Weird and wacky finds from the hotel minibar

I’m of the opinion that there are two kinds of hotel guest – one that is so scared of the hotel minibar that they’ll refuse to be handed the key, and one that makes it one of the first things they check out in their room.

I’m one of the latter – and find that the contents of the minibar says a lot about the quality of the hotel chain. A low end hotel chain may offer nothing more than a couple of bottles of water and some full size cans of soda. High end hotels may have as much as $2000 of items behind the door (their prices, not retail prices).

I’ve collected some of the weirdest things I’ve come across in the hotel minibar. And before you ask – yes, I too hate the automated minibar where a mere touch of the door makes a computer think you robbed the place.
W Hotel, Times Square New York

Many hotels know that their guests might/will get a bit frisky when they enter the room, and most of them understand that their guests don’t always carry “protection”. For that reason, the minibar may be where you’ll often find an assortment of intimacy products. The W Hotel at Times Square takes adult fun a little further with their “sex in the sheets” product. Sure, it isn’t really a minibar item, but it certainly is worth mentioning in this lineup.

For $18, someone will come up to your room with ice cream, a bunch of toppings and plastic sheets. I’ll leave it up to you to decide what these are for. Add $20 and you get a disposable camera. Kinky!

Edgewater Hotel, Seattle

The Edgewater is one of my personal favorites in Seattle. The whole place just feels more like home than most hotels, down to the contents of their minibar. Sure, they have the regular overpriced booze and soda, but they are also the only hotel I know of that will gladly sell you a teddy bear or rubber duck. Sure, some people may claim they want it for their kid back home, but I’m sure there are guests that gladly spend the $40 to have a companion to keep them company in their bed.

Hotel Rivington, New York

The hotel on Rivington is one of those hotels that tells a lot about itself just by looking at the minibar. This thing has it all – from full size bottles of Champagne to six (yes, six) different “intimacy products”. They also have T-Shirts, full bottles of Patron and $6 gummi bears. You can instantly tell this is an expensive minibar, because they don’t stock any regular soda, but they do have 8 different flavors of juice.

With the amazing view from their rooms, and the Tempur-Pedic bed, it is no surprise that they keep these items in the minibar, it is a very romantic hotel.

10 things I hate about staying at a hotel

What can cost upwards of $250 per night, has poor climate control and a bad bed? Of course, I’m talking about the hotel. This home away from home has been my residence on the road for quite a decent chunk of my traveling life, but I honestly can’t remember ever having spent a night in a hotel that beat the comfort of my own home.

It isn’t all doom and gloom though, I really appreciate the hard work most of the hotel staff put into keeping me happy, and there is nothing like the sight of a familiar hotel chain name when you are far away from home in a country you have never been to.

No amount of pampering or luxury can seemingly replace the luxury of your own bedroom. So, here are the 10 things I hate the most about staying at a hotel:

The bed

They say there is no place like home. And nowhere is that more the case than in a hotel bed. I’ve slept in hundreds of hotels, and not once did I ever find a bed that made me feel at home. Sure, I’ve stumbled into my room drunk, and passed out in the bed, but that doesn’t count.

I’m not sure whether it is because the mattress has been used by too many people, or just the subconscious thought of sleeping on poorly washed sheets.

The minibar

The minibar itself is a fine amenity. In the past I’ve been suckered into spending $6 for a diet coke, and did not care one bit. But the newfangled automated minibar with sensors really annoys me. Sometimes I just want to open the minibar to check out the assortment of beverages, and would love to do so without an evil computer instantly thinking I robbed the place of all their overpriced liquor.

I’d also like to ask hotels to stop stocking the minibar with too many obscure products. Sometimes a guest just wants a damn Snickers bar, and is not in the mood for a $12 organic dried peach and carrot whey protein energy bar.

Internet connectivity

There is something strange going on in the world of hotel Internet connections. I can stay at a cheap and smelly Holiday Inn, and get free Internet access, but the $200/night Hilton still thinks it’s cool to charge me $19.95 for 24 hours of online access. Apparently the minds in marketing have concluded that anyone who can afford an expensive hotel will be willing to spend even more.

Thankfully many hotels are allowing me to get online using my Boingo account, but Internet access is clearly still a major money maker for some places.

The worst offenders can be found in Europe, where it is perfectly normal to run into a hotel demanding $35 a night for access to the web. Not only is the price a major issue, I still run into hotels where the speed can only be described as “molasses crawling uphill in the winter”.

The Bathroom

Note to hotel cleaning crews: clean my bathroom. I mean really, how hard is it to make sure all the mold and pubic hair is washed out of the shower before you declare my room “spotless”?

I can often tell how good a hotel is by taking a 5 second glance at their bathrooms. More often than not, a hotel will consider a bathroom “upgraded” by merely replacing the shower nozzle with a new model.

And while I am on the topic of the shower; water pressure is another of my pet peeves. Hotels seem incapable of providing the right water pressure. I either find a shower that can shoot the tiles off the wall, or one that barely has enough pressure to rinse me clean.

The TV

The hotel TV is supposed to entertain you. But when you are faced with nothing but a selection of local channels and the occasional 24 hour news source, it is hard to get in bed with the remote and relax.

Thankfully more and more hotels are upgrading to flat panel TV’s and a wider assortment of channels, but many hotels still have a fugly wood grain TV with 9 channels of nothing, and a sticky remote.

There are still hotels out there where they offer Nintendo 64 games for a mere $19.95 a day. Even the most bored of kids won’t be able to entertain themselves for long with one of those 11 year old consoles.

The alarm clock

There are 2 things I hate about the hotel alarm clock; it is often impossible to program and there is always someone who sets the alarm for 4:30 am in the hope that I forget to turn it off before going to bed.

Thankfully I’m finding more and more hotels that upgraded their alarm clock to a more pleasant unit, and some have even started adding those nice iPod friendly alarm clock (just don’t forget to bring your iPod home when you leave!).

The hotel restaurant

If I arrive at my hotel after a long flight, I’ll often end up having to eat at the hotel restaurant at least once. Hotel restaurants are part of a global conspiracy to spread horrible food. Most of them have the same menu, with the same boring dishes.

It takes a lot of effort to make a burger taste bad, but the hotel restaurants have it down to an art. Of course, the only thing worse than a bad hotel restaurant, is having that same bad food delivered to your room for twice the price.

The thermostat

The hotel thermostat is evil. Inside the innocent looking device is a mind that is out to get you. You will never, ever manage to get the temperature in your room set to what you want. When you arrive, it’ll be in the 80’s. When you turn it down a little and leave, you’ll get back to a room in the mid 40’s. Just once, I wish a hotel would put a thermostat on the wall that does not force me to wake up every 4 hours to change its setting.

Sneaky hotel fees

Resort fee, energy recovery fee, towel fee, charitable contribution fee.

The list goes on and on, and each year hotels find new ways to add a couple of bucks to my bill. Of course, some of these fee’s and taxes are imposed upon the hotel by the local government, but the hotels are not without blame here either. The worst offender I ran into, was an airport hotel in Europe where the additional fee’s and taxes were more than the room rate.

The boutique hotel phenomenon

In the past, a hotel with tiny cramped rooms would be called a bad hotel. Nowadays it is called “a boutique hotel”.

The smaller the room, the more bohemian it apparently is. I’ve stayed in a $240/night hotel where there was not enough room to squeeze past the dresser and the bed. But these hotels justify their existence by adding mood lighting, dark wallpaper and filling the bar area with hip people.

Needless to say I am not a fan of the boutique hotel, but I’m man enough to admit that I might just not be hip enough to fit in.

Click the images below to learn about some of the weirdest hotels anywhere:

What Kind of Mini Bar Traveler Are You?

Let’s talk about mini bars.

What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever seen in a mini bar, and what sort of mini bar traveler are you? Do you sometimes accept the usurious prices for a cold beer or a packet of honey roasted peanuts, or do you only consume items you can easily replenish from the 7-11 down the road?

And is checking out the contents of the mini bar the first thing you do in a new hotel room?

Traveling for Lonely Planet, I don’t actually stay in mini bar equipped hotels much any more, but the occasional press trip for other folk does allow the mini thrill of seeing what’s on offer. A trip to Sydney once revealed everything from condoms to effervescent vitamin B hangover tablets (Do you have Berocca in the States?)

In a previous life I traveled a bit for business, and can safely say that an overpriced bottle of Tiger beer, a chilled Toblerone bar, and Mythbusters on the telly is as good an antidote as any to an eleven flight from Auckland to Singapore.

Thanks to Carla Michele on Flickr for the pic.