5 Relics From the Past You Never See in Hotels Anymore

5 Relics From the Past You Never See in Hotels Anymore

It's a whole new (more buttoned up and way less intriguing) world now.

By Karen Gardiner

Travel is an ever-evolving business and changes come at you fast. Exhibit A: just look at some of these ultra high tech hotels of the near-future. Exhibit B: Porn isn't even a hot seller in hotel rooms anymore! (Who knew?)

That makes hotel features of even the recent past feel downright quaint. Consider these hotel relics and get your nostalgia flowing:

1. Real Keys

The metal key is a dinosaur in most places. Electronic key cards mean saving electricity by controlling in-room power, and are much more easily replaced when lost; it's no wonder that they quickly replaced traditional keys soon after first being introduced in the late 1970s. A certain nostalgia — or less adept technology — holds on at B&Bs and guesthouses, and some on-trend hotels have tapped into that nostalgia by displaying disused key cubbies behind reception. Nowadays, though, even key cards are not safe from the march of progress. Soon you'll be opening your door with your smartphone or Apple Watch.

2. Guest Books

Back when checking in was a lower-tech affair, this was where your name and address was recorded when you arrived. The hotel guest book could be a site for creativity if you were up to no good and traveling under an alias, and provided critical plot devices in old movies, such as Psycho. Today, the experience is far less thrilling: You present a photo ID and your details are recorded electronically. Again, the guest book still holds sway in more homely types of accommodations — a family-run B&B for example — but that's more likely to be used for leaving comments about your stay afterward, rather than at check in. 

3. Skippers

Hotel proprietors used to need to be particularly alert to the prospect of guests skipping out on their bill. It used to be that, after signing the guest book and collecting your key, you would make your way to your room without handing over any money. Up until around the 1980s, guests would be expected to settle their bill upon departure. It seems fairly inevitable but often guests ("skippers" in hotel lingo) would just waltz on out without paying a dime — easiest done when traveling with very little or no luggage. As we all know, a credit card swipe is now a routine part of the check in process... which means that, not only do you have to pay for your room, but you'll also be charged if you swipe something from it. 

4. Military-Style Uniforms

Certain hotel staff — particularly the bellhops — used to appear impeccably, but uncomfortably, dressed. Nowadays those capped and buttoned vintage uniforms are the preserve of Wes Anderson movies and nostalgia, while hotel staff strut around in Christian Lacroix and Narciso Rodriguez.

5. Debaucherous Rock Stars

A TV thrown out of a hotel room window — or equivalent act of rockin' bad behavior — used to be a right of passage for the big rock stars of the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. While the likes of Courtney Love are still flying the flag for the debaucherous stars of old, the art of trashing a hotel room does seem to have largely gone out of style. A Guardian report of a few years back set out to find out why, and discovered that nowadays "what your typical act wants is blackout curtains so they can sleep during the day, a late check-out (ditto), and somewhere safe to park the tour bus." How uninspiring... if practical.

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