July 1, 2009

Travel Tricks 2: Hotel, Motel, No Tell

In my last post, I talked about getting lost driving to my hotels. This time I’d like to share some of the things I found once I arrived at some of them. Sometimes I book my hotels based on costs and ratings on websites, sometimes I get ones recommended by locals, and other times it is booked for me by clients or organizations for which I will be speaking or training. Sometimes they get a discount if they book a room at the same place they have their meeting or training booked for. This is nice for them because it is cheaper and nice for me because I don’t have extra drive time. When I book, I try for chains I am familiar with so I come closer to getting what I expect.

Regardless of who booked the room, I found that there are differences in what is listed at the hotel than what I read on a website. Even so, I recommend checking star ratings and reading a few comments before booking to get a better feel for the place. I’ve stayed at some where they say there are hair dryers and irons with ironing boards, but what they have is a sad looking option that you pick up in the lobby to use for an hour and must return. Other times, the web promised a shuttle but the hotel no longer had a driver.

I went to a hotel that was in the next town from the airport (1.5 hour drive) and was given my key. I drove around to the room and let myself in and checked to make sure I had everything I needed. Everything was there, plus a broken mirror and 2 holes in the wall of the shower. Judging from the looks of the place, I decided to ask for another room as I was afraid of what might crawl out of that wall at night. I was told that they would change rooms but that my current room was the only one available on the ground floor. Having not asked for the ground floor, I was willing to carry my luggage upstairs. After I got to my 2nd floor room, I found it smelled smoky. So I guessed my request for non-smoking is what put me on the 1st floor. Oh well, at least there were no holes. The only other odors I remember in hotels is the smell of sweat coming from the work-out room, chlorine smell if near the pool, or musty smelling if hotel is on the beach. But those were strongest in the hallway or lobby, not my room.

I’ve also stayed places where in addition to all the locks, I placed chairs against doors where it was in shady-looking areas or where arguments can be heard through the thin walls. If you travel much, you probably have experience continued fights and parties outside your room as well. These aren’t the only noises you hear, often there is traffic noise. I once stayed in a really fancy 17 floor high-rise hotel in a large city. (Have been in higher as well) It was just off the freeway and the traffic was so loud I didn’t sleep - even on their “executive” floor, which I was lucky enough to be booked into although I got there too late to enjoy any of the benefits.

Of course I’ve stayed in some really wonderful places too. However, they don’t seem to stick in my memory as well. I do have a favorite hotel in a Texas city I visit often. It sits on the edge of a mall parking lot. Of course, even favorite hotels have problems, once my reservation was lost due to computer problems and they charged my credit card twice for the stay. I like that hotel because it is very nice, has a good in-house restaurant, and after I finish my work day I can walk to the mall for exercise and do a little shopping too. Of course one time when I chose to do this, it started pouring rain while I was in the mall. So I waited as long as I could for the rain to stop. Then I had to walk in a slower rain to get back to the hotel before dark.

Next post I will reflect on food hassles when traveling. It will not include restaurant reviews as you can find them lots of places on the web.

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