“ Address: Bohemia Road / Hastings / East Sussex / TN34 1ET / England „
One of my first choices of hotels when I'm going away just overnight or two, is the Travelodge chain of motels. In years gone by, I would have turned my nose up at the very idea of staying with these people, but times change. In my case, the main change has come in form of our now nearly four year old Labrador. Pre Amber, we would have preferred a homely b & b, with cosy rooms and a nice landlady to cook us made to order breakfasts. Pah! Those days are gone! The choice we're now used to, is to leave Amber with the nice kennels we've found or find somewhere dog-friendly to stay and take her along too. The kennels we've only used twice, and although the staff were lovely and seemed very 'dog-focused', I could tell when we arrived back that she'd missed us loads. Kennels, therefore, are only for when we're travelling abroad and can't take her with us. I've looked longingly at some books which feature b & b's which claim to take dogs, but they're not really for us. Dogs obviously come in all shapes and sizes, but they also come with wildly differing personalities too. Amber's a real shocker. Stubborn and wilful, and with a mind of her own too (maybe she's a doggy adolescent?). I just couldn't inflict her on some unsuspecting landlady.
Also, she's a part of the family, and so a holiday for us means a holiday for her too.
I happened on the travelodge website originally quite by chance. There had been a promotion running with their rooms being advertised as dirt cheap, so liking a bargain, I took a little look. What sold me on the chain was their claim online that they allow pets to stay too for a small extra fee. This was probably about three years ago now, and thus Amber had her first holiday by the seaside!
Now, we usually try to get away for the odd weekend with her at least twice a year. Our last stay at a travelodge was here at the Hastings one last month.
~ Why this one? ~
Well, living in South London it's a reasonable distance to travel to with a pet. Any further away (such as previous visits to Cornwall and Bournemouth) require major planning. Dogs aren't like humans, they can't cross their legs until the next motorway services. The further away we travel with her, the more rest stops where she can discreetly do her business and stretch her legs we have to find on route. Hastings is easy to get to, with a direct route from where we live as the A21 takes you all the way there. We wanted somewhere near a beach (so she could dip her paws in the sea) but with some good walks nearby. We'd previously seen a little of the Hastings Country Park and along the coast around Camber, towards Camber Castle and so thought we'd go back again. Towns or built up areas are a no-no with Amber, as she needs to be let off the lead. The Hastings travelodge seemed perfectly located.
We booked last autumn, when the chain were selling the rooms at £19 per night. We booked two nights, at that price the rooms were flying off the internet.
~ Where is it? ~
Situated on the A21 (the Bohemia Road) about half a mile from the seafront and Hastings Pier, between St Leonards on Sea and Hastings town proper. Although it's in the middle of quite a busy built up area, there aren't any other hotels or b & b's in the immediate vicinity. The hotel itself is situated almost between a police station and ambulance station. I say almost, because squeezed between the police station and the travelodge were a couple of houses. We nearly drove past it as it's on a sharp corner and any early sight of it was obscured by the trees.
~ What's it like? ~
You can check in any time after 3pm, which is more or less when we arrived. There is one vehicular entrance and exit which leads to around a dozen car parking spaces at the front of the building. Failing that, more are around the side, although we always managed to park at the front while we were there.
The outside of the building is modern and clean looking, albeit quite bland and featureless. It's surrounded on both sides by lots of mature trees, which looked quite nice when we were there in mid March.
Through the two lots of double doors you'll find yourself in the lobby area. The main doors are set to open automatically between 6am and midnight. Between midnight and 6am you have to ask the receptionist to unlock them for you.
The reception desk is straight ahead. To your left as you walk in is a small area with a rack of leaflets of local attractions, and a vending machine selling snacks and toiletries. To the right is a separate little restaurant/bar area, where breakfast and dinner is served.
The receptionist on duty when we arrived was helpful and efficient. Having brought the dog, we had to pay for her at this time too, which was £10 per night extra. We were handed the room key and the receipt for the extra payment for Amber, and given directions to our room without any problems.
We were based on the ground floor (there are two higher floors) in room 109. Although it seemed to be at the farthest end of the building from the entrance, and there were about four doors to go through in the corridor to get there, the various room directions along the way means you can't easily get lost.
~ The room itself ~
The first thing that struck me when we found our room was that the door was ajar which was unusual. The room keys in this lodge are actual keys not swipe cards, and we soon found out that due to the door knobs being immediately above the keyhole, you really have to fiddle about to get the key in the door. Probably the housekeeping staff just couldn't be bothered to lock it after they'd finished cleaning.
Travelodges have two choice of rooms, either double rooms or family rooms. We always opt for the family rooms, thinking that perhaps they might be that bit larger. In theory they should sleep up to four, with a double bed, and a sofa bed that pulls out to sleep two more. This is wonderful value for money if you have a young child staying with you in the room. Although we don't, it's nice to have the extra space for the same money.
Behind the door is the wardrobe space. This consisted of four or five hangers on a rail, together with shelving above and to the side of it. There are no doors on the wardrobe space though.
To the left, was the bathroom and straight ahead is the main bedroom.
The bedroom consisted of a decent sized double bed with a wall hung shelving unit to either side. The bedlinen was clean and fresh. At least it was when we arrived. Amber decided to bounce on the bed and ruck the sheets up almost immediately, Naughty Dog. Directly opposite is a longish desk on which is situated the only electrical appliances that came in the room, the small CRT television and a small kettle. There's also a little tray of the usual coffee sachets and a few teabags together with some uht milk and sugars on here. A little chair sits under the desk. A large window looked out onto the gardens, such as they were, to the side nearest the private houses. The window could be opened, but only by a few inches for security reasons apparently. Possibly the upstairs windows could open wider.
Under the window was the sofa where you can apparently sleep a couple of children. If there's a third person in the room they would simply just take the back cushion off and tuck in the spare sheet. If you have a couple of children sleeping there, then you have to pull out the second half of the 'sofa bed', which is on castors and stays tucked under the main seat. This would mean your two children sleeping at differing levels.
There is no mini bar in the room, neither is there a safe to keep any personal belongings.
The overall colour scheme in the rooms always seems to be blue and our room was no exception. The carpet and the curtains matched, being a dark blue. Not a very soothing colour to me but I suppose darker colours hide any dirt easier!
The bathroom was the usual travelodge affair as well. A bath with an overhead shower unit, and the sink and toilet were boxed in with a full length work surface made of a cheap marbley effect. The colour scheme was standard white in here, and when we arrived all the furnishings looked clean. The bathroom itself had certainly seen better days though. The chrome shower curtain rail had patches of rust on it, and also I noticed the grouting amongst the tiles was black. I can only assume this was down to mould and not a chosen colour scheme. All the bathrooms we've had with this chain have been internal and not had windows, therefore you're relying on the extractor fan to work efficiently. In this particular room, after my shower the room was covered in steam which would explain the signs of damp.
Being how this is at the low end of the market, it's understandable that the chain will economise in just about every way possible. This includes not including any toiletries in the bathrooms for the customers to use. If you forget to bring anything yourself, it's all available to buy in the foyer's vending machine. In some ways though, they've taken their economising too far. Being a family sized room, it's fair to say I would expect at least two bath towels and two face towels. Not so here. When we arrived, there was only one of each size in the bathroom. Some things they take too far. I went back to reception and managed to get given another two without any problems.
Also I noticed that where they usually leave the extra bed sheet and pillow for the sofa-bed occupant in the wardrobe area, there was nothing. Had we children with us, we would have needed to get extra bedding from reception too.
Finally, it wasn't until we came back for the evening that I noticed there was no remote control for the television. We would have to either keep getting up to change the channel or the volume or go and tell reception. I went, and the lady on reception told me it had probably been lifted by the previous occupant, there should definitely be one there. She said if she could find a spare one she would have it sent over. Despite this, we never did get given one, which was a bit irritating. The last thing we both wanted after a nice day's walking was to have to keep getting up to change channel when we'd both just got comfortable. It's also worth mentioning that the television only has four terrestrial channels (channel 5 wasn't available). No nice freeview or satellite channels here I'm afraid. On a different holiday, abroad say, we hardly even bother switching on any television in our room, but it's nice to unwind with familiar programmes when we're staying in this country. Also, although our particular room's television was on a kind of swivel bracket affixed to the desk, it only seemed to stay facing the double bed. Anyone lying down on the sofa bed wouldn't have been able to watch it unless you managed to prop something against it to hold it in position.
~ How secure was the room? ~
The good news is that there is a peephole in every room's door. The bad news is that someone has cleverly decided to hang a full length mirror on the inside of the said doors which covers the peephole so it isn't of any use to the occupant. Neither, in our room, was there a door-chain, which meant you had no means of actually seeing who was outside before opening your door. Although this was of little consequence to us, it's still a basic omission which the Travelodge fall down on.
~ What was it like sleeping there? ~
It was both good and bad. The bed was very comfortable and I managed to get to sleep with no problems at all. Our room at the side of the building meant we couldn't hear any traffic noise (despite being so near to two emergency service stations). The bar area has a large flat screen tv attached to the wall which was blaring out music at midnight for the few people that were in there when I had to take Amber out into the grounds then. That wasn't audible from our room either thankfully.
The bad was of our own making. Curiously, Amber's usually a very affectionate dog. She's wonderful with everyone she meets and other dogs too. It would appear though that she has a dark side. Around 2am some of our neighbours were returning from their evening out, and she took exception to this by jumping off the bed and barking and growling by the door, waking us up in the process. Goodness knows what they thought out in the corridor, but I thought it was really quite funny. (Maybe I was just tired). This reminded me of a previous visit when this had also happened with people walking past the room. It seems she's actually very territorial in this environment.
On that note, the Travelodge advise guests that they should display the 'do not enter' sign on their door whenever they leave their pets in the room unattended, probably for the safety of their staff who may otherwise attempt to clean the room.
~ If I want to bring my dog with me ~
There is a £10 surcharge for each night you stay, which you can't prepay online. Presumably this is to cover extra cleaning costs. Amber is wonderfully house trained, but with others there may be the occasional accident. And if like Amber, your pooch wants to curl up on the bed, or just ruck the sheets up, it's bound to cause extra cleaning. We don't let her upstairs in our house, so this is the only time she sees a bed and she gets manic.
However thoroughly the staff hoover the rooms, there are bound to be traces of dog hair left behind. I can only assume, therefore, that the motel set aside certain rooms for pet owners. If they don't, then there's always the possibility of someone with an allergy to pet hair being given one such room. If you have any such condition, you would need to bear this is mind if you're thinking of staying here.
We had paid for breakfast when we originally booked simply because you get a 10% discount with an online reservation. The full charge is £7.50 per person. It's a buffet consisting of a choice of cereals, yoghurts, muffins and a choice of two fruit juices, coffee and tea. There's also bread and a toaster. Non vegetarians can also have a cooked breakfast of scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and baked beans. This is served between 8 and 10am. Two of the tables are set in the bay window recesses, and if you squint you can just about see the sea from here. The first morning (a Sunday) there was a young man in attendance who was very capable and friendly, even offering to bring some coffees over to an elderly couple sitting near us despite the fact that's it's properly self service. He cleared the tables and brought out freshly cooked food regularly. The second morning was different though. During the time we were there, about 30 minutes, nobody seemed to be working there, although we could hear the kitchen staff through the back. It wasn't very busy which was just as well because the tables weren't getting cleared and nobody brought out any more hot food. Why this was I don't know, but luckily it didn't affect us as the hot food was still hot when we arrived, although I can imagine if they'd had a sudden rush on there would have been problems. This rather detracted from the overall customer service we'd received up until then.
You can also eat dinner here if you wish, although I would recommend eating out in the town, which is what we did both nights. It can't be difficult to find somewhere with a nicer atmosphere than here and at reasonable prices too.
~ Overall ~
One point worth mentioning is the 'grounds' back onto the two houses I've already mentioned. You're unlikely to want to take a wander around here, but if like me you had a dog who wanted to stretch her legs, then I would advise you to keep away from the boundary. Two very cross Alsatians were not pleased to see Amber poke her nose right up at their fence. We beat a hasty retreat before equally grumpy owners came out...
The good points:
* Very cheap room deals if you look online, starting from £19;
* They take pets!;
* Good quiet location, quite near to the seaside, and
* 24 hour reception.
The bad points:
*The motel's general stinginess - few towels or bedlinen and no toiletries (which to be fair is company policy and not the fault of the staff here);
*No free parking. The car park is run by a private company and you have to pay £3 per 24 hour stay. Several other residents had obviously decided to park in the road outside, although this gets very busy during the day, mainly with commuters it seems.
* The hidden extras (£10 per night for a pet seemed a bit steep)
* There could have been more hot breakfast items, such as fried bread or hash browns.
* You have to bother the receptionist if you have to take your dog out in the middle of the night
* Difficulties opening the door with the keyhole being too near the door knob, and
* There's no lift here, for those on higher floors.
All in all, we all had a pleasant stay here. If I were bringing the dog again, then I'd be happy enough to stay again if the room was still at a similar price. Prices can vary and currently the room rate is £54. I wouldn't be prepared to pay that much, not would I be inclined to stay here if I didn't bring the dog.
Travelodge Hastings Hotel
Telephone: 0871 984 6310