When it comes to deciding on where to stay when I travel, I’m pretty flexible. As long as the establishment is clean, safe, and reasonably priced, it works for me (and if breakfast is included – score!)

But as I reflect, I realize that the most memorable hotel stays have been the ones that have also tickled my olfactory nerves – for better or for worse!

The nose knows

The power of scent as an experience enhancer is undeniable. The topic even made it to an episode of the popular Netflix series, “Emily in Paris.” In Season 1, Episode 4 (“A Kiss is Just a Kiss”), Emily pitches the idea of creating a signature scent for an upscale hotel that’s coming to town. She tells her prospective client, “You have to tease all the senses. Not just gorgeous views, expensive sheets, but… the smell.”

I couldn’t agree more. Long after you’ve checked out of a hotel, its scent (good or bad) will linger awhile in your memory.

I’ll start with the bad.

During a road trip many years ago, I’d made the spontaneous and bleary-eyed decision to spend the night in a hotel that was so foul-smelling that the mere recollection makes my eyes water. The room smelled like cigarette smoke, but not in the romantic wafting-around-a-Parisian-sidewalk-café kind of way. No, the odor hung in the room like a dusty chandelier. While I was too tired to ask to change rooms, somehow I’d mustered enough energy to go to the gas station and get some of those tacky tree-shaped car fresheners to put in the room!

It’s experiences like these that make me truly grateful for sweet-smelling lodgings.

For example, I’ll never forget the soothing mandarin scent of refreshingly moist and cold towels they gave each guest during a spinning class that I’d joined after a full day of conference meetings at a resort in Las Colinas, near Dallas, Texas. In addition, their shampoo and conditioners were made with aromatic essential oils, including rosemary, lemon, juniper, ylang-ylang, and cedar.

staircase with curvy green awning with hotel room windows in the background
Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC (2015)

A few years later, my mom and I went on a five-day vacation to Washington, DC. My mom is a big fan of The Beatles, so when I learned that the Omni Shoreham Hotel hosted the Fab Four (not to mention presidents, world leaders, and inaugural balls), I knew we had to stay there! I’m glad we did. It smelled wonderful in there! As soon as we entered the lobby, we were greeted with the clean and relaxing scent of green tea and lemongrass. It was fresh and natural smelling, not strong or overpowering. I didn’t want to leave!

set list for The Beatles’ first US concert on February 11, 1964 | Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, DC

While researching accommodations for my upcoming trip to the East Coast, I scoured hotel reviews for any mention of how the hotel smelled. I noticed that only complaints of offensive odors (if any) were noted in reviews. More hotel review sites should ask guests to rate the scent of the hotel, too. I suspect a hotel with favorable ratings for scent would attract more guests.

Tell me in the comments below: What are your thoughts about scents in a hotel?