By Amy Bradley-Hole Travel columnist
updated 7/17/2008 2:14:56 PM ET 2008-07-17T18:14:56

You’re never too old to get a lecture from your mother. My mom and I stayed at a hotel together this weekend — a beautiful property we regularly visit with lots of nice amenities. While there, she decided to educate me with a speech I entitled “Things Every Nice Hotel Should Offer Because Travelers Just Expect Certain Luxuries These Days.”

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Mom usually travels in complete five-star style. All the amenities she loves to have in a hotel room aren’t likely to be found at an average property. And my mom is a great source for ideas — she’s seen a lot of good and bad practices. Her opinions count for something.

Her speech got me thinking, “why not?” What are the things that penny-pincher travelers (like me) can bring along to really enhance their stays. Here are a few five-star amenities that you can supply yourself:

MP3 dock
Portable music and video players are ubiquitous these days, and an in-room dock for such players is one of those amenities my mother likes most. I agree. I’d rather enjoy my own music and videos than try to find a decent local radio station on a scratchy clock radio or watch overpriced in-room movies. Portable docks for personal players come in a variety of prices, and offer decent sound quality. I just got this one by Sonic Impact, and so far, I love it.

Decent coffee
At least cheaper hotels do one thing right that their more expensive counterparts don’t — they put coffee makers in the rooms. Most of these coffee makers use the pod-style packs of coffee, but the coffee the hotels supply often tastes downright funky. Plenty of companies make delicious gourmet brews in a variety of pod styles. The “Single Serve Coffee” Web site offers reviews of available styles. A great cup of coffee is easy to pack and easy to make, and you won’t have to pay ridiculous room service prices for it!

Wake-up calls
Understaffed hotels with poorly trained employees often provide less-than-stellar service. When that bad service includes missing your wake-up call on the morning of your 7 a.m. flight, it can be a huge problem. Don’t leave such an important task to those employees. Use one of the personalized wake-up call services out there. For a reasonable fee, they give you a reliable call, and they even provide features such as snoozes, weather forecasts, jokes and more.

Concierge services
Having a skilled and knowledgeable concierge at your beck and call is one of the best perks of staying at a nice hotel. A good concierge is indispensable when you want to make dinner reservations, get event tickets, mail your packages, get your broken heel repaired — the list goes on. While you won’t find this type of person at a budget hotel, you can find concierge services online and in most major cities. Before your trip, find one of these services, and use the heck out of them when you’re away.

Borrow a cart
When you’ve got lots of heavy suitcases, nothing beats a bellman. Good luck finding one at a roadside motel. However, if you ask the front desk agent nicely, you just might find a bell cart, or some other type of rolling cart. Many places have some type of cart that maintenance or housekeeping uses to move heavy items, and they may let you use it. If you do, please don’t tear it up and please return it immediately after you’re finished with it.

Upscale toiletries
I’m often unimpressed by the selection of travel toiletries I find at my local big discount store. And the products you find in a cheap hotel bathroom are harsh and smelly. I don’t treat myself to much, but do like nice shampoos and body washes. Thankfully, many luxury lines make travel-size — and way less expensive — versions of their high-end products. Some great ones to try are Kiehl’s, Molton Brown, L’Occitane and my favorite, Penhaligon’s. Look for these products online, at upscale department stores and at specialty beauty stores like Sephora.

Just because you can’t afford a five-star hotel doesn’t mean you don’t deserve five-star amenities. Be proactive, and create your own luxury hotel room. Do you have some tips for staying in high-style at low rates? Share your ideas in the comment section below or in our Talking Travelers forums.

Amy Bradley-Hole has worked in the hotel industry for many years in many different positions and at all types of properties — from small luxury boutique hotels to large resorts, both in the United States and abroad. E-mail her or read more of her articleson


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