in New York, one suite features a floor-to-ceiling glass wall in the bathroom that faces out onto the street. And yes, people are watching. One hotel specialist told The Guardian that while staying at a different hotel in New York with a glass wall that faced the outside, she “could see a guy standing in a building looking at me having a shower.” Creepy or what?
Would you stay in a hotel with an open plan bathroom?
London may be known for its rainy climate but one hotel in the British capital has decided loaning out umbrellas just wasn’t cool enough for its elite clientele — not when you could loan out Burberry trench coats instead.
The Maybourne Hotel Group — which runs a number of high-end hotels in London — is placing the designer raincoats in suites so that guests can ward off the weather. Visitors can use the Burberry coats for free during their stay, but will have to cough up around $1,500 if they want to take them home.
Trench coats are just one of many luxurious perks hotels are offering to woo guests. Over the years, we’ve seen all sorts of cool and surprising things on loan to travelers.If you’re staying at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, there’s no need to worry about picking up a cramped rental car. The hotel will set guests up with a nice set of free wheels — all you have to do is decide if you want to hit the road in a Porsche, Lamborghini, Rolls Royce, Ferrari, Cadillac, Mercedes or Bentley.
Earlier this year, the Burj Al Arab in Dubai announced it was letting guests play with an iPad during their stay. Of course, being Dubai, they’re not just handing out any old iPad — their blinged-out devices are plated in nothing less than 24-carat gold.
And finally, if you’re tired of everything in your suitcase, you can put together a killer new outfit thanks to the Fred Segal lending library at the Loews Santa Monica Hotel. The program lets hotel guests borrow a range of accessories such as expensive purses, necklaces and sunglasses from the upscale clothing retailer.
Have you come across any other lavish hotel perks?
In the last year, travel and Instagram have grown to go hand in hand. Seriously, how many photos did you post during your last trip?
Banking on our selfie and hashtagging obsessions, the new boutique 1888 Hotel in Sydney, Australia has made Instagram a key part of its visitors’ experience. The lobby features a digital mural of Instagram shots, the front desk has a map of top picture taking spots that you should be sure to put on your to-do list, it offers a free night’s stay to anyone with more than 10,000 Instagram followers and there’s a specific booth for taking selfies when you check in, ensuring that you can make your friends jealous immediately.
The photo-friendly theme makes sense; 1888 is not only a reference to the year that the building was constructed, but also when Kodak launched the first box and roll camera, the kind of thing you didn’t need a vintage filter for.
Music is becoming common on hotel websites, but does it really make us want to book a room?
A scientific study has come up with the answer: yeah, kinda. The journal Psychology of Music has published an article titled, “Congruency between instrumental background music and behavior on a website.”
As the author states in the abstract:
“Instrumental music (jazz and djembe) was played or not [played] while participants browsed the website of a well-known seaside resort and participants were instructed to select a type of accommodation. It was found that djembe music was associated more with a choice of outdoor accommodation while jazz music was associated with greater interest for hotel accommodation. Both music conditions showed a significant difference from the no music control condition. The ability of instrumental music to prime different memories and feelings is used to explain these results.”
So basically when we hear jazz we think of sipping bourbon in smoky interiors, while djembe makes us want to dance the night away in the moonlight. Um, OK.
Reading the article further, it turns out there’s a whole field of study devoted to figuring out what background music will do to our buying habits. Classical music makes us buy more expensive wines, for example, and playing French music will make us more likely to buy French wines. And here I thought the major determining factor was the physical attributes of my date.
The results of this study are pretty impressive. Eighty percent of the participants in this experiment picked a hotel room when they heard jazz, while 62.5% of the djembe listeners picked camping. For those who didn’t hear any music, 27.5% picked the hotel and 30% picked camping. It appears that mood music is aptly named.
Of course, hotel websites looking to get our money have to pick the right music. More often than not it’s some cheesy tune that makes us turn off the volume, or even worse for the hotel, click on another website. The annoyance factor is even higher if the music is clogging your slow connection or starts ringing out across your office, announcing to everyone that you’re slacking off.
So instead of spending money on music for their websites, perhaps hotels should spend more on music in their rooms. While Blind Willie McTell isn’t around anymore to play his 12-string guitar while you scarf down all the pillow mints, there are plenty of out-of-work musicians who would be happy to serenade you for a small fee.