What makes a great hotel bathroom?

By Chris C., April 24 2014
What makes a great hotel bathroom?

We've all been there: checked into a decent hotel, settled into a very nice room – only to be let down by a sub-standard bathroom.

And these days that standard is continually being raised as hotels invest more effort, and money, into their bathrooms.

From brand name amenities and heated mirrors through to TV screens and mood lighting, it's as if hotel operators have only just realised that their bathrooms have the power to make or break a stay.

Here's my quick pick of five traits which make a truly great hotel bathroom.

1. Separate bath and shower

This one tops the list in my book. All too frequently, hotels install a rather fiddly mechanism to switch water flow between the bath tap and the shower head in a single space, which often just doesn’t work.

If you’ve arrived after travelling from the other side of the world, entering battle to just keep the ‘shub’ working isn’t a great welcome to the hotel or country – particularly if the bath is narrow, slippery and the shower curtain isn’t giving you much room to move.

And even if your morning habit is to take a shower, why not avail yourself of the chance to relax one evening with a long soak in a hot bath?

2. Quality amenities and somewhere to store them

I’ll often bring my own backup amenities to a hotel in fear of the ‘conditioning shampoo’, which usually leaves your hair feeling straw-like and begging for a proper conditioning.

Quality shampoo, conditioner, shower gel and soap should all be deemed essentials, while shaving kits, mouthwash and bath salts don’t go astray.

Adequate space around the basin, bath and shower to store these shouldn’t be overlooked – a lone soap shelf in the shower just doesn’t cut it these days.

3. Adequate, adjustable lighting

The lighting needs of hotel guests vary throughout the day – in the mornings, a bright light suitable for shaving is always appreciated, while a dimmer switch or other mood lighting is great for those long soaks in the tub.

Motion-activated lights in the bathroom – while a good idea in theory – can be counterintuitive.

If you’re having a relaxing bath, sudden darkness requiring you to get up and wave your arm around every 15 minutes isn’t exactly conducive to a tranquil experience.

4. Heated mirrors

After a warm shower, using your already-wet towel to clear a space on the foggy mirror isn’t ideal…

Fortunately, many upscale hotels now feature heated mirrors in the bathrooms – particularly great when the mirror is a distance beyond the sink.

5. Privacy

It should go without saying, but privacy in a bathroom is by far the biggest requirement.

While glass panes between the bedroom and bathroom are fine for suites with just one bed, they’re not appropriate when sharing the room with colleagues, friends or family and requesting twin beds.

If glass panes or windows for the bathroom are a core element of the room’s design, electric ‘smart glass’ – where hotel guests can activate a switch and the panes change from transparent to opaque – should be a minimum.

What makes a stellar hotel bathroom in your books? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.


14 Jun 2013

Total posts 353

Good observations Chris. Bathrooms seem to be the new battleground for upscale hotels and that's fine with me because we all know that competition is good!

I like to see most of the things you've mentioned, especially good amenities and a separate shopwer/bath. What gets me about showers through is that most of them are designed so that you can't possibly turn on the water without getting your hand and arm hit with that blast of cold water, and you can't adjust the temperature without the same thing happening.

Actually, no, what really gets me about showers are those strange integrated all-in-one faucets which can take a while to figure out exactly how they work and what the right 'mix' is for the pressure and temperature you want. And by the time you have figured that out it's time to check out of the hotel!

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2550

I'm going to put in a +1 for adequate room to stow my stuff (and as editor, that means it counts for +10, right?).

Like pretty much every business traveller I have my own bathroom kit, packed in one of Qantas previous-issue first class amenity kit bags (the spacious tri-fold Payot bags). I don't do BYO shampoo (I think Chris must be particular when it comes to his curly locks!) but I have more than enough 'other stuff' in there, and yet so many bathrooms have pretty much no shelf space so I can spread out my stuff. I'm talking a shelf that's both wide and deep. And if it's that bad for me, a bloke, imagine what it'd be like for a female business traveller!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 699

The previous Qantas First Class Payot amenity kit bag is awesome Chris, I couldn't agree more. The stuff that was inside it was good, but the design and practicality of the bag itself what makes it part of my top travel kit. The current Qantas First SK-II First kit bag isn't as good for travelling, sadly.


14 Jun 2013

Total posts 353

Yes, those 'open at the top' zipper bags are not nearly as practical as a 'tri-fold' bag which you lay flat and open up.

12 Jun 2013

Total posts 737

Shower pressure, shower pressure, shower pressure. A rare luxury in this age of low-flow shower heads and water restrictions to have enough water to hit more than one part of your body at a time. But I stayed at a hotel in the gloriously pre-greenie city of Dallas the other day and it was like Zeus himself was pissing on me from the top of Mount Olympus.

While we're at it, let's have a shower head that's actually above my head, and a glass shower screen that goes all the way around so there isn't a cold draft.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

And in smaller bathrooms, I am happy to accept the trade-off for a shower only versus the shub - but obviously prefer the two with the bath seeming to take central position in most new designs.

Also love a rainforest showerhead.

Certainly bathrooms with glass panels (with the smartglass or blinds) into the bedroom or movable walls seems to be the new standard.

18 Nov 2013

Total posts 46

You missed some of the little things that really get me.

Power point - somewhere where I can plug in a razor/clippers and still view the mirror, and somewhere to put it down so the cord doesn't go under the taps. An international plug as well as a local plug is great.

A dry floor - nobody likes cold puddles or a sodden bathmat.

Hooks or clothesline - I like somewhere to hang my clothes, or my wet swimming gear.


04 Nov 2010

Total posts 670

I agree with moa999 and hugo on the overhead 'rainforest' shower head, and also on a shower that is fully enclosed. I can't stand the trend towards these half-open showers where the water splashes out onto the bathmat and floor. Yes, I know that housekeeping will clean it up, but they must hate doing that extra work and I hate the illogical design which looks 'cool' but means I have a wet bathroom floor!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2011

Total posts 362

Even hot water is not a given. I like a really hot shower and hate a lukewarm one.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 699

I can't understand my hotels bother putting baths in bathrooms, when most are clearly poorly able to adequately allow an adult to get wet in any reasonable manner. I'd rather have a spacious shower area and forgo the kiddes bath.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2550

Yep, a too-small bath is really pointless and a waste of space IMHO. But I tell you what – when there's a seriously-sized bath in a hotel room, which is something I lack at home, I try to make time to use it at least one night during my stay... a shame to have it go to waste. An associated issue: so many hotels with baths do not have any bath salts or such, even if you call down to housekeeping to request them (I'm talking five-star hotels here).

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 699

I'm with you here too David, I love a bath (but only if it's worth having!) - few hotels meet this standard however (even in $600+ a night rooms!).

Stayed at Hotel Hotel in Canberra recently, where a REAL bath was had in $360+ Meandering Suite (great value). Best bath was more akin to swimming pool in Crown Towers Melbourne Crystal Villa Premium Suite (shame about rock hard bed though). 

Seems silly not to provide bath salts in 5 star hotel - costs cents really. 

I must admit I only travel for leisure and don't stay in 5 star hotels, but I don't like a shower over a bath, no matter the size of the bath, as it's hard to get in and out.  I recently stayed in a 3 star hotel in Darwin with a huge shower--roughly the size of a bath--with excellent water pressure.  Another bugbear, though not strictly about the bathroom, is the electric jug that won't fit under the tap in the bathroom.

23 Aug 2012

Total posts 29

Great comment, I especially wonder if those designing the room ever used it, since there never seems to be enough space to store even the few items a guy needs.
However - there is one thing I disagree: I prefer the bathtub and shower being in one, giving me so much more space to shower. All too often, hotel showers tend to be tiny little square - showering in a coffin...

Cathay Pacific - Asia Miles

25 Apr 2013

Total posts 543

Great article Chris. Number 5 lines up with One Mile at a Time's hotel pet peeves, which state the flaws of good hotels. Most of those are also about the bathroom. :)

05 Sep 2011

Total posts 66

As someone who is rather tall, my biggest hate in hotel bathrooms is showers that cannot be adjusted high enough. Or even worse the non-adjustable shower heads that come out of the wall at around shoulder height. Nothing worse than staying in a nice hotel and having to either limbo or kneel down every morning to wash my hair.

I also hate the glass walls, even if they are frosted, that seperate bedroom and bathroom in so many hotels these days. If my partner goes to use the bathroom during the night I get woken up as well thanks to the light shining through the glass and illuminating the entire bedroom. 

Also have to agree entirely with point number 2. Was staying in a lovely hotel in London last year, stunning bathroom, but absolutely no shelf space. Had no choice but to keep everything in my washbag on the floor. Whichever designer thought that was a good idea needs their head checked.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

01 Oct 2013

Total posts 93

Along with inadequate shelving space, no clothing (or bath robe) hooks are a big pet peeve for me. It's most annoying have a pressed/ironed shirt & trousers and not having removable hangers in your room... you either have to bear the cold and get dressed outside your bathroom (which you can't do if you're forced to share your room with a colleague), or leave your shirt on top of the toilet or sink and risk it getting wet or crumpled!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Apr 2013

Total posts 145

Lighting switchgear - my pet peeve in hotel rooms. All too often I arrive to my hotel room to spend the first 5 minutes trying to either find, or figure out how the lighting and electronics switchgear works. 

I shouldn't have to go forraging around trying light switches at random to try to work out which one activates my bed side lamp, armchair reading lamp or the TV master switch!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jun 2013

Total posts 366

It really depends on when the building was built ,those built 20 to 30 yrs ago even after refurbishment ,the bathrooms are to small to do anything with except a shower over the bath,the more modern buildings have larger bathrooms and can accomodate modern showers and mood lighting.in Europe most of the hotels are very old and the bathrooms far to small by today's standard .in my book a large bathroom with a overhead shower rose in the shower and heated floor tiles and a good exhaust fan !! so many 5 star hotels have poor or bad exhaust fans ,it's like having a sauna  


28 Feb 2014

Total posts 3

I like the toilet to be separate or enclosed within the bathroom - I hate smells and it's a pain having to separate uses of the bathroom to avoid them.  Big towels - bath sheets please!  Plenty of counter space and a tap I can get my mouth under to rinse it after brushing my teeth without having to put my hair in a puddle.  I don't use the toiletries so if I shove them all to the side don't rearrange them every day when doing the room and take up all the space with them!

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