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Monthly Archives: August 2015

Enjoy your hotel stay with these useful tips!

22Aug

Planning and research are crucial

Before you book accommodation, think through what it is that you need.

The first consideration is your budget. This will help give you an idea of what type of hotel you should be looking for. If money is no object, then upper upscale or luxury offerings could be considered; but, if things are tighter, decide what the lowest level of hotel is that you would consider, e.g. would you look at a 3-star hotel and forego some of the facilities offered at more luxurious establishments, so that you can fit the particular hotel into your budget?

The size of your group is an important consideration. How many bedrooms are needed? Which of the members of the group could possibly share a room?

If you’re travelling with small children, it’s particularly useful to tailor your research towards self-catering options. A hotel with a self-catering facility will give you all the options you need: kitchen space to prepare kiddies’ foods, and a restaurant for you and your spouse to enjoy fine dining. Also enquire about transfers and whether the hotel provides car seats for your children as this will save one having to feel like a travelling circus with all your accessories.

Your research should also focus on the location of the hotel. Try to identify a hotel closest to the places you want to visit. So if, for example, you aim to visit the Mediaeval parts of a city in Europe, it isn’t very convenient to choose a hotel a long way away in the suburbs of the city. Similarly, if you hope to use public transport on your trip, check whether the hotel is near an underground station or on a bus route. Google Maps can be a great help with this.

Peer reviews are helpful in deciding which hotel to select, in particular if there are a number of hotels in the location you want to be in. Use sites like TripAdvisor to see what other travellers have experienced at the hotel you’re considering – sometimes a particular hotel is regularly reported on for bad service, so why choose that one if there’s another one regularly lauded by guests? Reaching out to one’s own peers and friends via your own social media accounts by posting a request for advice on which hotels one should consider for a particular destination will also prove to be insightful as you can then filter through the respective recommendations based on the profile of your friends to find the one that would best suit your profile and needs.

Arriving at the hotel

If your hotel has an app, download it in advance of your arrival. Exploit whatever it offers if that makes things easier for you – for instance, if you can do a mobile check-in via the app, do so because you’ll save time at the hotel when you arrive.

You should check your room when you arrive at the hotel. If something is wrong – perhaps the shower is leaking – let the hotel reception know about it immediately before you unpack your bags. They can fix the problem straightaway, and then your stay will be comfortable.

Keep safe

Remember that anyone can fall victim to crime or get caught up in political unrest, so keep in touch with the hotel’s reception desk with questions about areas of the city that may not be safe or about unrest that could occur. I recall being badly caught out when trying to leave my Paris hotel on May Day one year; I hadn’t checked up on what was happening in the city and found that I couldn’t get to the airport in time for my flight because of worker protests on the route to the airport. If only I’d asked!

The same advice is true for travellers visiting countries known to be conservative. Check with your hotel about the clothing you should wear when planning a visit to a religious site, for instance. If you arrive inappropriately dressed, you could find yourself being treated rudely or thrown out – an unpleasant experience.

Travelling with children

If you’re taking along a small child , bring along all the necessary items that comfort them in their normal home setting i.e. night light, grow clock, background music or white noise device so that the child can be comfortable at night while you’re away.

Make sure you take along any medication or first aid items you may need for children. It’ll be a lot less stressful and much more cost efficient to give your toddler some Panado Syrup for a fever than to have to explain the problem to a South American pharmacist in your smattering of Spanish.

Make the hotel’s mini-bar a no-go area for the children or ask the hotel to unstock the mini-bar as you could find yourself having to settle a whopping bill for snacks and Cokes that the kids have helped themselves to during the hotel stay. It’s a far better idea to bring along some snacks from home and let them know that Mom has their favourite snacks on hand.

When you leave

Ask hotel reception how long it’ll take to get to the airport from the hotel, and what the best transport options are for the journey. Their on-the-ground knowledge may provide information that not even Google Maps will ever reveal.

Ensure that you’ve set aside a few minutes to check the room before you leave. The things that are most often forgotten are cell phones and cell phone chargers, double adapters, spectacles, medication, and small items of jewellery.

Requesting a copy of your hotel bill the night before check-out for review can save lots of valuable time and make the whole process far smoother.

All in all, travel is one of the greatest privileges we have so maximise it to its fullest!

10 Hotel Secrets from Behind the Front Desk

22Aug

1. HOTELS ARE RAKING IT IN.

The fact that a hotel could fail to be profitable astounds me. Why? The average cost to turn over a room, to keep it operational per day, is between $30 and $40. If you’re paying less than $30 dollars a night at a hotel/motel, I’d wager the cost to flip that room runs close to $5. Which makes me want to take a shower. At home. That $40 turnover cost includes cleaning supplies, electricity, and hourly wages for housekeepers, minibar attendants, front desk agents, and all other employees needed to operate a room as well as the cost of laundering the sheets. Everything. Compare that with an average room rate, and you can see why it’s a profitable business.

2. STAYING FOR JUST ONE NIGHT? YOU MIGHT GET “WALKED.”

The term “walking a guest” sends shivers down any manager’s spine. Since the average no-show rate is 10 percent daily, hotels will overbook whenever possible. The sales and reservations departments are encouraged to book the property to 110 percent capacity, in the hopes that with cancellations and no-shows they will fill every room. What happens when the numbers game doesn’t play in the hotel’s favor? Someone gets walked. The hotel will now pay for the entire night’s room and tax (plus one phone call—how cute is that?) at another comparable hotel in the area.

A guest is more likely to get walked if:
1. He booked using Expedia, hence he has a deeply discounted rate and is less important.
2. He never stayed here before and may never visit the city again.
3. He’s a one-nighter.
4. And this one is so much more important than all the others: He is acting like a jerk.

3. SMART COMPLAINERS WIN.

Though most complaints should be delivered to the front desk directly, in person or on the phone, keep in mind that most issues will not have been caused by the front desk at all. So briefly outline your problem, offer a solution if you have one, and then ask whom you should speak with to have the problem solved. “Should I speak to a manager about this?” “Should I speak to housekeeping about this?” Those are wonderful and beautiful questions to ask. Most of the time, the front desk will be able to solve the problem immediately or at least act as proxy.

Want to make sure that the agent doesn’t nod, say “certainly,” and not do a damn thing? Get his or her name. Nothing tightens up an employee’s throat like being directly identified. You don’t have to threaten him or her either, just a nice casual “Thanks for your help. I’ll stop by later to make sure everything has been taken care of. Tommy, right?” Whatever you asked me to do I am doing it. (Will screaming get you what you want? Well, probably. But it’s not nearly as effective.)

4. THERE’S A BETTER WAY TO CASE A PILLOW.

To put on a pillowcase, the housekeepers throw a solid karate chop right down the middle of the pillow and then shove it in, folded like a bun. This method is preferred to the civilian method of tucking it under your chin and pulling up the pillowcase like a pair of pants because these ladies have no interest in letting 50 pillows a day come into contact with their faces.

5. ENJOY YOUR LEMONY FRESH GLASSES.

You know what cleans the hell out of a mirror, and I’m talking no streaks? Windex? No. Furniture polish. Spray on a thick white base, rub it in, and you’ll be face-to-face with a spotless, streak-free mirror. However, I am not recommending you take this tip and apply it in your own home. Though using furniture polish is quick and effective, over time it causes a waxy buildup that requires a deep scrub.

The housekeepers kept this move behind closed doors along with another dirty secret I didn’t discover until I walked in on ladies with Pledge in one hand and a minibar glass in the other. Keeping those glasses clean-looking was also part of the job. So the next time you put a little tap water into the glass and wonder why it has a pleasant lemon aftertaste, it’s because you just took a shot of Pledge.

6. NEVER, EVER PAY FOR THE MINIBAR.

Minibars. Most people are appalled at the prices. However, you never have to pay for the items in the minibar. Why not? Minibar charges are, without question, the most disputed charges on any bill. That is because the process for applying those charges is horribly inexact. Keystroke errors, delays in restocking, double stocking, and hundreds of other missteps make minibar charges the most voided item. Even before guests can manage to get through half of the “I never had those items” sentence, I have already removed the charges and am now simply waiting for them to wrap up the overly zealous denial so we can both move on with our lives.

7. BOOK ON A DISCOUNT SITE, GET A DISCOUNT EXPERIENCE.

Reservations made through Internet discount sites are almost always slated for our worst rooms. Does this seem unfair? First of all, we earn the slimmest profit from these reservations. And honestly, those guests didn’t really choose our property based on quality; they chose based on value. We were at the top of a list sorted by price. But the guest behind them in line, the one with a heavy $500 rate, she selected this hotel. When she comes to New York, she goes to our website to see what’s available. Since we have no reason to assume Internet guests will ever book with us again, unless our discount is presented to them, it truly makes business sense to save our best rooms for guests who book of their own volition.

8. BELLMEN HATE YOUR SUITCASE—BUT NOT BECAUSE IT’S HEAVY.

Bernard Sadow: the man all bellmen hate, though they’ve never heard his name. In 1970, he invented the wheeled suitcase, the bane of the bellman’s existence. Before that, the bellman was a necessity, a provider of ease and comfort, a useful member of society. When Sadow sold his first prototype to Macy’s in October 1970, he instigated a catastrophic change in the hospitality environment, causing the once noble species to retreat, rethink, and reemerge as a hustler fighting for survival. Sadow might as well have invented the phrase no bellman wants to hear, the phrase that leaves bills unpaid and ruins Christmas: “No, thanks, I got it.” Or that surprisingly prevalent and ignorant phrase: “I don’t want to bother him.” Don’t want to bother him? The man has a family. No one is being bothered here!

9. FRONT DESK AGENTS CAN ALSO BE AGENTS OF KARMA.

Any arriving guest should receive what are referred to as initial keys, which are programmed to reset the door lock when they are first inserted, deactivating all previous keys. Not until the keys expire or a new initial key enters the lock will the keys fail to work. With a “key bomb,” I cut one single initial key and then start over and cut a second initial key. Either one of them will work when you get to the room, and as long as you keep using the very first key you slipped in, all will be well.

But chances are you’ll pop in the second key at some point, and then the first key you used will be considered invalid. Trace that back to me? Not a chance. Trace that back to the fact that you told your 9-year-old daughter to shut her mouth while harshly ripping off her tiny backpack at check-in? Never.

10. THERE’S ONE SUREFIRE WAY TO GET AN UPGRADE.

Here is one of the top lies that come out of a front desk agent’s mouth: “All the rooms are basically the same, sir.”

Bull. There is always a corner room, a room with a bigger flat screen, a room that, because of the building’s layout, has a larger bath with two sinks, a room that fits two roll-aways with ease, a room that, though listed as standard, actually has a partial view of the Hudson River. There is always a better room, and when I feel that 20 you slipped me burning in my pocket, I will find it for you. And if there is nothing to be done room-wise, I have a slew of other options: late checkout, free movies, free minibar, room service amenities, and more. I will do whatever it takes to deserve the tip and then a little bit more in the hope that you’ll hit me again.

Some people feel nervous about this move. Please don’t. We are authorized to upgrade for special occasions. The special occasion occurring now is that I have a solid 20. That’s special enough for me!

7 Ways to Make Your Hotel Room More Comfortable

22Aug

Most hotel rooms are reasonably comfortable, but sleeping in a hotel is not the same as sleeping in your own bed. You can make your hotel room more comfortable by planning ahead and bringing a few items with you.

Choose Your Hotel Room Before You Arrive

Some hotels offer online checkiin. As you complete the check-in process, you will probably have the opportunity to select your room. If electronic check-in is not available, you can call your hotel in advance or discuss room choices when you arrive. In general, rooms on higher floors tend to be quieter, and rooms near elevator shafts and ice machines tend to be noisier. If you are not familiar with a particular hotel, take a look at Room 77. This helpful website offers hotel-specific room information, hotel floor plans, lists of hotel amenities, room rates and hotel contact information.

Bring Your Own Pillow and Bed Linens

If you want to get a great night’s sleep and you have plenty of room in your suitcase, consider bringing your pillow and bed linens with you on your trip. You won’t have to worry about square hotel pillows, down allergies or pillows that are too plump or too flat. The familiar scent of your own laundry detergent will help you get to sleep more quickly, too. If space is at a premium, pack your pillow case and put it on a hotel pillow.

Skip the Rollaway and Pack an Air Bed

Air beds come with their own electrically-powered pumps, and, when deflated, do not take up much space. If you are traveling with grandchildren or need an extra bed in your hotel room, buy or borrow an air bed and bring it with you. That way, if your hotel runs out of rollaways or does not offer them, a grandchild can sleep on the air bed, leaving the king bed or one of the double beds in the room for you. Ask Housekeeping to bring extra sheets, blankets and pillows for the air bed if you do not see extra bedding in your room.

(Tip: Be sure to choose an air bed with a built-in electric pump.)

Carry Some Small Luxuries

Nothing makes a hotel room cozier than the little luxuries you bring from home. Comfy bedroom slippers are a good choice, and are perfect for Italian terrazzo floors and cold Canadian nights. A soft throw can help keep you warm in your hotel room and on an airplane, and a throw does not take up much suitcase space. Another way to indulge yourself is to pack your own shampoo, soap and other toiletries in 100-milliliter, TSA-friendly containers so that you will be surrounded by familiar scents as you travel.

Stock the Pantry

Tuck snacks and convenience foods into your suitcase so you can eat on your regular schedule. Protein bars, “just add hot water” soup cups, individual servings of cereal and oatmeal all travel well. Use the coffee maker in your hotel room to heat water. Apples and bananas travel well in carry-on bags, provided you pack them near the top. Consider bringing your favorite tea or coffee from home, too; package ground coffee in small zip-top plastic bags and carry a few coffee filters with you. Remember to pack plastic spoons and forks so you can enjoy your treats

Plug-In for Comfort

Some hotel rooms offer plenty of electrical outlets, but others have only two or three. Some rooms have lamp base outlets, which might not be installed at the best angle for some of your chargers. Bring a small power strip, or, better yet, an extension cord with a three-outlet power strip at the end, to make charging your electronic devices easier. (Tip: If you are staying in a historic hotel, call the front desk before you pack to be sure extension cords are permitted.)

Secure Your Door and Light Your Room

Pack some small safety devices, such as a nightlight, door alarm and a door stop, to give yourself peace of mind. The nightlight will help you find your way around your hotel room, and the door stop and door alarm add an extra level of protection against intruders. You will sleep better if you feel safe.