I recently stayed at both the Premier Inn and a DoubleTree Hilton in Woking. The Premier Inn is cheaper, and while there are fewer thrills, is a perfectly comfortable. The DoubleTree Hilton is more expensive but offers a few more interesting things. I have some thoughts on both.
Digital Keys and the Smart Hotel Room
Something I’ve wanted to try for a long time was the ability to use one’s phone or Apple Watch to unlock your room door. Effortless checkin from app to room without having to go through to front reception. Premier Inn doesn’t support this – thankfully, but there is the ability to check in at the front desk via one of the machines. Unfortunately with the Premier Inn automated check-in, it’s failed two out of four times – often with the machine failing to print the room number or the meal voucher. It’s a bit like a supermarket checkout – it’s just quicker to have somebody check you in.
With the DoubleTree, I booked online and used the Hilton Honors (sic) app to set-up the digital key that would let me check-in via the app and go straight to my room. That all worked just fine, but when I came to go to the hotel – I headed straight to the lift and it didn’t work. So I went to reception who had to issue a keycard anyway so that the lights and AC in the room would operate. Alas, this isn’t strictly necessary as you only need a credit-card size something that fits in the slot.
The digital key itself uses Blueooth. You need to hold your phone near the reader (either on the door, or by the lift buttons) and wait until the user interface changes in the app. And yes, you need the app opened at the time – simply pointing the phone at the reader doesn’t activate the app.
In all truthfulness, the digital key doesn’t save you any time at all. I found it fiddly and intrusive and there is no integration into the likes of iOS or WatchOS which would make a huge difference. And what’s worse is that you need a card to be inserted into the wall socket for the lights and AC to work – where is the Premier Inn’s The Hub-like smart room features such as being able to control lights and AC from the phone? But similarly, where is the digital lock for Premier Inn’s The Hub?
Modernising hotels with smart technology is hugely frustrating. I don’t believe any one brand has got it right yet. It’s one half of this, and another third of that. When I last stayed at a Premier Inn The Hub, even though it states it supports Apple TV, due to the technology they use, I could stream anything from my iDevices. So a complete waste of time. But at least they allow you to hook up via HDMI. DoubleTree doesn’t do that.
Premier Inn always win this, expecially with decent pillows and an ultra thick blanket. But the DoubleTree Hilton comes close – though the pillows are too soft and the blanket isn’t as thick. I did notice that DoubleTree’s beds are lower to the ground too, which I actually prefer to the Premier Inn.
Both good, though the DoubleTree’s bath is lower to the ground which makes getting in and out easier. The shower head, while adjustable in both positioning and type of shower, feels a bit cheap versus the Premier Inn’s rainforest-style head (although not adjustable).
Toilets are both okay – though if you’ve had 20 curries washed down with 500 pints, the Premier Inn isn’t going to be good enough and there are single sheets of toilet paper. DoubleTree has more household-style toilets with proper toilet rolls.
Tea and Coffee
Tea-making facilities in both hotels are reasonable. Nothing special. Neither provides enough sugar, tea or coffee sachets for the serious tea or coffee drinker. With Premier Inn, however, you can just head down to reception and grab some more tea, coffee or sugar. No idea what to do with DoubleTree.
And speaking of the DoubleTree, if I had gone straight to my room via the digital key, I’d have missed out on the Wi-Fi password (no open Wi-Fi here unlike Premier Inn). I had to get a welcome sheet from reception upon checking in with the password as well as room service details. The speed at the DoubleTree, however, is one of the best of the chain hotels I’ve seen so far. I could stream TVs and movies and do stuff. Premier Inn, even with their £5/day Virgin Media Business Premium package was absolutely dire. Premier Inn wins the award for THE worst Wi-Fi I’ve ever encountered. I had to tether my phone (which has poor reception inside Premier Inn, Woking) to get anything done.
It’s a shame that Wi-Fi in hotels overall are bad. We need to get these places up to Wi-Fi 6 standards at a minimum, with better placement of access points and better cabling within the property. I speak as somebody who has had to call a Canadian tech support line at midnight in Vancouver at his hotel, because his American lady friend wasn’t able to get a good Wi-Fi signal. We spent 30 minutes troubleshooting with the ultimate soluton being to reboot both access points on the floor we were staying on. That did the trick.
Premier Inn doesn’t operate a room service, but the DoubleTree does. The problem? Hilton are extremely bloody inconsistent with trying to balance technology with being sensible. As such, there is barely any printed material in the room. You have to scan a sodding QR code to get the menu. Or the phone directory. As a sysadmin and as somebody who works with technology for a living – it’s nice to see tech being used, but not at the expense of convenience. I found it VERY inconvenient!
Why can’t Hilton for all their development work in their Hilton Honors app put the menus in the app and allow people to order room service from within the app? Or put a laminated printed menu in the room? Let your customers pick the most convenient way of getting room service.
I don’t bother with hotel TVs. All my entertainment (audio and video and books) is on my iPad mini, iPhone or Mac. In any case, Premier Inn wins the TV fight because they allow you to connect your iPhone/iPad/Mac to the TV via HDMI and have other audio inputs too. DoubleTree does not.
With the Premier Inn in Woking, I usually get put on the third or fourth floors and found it quite quiet. There are some outside noises, especially if people are talking outside and I’ve encountered building work. Very little noise coming from the neighbours or corridors. The windows cannot be opened.
With the DoubleTree, I got to pick my room in the app and chose the 5th floor. The windows in the DoubleTree can be opened, though it took some effort to close my one – after which the noise from the main road dissipated. AC worked well, with decent controls.
The big issue I had with the DoubleTree was the lack of lighting. Just lamps beside the bed, one on the table and the entrance way. Made the whole place feel very dark with the curtains closed. The Premier Inn, on the other hand has a nice, well covered lights covering the room making it much brighter.
Lifts in both hotels do exactly what they say – nothing to write home about, though I did notice that in both cases – even with keycard protection on the DoubleTree’s lifts – for somebody from outside to come into the hotel. Had somebody waiting in the lift area when I was going back up to my room at the DoubleTree. Hadn’t unlocked the lift button and as soon as I had and got into the lift, he came up with me.
Still, could be worse – this is from the Travelodge in Woking from quite a few months back. I was amused by this and recorded a silly video (which has now had over 3,000 views!).