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There's no place like home
Member Name: bondgirlk8
Date: 12/01/09, updated on 02/11/09 (340 review reads)
Advantages: Cheap, fine for a short out-of-town stay, clean, decent room and facilities
Disadvantages: Bad location, noisy, grim surrounding areas, food factory, not good for long term stays
This is a review specifically of my experience of the Travelodge Wembley where I lived (yes, actually lived) for a while back in 2006. Given that for a couple of months I called it home, I may have been slightly harsher in my rating than if I'd been here for a weekend break - the purpose for which it is actually intended.
This is a very long review (you notice more when you are there so long) and I've bunged a load of background in as to how the situation of effective homelessness came about. If this doesn't interest you, I recommend you skip to the main review points. I've tried to give it sensible headings to make it easier for you to find the bits relevant to you.
How I came to live in a hotel
In 2006, I sold my flat in Nottingham and headed with Mr Bondgirlk8 for the bright city-lights of London where we bought a little house together. I couldn't be bothered with all that chain malarkey - I had already started a job down here, so the sooner I sold the flat the better I would be able to cope financially. This meant B&B living during the week and heading back to the flat and the man at the weekends. It was very, very expensive and I learnt to hate Sunday afternoons.
After a few weeks, I managed to secure a vacation let in student halls of residence where I spent most of the summer. This was much more cost effective and even meant I had use of kitchen facilities. I strongly recommend anyone who needs cheap accommodation during summer months check out student halls. Well worth it.
I couldn't rent somewhere, despite trying, due to cost and timing issues. I had a buyer on my flat and was waiting (for what felt like forever) for the sale to go through. We also had our offer accepted on a house down here, but it was unknown as to when we'd actually get it. Finding a rented place that would allow less than 6 month commitment was impossible - not for lower rates than halls or B&B at any rate.
At the end of the summer, Mr Bondgirlk8 (who'd been working at a summer school over his break to try earn enough to help us stay afloat another day) joined me in London to start his new job. The sale of flat had just gone through, so the mortgage payments would finally end, but the double living costs of the past 3 months had already crippled us and the halls let was also running out. Our purchase still showed no sign of completion. We were, in literal terms, homeless.
We needed somewhere else. It has to be cheap and provide a room big enough to store both of us and all our remaining worldly possessions (basically everything we could stuff into our Peugeot 206 - everything else was gone). The Travelodge in Wembley smiled at us - here was our new home.
The Wembley Travelodge is located on London's North Circular. It is not a very desirable area. The hotel is joined on the road by a string of sofa shops, a few wholesale places and a collection of factories. This raises a few points:
1. Road Links: Obviously, location on such a big road means that if you are coming by car, you will easily be able to get to the hotel.
2. Traffic Noise: The downside of such a busy road is that there is no way to avoid the excessive noise that a large road like this can generate. Our room faced the road. It was thankfully fitted with very good double glazing and , to be fair, this did stop most of the noise. Unfortunately, we were there at the tail end of an unusually hot summer. This meant our room was unbearably hot and stifling, even with the little desk fan I'd bought to survive the Halls. We had to open the window, and of course, even the best double glazing is useless if the window is open. If you are not used to noise, it would drive you crazy. It's like camping on the motorway. We were there long enough to adjust, and it seemed so quiet when we finally moved into our new home.
3. Food Factory: Opposite the hotel, separated by the gulf of the huge road, was a massive food factory. I don't know who they were or what they made, but it reeked of grease. The level of greasiness depended on what product was being made that particular day. I imagine from the smell it made frozen potato products and the like. Hash browns was a particularly strong and regular odour. As with the noise, as soon as the window was open the stench would fill the room. I'm not even sure it didn't seep through the double glazing when the window was shut. As we stayed there quite a while, I swear that WE smelt like that. Our clothes did at least.
4. Immediate Surroundings: There really is nothing to do around this area. You would need to travel into London, or perhaps one of the nearby centres such as Harrow, or the newly re-vamped Shepherd's Bush, now home to giant shopping mall Westfield London which is easily reached from the Central Line - more details under transport links. In order to reach any of these places, you would have to make use of public transport or drive - nothing of interest lies within walking distance.
5. 'Wembley' Travelodge: To call the hotel 'Wembley' Travelodge is technically accurate but a little misleading in that were you to not know it might imply close proximity to the stadium and arena. It's actually 2 miles from the stadium, 2.5 from the arena and 3 from Wembley itself. If you are planning to stay here to co-ordinate with an event at the stadium/arena bear you will have to factor that in when deciding how you will get to and from your event. Also, the North Circular location means that it is probably not going to be a pleasant walk should you chose to go on foot.
6. Biker Café: Just down the road from the Travelodge is the Ace Café London which has a massive biker fan base. I was unaware of this, and the Travelodge website does not provide enlightenment on this. I have nothing against bikers - that is not my point. My point is that the hotel had been pretty much empty during our two month stay, but on the day we checked out there was some biker event on somewhere. There was a massive meet up or convention or something occurring at the biker café down the road and the Travelodge was suddenly full. There were bikers everywhere. I bring this to your attention because if your stay co-ordinates with such an event then you might find it hard getting booked in. You would be advised to check on the internet first. If you type 'Ace Café London Events' into Google you will find lots of information on this.
During our extended stay, we did not make use of the bus network at all, so I cannot comment on how well served the hotel is by bus. However, the huge jam that occurred around the rush 'hour' in the morning and evening did not inspire me. I'd rather walk than be stuck in any mode of transport in that.
We did, however, use the tube. The nearest tube stations to the hotel are Hanger Lane on the Central Line, and Park Royal on the Piccadilly Line. Both will take you into the centre of London in around 30 mins. The Central Line will also take you to Shephards Bush and the Westfield London shopping Centre in less than 10mins.
Both tube stations are located some way away from the hotel. The nearest, and the one most frequently used by us, is Hanger Lane which according to the website is located half a mile away from the hotel. To be honest it feels like more than that. Now, I'm a walker. I walk EVERYWHERE, so I like to think my judgement of distance is better than average (I'm not one of those who grumbles about walking for 10 minutes and thinks they've walked miles). I'd, honestly, guess that it is nearer a mile. Park Royal is a further 10 minutes walk away.
Unfortunately, the walk to the station is a walk actually around the North Circular. It is noisy, windy, uninspiring, grey and, frankly, not that pleasant. It is a head-down-and-go kind of a walk. Holding a conversation is near on impossible.
According to their website, there is a national rail station, Stonebridge Park, also allegedly half a mile from the Travelodge. I neither used nor knew about this at the time so can't really comment.
Car Parking and Road Links
There is a small car park situated at the Wembley Travelodge. There are enough spaces for 109 cars allocated on a first come first served basis. There is however a charge of £5 per car per day to use it. There are no alternative places to park up in the surrounding area. We could not afford this, living in a hotel not being the cheapest way to live your life. If you are visiting for a short weekend break, however, this fee does not seem quite so unreasonable. We were really naughty and hid our car on the road outside the house which one day we would own. We like to think that it was just a case of the car moving in first to make it nice for us getting there. My partner did move it around quite a bit, and sometimes we stashed it in the car park of the school he works at instead.
The North Circular is a major road and easily provides access by car to Central London, Wembley, the motorway and all surrounding areas. The road is extremely clogged in the mornings and after work, however. We didn't really drive anywhere, given that we'd hidden our car, so I can't comment anymore than the passing observation that it is busy at peak times.
The hotel, as shown by the picture on the Travelodge website, is instantly recognisable as a Travelodge. It is exactly what you would expect and is built in the trademark colours of white and blue. It is set back a little from the road, contains a little entrance area with automatic doors, and the car-park is a barrier controlled area around the back of the hotel.
The sliding doors from the road lead you into the reception area, which is also instantly recognisable as being part of the Travelodge chain. The actual reception area is fairly small comprising of a desk and a few vending machines stocking everything from snacks and soft drinks through to alcohol, Nurofen, first aid kits and shower gel.
The ground floor is open plan, and if you follow the reception desk around it turns into the bar. It is the same unit, just that behind part of it is keys, telephone and booking paraphernalia etc. and behind the other part is pumps and optics. It is all very small and compact. The receptionist is probably the barman as well in quieter times. Likewise, the bar and restaurant are one and the same.
Bar and Restaurant
We generally couldn't afford to use this - again, we were living in a hotel and had to keep unnecessary cost down to an absolute minimum.
Very occasionally, when we had reason to celebrate or the depression was too great, we did get a drink from the bar. This could be either consumed in the bar itself or taken to your room. Prices were as you would expect for a hotel in Zone 3 of London. The drinks we had were nice and the service was good. The hotel was pretty quiet for most of our stay which perhaps helped.
Cooked breakfast is available from the restaurant for around £8. Alternatively a continental breakfast comprising of a coffee, small box of cereal and pastry of some description could be left outside your room for you at cost of around £5. For a short holiday, these prices are not unreasonable. Again, having been able to afford neither, I can't comment on the taste, quality or levels of service. I can only advice you that the option is there. Our solution was supermarket items we could store in our room without it going off, basically bread, jam and marmite.
A menu of lunch/dinner style meals is also available in the restaurant, which again, we didn't really have. One day, however, whilst feeling particualy damaged and sick of our diet of kettle cuisine (you know, pot-noodle, cup-a-soup, smash - anything you can cook with a kettle) we did attempt to get a little something hot from the restaurant. Main dishes were around £8 and out of our price range, but we had scrapped enough together to order a couple of side dishes to share between us: fries, garlic bread and onion rings - everything, I imagine, that the factory over the road makes. This set us back only a couple of quid and felt like real food, which in our deprived state, was like heaven. Our order of 'just sides' confused the waiter hugely. He did, however, successfully bring our order to the table and the service was quick and efficient. The food was probably just freezer food but it was very hot, very tasty and just what we needed.
The layout of the bar/café/dining area was a combination of standard dining chair and table combinations and of sofa and coffee table style combinations.
My biggest annoyance was the presence of televisions and their associated speakers scattered all around the area and never, ever turned off despite the minimum number of people actually in there. Had I been on a short stay, the televisions would have put me off going in there for a meal or a drink. I can't bear T.V. in restaurants. I can't bear T.V. accompanying a meal at home much less somewhere I am paying to sit. As this was the only place for us to go to escape the claustrophobia of the room, I could have really done without it.
As with any Travelodge, the rooms are basic but comfortable. For a short stay in London, the rooms are very well designed, practical and feel fairly spacious. They feel less spacious when you are both permanently stuck in there, bouncing off the walls because you are too skint to go out, and surrounded by everything you own.
The room contains a very comfortable double bed, a clothing storage area which is a good size for two people on a weekend break. A dressing table area complete with mirror and hairdryer. There is a T.V and a radio alarm in the room as well as a kettle with enough supplies to each have a coffee and a tea. This was replenished regularly, although we had brought in our own too to make sure we have enough to keep us going.
The rooms feature an en-suite bathroom which contains a toilet, sink and shower. The shower cubicle is a very good size and the shower itself felt sufficiently powerful. There was adequate space in the bathroom to store your small bag of toiletries. As is the way with all Travelodges, you are not provided with any complementary toiletry items, with the exception of a bar of soap for the sink. This is no problem, however, as these are not expensive items, nor difficult to bring with you, and helps to keep the cost of the room relatively low.
The rooms, as mentioned above, are fitted with double glazed windows, and the sound proofing from the corridor is not as bad as I have experienced elsewhere in other hotels. Of course this could be just because I couldn't hear much over the traffic!
The room was exceptionally hot and difficult to cool down. Bring light nightwear if you plan to visit here in the summer!
The only facility I would have liked in the room that was not there would have been a small fridge. I would have this criteria even if only there for the weekend as I like to be able to chill my drinks. Of course, by actually living there the fridge would have been wonderful, if only to store milk for coffee or cereal.
The room and the bathroom were immaculate when we 'moved in' and the level of cleanliness seemed pretty high - especially in comparison to the Comfort Inn in Harrow where we moved to for a bit (have to keep with the cheapest rates!) before moving back to the Wembley Travelodge. Perhaps I'll review that hotel one day too.
However, I did make an observation that can only be made if you stay somewhere for an excessive amount of time. The rooms are cleaned very well for you checking in, but are then given a less thorough clean during your stay (understandable, as most people are there for only a night or two so not much builds up and it makes sense to clean the rooms deeper when they are devoid of resident clutter). As they are given a bit of clean, this doesn't become evident until you've been there a while. It is the bathroom I noticed it in mostly and perhaps the need for a bit more of a dust in the actual room. However, I do appreciate we had WAY more stuff in our room than the average visitor and you did have to kind of pick your way through all our clutter.
They replace the towels in the bathroom if you leave them on the floor, but not if you hang them back up. Whenever we left them for replacement, they were always replaced with nice clean fresh towels.
I didn't notice a problem with the sheets either and I believe they were changed fairly regularly. I didn't set up an intricate testing to find out. The way I see it is that at home I wouldn't change my sheets every day but I would change them before they got dirty or smelly. This is therefore the standard I expect. Any more frequent, although nice, is bad for the environment and not really necessary. This standard was definitely achieved and I was satisfied with the service.
We basically booked into the Travelodge a week at a time, extending by a week every Friday whilst we waited for our house purchase to go through. This allowed us to keep an eye on the rates both here at alternative hotels in the West London area. This did confuse the staff slightly and the surprise that someone would actually want to stay for another whole week was not really concealed.
We did attempt to get discounts for long duration of stay, but were informed that Travelodge do not do this. We had trouble finding this kind of deal anywhere.
Online Booking Tip
If you are booking a trip with this, or any Travelodge, on line and want to make use of the very cheap rooms they have occasionally my big tip is to book each night separately. This is because the site looks for 'blocks' so it may prevent you getting the cheapest rates.
E.g. you want 2 nights, Friday and Saturday.
You search for £9 rooms for Friday and Saturday, it says none available, but we can do £19 per night - you book it, total cost £38
You search for just Friday, it says, yes got a room for £9. You search for Saturday, it says none available, can do £19 - book both separately, total cost £28. Bingo!
Thanks for reading
© Bondgirlk8 - December 2008
Summary: Fine for a short break...if you don't mind being out of town
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