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10 Most Questionable Travel Trends of the Last 40 Years – Vote

This one is for those of you who enjoy a stripped-down, old-fashioned vacation experience. Vote for your favorite questionable travel trend, add your own to the list, and come back to see which one wins the vote!

#1 Glamping

Thankfully Merriam-Webster has not followed the travel industry’s obsession with this irritating portmanteau. Starting in 2005, everyone seemed to have a new “glamping” experience to promote. Of course, plenty of the trend’s best examples—like Clayoquot Wilderness Resort in British Colombia and Brush Creek Ranch in Wyoming—offer beautiful and luxurious experiences. Our beef is not with the experience, but rather the term. Let’s hope it doesn’t go the way of “irregardless” or “selfie” and become an official part of the English language anytime soon.

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#2 Frivolous Promotions

Would you like a $10,000 martini with a diamond in it? Nope? How about a $5,000 Evian-water bath? Us neither. You’d be surprised by the odd extravagances hotels offer for a little bit of attention. We’ve seen the $1,000 caviar facial, the $5,000 hamburger, and even the $1,000 bagel. But let’s be clear: Nobody is actually buying these items—they serve only as gimmicks to attract media attention. Robb Report is as guilty as any other publication of covering them—after all, who can resist a five-figure cocktail?—but we certainly wouldn’t mind if hotels curbed the sneaky marketing ploys in favor of good old-fashioned service and style.

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#3 Toilet Phone

Back when Robb Report launched in 1976, the toilet phone was considered a luxury benchmark—so much so that Forbes and AAA still require the amenity for any property aiming for a five-star rating today. But times have clearly changed: Polls show that 75 percent of us take our smartphone to the bathroom (and clearly the other 25 percent are lying). Perhaps it’s time to abandon those germ-covered, wall-mounted relics—and maybe even replace them with a nice Bose dock.

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#4 Niche Concierges

Where was the sarong concierge when you needed her? Gainfully employed in Bali, apparently. The trend of deeming resort staff as specialty concierges and gurus began in the 1990s when guests needed computer help, and IT geeks were suddenly crowned technology butlers. Soon luxury hotel guests were finding tanning butlers, golf gurus, and cheese concierges at every turn. How about a fireplace butler to start your fire in Boston? Or a social-media butler to take over your Twitter account in Washington, D.C.? One hotel in New Orleans even has a crawfish concierge! Enough with the superlative titles, hotels—just focus on top-notch service across the board.

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#5 Key Cards

We’ve all been there, standing in the hotel hallway. Insert. Red light. Insert slowly. Red light. Insert quickly. Red light. Insert more quickly. Red light. Bang your fist really hard on the door. Still, it does not open. Retreat, utterly defeated, back to the lobby. As much as hotel key cards are slim, lightweight, and inexpensive, they too often are programmed incorrectly or accidently demagnetized. To remedy this, many of Starwood’s Aloft, Element, and W hotels have installed new door locks controlled by guests’ smartphones, eliminating the need to carry another piece of plastic in your wallet. Call us old fashioned but we still prefer a traditional lock and key.

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#6 Mega-Resorts

They say that bigger isn’t always better, but when it comes to hotels, that hasn’t always been the prevailing thought. Back in the mid-1970s, when Atlantic City was granted gambling rights, Las Vegas realized it needed more than just gambling to stay afloat—thus commenced the era of the mega-resort. Living up to its name, the famously massive MGM Grand opened with 2,084 rooms on 43 acres, becoming the largest hotel in the world. Macau, Orlando, and Dubai eventually followed with similar-size monoliths; the trend even made it to the Caribbean, where behemoth all-inclusives attempted to please every demographic at virtually every price point. Today, the trend is skewing in the opposite direction, with more boutique-size properties promising the kind of service and exclusivity that luxury travelers demand. And though mega-resorts continue to open today, they often include smaller hotels within hotels that offer nothing but the best to only a select few.

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#7 Ice Hotels

We’ll admit it: Ice hotels are stunning. Photos of their glowing turquoise rooms and dramatic sculptural walls are enough to make anyone drop everything and go. So it’s no surprise that the world’s first ice hotel, Sweden’s aptly named IceHotel, made travel headlines when it opened in the 1990s. And who could forget the magnificent ice palace that James Bond visits in 2002’s Die Another Day? Still, no matter how many fur blankets you pile on top of yourself, the fact of the matter is you are still sleeping in what amounts to a very expensive meat locker. Call us crazy, but we’d prefer a warm bed in a traditional hotel to a cool slab of ice (with communal bathrooms, no less). Of course, we’ll still be curious when Sweden’s permanent IceHotel 365 opens this November. Just don’t ask us to stay the night.

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#8 Technology Obsession

As hotels rush to tout the latest cutting-edge technology, we have to wonder: Are robots, apps, and other proprietary technology helping travelers or isolating them? In August, one hotel chain launched a voice-activated hotel room. In March, another introduced a robot concierge. And last year, yet another group unveiled its own tablet technology controlling everything from room curtains to room service. But what if people travel for the enriching experience of meeting new people? And doesn’t the very idea of luxury demand a human touch? In the war between robots and real-life concierges, we’ll always side with the flesh-and-blood variety.

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#9 Towel Animals

During the 1970s, Carnival Cruises unveiled an odd turndown practice of leaving little swans and elephants sculpted from bathroom towels on passengers’ beds. The creatures were meant to make guests feel extra special—but they were also a little creepy. Somehow, towel animals have managed to endure over the last 40 years, and today, many luxury resorts, especially in the Caribbean and Mexico, continue to gift travelers with terry-made sidekicks at bedtime. We appreciate the thoughtful gesture, but we’re ready to throw in the towel on this tired trend.

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#10 Social Media Mania

Want a serious case of wanderlust? Follow the hashtag #randomluxuryhotel on Instagram to find a world of gorgeous photos taken at high-end properties everywhere. While we certainly appreciate the spread of luxury travel into everyday life, the travel industry’s social media mania may be approaching an unreasonable level. Whereas we once enjoyed a beautiful sunset by simply watching it, now it seems that sunset doesn’t exist if it’s not accompanied with a Snapchat commentary or 30 selfies. Though this comes largely at the fault of travelers, hotels and tour companies encourage the behavior with hashtag promotions and “pin-it-to-win-it” contests offering free rooms as prizes for the best posts. We find all the amateur marketing ploys exhausting. Can’t we all just go back to the ’80s and relax?

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