In an online poll of worst hotel room annoyances, 80 per cent of respondents voted for "Noisy people in a nearby room". Other options were: bad coffee, ugly decor, no free Wi-Fi, expensive mini bar treats, no HBO and cheap toilet paper.
Funnily enough, it didn't mention my top annoyance in hotel rooms: electrical appliances that emit undue noise or light pollution. I prefer utter silence and complete darkness in order to get a sound night's sleep. Yet designers of hotel rooms often seem unable to grasp what's required for a peaceful slumber in a strange bed.
Just before Tropical Cyclone Evan struck I spent five nights at the Intercontinental on Fiji's Natadola Beach - which was very pleasant but also hypocritical in light of the piece I wrote a year ago in which I questioned the suitability of this island nation as a holiday destination. I changed my mind, okay?
My bedtime ritual on the first night at a new hotel involves the systematic shut-down of all appliances likely to compromise suitability of the room for sleeping. I duly initiated the routine at the Intercontinental by first unplugging the digital alarm clock on the bedside table - partly because I've been rudely woken at 4am by a screeching alarm set by previous guests before but mainly because its display compromised the level of darkness in the room.
I unplugged the television on the opposite wall and the telephone between the beds, deftly obliterating two pilot lights in the process. I switched off the main lights to see what stray sources of light I may have missed. I turned the lights back on and unplugged the second telephone near the television.
Once again I switched the lights off to check. The darkness was acceptable and if my nine-year-old hadn't been my holiday companion I'd probably have left it at that. But she seemed enthralled with her mother's eccentricities in this regard and so the process took on the proportions of a game of how-dark-can-we-make-the-room- if-we-really-try?
I used a bath towel to block the band of light coming under the door and then (in a stroke of genius) wedged a coaster under the panel containing emergency evacuation information to block light coming in through the peephole. Then I went outside and drew the enormous curtain that ran along the length of our terrace.
By now the faint glow of the air-conditioning control panel was the only light we could see. I asked my daughter if she had any Blu Tack. She didn't but suggested we buy three postage stamps to stick over each of the three separate light sources. It was a good idea but we didn't get around to it.
Some hotel rooms have refrigerators with noisy cooling cycles that get in the way of a restful sleep but not one sound emanated from the fridge at the Intercontinental. I'm not sure if it was because the appliance itself was ultra quiet or if the surrounding cabinetry had excellent sound-proofing properties.
However on one visit some years ago to the Chateau Tongariro, we had to virtually dismantle the cabinet to switch off the noisy refrigerator, so inaccessible was the power outlet. Similarly at the Grand Floridian in Walt Disney World, Orlando, I had to use brute force to get behind the rowdy refrigerator in order to switch it off at the wall. By the time we left, the surrounding carpet was a little damp (from melting ice, maybe?) and I felt a bit guilty about that but I still believe paying guests have a right to not share a hotel room with an unacceptably loud refrigerator.
What's your pet hotel room annoyance? Do you have any tips for tackling it?