Hotel extras worth their weight in gold

What should you really look for in a hotel?

A man stirs a delicious drink at the hotel bar

Six hotels into her latest holiday, SJ has some handy suggestions when it comes to working out what extras you actually need on your next trip.

Two weeks and six hotels into my latest holiday, I started to think about what makes a great hotel. While nowadays the list of most hotels’ facilities is enough to make your eyes glaze over, there are some that are far more valuable than others.

Here’s a handy guide to hotel extras that make an actual difference and help to make your stay all that more enjoyable.

1. Breakfast included
First things first, as the saying goes, breakfast is the most important and arguably the best meal of the day. While many hotels will make you pay extra for breakfast, I would argue it’s worth it – particularly if it’s a buffet affair.

Suss out what’s included beforehand and make sure you choose a rate with breakfast included or ask if there’s a special pre-payment rate. If it’s a hotel that is part of a large group, by simply joining its free loyalty program you can frequently have breakfast included at no additional cost.

Having breakfast included allows you to eat as early as you wish without having to get ready to head out for the day. It also means you can have a big breakfast and then spend less having smaller snacks while out and about later on.

2. Tea and coffee making facilities
It may sound obvious, but you’d be surprised how many hotels don’t have a kettle included in their rooms.

Travelling is thirsty work, and the ability to make yourself a morning or afternoon cup of coffee or tea is one of life’s little luxuries. It also saves you having to head out or order room service every time you want a hot drink.

3. Happy hour of any sort
This one is fairly self-explanatory, but there’s nothing better after returning from a long day exploring a new city to a well-deserved drink, especially when it’s complementary.

One of the recent hotels at which I stayed in Portugal offered a happy hour of a slightly different variety; free tea and pastries were served between five and seven each evening. A nice way to finish up the day, the free afternoon tea was definitely a winner in my book – nothing to do with the mini egg tarts, of course.

4. A non-lobby lounge
When you’re away for more than a few days, it’s almost imperative to have some downtime scheduled into your trip to make sure you return more relaxed than when you left. 

While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying your room, it can get a tad claustrophobic at times. To avoid cabin fever, a lounge is a nice place to sit back and read or write while enjoying your fellow guests company (from afar is fine). Most communal lounges have a bar of some sort or will serve tea and coffee to accompany your postcard or memoir writing.

5. A fitness centre or gym
Depending on the type of trip you’re on having, a gym or fitness centre is a nice luxury to encourage you to keep fit without having to motivate yourself to leave the hotel. This is particularly useful if you’re travelling in cooler climates where the weather isn’t inviting and the daylight hours may be limited.

6. A pool
As above, this is dependent on the type of holiday you’re taking but if you’re heading off on a sunny vacation, having a pool at the hotel is a choice you won’t regret. Nothing against beaches, but pools are significantly less sandy and allow you to enjoy some space to lounge about with a cocktail and catch the rays. Bonus points if it has a swim-up pool bar. 

One final suggestion worth mentioning is the benefits of a 24-hour front desk, particularly if you plan to arrive at the hotel very early or late. When I disembarked from a train in Salamanca at 5 am, the sight of a manned reception desk at the hotel was a very welcome one indeed.

Which hotel features and facilities do you look for when you book? 

A regular travel contributor to YourLifeChoices, SJ’s plane essentials include noise cancelling headphones, a solid Spotify playlist, sleeping tablets, an eyemask and a large scarf that doubles as a blanket on cold flights.

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