Thursday, June 28, 2012

Where to sleep while traveling

One of the most difficult things about travel is dealing with travel is when the expectations do not match the reality. Some of the smallest things can surprise you.  For example people expect hotels to have climate control to match the weather, but this may not be the case. I have visited London in the summer only to discover that the hotel did not have any air conditioning even though the temperature was over 30° C (85° F). Upon checking with the front desk they were able to provide a fan for my stay. Recently I had the opposite happen in Eliat. While visiting in the winter I discovered that the hotel air conditioning did not warm the room even though there was a setting that went up to 30° C.  Unfortunately the nights were quite cold, down to 6° C (42° F). In this case the hotel was able to provide a small electric heater. 

On another trip to London I was organizing my company’s participation at a conference (more details about this trip are later in the book) and our VP of Sales is over 1.9 meters (6’ 4”) tall. Unfortunately in this case the hotel room only had a twin bed available and it was too short for him and we were unable to change his room to a queen size where he could sleep diagonally. He ended up sleeping with his feet sticking out.

Beyond temperature and bed length water is the most basic expectation. Everyone knows the warnings about not dinking the water in Mexico (I have been there twice and drank the water with no problems both times), but when you are in a hotel in a country where the water is known to be safe it is surprising to see a sign over the bathroom sink telling you that the water is not for drinking. 

There are many options in places to sleep. They come in many qualities from ones that cater to Kings to ones that charge by the hour. Some of the options are:
  • Hotel - usually 3 or more tall. 
  • Motel - usually 1 or 2 stories tall, doors can open to an outside balcony rather than an interior corridor.
  • B&B or Bed and Breakfast - usually a converted house or lodge with a more home like and personal environment.
  • Tsimer or cabin - individual buildings that have their own private space. This can include kitchen, patio, lawn area, etc.
  • Ryokan - traditional Japanese inn. Sleeping is on a mat on the floor, eating is sitting on a mat on the floor. I have not tried this on my trip to Japan, but I intend to go back and try it when I next visit.
  • Coffin Hotel - unique Japanese concept, each "room" is little more than a bed with all items (TV, storage, etc) in the walls alongside the bed. Total space is just enough for average Japanese man to sit up in bed, and touch both walls and ceiling.
  • Tent (or equivalent) - when you are out in nature area and roughing it. These can also be cultural in nature. Sleeping can be on mats laid on the ground or cots.
  • Ice Hotel - seasonal accommodations literately made from ice Apparently very good for couples who want to cuddle to keep out the cold.
There are  other options so keep an open mind and check the internet or guide books to see what is available and different. Ii personally do not like the "cookie cutter" concept that every hotel should be the same. I like local flavor. I will include some hotel photos along with individual posts about trips.

Keep in mind that these places are in business to make money, so be cautious before assuming that all hotels offer the same services or that things are free/included in the room rate:
  • Breakfast – if a morning meal is important to you check to see if it is included or even available at the hotel. If it is included understand the difference between
  • Internet connection – many hotels offer WiFi, some in the rooms (free or a charge) or free in the lobby. In Japan Ii found that they had WiFi in the lobby but Ethernet in the rooms. Cables are sometimes provided in the room, or you can ask for them at the front desk.
  • Food or drinks in the room - many hotels have a mini bar in the room, where items cost between 150% - 1000% of the price you would pay at a local convenience store. Many have now also started putting a coffee pot and free coffee and tea in the room.
One of the most interesting hotel breakfasts I ever had was on a business trip in Moscow while staying at the Metropol hotel (just down the street from Red Square and across the street from the Bolshoi Theatre. First the hotel restaurant was huge, had a live Grand Piano player. The room was wonderful, as this was where foreign dignitaries would stay when visiting the Kremlin or the old Tzars.

Back to the meal, as this is a hotel that caters to visitors from both the east and the west they had a buffet with on end spread out with eggs, sausage, toast and jam like you would find in London. The other end had rice, miso soup, pickled plums, and such as you would find in a Japanese breakfast buffet. In the middle was smoked fish (salmon, pickled herring ) caviar, all the necessary accessories, They had  various juices, coffee, black tea, green tea, and even white tea. I  have to admit that the breakfast made it easier to face the cold January mornings. Breakfast was included in the room rate.
Japanese Breakfast, Nara
On the other hand I have had a Japanese breakfast tray complete with pickled plum in gelatin cube and other interesting for putting on the steamed rice. It was very taste, but was not included in the room rate.

Regardless of where you go, I suggest that you try the local flavor in food as you never know when you may find something that you really like.

In Bangkok, Thailand breakfast came with Dragon Fruit, in Mexico City there was eggs with chorizo and corn tortillas, and in Australia it came with vegemite. (I do not recommend vegemite or marmite to those who have not grown up with them.)

All photos were taken by me while on travel


  1. Really enjoyed reading your experience and advice because I travel a lot, too, for business. Have you heard about airports with rooms you can rent by the hour to sleep? Right inside the airport!!!! Four must-haves for me are complimentary good quality wifi, breakfast buffet, within walking distance where I need to be most often, and has a runner friendly area nearby.

  2. Hi Suzanne,

    Actually yes, I have even used one on my trip to Japan. I flew into Kansai International Airport (KIX) in the morning (from home) and was meeting my wife who was coming from the states and landing in the afternoon. So I went in and rented what was more of a cubical than a room (less expensive by the hour) and took a 3 hour nap while waiting for her.

    It combined the benefits of an airline lounge (free snack food and drink), plus WiFi, with a computer I could use and a big comfortable chair in a cubical with a locking door. They also had a small day spa available.

    As to your list of 4 musts, I agree with most of them. I try to be in walking or mass transit distance to where I need to be (when I travel for big trade shows hotels near the site can book up a year, or more, in advance).