“ Address: Thanet Grange, Princes Avenue, Southend On Sea, Essex SS2 6GB „
I recently found myself needing a reasonably priced hotel in the Southend area to stay in with my 20 month old son. With this being the first time I had stayed in a hotel since my childhood I really didn't have much of a clue what to look for. Being somewhat swayed by the adverts I checked out the Premier Inn website and ended up booking a family room in the Southend Airport Premier Inn at the rate of £67 for the night. Before I go any further I'm just going to tell you that this rate shocked me, especially as the website home page is emblazoned with adverts shouting about rooms from £29 a night. Although it is also possible to book a room over the telephone, I booked online, which was a simple enough affair. The bare minimum of details were required, my name, address, number of adults and children and whether I required a cot (which I did). After confirming there was a room available credit/debit card details were required and I could choose whether to pay for the room there and then or wait until I arrived. Personally I preferred to pay in advance, which is what I did and I immediately received a confirmation email. ==Location, Location, Location== The Southend Airport Premier Inn is situated on the main road leading into Southend (A127) and is approximately two miles from both Rochford and Southend Victoria train stations. If arriving by train taxis from both stations cost approximately £6 and there is also a bus that stops very close to the hotel. This proximity to major towns and the availability of public transport makes this hotel's location ideal for those looking to sight-see in the Southend area. Although I do remember the time when the surrounding area was full of fields, that time is now long gone. Being placed on the outskirts of a retail (with a very large Tesco across the road), there are no views worth talking about. This certainly isn't a hotel that you would choose because of it's picturesque location, rather it is one you would choose due to it's convenient location. ==A Friendly Reception== Although the official check-in time is 2pm, I arrived by taxi a little earlier than this at 1.30pm. Not owning a car I had no need to park, but I did notice that there was sufficient parking available. The main entrance appeared clean and tidy, with a small area undercover a short distance away from the door complete with an ashtray for smokers. There was also a sign next to the door asking smokers to be considerate of other guests and not smoke right next to the entrance. What I didn't notice was cigarette ends on the floor next to the entrance, although whether this is because the area is regularly cleaned or because none had been dropped I cannot say. On entering through not one but two sets of doors (quite a struggle when pushing a buggy), I was faced with the immaculately clean but small reception area. Although there was enough room for a few people, I can't help but feel that this reception area will be very crowded at busier times, which could lead to people having to wait outside. The receptionist was friendly and after checking the room was ready allowed us to check in thirty minutes early. Having already paid for the room, all I needed to do was sign some forms before being handed my key, but I decided to add a meal deal which required paying for at reception. Throughout my short stay the reception staff were all friendly and professional from check-in and check-out to booking a table for dinner to requesting extra tea bags and sugar. The well signed passageways to our room were all clean with fairly thick carpet that muffled footsteps and doors that were set to close slowly to reduce slamming. Although I didn't need to use it (being on the ground floor) there is a lift for those whose room is on the top floor and are unable to manage stairs. ==A Place To Lay My Head== The room I had booked was a family room with a cot and it's worth noting that this room cost me exactly the same as a double or even single room with a cot would have. Not having stayed in any other type of room, I will now only be discussing this particular room. On opening the door, I was greeted by a large, airy room containing a king size bed, single bed and travel cot. The room smelt clean and fresh and on inspection all the bed linen was spotlessly clean. Natural daylight was able to flood the room via the double windows, which I was only able to partially open due to a safety feature. The curtains were thick enough to block out most of the sunlight and I had no trouble with outside light during the night. The whole room was simply decorated in the Premier Inn trademark colours of purple and cream. I wouldn't say that it looked particularly fancy but it didn't look to cheap either, I think understated might be the word I'm looking for. The carpet was thick enough to feel luxurious underfoot and clean enough for me to be able to walk barefoot without worrying that I was treading in anything yucky. There was an open-faced wardrobe beside the door, along with half a dozen non-removable coat hangers. There were also some shelves and drawers next to the hanging area, not a massive amount of space but more than enough for the two of us. Alongside the storage area there was a long dressing table/desk that took up most of the wall and held a 19" LCD TV (Samsung), hairdryer, kettle, pair of mugs, pair of glasses and complementary tea and coffee. There was also a single chair for sitting at the desk. All of this furniture was built of what I would consider cheap flat pack style with a light beech finish. There were a total of three plug sockets available (that I could see) and plenty of room to place my laptop on the desk without worrying that liquid from the kettle would spill on it. There were also a couple of mirrors in the bedroom area, a smaller one above the desk and full length near the window. The TV was of a decent make with a reasonable picture, although it didn't pick up anywhere nearly all the available Freeview channels. The TV was also well positioned to be watched in bed. The supplied tea and coffee was of a reasonable brand (Twinings tea/Kenco coffee) but there was only enough for two cups of tea and two of coffee. I find myself drinking far more than this, but when I asked for more at reception they were only too happy to oblige. Talking of beds the king size bed was of a good size with a reasonably comfortable mattress that was neither too hard nor too soft and not at all lumpy. The pillows were, perhaps, a little on the flat side but there were plenty in the room and I could have asked for more if required. The duvet was plenty warm enough, even for a chilly December night. What I really liked about the king size bed was the lights in the headboard, that were dimmer than the main light and the fact that I could control all the lights without getting out of bed. I also liked the pair of bedside tables (along with obligatory Gideon bible) that I could place my cup of tea on. My only concern about the king size bed was that it was somewhat high and I did find it a little difficult to get into, but I do have mobility problems. Although not used the single bed seemed similarly comfortable when I tested it. The supplied cot was actually a Mama's & Papa's travel cot, which was perhaps a little small for my 20 month old, but perfectly serviceable and clean. There was a sheet supplied, but for some reason we were given a towel to use as a blanket, which was a little strange. Although the room was at a perfect temperature when we arrived, it did get a little chilly in the night, which was easy to remedy via a temperature control. I would imagine that the room gets quite warm during the summer months though, as the windows only open a small amount and there is no air conditioning. ==A Long Soak== The bathroom/toilet was small but perfectly clean and serviceable. Within this small room there was the toilet itself, a basin and the bath with overhead shower. A really nice touch was the towel heater that meant the towels were nice and warm when we got out of the bath. There was plenty of toilet paper in the bathroom, but I was a little concerned that they were used rolls meaning that there was the possibility of them harbouring other people's germs. (I removed several sheets before using it). While the bath wasn't the biggest I've ever seen it was big enough for one person to relax, there was plenty of hot water and I particularly liked the fact that the bottom of the bath was covered with a non-slip surface. Both hand and body wash were supplied (not shampoo), although both of these were in non-removable pump dispensers. The shower was over the bath and could not be removed from the wall, but was hot and powerful enough to wake me up in the morning. There were plenty of white fluffy towels to dry ourselves with, which were big enough to wrap my 20 month old in. ==A Full Tummy== Although the Southend Airport Premier Inn doesn't not have it's own restaurant per say, it does offer a deal at the attached Strawberry Fields Table Table restaurant. For £22 per adult you get a three course meal with drink, full breakfast plus a child gets a free breakfast. I did take advantage of this offer and the evening meal was reasonable, with a fair choice of courses including vegetarian options. I cannot remember all the options available (and this is a review of the hotel rather than the adjoining restaurant), but I would say that this is a fairly good deal, especially as the breakfast was an all you can eat deal, with both cooked and continental options. ==Anything Else== Although wi-fi is available it is charged for at an extortionate rate, I paid £10 for just 24 hours of internet use. Craftily Premier Inn seem to have managed to prevent all other wi-fi signals from penetrating their walls. The restaurant next door has free wi-fi, but this cannot be picked up anywhere in the hotel. Once paid for the wi-fi was easily picked up by my laptop and I had no problem accessing sites, but I still wouldn't say it was the fastest that I have experienced. In fact I found iPlayer lagging several times, which was disappointing considering how much I had spent. Unsurprisingly for a budget hotel dogs (excepting guide dogs) are not permitted on the premises. Although children are welcomed within the hotel, I would not say they are particularly well catered for. There are lots of doors within the hotel and as they are fire doors they are quite heavy, making it awkward to manoeuvre a buggy single-handed. There are also no play area for children, not even a small playground, meaning they are likely to get bored quite quickly. It even appears that they do not have blankets suitable for the supplied travel cots as we were given a towel instead. I did, however, find that I got a good night's sleep, even though I am a relatively light sleeper. I only really heard any noise at one point in the late evening where somebody was obviously in the room above mine. The relatively thick carpets and slow closing doors meant that disturbance from other customers was at a minimum. The bed was also really comfortable, far more comfortable than many beds I have tried. The housekeeping staff do however start work relatively early, we left the room at 8am to get our breakfast and there was already a trolley in the corridor (that we struggled to get past with the buggy). ==Final Words== Although I really don't have much to compare this hotel with (not having stayed in a hotel since childhood), I was pleasantly surprised by our experience of staying here. The reception staff were pleasant and helpful without being in our face, they were only too willing to allow us to check in a little early, supply extra tea and sugar, book a table for dinner and even book me a taxi on check-out. The room was spacious, clean and comfortable (as was the bed). There was enough sound-proofing that we weren't disturbed by other guests and the bath was a nice surprise (I was expecting a shower at the price paid). I was also impressed by the pricing policy of being per room rather than per person, which even at £67 a night made it cheaper than other bed and breakfast options in the area. What I wasn't so impressed with was the cost of wi-fi, lack of even a basic children's play area and no blankets for the travel cot. As to stars out of five, I think the Southend Airport Premier Inn deserves a hearty four out of five and would I would recommend it for people looking for a base in the Southend area.