Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How to sleep well at a hotel

As someone who frequently travels around the world and stays at a lot of business hotels there are a few ways to ensure you get a good night’s sleep at a hotel. Here’s what I have found…

Keep the noise down…
Before the trip checkout the hotel in terms of its location and proximity to noise sources such as roads, railways, airports, bars and clubs. Take a look at a good cross section of reviews on Tripadvisor – I tend to look at a reasonable spread of reviews to get a decent picture.

A good example of this would be a hotel I have stayed at a few times in Los Angeles. A lovely hotel in many ways with great food and helpful staff. However the hotel is a an experience of two halves – rooms on the front of the hotel look out onto a noisy road, rooms on the back look out over the Hollywood hills. There is also an LA stlyle open air bar (with DJ) at one end of the hotel. Great if you want to hang out, but lousy if you want a good night’s sleep.

Use your knowledge to request a room on the quiet side as early as possible.

When you get to the room check out the potential noise sources – the main culprits in my experience are – lifts, ice machines, dripping taps, refrigerators and air conditioning. It’s much easier to change rooms at this moment before you are settled in so make a quick decision about whether you accept the room at this point. It’s not always possible to change, especially if the hotel is full, but if you don’t ask you don’t get.

Once in the room you need to manage your environment carefully. The trickiest choice is about air conditioning in hotter climates. These units can be really noisy. These days I will keep it on until I go to bed and turn it off at that moment.

The other things to watch out for are in room refrigerators that can be noisy. As someone who generally does not use the mini-bar I tend to turn them off at the wall as soon as I arrive.

What you cannot legislate for is noisy neighbours, some folks like to party hard and if you find yourself next door to them that’s generally bad luck. If it keeps up then complain firmly but politely and asked to be moved.  If there is a planned party at the hotel that affects the noise levels at your room a good hotel will advise you of the fact when you are booking.

Lights out…
Electronic devices in the room tend to have stand-by functions that can cause a lot of light interference, again switch them off at the wall. Also avoid the temptation to get sucked into late night telly or films.

Curtains and blinds vary dramatically in terms of their effectiveness. Not much you can do about this except come prepared with a good sleep mask.

Creature comforts….
Beds in hotels differ widely in terms of their quality and comfort. The Westin chain in the US make a feature of their “Heavenly Bed” which in my experience lives up to its name. Some even offer pillow menus. Seek out those hotels that see this as important.

I know some folks who insist on taking their own pillows wherever they go. This is a bit impractical for airline business travel but if you are in the car and have plenty of space it’s an option.

Sleep tight, don’t let the bugs bite
More unusually the hotels in New York have in the last couple of years been known to harbour bed bugs. I also know of someone who had that experience recently in Singapore at a good hotel. So that’s a whole new dimension to watch out for and in hotter climes the mosquito remains a menace at night without a net.

Happy sleeping!

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