June 16, 2024

COLUMN: Places to stay, and not

“Whisky, wine and cheap perfume; all those crowded bars and hotel rooms.”

Marshall Crenshaw, “Calling Out for Love,” 1987

There is ongoing judging between my children over who reserves the better hotel rooms between my wife Jennifer and I when the family travels.

I think I’m in the lead, for now.

We celebrated my in-law’s 50th anniversary last week and a hotel was used during the travel to see them. I was quite impressed with the room, as were the kids. We stayed on a Sunday night which I think may be the least popular night of the week for hotels so there were few other people. The room met my “three-Cs;” clean, quiet and comfortable. (Just go along, don’t ask about the q). It also easily passed my bare feet bathroom test. “Do I feel comfortable standing in the bathroom with bare feet?”

I know, not everyone has the same thresholds or definitions of my three Cs.

I do read hotel room review websites to help determine which one to use. I prefer to use the most recent reviews (within the past year) as ones two or three years prior may not be valid as management and staff may have changed. It’s also possible the critical reviews have forced improvements to be made. I rarely list bed comfort on my reviews as everyone has a different definition of comfortable.

Like with any other business, a good product creates repeat customers.

Having worked for years in Colorado, I made every attempt to stay in a certain hotel in metro-Denver when covering a high school sporting event, usually a state tournament. That place was perfect from A to Z with exceptionally high quality rooms and service. The morning breakfast, with hot foods, was very close to what I could have made for myself at home. Sure, the place may have been a bit on the high side for price, but it was worth paying. I don’t mind paying for quality. It had been 10 years since I’ve stayed there.

A year ago, when meeting with others in Colorado before flying from Denver to Oregon to see family, I was hopeful we could stay at the Denver place again. I was relieved they had a room (my name was still in their customer records) and felt even better as it was still the same 10 years later. I left them a very positive review on one of those websites and stated it has been the same staying years later. We were not able to enjoy the breakfast since our flight was rather early.

The place has a park-and-fly package where you can park your car there even though you only stayed one night. A hotel shuttle bus took us to and from the airport. The car was left in good hands when we returned the end of the week.

It is interesting to see how hotels have become more accommodating. If you forget something you need to use in the bathroom, it’s common for the front desk to have a travel-size of those items. Disneyworld’s bathroom soaps are fantastic. I’ve heard from other people, because of the popularity of technology and charging cables, hotels also may have a cable if you left yours at home. I’ve heard third-hand stories hotels have kept those cables from customers who left them in their room.

But not all my hotel experiences are like that one in Denver. When my children were in school, our son had a weekend school event in Ames. Because of his schedule, it was best to stay the night before. The room was fine despite a bitter cold snap of winter. Staff didn’t mind us eating pizza in the lobby with the group we were with. The biggest problem were guests from other rooms watching NFL playoff games later that evening on the lobby television. You could hear the cheers from down the hall behind our closed door. Staff may be able to help a need with a room. But other people are more of a wild card.

I’ve had worst experiences. Before kids, Jennifer and I stayed a Saturday night in the Twin Cities for a concert and thought a budget hotel would work knowing how late we would arrive only to leave in the morning. It really didn’t work. The bed was more of a ski slope than a bed. It was easier to keep the hotel bathroom door closed and use the convenience store bathroom across the street. (I won’t go into detail as this is a family newspaper). We were not staying long. Too late and too much of a hassle to find something better.

I would have lost many points if the kids would have seen that one.

John Van Nostrand


An Iowa native, John's newspaper career has mostly been in small-town weeklies from the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River. He first stint in Creston was from 2002 to 2005.