I've been having an email exchange with a friend who is trying to decide on a New York hotel and wants my advice. I've stayed in a few of them over the years and so I'm happy to help.
The emails are flying back and forth over one issue – the size of the wardrobe in the room. My friend, even when travelling for business, is a perennial over-packer and needs lots of closet space. Whenever she arrives at a hotel she has to call down for 20 extra coat hangers. The usual five or six parsimoniously provided won't do.
I feel her pain. When it comes to packing, I'm usually throwing into my suitcase "one more thing" (and then another and another) as I'm going out the door to the airport. Consequently, my suitcase is full even before I start picking up souvenirs along the way. You would think I might have learnt by now but I haven't.
Providing adequate wardrobe space should be a no-brainer, one of the first considerations in planning a hotel room apart from the bed and plumbing, certainly in the five-star category. But lately I feel there's a trend coming on and it's not friendly to people who travel with more than a carry-on.
Welcome the wardrobe-less hotel room.
Just last month, I stayed in a very glamorous hotel in New York that's a case in point. The room was enormous, with a king-size bed, a huge desk and executive desk chair, a plush lounge chair with ottoman, a large bathroom and a shower stall big enough to hold a folk dancing competition.
The room's total floor space included an entrance hall, panelled in wood, and a small cupboard containing the minibar and safe, an iron and ironing board and a few hangers. I spent a lot of time pushing the panelled walls in the foyer hoping a secret door would spring open and reveal enough space to at least put my suitcases. But to no avail. Every other detail was perfection – except the missing wardrobe.
I just don't get this. It is the kind of stylish hotel, not far from a fashion precinct, that would appeal to travellers keen to cut a swathe through the shops. As it was, the little cupboard provided the only hanging space and by the time my two coats were in there, sharing the narrow, dark space with the ironing board and bathrobes, there was little room for anything else. The minuscule airport hotel in Tokyo I stayed at in January had bigger wardrobe space.
My battered old suitcases had to stay in the bedroom (one on a folding rack, the other on the chair). It destroyed the effect of the immaculate, cream-coloured room.
A few days later, I moved to another hotel, one that had once housed union offices. The room was tiny but it included a sizeable wardrobe.
I've noticed that hotels in the lower and mid-price range are increasingly providing some really good facilities, such as irons and ironing boards, while at the luxury end, bathrooms often no longer have baths and wardrobes are sacrificed for residential-style sofas and coffee tables.
Perhaps it's because many of these hotels still cater for the sort of businessperson who needs little more than a place to hang a suit bag and a brisk shower in the morning. My beef has often been that many of these hotels cater for a businessman; businesswomen tend to have more stuff.
On the other hand, I've been in luxury hotel rooms where the walk-in wardrobe is the size of the Palace of Versailles. And while that seems a little excessive, this is the age of multigenerational travel and people do need storage space, especially if they're staying for a long time, as Australian travellers tend to do.
Not every traveller wants to travel lightly and not every trip is for leisure. In my case, it's pretty much always business and I often have to travel with a suitcase full of dressy clothes for meetings, dinners and events. I'm not alone in this. In fact, my over-packing friend seems to be typical of female travellers I know.
When I travel, I do my own laundry and iron my own garments mostly because it's quicker. I need a place where I can hang the wrinkles out of my clothes.
I don't need a ballroom, but 20 coat hangers would be nice.