On a recent business stay in Chicago, I ended up splitting two nights between two Chicago hotels, the Swissotel and Hotel 71. Both were of comparable price and location, but only one threw in the Wi-Fi.
Room vs. Price
Similar king rooms and views for both hotels are in the $200-plus price range, with Hotel 71 going under $175 if you take the city view (alleys and sides of buildings). Swissotel’s step up, Lakeview room, is a gorgeous view of Lake Michigan and Navy Pier. You’ll want to check out a travel forum like FatWallet.com or Trip Advisor for tips on finding the best room rates as each individual hotel and booking site listed varying rates and fees.
Both rooms were spacious, clean, had workspaces and tastefully modern decoration. With softer linens and pillows, I found Swissotel’s bed a little more comfortable. Hotel 71 offered a less obstructed view of the Chicago River and even added a TV in the bathroom.
Swissotel and Hotel 71 are centrally located along the Chicago River, close to shopping, the lake, and Chicago’s museums. Hotel 71 is a little closer to Michigan Avenue, not really enough to mention. You’ll find restaurants within walking distance or a short cab ride.
On one of my nights in the city, I walked past popular Smith & Wollensky Steakhouse, stopped on the State Street Bridge to watch fireworks (rumored to be for a film shoot), and back to my hotel within 15 minutes. If you’re in Chicago for shopping, Chicago River tours, shows or museums, the hotels along this stretch of Wacker Drive are a great location.
Service and Amenities
My conference was at Swissotel, so I wasn’t able to experience Hotel 71’s business offerings. From what I experienced, I have no complaints of Swissotel’s conference facility. They also offer a business center for copying, shipping, etc.
The Palms restaurant at Swissotel had a pub atmosphere, quality food and service. By ordering a seared tuna app and no drinks, I pulled off dinner and tip for a twenty. Hotel 71’s café and menu looked enough like an afterthought that I didn’t give it a try.
Side by side, Swissotel was a more impressive and comfortable experience. But here’s the catch: Hotel 71 isn’t charging extra for the fitness center and Wi-Fi, and Swissotel is. After easily logging on in my room to catch up on work my first night (at Hotel 71), I didn’t think twice about Internet access my second night at Swissotel. As a business traveler, and at this price point, a little obstacle like Wi-Fi left a negative impression. As one friend suggested, “…why pay for Wi-Fi when you can go to one of 20 McDonald’s within walking distance and get it for free?”
What amenities have you come to expect at no charge? Is this for every price point or does it start somewhere above Super 8?