7 Hotels in 7 Days

By: Chris Gasbarro

Maybe I'm old, but I grew up spending summer weeks or muddy spring breaks staring backwards at the highway from the rear-facing third row of a Buick station wagon crossing state lines with a Rand McNally and CB radio on the dashboard.

Every other year I now bestow or "punish" my own family with a similar 7 night road trip over Thanksgiving week in some part of North America, this year being a 1,100 mile journey from Seattle to San Francisco.

But here was the unexpected outcome...as a meeting/event professional I should have been more thoughtful. Staying at 7 different hotels in 7 nights provides a powerful sample group for hospitality experiences. From $89/night to $500+ price points, I experienced a 2018 reality of hospitality from views of consistency, experience, insta-grammyness (trademark) to inform my work at Ember. I'm always learning, even on vacation.

Hospitality takeaways:

  1. My best front desk experience was at a $129/night Best Western. A smile, knowledge of my reservation and speedy no-frills check in was just what I needed after a 5 hour drive. Way to go Best Western Humbolt Bay! They also have the most rockin' pool in the Northwest. The pictures don't disappoint, tiki torches shine bright in Eureka, CA!

  2. Next Generation Concierge - In a world of Trip Advisor, Eater and Open Table, I can get my own dinner reservation. In 2018 what I need is a Fire Concierge like Stephanie Inn. They built a fire on the beach on 15 minutes notice, with a bag full of s'mores, wine and snacks...and we got to keep the bag!

  3. Too much automation, can I have personal interaction please? While the aesthetics and insta-worthy photos of AutoCamp were amazing, I needed a little help on the early check-in request (they didn't have a way to communicate with housekeeping on room status, but do have custom key-code entry into your private airstream, and automated email checkout at 8:00 a.m. on the dot!)

  4. A handwritten note will make me, my kids and especially my wife "PAUSE" and then assume we're at the greatest place ever. Tu Tu Tun Lodge had not one, but two handwritten notes welcoming us with fresh baked banana bread, and they called us because we were running late (6:00pm) and wanted to make sure we weren't lost.

  5. Breakfast included - I may be behind the curve on this trend, but 6 of the 7 properties had breakfast included. It didn't matter if it was a full buffet or continental, for a family logging the road miles it's just what we needed to hit the road fast until the next bio break in 3 hours....the bacon is just frosting on breakfast.

In a world of site-visits or "planner" pins where you're known to the hotel and possibly a false sense of hospitality is afforded, it was great to experience the high's and low's of hospitality. It grounds my kids after all (not every hotel has VOSS water).

I know my kids may not be thankful now, but I hope they'll be thankful someday.

Chris Gasbarro