“ Address: 1 Mill Street / Luton / Bedfordshire / LU1 2NA / United Kingdom / Tel: +44 (0) 1582 400 909 „
== The Royal Hotel, Luton ==
Three years ago we bought an apartment in Sunny Beach, Bulgaria. The idea behind this was to enable us to holiday for longer and more often once we had a family, with the apartment bought and paid for we would only have to find our flights. Unfortunately flights from our nearest airport with the available flights, Manchester, to the small airport in bourgas (our local airport in Bulgaria) are quite expensive which did put a bit of a dampener on our idea at first.
Fortunately, last year, we discovered Wizz Air (who I will review at a later date), a budget airline who fly to our local airport in Bulgaria at a fraction of the cost of other carriers but only from Luton airport. The drive to Luton takes a couple of hours longer than to Manchester but the financial savings and the fact I hate Manchester airport, plus slightly less time in the air make it a viable alternative for us. The flight normally takes off around lunch time so this would mean setting off very early to make sure we arrived in time allowing for early morning motorway traffic, so the alternative we have taken the last two times has been to stay in Luton the night before making for a more leisurely departure in the morning. The savings we make by travelling to Luton more than allow for this and it also gives us the added bonus of an extra night away which is always a plus.
We tried a travel lodge at a service station on the M1 last time and were very disappointed with it, so we had to look for an alternative this time and The Royal Hotel was our choice, based on (mainly) price, and fairly good customer reviews on the site we booked in from (booking.com), it also had an on-site bar which we thought would be handy for a drink before and after dinner as we were travelling with our 5 week old daughter and didn't want to be out on a pub crawl or have to go out looking for somewhere to spend our first night away, as it were.
=== Booking ===
We booked online without any problem through booking.com, I am a big fan of cashback websites for a bit of extra discount when booking or buying anything online, but unfortunately I could not find booking.com on any of the sites I normally use. I therefore tried finding The Royal Hotel on a couple of other hotel sites that do offer cashback, (Expedia and Hotels.com) to try and take advantage of this type of discount but it was not listed with either of these so in the end I booked with booking.com. Booking online was a pretty simple affair with the usual details being required (name, address, email etc. as well as a credit / debit card for payment) and only took me about five minutes. I printed off the confirmation page although this was not needed on check in, they just required our name and the card we paid on. You could also book by phone if prefered and they offer a free call back service. Also when booking with booking.com I noticed the price you see is the price you pay, unlike so many hotel sites now (such as the two mentioned above) which show you one price and then add on taxes and fees of £7-£10 per night when you click through to book, probably why these other sites can afford to pay up to 13% cashback on bookings made through them!!
=== On Arrival / First Impressions ===
We printed directions from AA routefinder and they were not very good at all it has to be said. We had actually driven past the hotel quite soon after looking for it but as it looks nothing like the the picture for it used in the advertising (its surroundings have been removed in the picture for obvious reasons which I will come to later) we had completely missed it and then became lost. Eventually we decided we would have to ring the hotel and ask for directions as we had spent 20 minutes driving around with no joy. My wife made the call which was answered by the girl on the front desk, she was extremely helpful and managed to guide us in pretty quickly and with no problems at all as we were not that far away when we called, I got the impression we were not the first people to struggle finding the place to be honest though. Also there are a lot of one way systems in Luton which make it quite difficult when you do not know the area, we arrived at 5.30pm too so this did not help as the roads were very busy too.
We arrived at the hotel and pulled into the car park which is to the rear and accessed through a security bar which raises to let you in. First impressions of the place were not very good at all to be honest, as mentioned earlier the photo used in all the advertising for this hotel has had its surroundings removed from it (if you look closely at the picture Dooyoo have for it, all the blank looking part in front of the hotel, which I thought was the car park on booking, is actually roads, railway bridges and a subway, and I don't mean the rapidly expanding sandwich shop!!). It is, in fact, completely surrounded by busy roads, in fact right at the front is a very busy junction with people cutting each other up and a lot of hooting going on, and the railway I mention, runs over a bridge just yards away from the building, if you look at the picture of the exterior the railway bridge is just out of shot to the right of the picture and runs over the road that has been removed and behind the hotel (we didn't hear a train during our stay though, it has to be said, although we were at the front where the busy road junction was, maybe if you are at the rear you will), we were a bit fed up to say the least as we got out of the car and I wish I had taken a couple of pictures of the exterior to publish and show what it really looks like as, apart from anything else, it would make it easier to find and recognise. Although on a positive I suppose this does show how good the transport links are!!
The next thing we had to do was hump all our luggage which included two heavy suitcases, hand luggage, a baby and pram etc. around the outside of the hotel on the pavement as the hotel entrance is on the opposite side of the building to the car park. As my wife is still recovering from a caesarian section delivery she cannot lift anything heavier than our new baby so it took me three trips from the car to the reception. This was only made worse by the thought that I would have to do it all again in reverse the following morning. However a handy tip, if you do stay at this hotel and you are on the first floor, there is a fire exit right at the end of the main corridor which I discovered and this leads directly down to the car park via a metal staircase, this turned out to be a complete life saver for me the next morning, I don't know if it is alarmed or anything and you have to go through a fire door which is marked 'only in emergency' or something similar but the cleaners were using it so I had a quick word with them and used it to load our car up saving me a lot of shoe leather and a possible heart attack!! Another point is that the car park could do with re-covering as it is riddled with pot holes making wheeling a suitcase across it quite difficult. I suppose we could have left the bulk of our luggage in the car overnight as my wife had packed us a seperate bag for this stop-over, however the area it was in looked decidedly dodgy on first impressions so I decided it would be safer in the hotel with us.
=== Reception And Public Areas ===
The reception area is quite compact but does all it needs to, it is quite well lit and has a front desk and tiled floor with the stairs leading up to the rooms. It is entered through the main door which has an intercom entry system, (as mentioned previously it is not in a the best area of Luton) and is tastefully decorated, although it is starting to look a little tired, I have definately seen worse though. We were met by the girl with whom we had spoken to on the phone who was very friendly and quickly checked us in before dropping the bombshell that the Royal Hotel does not have a lift, meaning I then had to hump all our luggage, and pram, up the stairs and to our room which was down the one corridor that floor has. This also makes it a big problem for disabled access as I don't believe any of the 25 rooms are on the ground floor.
The corridor and landing were, again, tastefully decorated and not quite as tired as reception, there was a fairly new carpet on the floor and the lighting was again pretty good, the corridor to our room was wide enough to go down with cases easily. I have to say all the public areas were very clean and well maintained, we did not have a problem with any of them. I noticed there was a suite on the ground floor also which I think is used as a business center from reading the hotel description online, this was accessed through double doors from the reception area just next to the front desk but we did not see inside it.
=== The Bar ===
The bar at The Royal Hotel is more like a seperate pub really. On arrival my wife wanted to chill out in the room for a little while, where I preferred to go and check the bar (and a couple of pints) out. I entered the bar from the hotel but could not go back through the same door as it had a combination lock on the bar side so I had to go outside and back round to the main entrance and ring the buzzer to get back in again, not a big problem really but a little annoying when you are staying there, especially if it happens to be raining. The bar is quite nice have plenty of chairs and tables and being decorated very nicely again. I noticed a pool table and jukebox and in all fairness it seemed like quite a nice place, it had quite loud music on when we arrived and as our room was directly above it we could hear this in the room, although when we went down later on (about 7pm) the music had been turned down and we did not hear it in the room when we went back upstairs after dinner. I was greeted by a very nice barman at the bar who pulled me a pint of lager which was just £2.00 which I thought very reasonable considering we were so near London and sat down for an unwind after our three and a half hour journey. There seemed to be a good selection of draught beers, bottled drinks and spirits, but I was told later on that they did not do coffee, when I ordered one for my wife, even though I could see a coffee machine behind the bar!!
The bar seemed to be frequented, mainly, by locals and workmen who had just finished from what I saw, and they seemed very friendly. When my wife came down with me later on we got talking to another couple in the family room, which is the first room you come into if accessing the bar from the hotel and wasn't actually advertised as a family room, but we noticed this couple in there with a child so assumed it was ok to take ours in also. They were local and very nice, I didn't have any problems taking my wife and daughter in there for a quick drink before dinner even though on first impressions of the place I might have. They didn't serve food though so we had to go out and find somewhere to eat which my wife found a little daunting at first as it did seem quite a rough area and she was worried about taking our daughter out at night there, however in reality, it was absolutely fine but the area might be off putting for some people.
=== The Room ===
Our first impression of the room was quite good to be honest. It was quite large and had two large double glazed windows on the main wall. There was a dressing table, cupboard, armchair, double bed, two bed side tables with lamps on and still plenty of floor space left. There was a tea and coffee making tray and a kettle (no biscuits though unfortunately), a trouser press and an open wardrobe with coat hangers behind the door. There was also a digital safe which we didn't use on this occasion as we didn't have many valuables with us that we didn't keep on our person, but I always think a safe is something every hotel room should have and not many do.
It was well laid out and decorated quite plainly but quite nice really, the carpet was a bit worn though but my wife says only I notice flooring and no one else does really, thats the problem with being a carpet fitter I suppose. The windows were both open and letting a lot of traffic noise in so we quickly closed them and it was not quite as bad, but could still be heard, this was better in the night though, I must say, as the traffic died down a bit, but then it started up again quite early (about 6am) and this was annoying as it woke us up. I should also say that I am a very heavy sleeper and if you are a light sleeper and want a nights sleep then you should probably rule this hotel out straight away, we both slept ok until 6am though to be honest.
One problem with the room that my wife pointed out was the lighting. There was only one light on the ceiling and it was fitted with an uplighter shade which sends most of the light back up to the ceiling. The problem with this was that there had originally been a wall running down the center of our room which now had an RSJ across it which had boxing around it which was lower than the ceiling, this stopped any light getting across to the other half of the room where the dressing table was making it quite dark. While this did not bother me too much it annoyed my wife when she was trying to use the mirror to do her hair and make up etc. and could be easily remedied with a better ceiling light or a lamp on the dressing table. There was a fairly decent sized plasma tv on the wall also, although it only had four channels so this might be a nuisance to some people, but we only had it on for background noise so it wasn't really a problem to us.
The bathroom was compact but housed everything we needed. There was a bath with a large shower over, a sink and toilet. The bathroom was mostly tiled and was clean and well maintained, as was the rest of the room. There was dove liquid soap, shampoo and shower gel in handy dispensers and the shower was very pleasant, I can't stand showers with no water pressure but this was fine and had quite a large head which was good. There were ample towels for our stay also although the bath towels were not very big and had been quite well washed so they were not very soft, but I am probably being a little picky here.
=== Other Points Of Interest ===
Breakfast is available at The Royal Hotel, although I cannot really comment on this as we opted to eat at the airport, nothing to do with the hotel, we just like to eat at the airport as it gives you something to do while waiting for your flight. A continental breakfast is avaiable for £2.50 each and full english is just £5.00 which also includes the continental option, offering very good value for money I think, and had we been flying later in the day I think we would have tried it. This was served in the breakfast room which I passed through to get to the bar and it seemed absolutely fine and in keeping with the rest of the hotel.
The hotel is within easy walking distance of a very nice square which appears to have been recently re-developed and has a few nice looking resturaunts, we opted for an italian who's name I cannot remember but it was very nice and child friendly, we had a lovely meal there and I would recommend it. I also noticed a couple of indians and I think there was chinese too, there were probably more down the side streets but we didn't venture that far. Just out of interest there was also a pretty decent looking cinema next door to the Italian, so plenty to do really if you have a night to kill as we did.
The hotel is very handy for both the airport and the motorway (M1) which were another couple of reasons we booked it. The drive to the airport in the morning took about ten minutes and was very easy and well signposted (a plus after trying to find the hotel the evening before) we were very happy with this having had a long drive the day before and if you can find it ok it is only ten minutes from the M1.
The hotel offers free wi-fi which is always a plus for me as I take my laptop everywhere, and in the room there were instructions for connecting to their service along with a password, very good I thought until I tried to connect. The service that should have shown up was called 'The Royal Hotel' but it did not show up when I searched for available networks. I rang the front desk, they were quick to answer and very friendly and helpful again saying it had been off for a while but had just come back on, unfortunately it did not come on for us so we could not take advantage of this facility. It was only advertised as being available in the public areas to be fair though and we only tried it in the room so maybe it works in some rooms and downstairs but we didn't manage to get it working. Had I been desperate to get online I could have sat in the breakfast room and accessed it there but I did not bother in the end.
There was supposed to be hair dryer in the room and my wife looked everywhere for it but could not find one, as we were going on holiday and had taken our baggage upstairs with us she had her own with her but this could have been a problem if not, although I have to say, if we had contacted reception about this I am sure they would have found us one. Another small niggle was that the bulb in one of the bedside tables had blown, however I am sure this would have been quickly put right had we brought it to the attention of the hotel staff, but it really didn't bother us that much and again I think am probably being a little picky.
On a plus point we both found the bed extremely comfortable, the mattress was a decent one and the pillows and bedding were very good also which is always a good thing in cheap hotels as they so often have cheap rubbish mattresses that leave you tossing and turning all night. The car park was pretty good too really, apart from the fact it could do with re-surfacing, you entered through an electronic barrier as I mentioned earlier and had to obtain a token from reception to get out so this made us feel quite happy to park the car up, there were plenty of parking spaces available in it too.
=== Overall ===
Taking everything into consideration, I think we will try another hotel next time we stay in Luton. There was nothing really badly wrong with The Royal Hotel, but I think there were just too many little niggles that added up to it not being that great in the end. I have chosen the option 'yes' for 'would you recommend this to a friend' and I would but I would only say it was good for the price we paid. One nights stay room only cost £47.00 for the three of us and they offered us a cot at no extra charge but we a had a travel cot with us so we declined. The closest alternative we found when booking was £68.00 and did not include parking, so with this in mind I would recommend it but only if you want to save a few quid. To be perfectly honest, next time I will spend a little bit more and, hopefully, find somewhere better because although it was just somewhere to lay our heads before going away, it was really the first night of our holiday and for the sake of £20.00 I think I will try not to be quite as tight next time, especially when I take into account the fact that we saved nearly £400 by flying from Luton and managed to get 4 more days away as their flight times are more flexible than non-budget carriers. Another point I should make is that we only booked the hotel the day before travelling to Luton and I think by booking in advance you could probably get a slightly better deal with some of the other hotels which are available. It is fair to say that I would not completely rule out staying here again and I have stayed in much worse hotels that cost more than this.
However if you are looking for a cheap stay in Luton which is handy for both the M1 and the airport as well as the town center and train station there are probably much worse places around (in fact I know for a fact there are as I have stayed in some of them!), it is also within walking distance of Luton train station. The hotel rating is '''3 star''' and I think I would (just about) agree with them when taking everything into consideration. I must say all the staff we encountered at the hotel were very friendly and helpful, I don't know if that is by good luck or managment but if it is the latter they are definately doing something right. Decor-wise everything is fine and everywhere we saw was very clean and well maintained if just a little tired (apart from the car park, but again I am being slightly picky). I do think it could really do with a lift though, as they will be attracting people like us who are flying from Luton and have a lot of luggage with them, as well as alienating the disabled and this is the main reason I won't be using them again.
My overall score for the hotel would be '''60%, or 3 stars out of 5''', so just above average, but quite good value for money when taking the alternatives into account and it certainly served its purpose for us.
=== Details ===
The Royal Hotel
1 Mill Street
Phone: 01582 400 909
Fax: 01582 692 099
The Royal Hotel is part of The Landlet Hotel Group who have been operating for 30 years, it has 25 Bedrooms over two floors including; singles, twins, trebles and family rooms accessed by stairs only, 24 hour reception, continental and full english breakfast served daily 7.30am- 9.00am, coffee lounge, bar, conference facilities, wi-fi and free secure on site parking. All rooms have tea and coffee making facilities, digital safe, trouser press and colour TV. Check-in is from 1pm and checkout is by 11am.
Rooms start at £30.00, we paid £47.00 for a double and took our own travel cot but were offered a cot on check in for our baby, this would have been free of charge unlike some hotels we looked at. The hotel also offers a loyalty scheme where you are collect points on a card and after 9 paid for stays you will receive your 10th night free, but I do wonder if anyone actually gets to the free nights stay though!!
Thanks for reading, also on Ciao, John