Nov272014

My Square Foot London Edition

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.

Hotel Room Size London Edition – Size Matters

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.

Rad Mercer bed

Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street, London

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.

Rad Mercer tv

Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street London

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.

Loyalty Traveler – Radisson Blu Edwardian Mercer Street London convenient for LHR arrival and departure

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.

May Fair-1

The May Fair, London

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.

Rad bloom 2003

Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street, London – room 2003 is under 150 square feet.

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.

Rad Bloom-2

Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street, London – room 2003

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.

Rad Bloom-3

Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street, London – room 4009

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.

Rad Bloom-4

Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street, London – room 4009

The glass table was moved into the corner to allow more space between the bed and wall for easier access to the bathroom.

Rad Bloom-5

Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street, London – room 4009

Bathroom is large enough for two people to stand in at one time in our second room.

I commend the front desk staffer Dyllan, 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 Dyllan, who assisted me with the room change, presented us with a complimentary treat.

Rad Bloom treat

Customer service – Radisson Blu Edwardian Bloomsbury Street, London

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.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined BoardingArea.com in 2008.

More articles by Ric Garrido »

Pingbacks

  1. […] My Square Foot London Edition is a piece I wrote last week. I generally use TripAdvisor and FlyerTalk to figure out where I want to stay. Between the two resources and hotel reviews on BoardingArea, finding good hotels is not a difficult challenge. As a hotel blogger, I meet many hotel chain senior managers. I am sometimes asked by hotel managers to let them know when I am coming to stay. That is an insider benefit of being associated with the industry. I rarely take advantage of the offer. Last year I did in Berlin at the Radisson Blu Berlin and I had one of the most beautiful views ever looking out the window from my bed to the Berliner Dom cathedral bathed in blue light. I paid the normal rate for the room, but the upgrade was not typical. My experience with sponsored trips where hotels and activities are complimentary is the line is too easily crossed between being a marketing agent rather than an independent reviewer. I prefer independence and have moved away from most sponsored trips. Yet, I consider sponsored trips if it looks really appealing. There is no way a reader will not be aware when I am getting a freebie when I am writing about it. I tend to overly disclose upfront rather than letting you read a piece and then learn at the end that it was a freebie trip. __________________ Loyalty Traveler blog analyzes hotel loyalty programs and promotions for the frequent guest. […]

Comments

  1. 2 weeka ago, we hotel hopped between the Radisson Bloomsbury and the Radisson Kenilworth (across the street from the Bloomsbury). We had a 2 very nice spacious room at the Bloomsbury. Kenilworth was much smaller. We had 5 different hotel rooms at Kenilworth and it was very clear that almost every room was a different size.

    The rooms that we had at Bloomsbury, had large bathrooms, my rooms had a little entry foyer, and plenty of room to walk around.

    It’s too bad that they did not give you a better room on this stay as we thought the hotel was very good and if we are in London again, we would go back.

  2. You fortunately missed the Radisson Blu Edwardian Vanderbilt in Kensington by the museums. Rooms are shoebox, no elite recognition or benefits, and in two paid business stays (it was the only option within company budget) last month, the second there was old room service food outside my door when I checked in and still there when I checked out two days later despite several requests including direction to the manager.

  3. @Rapid Travel Chai – Interesting to hear about Radisson Blu Vanderbilt. Almost switched to that hotel since Kelley said she wanted to spend the day at Natural History Museum.

    Read the hotel design is a maze, kind of like Pulitzer Amsterdam since several old Georgian townhouses converted into one connecting hotel and people either liked it or not.

    My read of hotel reviews indicates any of these hotels has such a wide range of room types that you can’t be sure what you are going to get on an award stay. Of course, you can always buy up to a better room if paying, but the regular prices are way out of my budget for hotels.

    Six nights in London were $2,800 for published rates at time I booked these hotels and much higher last week during our stay, if even available. There were rates over $700 per night to start.

    In contrast, I paid for five nights in Radisson Hotels in Ireland for under $300 and Radisson St. Helen’s Dublin is a 5-star former Georgian-style mansion estate. My basic King bed room is very comfortable.

  4. Vanderbilt is certainly a maze. My first stay that week they first assigned me the room immediately behind the lobby behind a constantly slamming door, I spent just moments there but the room was a small standard size. Then they moved me up to one on a mid-level stairway, odd shape that had a small bedroom and a separate foyer with big closet and tiny bedroom. Second stay with the compost outside was the lone room behind a door off one of the elevators, incredibly small.

  5. By the anniversary message, I’m guessing you mentioned your anniversary to Dyllan while asking for a room change.

    When travelling by yourself, I can understand seeing how the rooms are and what you get just by your status. I’ve stayed in lots worse.

    When travelling with Kelley and especially for your 25th anniversary, I would expect you to use your knowledge to get better rooms so that she can enjoy the trip more. Though, after 25 years, she probably has a good idea of how you are and has decided to still be with you, so I guess you can’t be doing too badly by her.

  6. @Charles Clarke – Yes, I mentioned it was our anniversary and that is why I was ready to change hotels entirely because I needed something better.

    Getting two nights in London for 50,000 Club Carlson points is using my special knowledge.

    One of the most annoying tips I read are pieces telling people to write the hotel management stating they are staying for a special occasion in order to get a free upgrade. How is the hotel staff supposed to know when you are telling the truth?

    I didn’t need to beg and I didn’t need to scam. I was ready to move on and take my chances with another hotel if I couldn’t get a better room at Radisson Bloomsbury. It could have been another Radisson, it could have been the InterContinental Park Lane, or an SPG property or Hyatt. We could have gone to the Crowne Plaza St. James where we spent part of our honeymoon 25 years earlier. I have lots of points in many programs I could have used to get a good room in London on a moment’s notice.

    Radisson Bloomsbury changed us to a room with two windows looking out to the street and two chairs and enough space to move around without kicking the furniture. That was all we needed.

    My economic philosophy is simple. Living well does not take much money if you choose purchases carefully and don’t overspend for things you don’t really need. Kelley and I both grew up with limited income, yet we have had a large variety of experiences and opportunities in our lifestyles to spend time with people of wealth.

    Our commitment to each other has kept us feeling pretty happy most of our lives. We certainly have known enough people who can buy many things and travel many places and pay for all kinds of experiences who are still generally unhappy with their lives.

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