You probably used some form of technology to book your room. You're Instagramming like a maniac. You've brought along your favorite travel gadgets. So it's only fitting that modern hotels jump on the tech bandwagon themselves. We started taking note of some ways that technology is making your hotel stay even easier; herewith some of our favorite tech-savvy accommodations across the country.
1. Check In Easier
In addition to the traditional front desk experience, the Hyatt Regency Chicago offers check-in via a lobby ambassador holding a special iPad. Guests can also use a nearby kiosk to select a room, inquire about an upgrade, and obtain an RFID key. (That's a card key with a fancy chip inside, so it can't become demagnetized, saving you those frustrating calls/trips back to the front desk!)
Similarly, Radisson is currently experimenting with kiosks at four pilot locations (La Crosse, Phoenix, Salt Lake City, and Seattle). Guests can virtually check in online 24 hours ahead, receive a confirmation email with a barcode, scan that barcode in the lobby, and receive their key.
What to do if you're ready, but your room isn't? ARIA Las Vegas will take your cell number, give you your key, and text you the room number when it's all set. That way you're not tied down to waiting around and can head right to it without having to wait in another line.
2. Connect and Charge Your Gadgets
Building on the work of whatever genius thought to place an electrical outlet in the base of a lamp, all ARIA rooms feature a desk-side panel with a multitude of multimedia connections. It starts with two adapter-friendly electrical outlets plus two USB ports, to flexibly power your devices. Then you've got HDMI, VGA, RCA, and S-Video ports, so you can view images from a computer, camcorder, or any other video device through your room's TV. Likewise, you can pipe audio in through a standard 3.5mm jack or a docked iPod/iPhone connection. And in case you don't feel like going wireless for whatever reason, there's also a wired Internet port.
3. Remotely Control Everything in Your Room
One of the best features of the LodgeNet service (that powers the TV menu in your room) is that you can use its free companion app (available for both Android and iOS) in over 630,000 hotel rooms across North America. With it loaded, you can use your own phone or tablet to power the TV on/off; change the channel; browse, order, and control in-room movies.
When you first enter your room at ARIA, you're greeted with lights automatically turning on, the curtains parting, and your TV turning on to display all your control options. From there, you can use the special remote—or one of the room's conveniently located interactive touch displays—to operate the TV, lights, air conditioning, and motorized curtains from pretty much anywhere in the room. The system has a few one-touch options for quickly setting the mood. You can even have an alarm wake you up not just at a specific time, but also with your desired temperature, curtain position, light intensity, and music playing!
4. Be Your Own Concierge
The new Radisson iConcierge app (launched early April on Android and iOS) allows guests to access a wide variety of services including the ability to order room service, book a spa appointment, set a wake-up call, get your luggage picked up, and grab a taxi.
Every guestroom at Tallahassee's boutique Hotel Duval comes equipped with a 23-inch Interactive Customer Experience (ICE) touch screen display. In addition to ordering housekeeping, dining, and valet services, guests can use them to check email, look up the weather, print boarding passes, and search local events and attractions. Other nice touches include the ability for brides and grooms to record a welcome video for their guests to play back on ICE-equipped in-room iPads.
Boston's Revere Hotel features a couple of iPads preloaded with the iKnow Concierge. In six different languages, the tablets help guests to access a wide variety of services, from finding a tailor to snagging tickets at a concert. Whether you're into finding food, spa, or sports, these devices can help you self-serve.
Grand Traverse Resort & Spa's New Digital Concierge app enables guests with a smartphone, tablet, or laptop to find exclusive on- and off-property deals and discounts; reserve tee times and view scores at one of their three golf courses; pull up meeting and event agendas; and access a plethora of other helpful information about the hotel and surrounding area.
Guests of the one-year old all-suite Conrad New York (and any of the other 20-plus Conrad locations) can take advantage of the just-launched Conrad Concierge (for Android, iPad, and iPhone). Features include the ability to arrange airport transportation, choose designer bath amenities, and time a meal to arrive in your room right as you do.
5. Have Peace of Mind
The Hyatt Regency Chicago is blanketed with a network of high-megapixel cameras. The security team can monitor all the property's public areas either from their base station or their mobile devices. It's a big place (Chicago's biggest hotel!), but it's under control.
Downtown Atlanta's Ellis Hotel is a posh haven for female travelers, offering a women-only floor with keyed access. Along with a selection of amenities like hair straighteners and curling irons, each room offers an online "kiss cam" to help keep in touch with friends and family. Just hook it up to your laptop, follow the on-screen instructions, and you're virtually face-to-face with your loved ones.
6. Stay Online Everywhere on Property
Long gone are the days of "free Wi-Fi" meaning single-bar coverage only on that one special cushion of the couch in the lobby. The Hyatt Regency Chicago has planted over 800 wireless access points around the hotel. So you can stay connected pretty much everywhere.
As soon as you walk into Bellagio Las Vegas, a friendly welcome message automatically pops onto your device, letting you know you're both on the property and online. WiFi hotspots are cleverly hidden, but there is even plentiful access by the pool. Guests (and visitors) can benefit from complimentary service at a reasonable speed (3 Mbps) or may also pay for faster service (up to 10 Mbps).
7. Find Your Way
In fact, Bellagio has so many Internet hotspots, their app (about to upgrade to version two, with all sorts of new bells and whistles) can triangulate your exact indoor location and give you step-by-step directions to whatever fun, trendy (and tangible) hotspots you choose to visit within and around the upscale casino/resort.
Over 100 interactive plasma displays (along with rotating digital convention signage) make navigating the spacious Hyatt Regency Chicago easy. And additional touchscreens with Google Maps allows guests to precisely locate meeting spaces and also find their way around the city.
Eight of Hotel Indigo's locations around the US have been testing Interactive Media Displays, with nearly a quarter million guest interactions to date. That includes 30,000 local secrets shared within the Indigo community, as guests seek to discover the hotels' surrounding neighborhoods and pass along their best tips of what to see and taste. More than 7,000 photos have been taken at the displays, which can upload pics right to Facebook.
8. Borrow Spare Gadgets
If you forget toiletries, many hotels offer a kit. But what about if you leave a gadget at home? The "Business Bar" at Eventi in New York can help pick up the tech slack. Grab a tablet, laptop, e-reader, still or video camera, headphones, wires, chargers, or other digital lifesavers for business or leisure. Honestly, with all that gadgety goodness at your disposal, you can afford to pack less—or at least not stress about having every single device on hand.
9. Do Your Business in Style
A perfect blend of fun and practical, the uber-luxurious Aria Sky Suites feature Washlets, fancy toilets with heated temperature-control seats that automatically raise as you approach; gentle aerated warm water bidet with warm air dryer; and automatic self-cleansing dual-action spray and air deodorizer. It's just one amongst many technological advances in the suites, but definitely a crowd pleaser.
10. Take Off
Simple but useful, the ARIA also pulls a direct feed from nearby McCarran International Airport and displays it right on the TV in your room. So you can confirm the timing of your flight. Especially helpful, so you don't preemptively leave the comforts of your room before you have to.
Fodors.com Travel Technology Columnist Scott Tharler is an expert in gadgets, gambling, and travel. He's written four books, hundreds of mobile and wireless tips, and dozens of freelance articles. Find links to other gadget articles, social feeds and lists of his current favorite gadgets at about.me/gadgetfans.
Photo credits: Hyatt Regency Chicago courtesy of Hyatt Regency Chicago; ARIA Las Vegas room and remote courtesy of ARIA Las Vegas; Radisson app screens courtesy of iTunes/Radisson; Bellagio app screens courtesyof iTunes/Bellagio; Eventi Business Bar courtesy of Scott Tharler