Don't get suckered into unnecessary hotel room features that are overrated or have unexpected drawbacks.
Picking a hotel room can be hard work. Which room has the best view? The best shower? The best amenities?
Vacations are tough to come by, and we want to make sure you don’t get suckered into any unnecessary hotel or room features that you might want to either save your money on — or at least take a closer look at before you book.
From our experiences staying in rooms from Austin to Australia, here are eight of the most overrated hotel room features we’ve come across.
- WATER VILLAS
By far the number one misaligned vacation dream is the idyllic water villa. We get the fascination, we’ve been there, too! But then we stayed in hundreds of water villas and found there are some serious drawbacks to staying in these things.
For one, the very thing that makes them appealing — those long wooden jetties sprawled out on top of the sea — translate to lots and lots of walking. You’ll kick yourself every time you have to go back and forth from your room to wherever, especially since the water villas are usually geographically placed farthest from most resort features.
They can also have smelly bathrooms since alternate plumbing is usually in place. And depending on the design and position, they are apt to sway with the water or bare the brunt of some brutal waves. Plus, they aren’t always as private as they seem, with neighbors (and noise) on both sides and swimming in the water around you.
We’ve been told by several resorts with water villas that, typically, guests tend to only stay in the water villas once — their first trip, and that if they return, it’s usually to a beachfront villa.
If you are dying to cross this one off your bucket list, we recommend splitting your stay between a water villa and beach villa. Or heck, just go for it — it’s definitely an experience.
- OUTDOOR SHOWERS
Outdoor showers are probably one of the most mentally misleading hotel features out there. Since most of us usually shower indoors, the idea of the breezy, slightly naughty outdoor shower is appealing. But as we’ve found, they don’t always live up to the hype.
Consider that the places where you’re most likely to find an outdoor shower (e.g. the Caribbean) are often spots where you’re also likely to find mosquitoes and other bugs, sporadic rain showers (we’ve definitely encountered a few heavy downpours while in the middle of our outdoor showers!), and insane heat and humidity.
Plus, sometimes, it can feel a bit awkward (see below). If you’re going to splurge on a room with an outdoor shower, try to find one that also has an indoor shower — just in case.
- OUTDOOR BATHROOMS
Outdoor bathrooms are less of an optional or desired feature, and more of a result of some poor outdoor shower decisions. We’ve found that, often, when a hotel room has an outdoor shower, it’s a part of a whole outdoor bathroom. This means your sinks, vanity and toilet may all be outside. So anytime you have to brush your teeth or use the bathroom, you’re heading outside.
It doesn’t seem that bad until you consider that outside is public domain and, oftentimes, while you have privacy walls around your bathroom, you can still hear everything that’s going on outside — neighbors, passersby — and if you can hear them, they can hear you.
- BALCONIES (BUT ONLY SOMETIMES)
To balcony or not to balcony, that is the question. Looking at room upgrades in order to snag a balcony? Be sure to look close — some hotels call the smallest little bits of space a balcony.
Plus, half the fun of having a balcony is the view, and you’d be surprised how many balconies have terrible views (unless you like staring at brick walls or into other people’s rooms).
Also, be careful on the wording: “sea view” and “partial sea view” only have to mean you can vaguely make out a patch of water, versus “direct sea view,” which tends to be more on the money.
- WHIRLPOOL BATHTUBS
We love a good, bubbly soak as much as the next traveler, but after doing some investigating on hotel cleaning practices, we’ve lost a little love for the hotel bathtub and whirlpool.
It’s hard to relax when you’re thinking about all of the hundreds of other people who have sat between the same jets, or wondering if your bubble bath has any residual chemicals floating about. Did we just ruin hotel whirlpool tubs for you? We’re sorry.
- ON-ARRIVAL FRUIT BASKET AND CHAMPAGNE
Often times higher category hotel rooms will offer an on-arrival bottle of champagne and/or fruit basket an optional amenity. We say skip it!
Sure, the bubbles and the fruit can be a nice pick-me-up after a long flight, but we’ve found that many times, the fruit is already cut (meaning you have to eat it right away), isn’t in the best shape or brings in insects. And unless you’re ready to commit to an entire bottle of chilled, inexpensive champagne right away, the bubbly is less appealing once it’s warm or flat.
Instead, wait and buy local produce and pick up a bottle or glass of your choice at dinner.
- FLOWER PETAL DECORATIONS
While we can’t argue against the romance factor of walking into your hotel room to find a beautiful display of rose petals scattered around the bed, we can argue it’s a sentiment that doesn’t last too long.
After the initial surprise and flattery fades, you’re left with, well, a bunch of rose petals all over the bed. And again, if you’ve just arrived after a long flight, the last thing you want to do is pick handfuls of flower petals off your soft, comfy bed.
And then there are the bugs. We’ve found that even in rooms with something standard like a decorative hibiscus, there’s usually a few almost microscopic ants or other bugs that come along with it. So, if given the option, we say less is more. Save a rosebush and spend your money on a nice bottle of wine instead.
- SOME ALL-INCLUSIVE OPTIONS, DEPENDING ON YOUR STYLE
Opting into one of the all-inclusive meal plans at your hotel may seem like a no-brainer — breakfast, lunch and dinner, done! But some don’t necessary offer a solid bang for your buck. Plus, tying yourself to an all-inclusive option means you’re stuck eating at your hotel for every meal for your entire trip.
Some hotels even have a truncated menu for their all-inclusive guests, or charge extra for non-buffet restaurants. All this can add up to less choice, more repetition, and possible upgrade and a la carte fees.
But if you insist, we recommend scoping out your all-inclusive dining rules and options and at least snagging a package that includes drinks.