In my many hotel reviews, I apply a constant, objective rating system, based on décor, service, and other variables. I thought about distilling down my hotel experience to two amorphous trains of thoughts, separate on many different qualities. I struggled to capture the very essence of the quintessential hotel experience, because I discovered in thinking it through that it does not fit neatly into any one category.

This article will detail the two main hotel “experiences” that I typically have, as well as their draws. They differ based on what I am searching for in that particular hotel. Which experience, below, do you prefer?


Hotel Experience: Expectations

I take comfort knowing that every Aloft bathroom looks the same (so far!)

I take comfort knowing that every Aloft bathroom looks the same (so far!)

The first experience that I notice is that of expectations. The quality, service, amenities, etc. of the hotel are the same across the chain or brand. It brings you comfort to see the layout of both the hotel and the room be familiar, despite never having set foot in that particular hotel. It achieves a means to the end, and fulfills its purpose of a place to crash and refresh before another day. Nothing is out of the ordinary, and nothing is unexpected. Service is decent, nothing to complain about, and nothing to crow about either.

I see this most among mid-tier chain hotels, such as the Alofts and Sheratons of the world. I know that when I go into an Aloft hotel, they will have a WXYZ bar, they will have a re:fuel, they will have a similar lobby and room layout. It’s comforting to know that and see those standards, relieving stress and decision fatigue.


Hotel Experience: Wonder & Exploration

No, I don't expect every hotel to have a rotating collection of Bonsai Trees. From Ritz Carlton, Kyoto

No, I don’t expect every hotel to have a rotating collection of Bonsai Trees. From Ritz Carlton, Kyoto

The second experience is what I’ll call wonder. This is when you’re entering a top of the line hotel, and you do not know what to expect. Luxury all around, top-notch above and beyond service and amenities, with a beautiful layout and room décor to match. In this experience, I’m always exploring and trying to absorb as much as I can about the hotel, before I (sadly) have to depart. I’m wondering how the next time there will be, or how it differs and compares with other luxury hotels I have been to previously. It achieves so much more than the basic role of a place to crash – for me, these hotels are a touristy experience all on their own.



Of course, you could be beset with a negative experience. But, at this point I’m focused only on the two positive types of experiences at hotels. Which do you prefer? Is it the comforting, repeatable standard of expectations, or do you enjoy the thrill of exploration and wonder, experience the new benefits and sights of a top-of-the-line hotel? It certainly depends on the occasion, where I use exploration for special occasions such as a birthday or anniversary, but the standard expectation hotel for basic stays. Lastly, this will differ from person to person, but I hope my attempt to codify my thought process has stimulated yours, to think critically about what you are looking for in a hotel.


Which do you prefer? Let me know in the comments!

Featured Image is a combination of standard hotel bed and done up charcuterie amenity.

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