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Today TPG Contributor Nick Ewen continues his series The Weekly Wish, looking at flaws, shortcomings, and room for improvement in the world of travel and loyalty programs. Today’s wish: more power outlets in hotel rooms.
As fellow frequent travelers, I’m sure many TPG readers experience the same need I do to be connected on the road. The last several years we’ve seen an incredible shift in technology from desktop and laptop computing to mobile devices. More and more travel providers are recognizing this shift; airlines are adding Wi-Fi to their planes, hotels are adding things like eCheck-in, and virtually all companies now have some type of app. The prevalence of mobile electronics increases our need for places to power them, which leads me to something that’s sorely lacking in my preferred hotel chains, and the subject of today’s Weekly Wish: for hotels to increase the number of easily accessible power outlets.
Let me start with a bit about what inspired this post. I currently hold top tier status with three of the top hotel chains: Hilton, Hyatt, and Starwood. I’m also Silver Elite with Marriott, and occasionally branch out to a Holiday Inn Express or Club Carlson property. As a frequent business traveler for the last seven years, I’ve found that NONE of these chains provide any level of consistency when it comes to power outlets. Some have plenty of options, other require me to crawl under a desk to unplug a lamp when I need to charge my iPhone. One of the most infuriating examples is the common lack of outlets anywhere near the bed.
Many of us have been there: after a day of traveling, meetings, phone calls with colleagues and/or loved ones, or even just vacation, you make it back to your room and are ready to crash. Your phone and tablet batteries are drained; maybe you’re like me and you use Google Maps as your go-to navigation app in rental cars, or maybe you enjoy listening to music or downloading (and watching) videos on a long flight. Now that the FAA allows gate-to-gate use of electronic devices, your trusty tech companion is running on fumes. You set the alarm, but want to make sure the phone doesn’t die overnight. Sadly, you can’t find an outlet near the bed! The alarm clock, cordless phone, and/or lamps are taking up all available socket space. You manage to pull the mattress aside to unplug a lamp you won’t be using, and only then can you drift off to sleep, knowing that your device will be back to 100% by morning.
Don’t get me wrong; many hotels (especially newer ones) are doing a much better job at this. Red Roof Inn, for example, is already seeing how important accessible outlets are to the traveling public. Their upgraded locations now feature four outlets built into the nightstand. I encountered something similar during my recent stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites in downtown Gainesville, Florida.
Yes, that’s a six-outlet charging station (four regular, two USB) plus another plug on the left lamp.
I found a six-plug adapter next to the couch at the Hyatt Place Sarasota-Bradenton Airport last month:
And just this week, I visited the new Le Meridien Tampa and found a nightstand equipped with a 120-volt and USB charger (plus an empty outlet next to the bed):
However, I find that these examples are the exception rather than the rule. I travel with a laptop, personal phone, iPhone, and an iPad. Some nights, all four of them need to be charged. In many hotel rooms, I have to strategically plan out how that will happen:
“Ok, the computer will take up the one conveniently-located outlet on or near the desk. Then, the iPad will need most of the night to charge fully, but I can charge my personal phone before I go to bed and my iPhone in the morning while I’m at the gym and/or breakfast.”
In this day and age of connectivity, it’s absurd that more hotels haven’t updated their available power sources. As the above examples indicate, there’s no need to tear down walls to add new wiring for new outlets; some simple adapters like the one I found in Sarasota will do the trick. Power strips at Home Depot start at less than $2 each, and six-plug adapters are as little as $3.96. Even surge protectors are less than $4! Keep in mind that these prices are at retail stores; a large hotel looking to equip hundreds of rooms with more power outlets would likely receive much lower wholesale prices.
It would also help travelers who are prone to leaving things behind in a rush to make it to meetings or the airport on time. How many of you have mistakenly left behind a charger because you were forced to plug it in behind the television or on the floor by the AC unit? I’m up to three lost chargers. Granted, I bear the brunt of the responsibility for these losses, but having more plentiful and conveniently located plugs would be a significant help.
Some smaller properties are recognizing this fact and trying to avoid the added cost to their customers and to themselves. My wife spent this past weekend at Point Breeze Bed & Breakfast with some of her girlfriends; it’s a small but beautiful inn on the water in St. Michaels, MD. Joan Foster Schneider, the innkeeper there, started noticing how frequently guests would leave behind chargers after finding creative spots to power up their devices (it is an old house after all). She still gladly returns these missing items to guests, but she recently equipped each room with a conveniently located power strip. By all accounts, the new strategy is working splendidly.
At the end of the day, the number of plugs likely won’t make or break your decision of where to stay, but it would certainly be an easy way to add convenience to the lives of frequent travelers.
If your hotel isn’t hip to the needs of techie travelers, you can still take care of your power needs by bringing your own multi-plug adapters or charging apparatuses. Here are some of the options out there:
AViiQ Portable Charging Station: These products make it easier to organize cords and much harder to leave chargers behind. Use the cable rack system, four-plug USB hub, and included wall plug to charge four devices at a time from a single outlet.
Belkin Mini Surge Protector: One of the lightest and most compact surge protectors out there. This includes three 120-volt plugs plus two USB ports, and it swivels to ensure flexibility in tight spaces. It also provides a $75,000 Connected Equipment Warranty, which will cover damage to devices from an electricity surge or spike.
myCharge Peak 6000: At just over 8 ounces, this rechargeable power bank includes three built-in cords for Apple products (30 pin, not lightning), USB, and Micro-USB devices. It can be a lifesaver if you’re in a place with no outlet (like a car or plane), but it also plugs directly into the wall, allowing you to use it as a multi-prong adapter when you do have access to an outlet.
This is not an exhaustive list, so please share your own suggestions below if you’ve had success with other devices. If you do decide to purchase any of these, remember to price shop online (the links above take you right to the manufacturer, but other sites like Amazon may be cheaper). Also, be sure to go through an online shopping portal to maximize your point & mileage earning.
What are your thoughts? Do you get as frustrated as I do when you can’t find convenient plugs in your hotel rooms? Please share your thoughts below!