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Couples Massages and Other Overrated Travel Experiences

Couples Massages and Other Overrated Travel Experiences

Sometimes what happens behind closed doors is overrated (Photo: Getty Images)

I love my job as a travel writer. And I love hotels. I love the mystery and adventure behind every new guest room door. And as someone who spends considerably more than half of her nights in hotels, I love that the travel industry is constantly trying to “surprise and delight” and to raise the bar on luxury. But a lot of what’s caught on as luxurious genuinely mystifies me. Here’s what I find most confounding.

couples massage

Two is too too (Photo: Getty Images)

Couple’s Massages

Apparently the thinking, back in the spa middle ages of the 1990s, was that men would be more comfortable in spas if they could do it with their partner. But why would a slightly awkward personal experience be better with someone who knows you well just a few feet away? Think about it: Wouldn’t we all prefer to breathe and groan in private?

Related: I’m Paying to Be Abused? Really? A Sweaty Look at Luxury Health-Fitness Retreats

butler at a hotel

Who really needs a butler? (Photo: Thinkstock)


I have never known what to do with a hotel butler. The relationship is awkwardly subservient, and it is that hard to simply call room service or the concierge myself? And whole packing/unpacking thing? No, thank you. I want to know where I put everything myself, and while I don’t travel with anything terribly embarrassing, I don’t necessarily want anyone to see everything that’s in my suitcase. 

high-tech hotel annoyances

High-tech can bring on high anxiety (Photo: Getty Images)

Elaborate Technology

I might be interested in learning a complicated “smart home” system with 10 varied “lightening scenarios” and a balky iPad interface if it was, you know, in my home and I planned to use it on a regular basis. But for one or two nights, who has the patience? Know what technology works intuitively, is universally understood and pretty much never crashes? A light switch.

Related: The Best (and Worst) Airports, Hotels, and Resorts for Internet Access

welcome TV in a hotel

That welcome TV is a turn off (Photo: Getty Images)

“Personal” Greetings on the TV Screen

My first question when a hotel receptionist is showing my me room is all too often “How do I turn this thing off?” (See above.) I’ve already decided to come here; there’s no need to woo me with soft music and the stream of enticing images of beaches and sunsets. And I don’t believe you for one second that when the TV is computerized to read “Welcome, Ms. XXXX,” someone has taken a personal interest in welcoming me.


Keep it simple in the spa (Photo: Getty Images)

Indigenous Spa Treatments

It’s hard to beat a classic massage. But in te race to stand out — and get press — spas have revived every last healing tradition, including some that died out for good reason, and some that never really existed. I knew the indigenous treatment thing had jumped the shark about eight years ago, when a Caribbean spa offered me a “native conch shell scrub.” Turns out, conch shells are so hard it took someone a couple days to pulverize enough for one treatment, and unlike sugar or salt or things that actually work in scrubs, conch doesn’t dissolve. I was picking tiny shell bits out of my navel three days later.

Related: The 13 Greatest and Grandest Hotel Bathrooms

breakfast buffet

Sometimes less is more (Photo: Getty Images)

Breakfast Buffets

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. And I love having the chance to indulge in hollandaise or crème brulee French toast — or even poached eggs or oatmeal that I don’t have to make or clean up after. But I’m happy to eat just one meal at a time and don’t need 50 items to choose from, and those steam tables with their lukewarm vats of watery eggs just gross me out.

walk-in closets at a hotel

Who needs all that space? (Photo: Thinkstock)

Walk-in Closets

Who travels with that much stuff? Use the space for a bigger bathroom, or a proper work space in my bedroom, instead.

open kitchen

Keep the kitchen out of view (Photo: Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group)

Show Kitchens

No one other than hotel designers does this. Even restaurants with open kitchens (and I don’t much enjoy those, either) have ways to let some of the magic happen while hidden from view. But hotel developers have gotten the idea to give chefs complicated jobs to do, and make them all do them completely in the open. Haven’t we all watched enough Food Network to know what cooking looks like? I end up just feeling sorry for the kitchen brigade — surely they’d be happier if they could swear and fight as they work, without have to perform as entertainment.

eating in silence

Some people prefer to eat in silence (Photo: Getty Images)

Chill-out Club Music at Breakfast

I call this one “W in the 90s,” as it hasn’t really changed since then. Why does everyone think we want to groove on Morcheeba as we wait for the caffeine to kick in. This stuff is what they play when they want club-goers to go home, so why do they think we want to hear it while getting ready to seize the day? 

hotel scents are annoying

A smelly space? No thanks! (Photo: Thinkstock)

Signature Scents

At best they’re undetectable, while at worst they’re artificial and cloying — and inescapable. Plenty of people are genuinely sensitive to these (especially if they’re pregnant or ill), and anyone who is a scent-iphile will travel with her own scented candle for her room or aromatherapy oils for her body. They shouldn’t have to compete with anything else.

WATCH: What You Need to Ask When Checking Into a Hotel

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