Staying in Boutique Hotels

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:

Room at Hotel Fusion, San Francisco, CA












I expected this room, so I was perfectly happy in it.  But then I was excited when I realized:

The bathroom at Hotel Fusion in San Francisco, CA

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.


About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

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