Hotels, take note: How to earn a road warrior’s business

Oct 22, 2019

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Traveling for work is super fun — up until a certain point. Whether it’s because of your stage in life, lifestyle preferences, comfort with displacement or just sheer volume, there’s definitely a point where leaving home for the sake of your job becomes a drag.

Hotels literally become home for serious road warriors, some of whom spend upwards of 200 nights a year in hotel rooms. Thus, it’s no surprise that many career travelers have perfected an extensive wishlist of hotel room criteria they seek out for extended stays. For the hotels that get it right, just a few of these prized room features can mean hundreds of nights’ worth of business from a single customer.

Ranked by number of mentions, these are the hotel room amenities most prized by The Points Guy staff members, as well as the road warriors of the TPG Lounge:

Food and drink

Ensuite kitchen/fridge

Without contest, career travelers told TPG that hotel rooms that come with multiple meal options win their business every time. Priorities vary: Some prefer having the freedom to cook for themselves or shop ahead of time and store food in a fridge. Others look for flexibility and freedom in their food choices, whether it’s from a proprietary restaurant in the hotel or from restaurants nearby.

“A kitchenette with a full-sized fridge is a must,” Dustin Capps said in the TPG Lounge. “I travel for months at a time. Being able to cook my own meals in the room means my per diem goes into my pocket instead of paying to eat out all of the time.” Karen Weed concurred, stating she definitely prefers rooms that include mini fridges and “reasonable proximity to a good grocery store. [It’s] nice to be able to have a simple salad for dinner.”

Karen Aagesen seeks out hotels that offer the whole shebang: “Small kitchenette, microwave, fridge, small stove, table. Eating out every day, [for] all meals, can get old.”

Multiple travelers commended Residence Inns and other extended-stay hotel brands specifically for the full-size fridges in each room. “I need a full size fridge,” said Leila Jane, who often travels to different destinations for work, but tries to stick with the same hotel brand for consistency. “I tend to stay at Residence Inns for the most part.”

Similarly, Jeff Linder said, “A full kitchen is a plus, which is why Residence Inns are my usual preferred long-term stay.” While breakfast is lower on his priority list, he looks for hotels with good dining options nearby.

Restaurants on-site or nearby

Can’t get a suite or a full fridge? Not a problem for some travelers — as long as there’s room in the mini fridge for personal food items, not just for mini-bar items at additional expense. Jeni Alexander goes so far as to ask hotel staff to remove the minibar items if she’s staying in a hotel for more than a week.

“Having a fridge is key,” Tim Merlino said. “Something to put leftovers in, and a couple of drinks/snacks.” Cher Berity looks for a microwave and a refrigerator to make simple meals, snacks or simply to reheat leftovers. But a recent hotel let her down, she told TPG. “I’m currently staying at a Delta Hotel by Marriott, and can’t get a microwave from [the staff]. They claim there are none on property. It’s the first [time] I’ve ever had that issue in a major hotel chain.”

How can a hotel cater to travelers who prefer to relax at the end of a long work day instead of prepping their next meal? By having good food available directly within the property. Alanna Mae flatly stated that breakfast on-site is a non-negotiable for her: “I hate cooking at home, and even more [so in] other places.”

Michael Spires only gives his business to hotels that “have a good onsite restaurant open late,” he said. And hotels that offer quality room service come out way ahead with road warriors, who often have per diems to spend. 

“A decent restaurant in the hotel is critical for when I don’t get out of the office until 10 p.m.,” Hillary Thompson said. “I’m not interested in microwave food from ‘the pantry’ store in the lobby.”

But not everyone wants to eat and stay in the same building all week. “I generally prefer a place with an awesome restaurant nearby, because hotel restaurants rarely get me excited,” Monique Prue said.

Emily Elisabeth said she prefers staying at hotels with a concierge lounge for the sake of food. “Unfortunately, [with] my longest contract [of] 3.5 years, the hotel didn’t have a concierge lounge, so being close to decent restaurant options was important.”

Breakfast at the Conrad (Photo by Samantha Rosen / The Points Guy)
Breakfast at the Conrad (Photo by Samantha Rosen / The Points Guy)

Breakfast

For the most important meal of the day, Justin Manning told the TPG Lounge that he really values his free breakfasts — a “consistent solid benefit from status,” whether it comes from “a good hotel lounge or access to complimentary full restaurant option.”

While Manning said he feels like he values this perk far more than most of his colleagues, he says he does value free “mostly because I’m on a per diem. I’d rather save that extra money for dinner. Also, no way I’m paying $30 for a breakfast buffet.”

But just because a hotel offers breakfast doesn’t mean that’s enough to earn a career traveler’s business: Early risers say that breakfast on-site is worth nothing if the restaurant doesn’t open early enough.

Gina Acosta needs her work hotels “to have a restaurant that opens early. And by the way, 6 a.m. is not early,” she said. “It needs to open at 5 a.m.” Similarly, Jeni Alexander seeks out hotels with lounges that offer early breakfast options by 6 a.m.

In-room coffee

Yet other travelers asked for nothing more than the ability to start the day with caffeine without having to get dressed. “Coffee!” Winterfeld exclaimed, saying she values the “quality and ease of getting the first cup. I like rooms with Keurigs.”

But other travelers don’t. “I look for hotel rooms that have a real coffee maker that makes a full pot of coffee,” Kate Bonnell said,” not a Keurig or one of those small ‘instant’ coffee pots.” Kate also values real ceramic mugs and “glass” glasses — not just the plastic stuff.

Personalized service

In a similar vein, a personal touch goes a very long way. “I tend to stay at the same hotel about 100 nights a year — the Sheraton in Ann Arbor,” Robert Engstrom said. Not only is the hotel only a five-minute commute from his office, the staff there have gotten to know him very well over the past five years.

“The chef in the restaurant will make things for me which aren’t on the menu,” Engstrom said. “Plus the fact that I can walk in at 11 p.m. to check in and the bartender will run over with a bottle of wine for me? It’s small things like that” that earn Engstrom’s loyalty. 

Monique Prue also appreciates a personalized touch. “I do like when the breakfast people remember how I like my eggs so I don’t have to explain it every time,” she said. “I like being greeted by name when I first enter a hotel.”

“I am in a similar situation,” Christopher Newton said. “I used to think I was weird because I liked getting to know the staff, but when you are on the road, it is nice to be recognized in the lobby in the morning.”

On the flip side, Hillary Thompson has mixed feelings about getting too familiar with the hotel staff. “At one hotel I stayed at for a year,” she said, “it definitely felt like they noticed my comings and goings too much. I wanted a bit more of a feeling of privacy.”

Justin Manning, a health care IT consultant who has logged around 200 nights per year for well over a decade, highly values consistency in service from his hotels of choice. Little service touches such as knowing the staff and getting regular room upgrades are the way to his heart — and his business. “I like it when I’m walking in [to the restaurant] and the staff are already bringing my ice tea.”

Pam Bee values hotels that offer her regular upgrades and that actually notice her preferences. “Away from the elevator, on a high floor,” she said.

(Photo by FG Trade/Getty Images)
(Photo by FG Trade/Getty Images)

Storing luggage between hotel stays

Several travelers mentioned the importance of being able to keep their workweek belongings at the hotel in between stays. Jeff Linder says he values “the ability to store a bag, or in some cases, even keep the same room over a weekend if [it’s] unbooked” by other travelers.

Justin Manning said that being able to leave a bag over the weekend in between week-long stays is crucial for helping him maintain a sense of home. “Keeping a bag between stays is also important to me,” Cher Berity said. 

Home-like comfort and design

Spending so much time in a hotel room effectively makes it a home. As such, many TPG road warriors told us they seek out decor that fits their aesthetic or provides a calming effect.

Kate Bonnell acknowledged with a smile that “what I would like to have and what I generally find do not always match.” She prefers muted, relaxing colors; a comforter on the bed; natural materials on the walls, floor and in the furniture (“as little plastic materials as possible”); and a dedicated recycling can in her rooms. Bonnell has struggled to find comfortable furniture in her rooms of late, she told the TPG Lounge. “Lately, it seems the seating furniture is very dark, hard and not ergonomically designed.” However, she’s gotten lucky when it comes to beds: “A comfortable mattress is also a necessity, but that does not seem to be an issue in most of the places I stay.”

Whitney Seven similarly finds herself unable to find many of the amenities she seeks. “My top priorities are cleanliness, location, and bed comfort,” she told TPG. “I find myself compromising on a lot of other things in order to ensure those top needs are met. Second to those, I like to have updated rooms, soft towels, and good technology.”

Betsy Lovell, who’s working on-site in the United Arab Emirates this year, seems to have found a great balance. “Many of the hotel chains [here] have residence options,” she said: “Basically a hotel service level apartment building with both lease-holding residents, and longer-term hotel people like me. I have a 78 square-meter apartment [840 sq ft] with a full kitchen for the same price as a regular hotel room at the Intercontinental Residences Dubai! Wish hotels in the U.S. had the same!”

On the other end of the spectrum, Laurie Becwar avoids home-type rentals when on the road. “I tried the Airbnb apartment route, but don’t use them when my job requires intense focus,” she said. “When something goes wrong with the room while staying at a hotel, the front desk takes care of me within minutes. When something goes wrong at an Airbnb or an apartment, it may be hours — or days — before [the problem is] fixed.”

Fitness facilities on-site or nearby

A number of travelers told the TPG Lounge that being on the go for so long requires them to have easy access to fitness equipment, whether it’s from the hotel gym or an independent facility nearby. OrangeTheory was specifically shouted out as the workout brand of choice for several TPG Lounge road warriors including Justin Manning, Debbie Hatch and Vinutha Lakshminarayanan.

Distinct, thoughtfully-designed work areas

Both Justin Manning and Jim Platner highly value having a separate seating area in their hotel room, even if the room isn’t a full-on suite.

To make it feel more like home, Manning said, “I prefer a separate seating area so that I’m not just hanging out on my bed after work.” Platner agrees. “I’m at 110 nights this year in Marriotts — many long-term stays — and [the separate seating] area is the biggest thing that separates good from great long-term stays!”

TPG’s Director of Engineering, MItchell Stoutin, looks for hotel rooms that offer work desks that are more than eight inches deep.” It’s easy to find in cities like Charlotte,” he said, “but New York rooms tend to squeeze it. That’s a shelf, not a desk.”

“I like decent lighting so I can actually see to work and get dressed,” Samantha Eisner said. “A desk setup that has appropriate access to power, and that allows me to watch TV while at the desk working.”

TPG senior writer Katie Genter has been a digital nomad for more than two years. When traveling, she seeks out hotels that offer “comfortable work space, including chairs that provide support, and a sound system that’s easy to connect to.”

“I like to have the ability use the TV as a monitor for my laptop,” said Harrison Hall, TPG’s desktop support engineer. “Easy access to the HDMI ports on the TV are very nice, or even just the ability to wirelessly cast my laptop screen to the TV.” Unfortunately, Hall said this feature is very rare: “I typically have to wedge my arm behind the TV to get an HDMI cable into it. I only had one hotel that gave me the option to share my screen; I think it was the Arlo NYC.”

Brand-loyalty benefits

The top hotel chains know how to provide consistent service, and it shows: some travelers are strict brand loyalists. “For work, all I care about is hotel brand (Hyatt for me), proximity to work, and proximity to OrangeTheory,” Vinutha Lakshminarayanan said. Similarly, Jay Klauminzer told TPG that, “I’m lifetime Titanium elite at Marriott, so those get my stays most times.”

Benefits toward personal travel

No matter how exciting it may be to travel for work, it’s not the same as traveling for leisure — and it definitely cuts into quality time with family and friends. Thus, many serious work travelers seek to maximize as many personal benefits as possible from logging so many nights on the road. For work trips, Monique Prue looks for hotels “that give you status that you can use to benefit yourself for personal stays.”

“I usually try to negotiate with the hotel a higher number of points to stay there,” Ricardo Cheing said. “Since I usually travel with colleagues, the hotel is usually willing to do double or triple points. For example, during my last IT project, my colleagues were able to negotiate triple points with Aloft.”

Similarly, Kasia Chowaniec also does her own negotiations — on the room rate. “If I spend that much in one hotel and I know it, I negotiate my own rate with them, which is better than the corporate rate I’m using.”

Susana Jafarzadeh’s company goes one step further: “My company gives money back to employees who find better rates than the corporate rate,” she told TPG. “It saves them money.”

And Leslie Yates praised travelers who go the extra mile on behalf of their companies. “As a former finance professional, I am continually amazed at the way business travelers waste company money,” Yates said. “That certainly doesn’t help company profitability (and therefore future raises!). Kudos to you for looking out for your company’s bottom line.”

Concessions for allergies and disabilities

Nick Sicora seeks out hotels that are “actually ADA compliant” and that offer gluten-free menu options.

Anna Grimshaw Corley said that a comfortable bed that offers hypoallergenic laundry options for the bedding is a non-negotiable for her work trips. “I’m allergic to most fragrances in soap,” she said. Similarly, TPG’s credit cards editor Benét Wilson values hotels that offer feather-free pillows upon request. “I have an allergy, so it can be a miserable experience for me if I can’t get them,” she said.

A good night’s rest

Thomas Meury definitely prioritizes hotels that have “hallway doors that don’t slam. Most places have non-slamming toilet seats installed, so not sure why quiet doors are an impossibility,” he said. He also “prefers non-connecting rooms for the same reason: Noise.”

The little things

Bedside outlets seem like a small deal until you have to run halfway across a dark room in the middle of the night to retrieve your phone. To that end, both TPG Lounge member Samantha Eisner and TPG’s reviews editor Nick Ellis strongly stressed the importance of having power right next to the bed for charging phones. Similarly, TPG travel editor Melanie Lieberman appreciates rooms with USB-port chargers, to eliminate the need to hunt down outlet adapters to go with charging cables.

Multiple travelers also mentioned the necessity of having in-room irons that work quickly and efficiently without burning holes or leaving marks on professional clothing.

Black-out curtains help keep light out when it should stay out — a must for work-weary travelers looking to get a good night’s sleep when they can.

For the tall travelers, mounted showerheads are a must, according to both TPG’s six foot, seven inch tall CEO, Brian Kelly, as well as TPG’s six foot, eight inch tall senior engineer, Beau Tschirhart.

TPG’s executive news director, Scott Mayerowitz, prefers an alarm clock that “isn’t so bright that it keeps me up.” TPG reporter Carissa Rawson concurs: “If I could count the amount of times I’ve dumped a towel over a clock…”

In conclusion

At the end of the day, hotel style preferences can be arbitrary, but work travelers consistently need the same amenities. Savvy hotel chains looking to woo new customers, take note of what they’re asking for — and you’re welcome.

Featured photo by Getty Images.

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