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10 Things a Hotel Reviewer Looks For

If you've ever wandered what we're looking for when reviewing hotels, now's your chance to find out. From the cleanliness of the rooms (trust us, they're not all clean!) to the cocktails at the bar, here's everything we investigate.

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Photo Courtesy of Nikolas Koenig


The Cleanliness of the Room

What we don’t do: pull out a black light and inspect a bed for creepy crawlers á la Ocean’s Thirteen. What we will do: conduct a mild inspection, searching for stray hairs and unwashed glassware in the bathroom, and unclean sheets and dusty surfaces in the bedroom. We’re not ones to go all OCD on the place, but there is something to be said about walking into a room with that fresh, just-cleaned smell.

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The Staff

There are plenty of luxury hotels in the world—far fewer with the staff and the service to match. It's something a hotel reviewer can pick up on from the minute she walks through the front door. Does the bellman offer to help with bags? Does the person at the front desk greet you with a smile? Is the service friendly, courteous, and anticipatory? These factors go a long way in establishing a sense of warmth and welcome.

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The Bathroom Amenities

In this day and age, a bar of soap and a 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner doesn't cut it. With plenty of boutique and chain hotels offering a range of toiletries (think: exfoliators, shaving balms, hand salves) from high-end brands like Le Labo, Kiehl’s and St. James Street apothecary, the bar has officially been set. Anything less, and we're going to dock marks.

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The Extras

It goes without saying that when a reviewer checks into a hotel, they aren’t just assessing how conducive the place is to getting a decent night’s sleep. They’re looking for all the extras (be it a game room, spa, movie-theatre, hair salon, etc.) that make the hotel a destination unto itself. Freebies, like coffee, a morning paper, or a glass of wine at happy hour, don’t hurt either.

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The Restaurants

That some of the world’s hottest chefs have hotel restaurants should tell you something about hotel dining in 2016—namely, the scene has never been hotter. But it takes more than a celeb chef to wow the most discerning of hotel reviewers. A hotel eatery ought to have a unique and modern design, food and drinks to write home about, a cool vibe, and stellar service in order to truly impress.

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The Hotel Bar

The most exceptional hotel bars don’t feel like hotel bars, at all. They have a scene that is redolent of a cool and casual neighborhood hang. The clientele is young and lively, the design is super edgy and inspired, the drinks are original, and the bartenders are fun and engaging. Hotel reviewers might not strike you as the type to be in-the-know about these kind of things, but trust us—we know a good time when we see one.

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Tech-friendly and Design-conscious Common Areas

The modern traveler has needs that his forefathers did not—most obviously, the need for constant Internet connectivity. A good hotel responds to this change in times by offering free WiFi and additional electrical outlets. A great hotel goes above and beyond the basics by creating design-forward spaces that cater to such activities. Which is not to say the common areas should be strictly utilitarian. Good ambience, a great soundtrack, lots of natural lighting, and stylish furniture that encourages socializing is just as important.

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A Sense of Place

A hotel can do everything right, but without some nod to its destination, it’s not going to obtain that elusive A+. Some easy ways to score points in this category? Locally-inspired welcome treats, décor that reflects the city’s spirit or heritage, and an eatery or bar with a regionally-inflected menu. It might seem trivial, but believe us — it makes a world of difference.

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The Minibar

Bad booze and $15 Pringles are a major turnoff. What mini bars should come stocked with instead? Premium goodies that are reasonably-priced, reflect the location (think: local beer), and feature nutritious/specialty items for more health-minded travelers.

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The Design

Comfort is key, yes. But a hotel should also sport a distinctive, design-conscious look that feels as invigorating as it does relaxing. Cool interior details—a claw-foot tub, industrial lighting, a reclaimed wood table—can make the most budget-friendly crash pad feel like it came from the pages of a glossy interior-decorating mag.

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