When legal professionals get together, you can just about guarantee that the conversation will, at some point, turn to planes, trains, and hotels. Our patron saint may well be George Clooney's character, Ryan Bingham, in "Up in the Air," the 2009 movie adoption of Walter Kirn's novel about a life spent with too much time in airports. Like Bingham enthusiastically comparing affinity cards with a colleague, conversations often involve sharing tips on how to get upgrades and rooms that are at least 30 feet away from elevators.
So for our March "12on12" LTN asked our readers about their favorite hotels (and tech nightmares). Here are the 12 responses (edited for clarity and space):
1. I tend to avoid chains, and look for small boutique hotels, with great service. I use the various social media ranking sites extensively (Yelp, Trip Advisor etc.). I like quirky places with things like free bikes to explore, and staff who remember your name and foibles. So "no" to the Four Seasons, Hyatt, etc.
As for technology, I've had my share of nightmares. In Montreal once, the hotel lost my shoes when I was scheduled to give a keynote speech. Delivered it barefoot. (Loews). In Toronto, a colleague saved a PowerPoint in an unknown format and every slide with graphics or charts had a large red X instead. (Marriott). In Singapore, Ross Kodner (president of MicroLaw Inc.) saved me from a file conversion nightmare by routing all of my slides through Milwaukee and doing the processing remotely through dial-up (Pan Pacific). At the time (2000) this was rocket science! Thanks, Ross! Simon Chester, partner, Heenan Balikie, Toronto.
2. Best hotel: Treasure Island, Las Vegas. Why? Because it's Vegas baby! Never worry about connectivity. Always bring my AT&T pocket modem with me. Worst hotel experience: Aria, Las Vegas. Room is completely electronic. Must program lights, TV, window shades. Inevitably lights and TV came on at 3:00 a.m. and shades opened. Sometimes all I want to do is pull my own shades and press a bloody on/off button. Chris Romano, CIO, Ward and Smith, New Bern, N.C.
3. I love visiting the Hilton Chicago Hotel for the American Bar Association's Techshow. The room internet always works well (fingers crossed), the business center is well-equipped, room service is solid and friendly with a sense of humor to boot, and there's always a fleet of taxis waiting out front with a tall, handsome doorman ready to open the door. What's not to like?
My tech nightmare was in the late '90s. I was on a business trip in Madrid and my co-workers and I checked into a small hotel. They only had dial-up internet and we couldn't figure out how to dial into a Spanish access line (one zero? Two zeros? A one? Who knew?). We had to dial into New York AOL numbers and replicate our Lotus Notes email all night so it would be ready by morning. Now that was a killer phone bill upon checkout! Christy Burke , president, Burke & Co., New York.
4. Free Wi-Fi and a comfortable mattress are a must. Everything else is optional. I generally prefer small boutiques over large chains. In London, it's the Threadneedles, but that's mainly because it's closest to our office. When traveling with family, we started using AirBNB to rent apartments, instead of staying in hotels. Oz Benamram, chief knowledge officer, White & Case, New York.
5. Worst hotel EVER: Ross Kodner, Bruce Dorner, and I were protesting the expensive resort in Puerto Rico that the American Bar Association's Law Practice Management section was staying in, so Ross had a buddy there who recommended a motel just outside the gate of the resort. Ross' room was a cubical with bare bulb in the ceiling and a telephone with a green slime mold covering the receiver. (Phones are tech, no?) Bruce and I shared room a staying awake on watch to keep the giant cockroaches from attacking no kidding, they were four inches long and looked hungry. Air conditioner had a fan that hit the cage going ting-dada-ting-dada-ting all night. Bathoom had a pictogram sign next to the toilet which we finally deciphered as meaning "do not deposit toilet paper into the toilet use the wastebasket." Toilets are tech. We checked out, ponied up, and stayed at the resort.
Best tech hotel: Hotel Nikko, San Francisco. Price was another question, however. I prefer to find cheaper hotels that include internet and do not impose a separate ludicrous charge. Other than that, I carry my own tech I how I know it will work. Daniel Coolidge, senior counsel, Coolidge & Graves, Keene, N.H.
6. The good: Hilton has partnered with AT&T to offer fairly consistent Wi-Fi in all of its branded hotels, from Hampton Inns to the Waldorf. And I can access it for free as an AT&T internet subscriber or as a Hilton frequent guest. The bad: Any "resort" hotel that thinks we can better relax without the internet so they send us on a frantic search for a remote business center with an internet connection that rivals old dial-up. I'd rather have Wi-Fi at the pool or beach. Hotel valuation experts used to say that you could take the price of a Coke at the hotel multiply it times $100,000, and again by the number of rooms and get a figure close to the hotel's value. Today, the amount they charge for internet may be a better proxy. The higher the price of the room, the higher the price of the internet connection when it should be inverted. Don Philbin, president, Picture It Settled, San Antonio, Texas.
7. Favorite: Hotels that offer free Wi-Fi, because when it is complimentary, there is no hassle in getting online. Worst: One hotel required a 20-letter and number password and only one device could be connected at the same time. The password was provided on paper, so no cut and paste. Michael Arkfeld, Arkfeld & Associates, Phoenix.
8. Im a Marriott Residence Inn guy. The wireless works and is included in the price. Theres lots of room to spread out and get work done. Theres a quick breakfast available, and if I dont feel like yet another night at an over-caloric, over-fussy restaurant I can make my own dinner. My recurring hotel-tech nightmare: I connect via wireless, and every time I let my laptop sleep the system makes me sign on again through their web page. This happens at about one hotel in five. Cmon! This stuff used to be hard, but it isnt at all difficult anymore! I share my other nightmare with Sacha Baron Cohen of The Dictator: the pricier the hotel, the more they charge for wireless! Steven Levy, CEO, Lexician, Seattle.
9. I am fickle when it comes to hotels. My current favorite is the Inn at Union Square in San Francisco. It is a charming boutique hotel offering incredible service which is critical. The Wi-Fi is really fast. It is near all major transportation. The room was quite large and had a comfortable desk and chair. Lovely breakfast which is great when you have to get out early for meetings. Wine and cheese reception every evening. During my last stay they provided a refrigerator at no extra fee. I also enjoyed a stay at the Apex Temple Court Hotel in London. Big room complete with nice desk and chair, electric kettle, and a refrigerator. Great Wi-Fi and cable. Was able to check email, make calls to U.S. and Europe using Skype with very few disconnects. Service was excellent.
I cant remember the last hotel tech nightmare. For years I have relied on my BlackBerry as a hot spot for internet access so I dont depend on the hotel for internet access. Roberta Gelb, president, Chelsea Office Systems Inc., New York City.
10. I travel frequently, averaging two nights a week at hotels. I play a game with myself to get the best hotel for the lowest price using Pricelines Name-Your-Own-Price. So, my favorite hotel is any four-star gem I snag for $45 a night. If I get free breakfast, parking, and Wi-Fi, all the better! My membership in major hotel loyalty programs usually prompts an upgrade to a preferred room, even at piddling Priceline rates. Tip: Always demand a recently refurbished room, and don't be shy about seeking freebies. If you're nice, the desk clerk will give you club floor privileges or waive internet or resort charges. A steal of a deal turns good hotels into great ones.
Giving 50+ presentations a year, my primary hotel tech nightmare is audio-visual foul-ups. The second most frequent tech issue is decidedly low tech: lack of working, accessible power outlets. There's a rundown Sheraton in midtown Manhattan where the sockets are so decrepit, plugs just fall out of them. And shame on hotels that make you move the bed, then give you a Sophie's Choice of clock, lamp, or laptop. Craig Ball, attorney and forensics technologist, pictured with his wife, Diana Ball, Austin.
11. I travel 40 weeks a year and my favorite hotels are: #1 The Intercontinental in Century City, Calif. Besides the wireless always working everywhere throughout the hotel, they have a fleet of Mercedes-Benz cars available to whisk you to your appointments around Beverly Hills. Want to go to lunch at Mr. Chow's or dinner at Spago? No problems happy to take you right away - it's amazing. They treat everybody like a movie star or Hollywood mogul. #2 Le Meridian in San Francisco. The views of the bay and the Embarcadero are amazing, many of the rooms have a small balcony which I love because it's rare to find a room these days with fresh air and a spot to sit outside. They have a terrific restaurant great service and one of the best concierges anywhere in America. But, perhaps best of all is the scent when you walk in the hotel. Le Meridian has its own custom-made fragrance in San Francisco. Talk about attention to detail. I traveled there so much last year and became so accustomed to it, I ordered it from the front desk and had it sent to my office in New York. David Cowen, president and managing director, The Cowen Group, New York.
12. My favorite? Any Four Seasons hotel, but I am especially fond of the Georgetown location. The hotel has superb wireless available throughout the hotel, including meeting rooms. A computer engineer is available in the event of problems 24/7. The hotel provides videoconferencing facilities and secretarial service. The rooms are beautifully decorated but clearly designed for those who are in town on business. Loved all the international channels on TV. The hotel food is outstanding and you dont need to walk more than a block or two to have a world of exotic dining choices. The Four Seasons concierge seems willing to go to the moon and back to accommodate a guest. It is delightful to have such a tech-friendly hotel that also makes you also feel pampered.
Worst: A first-class hotel in Virginia Beach I had to move to three different rooms to get a lousy but minimally useable wireless connection. When I reported what appeared to be someone enticing folks in the hotel to jump on his free wireless (tempting with such a lousy connection), the hotel was completely indifferent to the security of its guests. It rained on us in the restaurant, and in the Expo Hall, chunks of the ceiling fell on vendors. Need I say more? Sharon Nelson, president, Sensei Enterprises Inc., Fairfax, Va.
Baker's Dozen 13. Editor's prerogative: I'm taking the lucky 13 slot to cite my favorite Hilton, before it is shut down for renovations that hopefully won't ruin it: The Hilton Longboat Key, 10 miles from Sarasota and about 45 minutes from the New York Yankees' spring training campus in Tampa. It's cozy (only 102 rooms), with heated pool and hot tub, and a powder white sand beach. Casual and comfortable, like broken-in sneakers, it's the rare hotel that feels like a club of friends. You actually can get into conversations with other guests, or can just sit at the outdoor bar and enjoy a quick sandwich. I confess I'm worried the remodeling starts in July, and rumor has it they will be doubling the rooms. Fingers crossed that the expansion won't ruin this gem by accommodating too many people. Oh yeah, the Wi-Fi's fine and they have coffee makers, 32"-flat screen TVs, and a mini-fridge, always important in Florida. M.B.
Bonus Tip: Check out Jacob Tomsky's wicked but instructive Heads in Beds: A Reckless Memoir of Hotels, Hustles, and So-Called Hospitality. Key lesson learned: Discreetly tip front desk agents $20 when you check in it will pay for itself in better rooms and service. I tried it on my last hotel visit. It works.
Monica Bay is editor-in-chief of Law Technology News and a member of the California Bar. Email: email@example.com. Twitter: @lawtechnews @LTNMonicaBay.