I have a couple of hotel reviews that I was going to post, but I realized that before I do that I should give you a little preview of what to expect and what I look for when I stay at hotels.
I am hyper-critical when it comes to little details and may shine a light on things you normally wouldn't notice, so I apologize for that in advance! :)
To me, the most important thing is a hotel getting the little things right. For instance:
Does everything work properly?
Does the staff greet everyone with a smile?
Does the staff wait for a guest to pass by first before proceeding?
When you do those three things correctly, which all hotels should be able to do, it elevates the experience significantly and gives off a feeling of professionalism and builds up equity with guests in case something does go wrong. These are not things you need high room rates to do. Every hotel should be able to accomplish all three.
Now, here is what I look for in the different parts of a hotel, from the time you walk in to when you get to your room:
Curbside/Entrance: Obviously, a clearly marked sign is a must. No one wants to be confused by an entrance, especially when you're arriving late at night and not sure where to stop. With most people arriving now by Uber/Lyft, a hotel that doesn't clearly mark the front entrance area can create more confusion than necessary and lead to higher fares for riders. Hotels located on one way streets especially need this as missing a hotel on a one way street (especially in big cities) can lead to an extra five minutes to get back around. Baggage Attendees should be friendly and welcoming but not pushy. I don't like when I'm forced to give my bags up. Give me a chance first before you step in. A pushy Valet can really rub a guest the wrong way and lose that feeling of professionalism.
Use of Space/Flow: Not every hotel has the capacity for a large, grand lobby. I get that. However, every hotel can construct it to maximize space and minimize congestion. A lobby should make sense as soon as you walk in so guests don't ever have to stop in the middle and look around. The Check-In desk should never be too close to the entrance (especially in a small lobby) as this can create a log-jam at the entrance and puts the guests in an uncomfortable position. In a small lobby I like to see the check-in desk directly opposite of the entrance.
Front Desk Agents: To me, the front desk is generally where the hotel wins or loses with me. I believe this is the biggest contributor to my stay as hard as that may be to believe. Above all else, the front desk should be professional in all facets. That means a smile, a calm demeanor, and the impression that they will do anything in their power to satisfy a request. I have said before, even if you know that you can't do something, at least give me the illusion that you are trying. If you have status with that hotel, your status should always be recognized and appreciated. In return, you should always treat the front desk with respect and courtesy as well!
Use of Space/Flow: Hotel rooms should be well-proportioned. For instance, it makes no sense to have a large space from the night table to the wall if there is no furniture there. That square footage should be put into the bathroom. The living area of the room doesn't need to be cramped, but space just for the sake of space is a waste. Like the lobby, it doesn't make too much sense to have the closet right by the door as they can interfere with each other.
Bathroom: All hotel rooms should be clean with 100% functionality. There is no excuse for rooms to not be thoroughly cleaned. The areas that I mostly find issues with at even very good hotels are at the base of the toilet and the corners of bathrooms. Even though those areas aren't major, if I see water stains there that makes me think there is mold. The best hotels pay attention even to the most minor details, no matter if you can see it with the naked eye or not. If I see a clean area around the toilet and inside the faucet, I know the hotel is on top of their game.
The number one indicator of a well-trained staff is if, when happening upon a guest in a hallway or small area, the staff member waits and allows the guest to go first. What this tells me is that the "guest-first" philosophy is truly ingrained in the culture of the hotel. I expect this at high-end properties, but when I see this at a mid-tier hotel it really sticks out and elevates my stay.
Nothing should feel like an inconvenience, even if it is. It is important to be respectful of the staff during your stay, but in return requests should be fulfilled in a timely matter with a smile.
As you can see, there are certain small details that when you focus on them can elevate or drag down your stay. It is important to look for these to know if you should return, and if you are getting good value for your stay. Aesthetics aren't the only factor when it comes to choosing hotels. The intangibles matter most!