The past decade with Kevin has turned me into a bit of a hotel snob. We both work incredibly long hours at stressful jobs in the car business, and when we travel, we want interesting stories and an embarassing level of luxury out of the deal. When my coworkers talk about hotel prices, they throw out numbers like $200 per night as an obscene extravagance. I stay pretty quiet in those moments, not wanting to divulge that Kev has no reservations (pardon the pun) about dropping $500 or more for a night in a luxury resort.
Early on in these hospitality adventures, I started keeping the extra key card as a souvenir. Eventually I was able to make a collage out of the plastic keepsakes. On the plaque, you will notice a few for Chateau Elan, a wine resort outside of Atlanta which often hits internet lists as one of the most romantic getaways in the South. It is a sentimental favorite for us, one of the first luxury hotels we visited and the place we chose for our wedding ceremony. We like to return for our anniversary weekend, and they always put a nice note and bottle of wine out for the occasion.
Such gestures are clearly a part of the luxury hotel experience, but our motivation to drop hard-earned cash on what is essentially a bedroom and a bathroom has more to do with creating memories. We love to have stories to share from the places we’ve been, and get a kick out of observing how each place has a unique personality. We are frankly just happy to escape, and to be together.
There are some Kev-Ang escapes when it is not practical to visit a 4 or 5 star establishment, but we always find a place which is very clean and safe with a name we trust. I heard a comedian once refer to a hotel by saying “I won’t mention the name of the place, but there were two trees involved.” I’ll borrow that approach and tell you that this past weekend’s stay was at a recently built property in Asheville, affiliated with a commercial that hypnotizes the viewer with a simple “Bada Book, Bada Boom.”
Kevin and I probably have never stayed in a BadaBook hotel before, and it was certainly satisfactory in the grand scheme of things. It was very bright and clean, the service was good and the room was spacious. The price was $200 a night, which seemed fair enough, and was geographically close to the places we were visiting. Staying there, I started thinking about what the various stars denote in the hotel classification system, so I looked up the hotels.com definitions and found them to be very helpful. Based on their summaries, our BadaBook was definitely a 3 star. Nice pool, nice free breakfast, free internet, suites with furniture, decent art and many pillows.
People who stay in these places on a regular basis might be suprised to learn that the free breakfast is not something we normally receive at hotels with more stars, and that is fine with us. We would rather go out into the city and find our own fun breakfast to purchase. Aside from the breakfast difference, here are some other ways the hotels vary, based on our experiences:
- Bedding. I like to think I have some decent writing skills, but I am not sure I can fully articulate how it feels to get into the sheets at a luxury resort. I know that after wasting too much money trying to duplicate that feel at home, I finally realized that you cannot purchase this level of smoothness at your local Target or Bed Bath and Beyond. I had been playing around with triple digit threadcounts without realizing that I needed something closer to thousand-plus, Egyptian cotton fabrics to reach what we were enjoying in the plush hotels. Kevin and I have spent entire afternoons getting the best sleep of our lives in the huge, supple beds and pristine crisp bedding of a upscale resort. Like many luxuries in life, it is hard to go back to the basics after you’ve been spoiled like this.
- Service. Since both of us deal with the public for a living, it is important to be offered the level of service which mandates some form of training and polished manners. We have walked out of hotels with front desk clerks who were curt and perfunctory, snapping at us as if we were errant children in a grocery store. At the 4 and 5 star places, we are greeted by well-groomed valets opening our car doors and helped by polite professionals at the reception area calling us by name. We appreciate this critical component of the resort experience and consider it to be essential if we are going to shell out the big bucks for a nights sleep.
- Environment. A well-appointed room is a joy to enter. Whether modern and artistic or traditionally elegant, I enjoy the process of roaming through a new hotel room and seeing how it has been designed. I once stayed in a hotel with birds thoughtfully perched along the wall. Another place had a message written for us in lipstick on the mirror. Dual showers with rainfall showerheads, garden tubs, fireplaces, breathtaking art and elegant furniture allow you to feel that you truly are escaping everyday life into another world, one in which neither of us will have to listen to anyone yell at us that $60 is too much to spend on an oil change.
- Amenities. I am never one to care much about a free sample, and often leave them sitting untouched on the marble vanity of our hotel room. What I do enjoy is the quality and creative assortment of the toiletries. At a 3 star hotel, your free hair care comes in small bottles which spew out an insufficient amount of watered-down conditioner. In contrast, I’ve returned home from a 5 star hotel so in love with the smell of the shampoo they gave me that I went online to purchase a full size bottle, only to discover that it costs $75 for the set and has to be shipped from London. Sadly, this is out of my budget, so I returned to my normal products and will save those indulgences for my travels. But it’s nice to know that this level of excellence is out there. Additionally, we have stayed in places with complimentary champagne or bourbon in the room, or a courtesy happy hour in the lounge.
In the end, the extra stars at the hotels are a rare treat, which, like a first class airline ticket, are best saved for special occasions. The really cool thing about this past weekend was that Kevin and I had such a nice time together, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. He is such a delightful travel companion, open to adventure or laziness as the day unfolds. We had a lovely time in a fun city, enjoyed amazing food and music with friends. Although our 3-star BadaBook hotel had only one overworked elevator and less than stellar hair products, the place was very nice and met all of our needs. Kevin and I reconnected, slept well and came home refreshed. I guess it is less about the stars of the hotel and the more about the one Superstar right beside me. Luxury or simple, with any number of stars, the best part of any hotel experience is Kevin, and with him there will always be a fun memory to take home.