If the shower cap fits, use it (for your shoes) – Packing tip

Unless you’re my grandmother (Hi, Grandma!!), you probably don’t use the shower cap provided at some hotels for anything whatsoever. But, that little plastic cap with the elastic ring can be very useful when packing your bags.

Shoes are often cumbersome and tend to get in the way when trying to maximize your luggage. Take the shower cap from your hotel room (or one you’ve previously stolen from a hotel room) and open it up. Put your shoes inside it and the elastic will hold them together, making them much easier to handle and pack/unpack.

Inside the Emirates A380 First Class shower

Last week, I wrote how smelly passengers are among the most annoying people to be sitting next to on a flight. For passengers in First Class on Emirates flights serviced by their Airbus A380, body odor can be a thing of the past (and I don’t mean though copious amounts of Drakar Noir).

The Emirates Airbus A380 is the first commercial plane in the world to feature full shower facilities. Passengers in First Class can request the use of the shower, and are allotted 30 minutes of privacy, along with 5 minutes of water.

The shower facility is massive when compared to most bathrooms in the skies, and the room is thoroughly cleaned between each visit. In fact, this flying shower has more features than most of us have at home, including a flat panel TV and several integrated closets and hangers.

This photo was taken inside the shower cubicle. You can clearly see the water timer to the left of the shower head, which should help prevent you from a nasty surprise when your 5 minutes are up.

A beautifully arranged sink area with a marble counter top and a real faucet, unlike the crappy faucets us commoners get on most flights. Other amenities include a hair dryer and of course various toiletries.

I’m not an aviation specialist, but I can imagine the design hassles involved in carrying enough water for all these showers are immense. Still, when you are paying upwards of $4000 for the pleasure, a little luxury goes a long way.

Many thanks to Flyertalk member Flyingfox for granting us permission to use his fantastic photos.

When hotel high-tech goes bad

Hotels are slowly entering the new millennium, and are investing in new amenities. In addition to better toiletries, most new and renovated hotels are adding (HD) flat panel TV’s, smart thermostats and better water management.

There is however one major flaw with some of these technologies – hotels are installing technology they don’t have any experience with, and some of the technology appearing in the room becomes more of a burden than a blessing. Here are three examples of technology being added to hotel rooms, that simply does not work.
The double flat panel TV curse
Lets assume you find yourself checking into a decent hotel – one that recently replaced all their old CRT TV’s with some nice flat panel models. The hotel even went so far as to install not one, but two TV’s in the suite – which is perfect if you are planning to let someone sleep in the sofa bed, or if you want some TV when you are working at the desk.

There is however one major flaw with this – in 4 different hotels I recently spent the night, each flat panel TV used the same remote control code. The result of this is that anything you do on one TV, also happens on the other.

Ready to go to bed at night? You’ll turn off the TV in one room, and the TV in the other room will turn on. Change the channel on one TV? It’ll change on the other TV as well. Some hotels make this curse even worse by installing a mirror next to the TV’s, making it much easier for the remote control to reach the other TV.

Of course, this does not happen when you have completely separated rooms, but since most suites are only divided by a small wall, you’ll understand how annoying this can be.

The solution for hotels is to find a way to set different codes on each TV, but you’d expect them to have figured this out before they invested in all these nice new TV’s.

Going green means getting warm

I’m not the most “green” person in the world – and one of the first things I’ll do when I enter my hotel room is dial the thermostat down to a comfortable 70 degrees.

In more and more hotels, I’m being forced to become green thanks to motion detection thermostats. These “smart” devices think they know when a guest is no longer in the room, and will disable the AC when it decides the room is empty.

Of course, this also means these stupid boxes think I am gone, when I am fast asleep.

I’ve regularly woken up in the middle of the night several times finding the room at an uncomfortable 78 degrees, all because a piece of equipment thought I was gone.

Thankfully a quick wave in front of the sensor reminds it that I’m still there, and that I’d like a bit of cool air.

The scrubbing shower jet

Thermostatic shower controls are great. These controls keep your shower water at a constant temperature, which prevents being showered with freezing cold water when your hotel room neighbor takes a shower at the same time.

They also have the unfortunate side effect of not controlling the water pressure.

On old double tap controls, you could dial the pressure up or down a little, but had little control over the final temperature.

With these new controls, you run the risk of getting the perfect temperature, but having so much water pressure, that you could use the jet to pressure wash your car.

Things are not too bad in the morning, when everyone else in the hotel is taking a shower, but if you arrive in the afternoon in need of a shower, then you could be the only one using all that water. It’s time like that when a bath is the best option.

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: