1. Do your research: Before booking the hotel, read as much as possible about it. Read the reviews, learn about the surrounding areas, and the history of the property, and peruse the list of hotel facilities and amenities. All this research will also enhance your experience once you are actually there because you'll know more about the property and exactly what to look and ask for (especially the room sizes!.) Many historic hotels are also part of an exclusive collection of hotels from Starwood’s "Luxury Collection" to "Leading Hotels of the World." Further research will also help in identifying if your loyalty with certain groups and consortiums can give you added benefits!
2. Explore the hotel: Once you are at the hotel, the best thing to do is just get lost in it. Walk the halls, read the stories on plaques, see the photos, autographs and check out the libraries, bars and all public areas. Oftentimes you can come across one-of-a-kind memorabilia, first-edition books and unique artwork, interiors and architecture. You could even ask the hotel for a tour which most historic hotels already have as part of the experience.
3. Be open to different lodging options: Being a historic property, many of the public spaces and guest rooms have been prohibited from being altered or restructured. This is one of the best parts about a historic hotel because every part of the hotel offers different experiences. Unfortunately, it also may inconvenience a guest who is looking for a standardized guest room experience. If this is the case and you have to stay at a historic hotel, read up on the different guest room options and identify more than one option that would work for you, keeping in mind bed sizes, bathroom layouts and overall room sizes. This not only allows you to get a room that suites your needs, but also helps the hotel better allocate rooms to guests based on their preferences.
4. Book through the hotel and confirm booking and room types/facilities with hotel: In my earlier articles, I have mentioned that booking through third-party websites oftentimes only guarantees you a room but not necessarily a specific room type. Given the unique nature of historic hotels, even if you wish to book through a third-party website it is always best to contact the hotel directly to identify your specific requests--a room away from the elevator, two double-beds or an ADA-specific room. The advantage of a historic hotel is that because of different room types, they are able to identify multiple options (oftentimes unorthodox) but those that still meet your needs!
5. Take advantages of package deals: Given the amazing experiences available at historic hotels, they create customized package deals for guests to get the most out of their hotels and neighborhoods. Historic hotels in Washington DC offer great "White House" packages for kids and families while others offer exciting F&B packages which include drink specials that were created in the hotel and customized amenities and souvenirs which allow guests to take a little bit of the hotel history back home with them!
Here are some of my favourite historic hotels around the world:
• The Raffles Hotel – Singapore
• The Gritti Palace, a Luxury Collection Hotel – Venice, Italy
• The Mayflower Hotel, Washington, DC
• The Westin St. Francis – San Francisco, CA
• Sofitel Metropole – Hanoi, Vietnam
• Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski – Munich, Germany
• Taj Mahal Palace Hotel – Mumbai, India
[Photo: Cynthia Drescher for HotelChatter]