One of the reasons I have trouble maintaining hotel status is because I stay in boutique hotels fairly often. I’ve been to San Francisco five times and stayed at chain hotels twice while there.
Why the draw to boutique hotels?
First of all, I do a lot of my travel solo. Sometimes boutique hotel rooms are smaller than your typical chain, but it doesn’t matter as much to me when only I need to fit in there!
Also, I tend to like quirky, unusual things. As long as my hotel is clean and safe, I tend to roll with the punches of what a boutique hotel can bring.
Maybe it is the Vegas fan in me, but I tend to love (non-cheesy) themed hotels too. This is why I’m a fan of the Kimpton properties. My mother and I once stayed in a 70s themed room at Hotel Helix and really got a kick out of non traditional items… like a shower in the middle of the room. Not kidding. (I also love Hotel Madera even though I’ve never actually stayed there. I’ve spent a lot of time in its restaurant, a lovely forest themed eatery complete with trees and fireflies.)
Boutique hotels can also be cheap, but sometimes prohibitively expensive–and unpredictably so. When I stayed at Hotel Helix (recently), I snagged a $99 / night rate, but when I looked into the room rate for a friend, it was almost $300 a night.
Boutique hotels can also take an (unfair) beating in reviews. Why? Because many people are expecting what you get at a full-service chain. And that’s not quite the right attitude to have.
I’ll give a recent example. I stayed at Hotel Fusion in Union Square, San Francisco. This hotel was a steal, coming in just about $100 per night including taxes. The hotel didn’t receive terrible ratings, but came in around 3.5 on Trip Advisor.
The reason for the low ratings were the room sizes. So I set my expectations around a small room.
And a small room I got:
I expected this room, so I was perfectly happy in it. But then I was excited when I realized:
The bathroom is the same size as the room!
Because I kept my expectations set at the limitations of this boutique hotel, I was pleasantly surprised at the large bathroom. There was an interesting bar underneath the hotel and it was close to a lot of delicious eateries. Overall I was very happy with it.
I’m not saying lower your expectations for staying in a room. You should never book a hotel beneath your expectations. But don’t expect everything from a hotel. And when you need or want certain things from a hotel room, make sure the hotel you are booking has that. But if you don’t mind the unexpected or a little adventure (and are not going for status), try out a boutique hotel.
I have to admit, it definitely was an adventure showering in the middle of a Hotel Helix room. I am still trying to figure out the physics of it and how the room stayed dry. But then again, I also enjoyed the evening cocktails, the unusual theme, and their “honor based system” for the mini-bar. And don’t forget the location and price.