How to tell when you’ve found a great hotel

There’s no feeling in the world quite like it: the “ahh” of arriving at a great hotel and having that one particular “wow” moment that tells you that you’re in for a spectacular experience. It might be a welcome cocktail or a specific amenity or a great view, but sometimes there’s that one particular zen moment that makes the entire stay.

The funny thing is that it’s almost never the same at any two hotel properties, and oftentimes it can depend on the type of stay, type of hotel, type of journey, or even season or time of day. Examiner.com has compiled a couple examples below on ways you can tell your stay is going to be extraordinary.

All photos are from the author’s Instagram. Got a favorite hotel story? Share it in the comments below.

Guests are raving

A guest for a while can see for a mile, as they say, and one way to determine if you’ve booked a winner of a property is to sit and listen. Whether happy or disgruntled, guests are likely to talk about their experience while they’re still on-property. A recent stay at The St. Anthony Hotel in San Antonio yielded just such an experience at the hotel’s rooftop pool. Guests raved about the restaurant, the service at the pool bar, the recently remodeled bathrooms – they couldn’t say enough good things about the hotel. In that particular case there was a gracious, dedicated hotel bartender coaxing that sort of atmosphere of relaxation and fun, and it made a huge difference.

Extra little touches

It might seem a bit of an interruption in these modern times where guests are far less accustomed to the comings and goings of domestic staff, but it was no interruption at all when staff at Hotel Imperial in Vienna knocked on the door no less than three times during a recent 24 hour stay with a fresh arrangement of fresh flowers for the suite: two gorgeous orchids and a luscious bouquet of yellow roses for fragrant company throughout the afternoon and evening.

Unique public spaces

Public spaces that scream “this can only be one very special place in the whole world” are another hallmark of a great hotel. Fans of The Palace Hotel, the 140 year old Beaux Arts landmark in San Francisco, will instantly recognize the wrought iron glasswork and crystal chandeliers over the Garden Court, a landmark dining room that once hosted the seminal meetings of the nascent United Nations in 1946, and has been the scene of thousands of teas and Sunday Brunches in the decades since.

Groundbreaking innovations

At the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in Seattle, members of Fairmont’s President’s Club frequent guest program don’t even need to stop at the front desk to check-in. They’re sent an e-mail on the day of arrival inquiring about their planned arrival time, and when their room is ready they’re e-mailed again and told keys will be waiting with the doorman upon arrival. No line, no wait, no rote formalities to go through – just a key handover and directions to a waiting hotel room.

A good story

At the Historic Davenport Hotel in Spokane, the story of the hotel’s luxurious lobby is known throughout town. The owners of the hotel had lofty ambitions and wanted to make the small town landmark into one of the best hotels in the world, so they traveled the world looking at layouts and architecture for hotel lobbies and hospitality public spaces, and the end result was the breathtaking ’20s-style moorish revival that exists today.

Unexpected blissful moments

When one dives into a hotel pool, one expects the time spent underwater to be a moment of transcendence: cool replaces heat, silence replaces noise, buoyancy replaces weight. At the Hotel Van Zandt in Austin, guests who dive into the pool will notice a third sensation: sound. The hotel pool has a built in sound system that often plays classical or new age music, a welcome contrast to the pop/rock pool deck. It’s a true escape, and it’s a pool that’s hard to get out of.

A sense of whimsy

The Arctic Club, a DoubleTree Hotel in Seattle has a walrus as its mascot, in homage to the hotel’s history as a gentlemen’s club for those with connections to Alaska or the Yukon. In spite of being part of DoubleTree by Hilton’s worldwide branding, the walrus logo permeates the hotel, from the blankets to the coffee cups, and even the souvenir walruses available for sale in the lobby.

Sweet surprises

When checking into a room at a luxury property that has butler service, twice daily turndown (evening refresh is the more gracious term) and other things “on the advertised”, it’s nice to have another daily surprise that isn’t mentioned when booking the room (of course, it’s included in the price, but it still feels like an extra). At The St. Regis Bangkok, butlers delivery a sweet treat every afternoon, including the hotel’s famous macaron cookies with the hotel logo airbrushed on the top, as well as local Thai-style sweets made from sweet yellow bean paste.

An amazing bath tub

Nothing melts the day away like a good bath tub, whether it’s slightly oversized, a deep soaking tub, a tub with a view, or a tub that’s large enough to fit an Olympic swim team, hotels that do well with bath tubs are certain to make for memorable stays (at least for those who enjoy a good bath). Pictured here is a guest room tub at the Grand Hyatt Seattle.

The staff have done their research

It pays off to be a member of a hotel’s loyalty program, for there are often milestones that program members aren’t even aware existed. After a long business day, a short recent stay at the Westin Long Beach carried the expectation of little more than a comfortable bed and a good sleep. However, the staff had noticed that it was a particular guest’s 25th stay at a Westin hotel, and they sent up an amenity in celebration. It wasn’t just the gesture, it was understanding that there was actual hospitality still driving an industry that’s become rather automated as of late.

An unbeatable view

There’s nothing better than a room with a view. Whether it’s ocean or mountains or in the case of Salish Lodge & Spa, a gigantic waterfall (local indigenous peoples believe that the spirits of their ancestors reside in the mist), having a view to reflect on while enjoying morning coffee or a nightcap is bound to make for a memorable experience.

A great club lounge

Ritz-Carlton is famous for its club lounges, which offer five food & beverage presentations per day, and a dedicated lounge attendant (who once mended a sweater missing a button and had it finished before the guest could finish their coffee). Some say it’s worth the splurge, others would prefer to venture outside the hotel to eat, but for those who do take the plunge, it makes for an over-the-top luxury that is hard to forget. Pictured: The Ritz-Carlton Washington DC.

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