Blog 8 of 10

The Trouble With Hotels

By William May
Published: 04/06/04 Topics: Comments: -

Can anyone tell me why a family would stay in a Hotel for their vacation? I was reminded recently of how distressing it can be when we visited the famous Waikiki Beach area of Hawaii.

Penny and I hadn't spent much time there for 20 years but my 14 year old son decided there were things he just needed to see like the Bishop Museum, Hanama Bay and the world famous North Shore surfing sites.

So on our working trip to Kauai we stayed over on the island of Oahu and took a hotel room smack dap in the middle of the action. Waikiki, Pearl Harbor, the might Mo battleship and all the sites were worth the effort. But an effort it was.

The name of the hotel shall remain anonymous because I don't want to get sued for libel (but hey, truth is a defense). It was a 30 story high rise building across the street from the people-packed beach and had been recently decorated. It was clean and well staffed and, in general, no worse and certainly no better than other tourist havens.

But let me tell you why it wasn't a vacation and why most hotel stays don't qualify as a holiday. These slightly stressful reasons are exactly why the vacation rental industry is growing fast. If you want a vacation you need a vacation home.


- In order to check in, we stood in line with 40 other people as the clerks were working feverishly (at least those that spoke english). It sill took 20 minutes to get a key. Room cost was just $199 per night, plus, plus, plus. (More on that later).

- My son was a little slow on jumping out of the rental car which allowed the bell man to snatch the bags and rush them to bell hop prison. She he did the honors. Cost for the tip $8

- We proceeded to the room which had two double beds (no queen beds in this space conscious establishment.), adequate mattresses and the traditional black out curtains. No frills here. There was a small closet and a shower curtain that wouldn't stay up.

- Penny flung open the curtains and stepped out onto the 18" deck with a peek-a-boo view of the beach. No room for a chair out there but that was OK because the roar of the building HVAC system made it impossible to talk. Plus the stench of diesel bus fuel wafted up even to our 24th floor room.

- She quickly crammed the door shut only to discover a loud locomotive sound coming from the air as it blasted under the hallway door and whistled through the deck door that wouldn't close all the way.

- Thee was no place to lay out the suitcases so we used the floor which meant there was then no where to walk. We collapsed on the bed.

- Soon hunger called. After a long flight we dial room service to order from the gourmet menu except the entrees seemed like left over from an Antarctica research camp. (I'm thinking everything comes out of a can). An hour later and $71 and we have dinner for three.

- My soon wanted an extra coke but we didn't think we could wait another hour and pay another $5 so he finds a pop machine in the hall for the bargain price of $3.

- Then he finds the mini bar, "WAAAAAAIT yell before he grabs a snickers bar." I'm thinking $3 per candy bar is highway robbery.

- I need to logon for a few minutes but sorry no high speed internet in this aging beach beauty. I can use dialup in a pinch and find, hidden in the guest "Courtesy" manual that the cost for the data port (ie: phone line) is only one dollar per minute. Sorry I pass.

- And head to the street to find an internet cafe. There I find a place with high speed internet for just $6 per hour. But why do I have to march around the neighborhood to use it?

- At long last we find ourselves tuckered and trampled and snug in bed ready for a good night's sleep. No such luck. We hear Waikiki party goes stroll down our hall to their rooms every 20 minutes soused in liquor and banging the walls. It is spring break and a long night.

- Next morning we shuffle into Wolfgang Puck's express cafe for a glorified Egg McMuffin for just $9 each. I would have orange juice too but don't want to mortgage the house.

- Back to the entrance we go to request our car be brought around. It takes 20 minutes and a $3 tip every time we want the car. That, of course, on top of the $15 per day parking fee - but hey you get in and out privileges. Plus the tip each time of course. Even here in paradise if you don't tip your car might come back with dead fish in the trunk if you know what I mean.

- The next night I need to send a fax and am happily surprised that the price is only $1 per page. Of course I know the long distance call home is now as low as 3 cents per minute but hey they have to make a profit, right?

- On the way back up to the room I discover that the elevators no longer descend to the lobby after 6pm, "To keep out the riff raff" says the clerk. So I'm forced to walk to the far end of the block long building, go up an escalator and then do elevator lottery to figure out which one goes to my floor. Geeeeesh!

- The next day I have to fax again and the clerk says "sorry you were undercharged last night the real rate is $5 for the first page and $3 each additional page. And I'm going to have to bill you for yesterday's mistake." Normally I would debate the issue but by now I'm without sleep or food or stamina.

- On the last day we go to the ice cream parlor on the beach side of the hotel and learn they have a fancy new system where they mix the cold stuff while you watch. And they sing if you give them a tip. I worry what will be hidden in the ice cream if I cough up some moolah. So the ice ream adventure is just $18 for three people. Last time someone took me for this much money the perpetrator was wearing a mask and had a gun.

- As we depart this Shangrila we have to traverse the gauntlet of outstretched hands. $10 for the maid (is that enough?), $8 for the bellman, $4 for the car. I'm surprised the cashier didn't stick out his hand but by then maybe they realize most guests would chop it off at the wrist.

All in all we did get in some great sight seeing but I couldn't help but keep track of all the ways a hotel vacation rips dollars out of the guest's pocket. Certainly I am not a penny pincher. I even like some of those mega beach-side resorts where you can sit on your bum in the sun for a week and get everything handed to you. And for conferences and meetings, convention hotels are the only way to go.

THE MESSAGE: But now let me make my point. My fellow vacation rental owners, we need to blow the trumpet vacation homes even louder. We have a superior product. And we need to let travelers know the trouble with hotels.

NOTE: Or maybe we are just jealous of hotel owners. They have masterfully figured out how to take maximum dollars off guests while giving them the most meager of product and service.

BENEFITS OF VACATION RENTALS: Let me try to recap just a few of those services many vacation homeowners provide to their guests for free:

- Come and go when you like.
- Free parking usually
- Full kitchen, pots and pans for making macaroni and cheese when that suits you.
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner available 24 hours a day.
- No 1,000% markup on food.
- No tipping the rom service waiter.
- No tipping the doorman.
- A lot more room for a lot less money (per square foot)
- Decks you can actually sit on.
- Furniture that is actually comfortable.
- No neighbors on the other side of that flimsy wall.
- Don't have to share the bar with the Russian national drinking team.
- You can open the windows!
- You can turn the heat up or down. Or even on and of. Revolutionary.
- No daily maids to go through your underwear.
- No noisey elevators with noisey people.
- No hand in your wallet every time you turn around.


As always I seek your input. Please share your tips, techniques, compliments, and complaints on this or any other subject by writing me at

Author: William May – Volunteer, Vacation Rental Association
Blog #: 0045 – 04/06/04

Comments: 0

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