In-room wi-fi, minibar champagne splits, high-end toiletries, chocolates on the pillow . . . boring. In a world where guests have grown to expect a high level of amenity as standard, hotels are looking for ever more distinctive offerings. Here are some creative hotel amenities to look for, some gratis and others worth a splurge.
Sleep Aids: A Growing Complimentary Trend
The "Sleep Concierge" at New York’s Benjamin Hotel will equip you with one of 12 different types of pillow ranging from buckwheat to magnetic to anti-snore, plus white noise machine.
The "Dream Menu" at the Kimpton Lorien in Alexandria, Virginia supplies a similar range of pillows, along with sleep aids such as masks and earplugs, all without charge. A teddy bear will cost you $20, however.
Unique In-Room Recreation
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Rooms at the Ace Hotels in New York, Portland, and Palm Springs feature retro record players along with LPs selected by local indie music experts (records are free in-room, $5 each if you want to take home.)
For the higher-minded, the Study at Yale Hotel in New Haven, Connecticut provides designer reading glasses, along with reading material chosen by New York’s Strand bookstore, as well access to University athletic events, plays, and concerts (price varies). Glasses are on loan but can be purchased for $60-$90.
If you’re looking for something more than that champagne split to spice up your stay, the new W Hotel Leicester Square in London provides adult toys for him and her ($15 each).
More Rock n Roll lifestyle: guests at Chicago’s Hard Rock Hotel can borrow one of 17 Gibson electric guitars plus headphones at no charge. The hotel will also arrange lessons.
Al Fresco Eaters: NYC Trend Alert
New York’s Surrey Hotel will supply a free gourmet picnic basket stocked by upscale grocery Dean & Deluca, along with blanket and suggestions for the best spots in Central Park.
In the same city, a package at two Ritz-Carlton Hotels throw in a bike rental for one full day along with your picnic basket to help you get to your spot. The Summer In The Park special at the Central Park branch ($725/night) also includes a gondola ride on the park’s lake, while the Battery Park outpost’s version ($445/night) includes a 90-minute boat ride with Manhattan by Sail instead.
Special Solutions to Packing Problems
Forget your camera? The Nisbet Plantation Beach Club on Nevis has complimentary Flip digital video cameras available for capturing the island’s beauty and provides a free DVD to burn your video to.
Missing Everything? The Stafford London offers a "Baggage Emergency Response Squad" that will hassle the airline on your behalf and provide emergency supplies of underwear and toiletries plus priority laundering once your luggage shows up. The service is free, except for replacement clothing.
Animal-Friendly Hotels: More Options than Ever
Hear a buzzing noise? That would be from the 10 beehives on the roof of London’s Lancaster Hotel, which create the honey given as a free VIP guest amenity.
Since dogs aren’t big on fruit, the Nolitan hotel in New York (opening July 1) will greet your canine companion with a complementary basket of toys and treats.
Boston’s Nine Zero provides Fido with a "welcome treat", plus bowls and pet bed. For a fee, the hotel will also arrange walks—and massages—for dogs.
Get in Touch with Your Wilde Side
Guests in Room 118 of London’s Cadogan Hotel, the site of Oscar Wilde’s arrest for gross indecency, will find a complimentary replica of the writer’s smoking jacket available to wear—epigrams not included.
About the Writer: Ellin Stein contributes to Fodor’s London and England guides and has written on culture and travel for numerous publications on both sides of the Atlantic including The New York Times, The Telegraph, and The Guardian. She is the author of the forthcoming Beyond A Joke: The National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live, and How Comedy Insurgents Captured the Mainstream.
Photo Credits: Kimpton Lorien, iStockPhoto / Alija, iStockPhoto / mphillips007