As Kelley unpacked her bags on our first night in London, she tossed a small green item onto the bed, and said, “I thought you might need this.” I recognized the tape measure labeled ‘Reiman Gardens, Iowa State University’ from a swag bag I received last April in Ames, Iowa on a familiarization trip I attended for travel writers.
I gotta love a woman who is thinking about my work when packing for her 25th wedding anniversary trip to London.
When I started writing Loyalty Traveler blog in 2008, I would often describe room size dimensions. When I check Google Analytics these days, one of the most popular posts on Loyalty Traveler is My Square Foot – An Examination of Hotel Room Size (June 9, 2009). That article begins with the line, “How small is too small for a comfortable hotel room?”
Another piece I wrote in summer 2009 about the W San Francisco is one of my favorite pieces I have published on Loyalty Traveler, written when I was hotel hopping with my wife in San Francisco during her cancer treatment.
My Square Foot – Are Hotels Like Men? (August 30, 2009)
My Square Foot London Edition
The revival of ‘My Square Foot” was inspired by my experience in London at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Hotel. With a choice of 17 hotels in central London available using Club Carlson hotel loyalty points, all of which have 4 or 4.5 out of 5 favorable circle ratings on TripAdvisor after more than 1,000 hotel reviews for most hotels, the experience we have had in London this week reveals hotel room comfort is a crapshoot.
I have been a hotel travel blogger for 7.5 years. I have Club Carlson Gold elite status through Club Carlson Visa card membership. Many readers probably assume I get special treatment at hotels as a travel blogger on Boarding Area. Sometimes I do. But, I never ask for special treatment. I do not write the hotel in advance to ask for favors, even for a special occasion like our 25th wedding anniversary where my wife and I are revisiting London, the city where we honeymooned in 1989.
Here are my descriptions of our rooms this week in London at three hotels booked using Club Carlson points for hotel reward stays. I booked three hotels on 2-night stays to maximize the value of my Club Carlson hotel loyalty points using the Club Carlson Visa card benefit of one free night per reward stay of two or more nights.
Hotel 1: Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street
Published Rate £267 = $420 per night.
Standard Award – Superior Room, two twin beds was the room type reserved using 50,000 points for a 2-night stay. This was the only room category offered for a points award.
At check-in, the receptionist stated we were being upgraded to a King bed room on Floor 1.
The room was small with a large round glass table protruding out from the space between the wall and the bed. I commented to Kelley upon entering the room that a person is likely to be injured from the protruding thick glass table top, given the narrow space between the bed and the table. I hit my knee on the table within 30 minutes of being in the room. I still have a bruised knee five days later as I write this piece. My knee collision was before drinking several pints in the nearby The Two Brewers pub during a three hour Irish musicians blues session.
My Square Foot Room Size: Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street = 224 square feet.
The Mercer Street hotel location is great for West End theaters and pub crawling. The two nights we spent pounding pints in pubs, combined with a large bathroom, made this small room adequately satisfying for our stay. My primary complaint is the 1st floor location, which translates to second floor for Americans, is only 15 feet above the street and the vehicle traffic and morning truck deliveries sounded like we were living on the streets of London.
Hotel 2: The May Fair London
Published Rate £304 = $478 per night.
The May Fair is the flagship property in London for Club Carlson. I reserved a one King Bed room for two nights using 70,000 points.
We received a room on Floor 7 of the eight floor hotel. The room had wall-to-wall north facing windows and we felt like we had truly arrived in London with an expansive skyline view. The magnificent trees of Berkeley Square, the oldest trees in central London planted in 1789, were partially visible from our room. The main site visible below our room was Lansdowne House, the place where the American retailer Harry Selfridge lived in the 1920s, until the stock market crash of 1929 wiped out his fortune.
The exact same glass table design was not a knee buster at The May Fair where there was plenty of room to walk between the furniture. This room was quite spacious and we felt so comfortable in our room, even though we felt slightly uncomfortable at the hotel having to walk through a gauntlet of male engineers interviewing for jobs in Saudi Arabia when we walked the hallway between our room and the elevators. There were signs posted in the hallway stating “Saudi Interviews”, and the hallway was filled during the daytime with mostly white men, apparently qualified engineers, seated in chairs, taking up half the hallway space, waiting to be interviewed for employment in Saudi Arabia. Kelley said it reminded her of her father when he was unemployed in the early 1970s.
I know these details after I questioned a woman sitting in an open door suite doing desk paperwork late one evening on our second night at the hotel.
My Square Foot Room Size: The May Fair London about 300 square feet.
Hotel 3: Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street London
Published Rate £335 = $526 per night.
I reserved a two twin beds room for two nights using 50,000 points. This was the only room type available with points. I looked at changing hotels this week, but the only other room type available at other Radisson hotels in London was one double bed. We figured two single beds were better than one double, and we had received room category upgrades on the previous two stays at Radisson hotels in London.
Our jaws dropped when we saw room 2003 on the 2nd floor of the Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street London. Kelley walked into the room and banged her leg on the protruding hard wood bed frame of one of the single beds.
My initial thought was I had moved into hotel loyalty programs to avoid getting rooms like this. There were two single beds and a small desk by the window. The window was interior facing to hotel infrastructure. Two people in the bathroom together would be an uncomfortable fit, unless one was in the shower.
After the May Fair, this Radisson Bloomsbury Street room was so much of a downgrade that I decided to request a hotel room change in the sold out hotel, or I would simply redeem another 50,000 Club Carlson points and move to one of the other 16 hotels in London, if necessary. There was no way we would spend our last two nights in London in 150 square feet of cramped room space with no view.
This room was like being in an inside cabin of a cruise ship. I knew the hotel was fully booked and I had seriously considered changing our hotel reservation after stopping by two days earlier and seeing the hotel was on a busy street corner near the British Museum. Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street, about a ten minute walk away, was on a far less crowded street and the street noise there was our main issue with that hotel stay.
Normally I do not request a room change at a hotel. Many hotels have some crappy rooms and not everyone can be upgraded. I never pull the “I am a travel blogger” line. I use loyalty programs and earn elite status primarily for the benefit of better category rooms when I stay at hotels. Upgrades are frequent, without the need to beg.
The ‘bijou’ room was totally what I call a ‘Priceline’ room. These are the rooms at hotels that nobody wants, but are the kind of rooms you can expect when you are traveling on a deeply discount rate. These are not the kind of rooms I expect to receive as a mid-tier elite member in a hotel loyalty program.
I went back to the front desk and requested a different room. We were able to move to a different two single beds room with more functional design in a slightly larger space. A table needed to be moved to provide easier access to the bathroom and the window was an exterior street facing window.
The second two twin beds room at least had two chairs for us to sit on when in the room rather than sit on the beds.
The glass table was moved into the corner to allow more space between the bed and wall for easier access to the bathroom.
Bathroom is large enough for two people to stand in at one time in our second room.
I commend the front desk staffer who made a concerted effort to accommodate our room change. He saved me 50,000 Club Carlson points that I was ready to spend to move to a different hotel in London.
My Square Foot Room Size: Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street London first room about 150 square feet in poor layout for two persons. Second room about 190 feet. The room is small, yet acceptably functional.
An hour later there was a knock on our door and the front desk staffer who assisted me with the room change presented us with a complimentary treat.
Happy Anniversary. Now that is what I call customer service to make the best of a situation that could have been a dismal stay to end our London trip.