This past weekend Emily and I found ourselves traveling across I-10 eastward from LA to Phoenix (actually Mesa and Tempe to be exact) to celebrate my birthday with my best friend and to hike up to the top of Sedona's trails. During our stay out in the beautiful desert region, we stayed at accommodations perfectly suited for our blogging/tech/decor lifestyles. The Aloft hotels were specifically designed to cater to those who bring their digital lifestyle for both work and play with them wherever they go…
After a long, though extremely scenic drive, we arrived at the Aloft Tempe at about 8pm, losing an hour crossing from Cali to Arizona and ready to decompress. Okay, more like "get right back online and check our email" like the workaholics we are. The Aloft Tempe is situated right next door to the hustle and bustle of the collegiate life of ASU, and upon entering, one realizes this is a standard hotel that's been upgraded with a tech sheen, perfectly fine since the price is reasonable, the service is friendly and the amenities a good fit for short stays. Check-in is accessible via a touchscreen kiosk in the front lobby, which offers room information, entry keys and even a way to print out your boarding pass when you need to leave giving guests easy access even at late hours.
The room we received was a modest 285 square feet room, tastefully decorated in tech-boutique decor, adorned with a supergraphic image of a turntable above the bed, a large 42" LCD LG flat panel on a dark gray wall (smart choice for viewing at night), and an all-in-one connection box that sits ontop the desk. Called plug & play, the slightly clunky looking box 'o connections gives occupants the ability to browse online or do their work on the HDTV set instead of their laptop with a plethora of inputs (HDMI, PC Video In, RCA video and audio connections). We settled for working on our laptop sans connection to the screen, but happily connected both our machines online via CAT-6 cable and wi-fi (free for guests and easily accessible unlike some of the hoops hotels make you jump through, not to mention price).
The LCD screen is the centerpiece of Aloft's entertainment offerings, which is not unusual except the integration of hotel/guest services accessed thru the television interface. When I wanted a wakeup call, I didn't use a phone or front desk service, but instead programmed the hour into the television. Early next morning a looping montage of morning visuals and sounds woke me up in the darkened room with pleasant results. In the evening, we settled in for HDTV on-demand programming, and they also include a small selection of broadcast TV shows if you happened to miss them the first time around. Weather, local interests and other widgets can be accessed via remote control.
Other amenities we liked were the capsule coffee and tea maker (though the coffee wasn't all too great), the hurricane-speed hair dryer and some of the small decorative touches like the really handsome striped bathroom tiling, free magazine rack (Wired, appropriately included) and a suggestive glass partition between bathroom and bedroom that made showering part hygiene and half cheeky show. We were informed future tech features will ditch keycards altogether for guests with smart phones, and guests will be emailed a file that allows access to rooms instantly without needing to check-in at all. Nice. What needed improvement were the horrible window shade roller chain that seemed like opening a castle drawbridge in effort and sound, but this was an extremely minor criticism.
Perhaps it's because we're fairly easy to please guests, extremely content to have free and fast internet service and a large LCD HDTV display in our room, but our stay at Aloft was a pleasant one. Staff was friendly and mostly out of our hair except to invisibly clean our room or aid us when needed, just the way we prefer. At $111 per night for a king size bed and a rain-stye shower, we primarily see these hotels catering to the tech minded frequent flyer traveler, but they're certainly also a good option for young couples who are seeking accommodations that offer a little bit more than your run of the mill Best Western room during a weekend getaway. In many ways, Aloft reminds us of Virgin America airlines in look and service, with some of the same music+visual cues that make it very clear you're not settling for a standard experience. Fortunately, Aloft gives you more leg room and a lot less pink neon than its airline brethren.
For more information and other Aloft locations, check Aloft Hotels.