Last year when I surveyed the hotel amenities landscape I was wowed by an in-room light switch I discovered in my hotel room that allowed me to toggle on a "Do Not Disturb" light outside my door – rather than dealing with the cumbersome task of opening the door to place a little hanging sign on the knob. I've since encountered this nifty switch in other hotels and I’m already at the point where I’m disappointed if my room isn't equipped with one.
My expectation that even the most basic hotel room will have a "go away" switch – along with bathrobes that won’t tear my skin and above-average bath products – neatly illustrates a historic challenge: When today’s "nice to have" amenity is a "must have" inclusion by tomorrow, how do hotels keep up with and outdo their competition? The answer? Keep plugging away and never stop trying to elicit surprise from your guests, which is what the following crop of amenities tries to do.
Roll-Out Yoga Mat Service, Kimpton Hotels
Back in April the Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants began stocking yoga mats in all guest room closets, but then decided to kick it up a notch and guilt guests into stretching and planking with a complimentary "Roll-Out Service." Upon request, a staffer will come to your room, roll out your mat, provide flavored water and snacks, and set your TV to an on-demand yoga channel. The staffer isn't required to remain there to ensure you go through with your workout, but perhaps that amenity is coming soon.
Free Downtown Tour Guide, Pod Hotels, New York City
One of the joys of New York City is wandering downtown on your own, but there’s a lot to be said for an informed walking tour guide, especially when said guide’s services are free. If you stay at either of The Pod Hotels, you’ll be welcome to join a walking tour of the Lower East Side, the West Village, and other neighborhoods. The tour leaves from the original Pod Hotel location on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30am.
A Sidewalk Social for Dogs, Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte, NC
Finer hotels have been trying to outdo each other’s pet-friendly amenities for years, furnishing guest rooms with doggie dishes and beds, bringing up doggie room service trays, and so on, but the Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte is rolling out some clever Southern hospitality this summer with Saturday Sidewalk Socials for dogs. The hotel typically holds the social for humans, but the hotel is adding a special area dedicated to guests with pets. Such amenities as local dog walking maps, leash tie-ups, dog biscuits, and, of course, doggie bags will be made available.
Complimentary Bicycle Rental, The Bowery Hotel, New York City
If you’re quite done with walking around New York City, you have the option of biking it courtesy of complimentary bicycles available to guests at New York’s The Bowery Hotel. The bikes are smart looking red numbers that’ll make you stand out, especially if you’re commingling with the scads of Citi Bike riders are hitting New York bike lanes.
Grab-and-Go Oxygen at the Revere Hotel, Boston
Walk into your suite at the Revere Hotel in Boston and you’ll find a couple of flat-screen TVs, comfy Frette robes and slippers, and free Wi-Fi. But did you expect to see oxygen? I think not. For a $40 fee, Revere suite dwellers will have use of a portable, Personal Oxygen Device (POD), a 7-inch, 2.5 ounce bottle that you’re free to carry along with you while exploring Beantown. The device will dispense 40 breaths of oxygen, that, to review the math, costs a dollar a breath.
What's the coolest or weirdest free hotel amenity you've seen?