I have a natural-born love for travel. It’s in my DNA. From my dad, an airplane pilot, to my aunt, a hospitality whiz who’s been delighting guests at her hotel for 35 years, my family knows a little something about finding sweet deals on flights, hotels and tourist stops. And because I believe in the benefits that only a solid getaway can provide to boost personal health, growth and perspective, I’m sharing some of my insider tips. I hope that people will start traveling again and make the most of every family vacation, girls’ weekend, and other opportunities to hit the road (or sky or rail).
Here are my top secrets for getting the most from your hotel during a fun and affordable trip:
Avoid getting “walked”
Hotels overbook whenever they can to ensure that every room is filled as often as possible. This is particularly true for hotels in Chicago, New York and other large cities. As a result, sometimes more guests show up than the place can accommodate, so the hotel needs to send people to a different facility — sometimes a different location in the same family of hotels and sometimes to a different lodging company altogether. The hotel that took your initial reservation will pay for your stay, but you’ll pay in lost time and frustration.
Many factors go into who gets walked, but there are some things you can do to avoid it:
- Arrive early — before the hotel is full.
- Be nice to the person at the front desk.
Be a jerk and arrive late, and you’re certain to be the first to go.
Leverage a special occasion
When you check in, mention special occasions politely. On your honeymoon? Don’t be afraid to tell the front desk, and ask if upgrades are available. Hospitality staff at the hotel front desk is there to build a relationship with you; they want to keep you coming back and possibly even inspire you to write a positive review on Trip Advisor! So making you happy helps both of you!
Just be careful to not act entitled to special treatment for any reason. Upgrades, especially ones that come for free, are a perk, not a guarantee. If the hotel is busy, it’s possible that no nicer rooms or extra services are available. But rude behavior pretty much guarantees that you won’t be getting them anyway.
When it comes to shaping your stay, the front desk team and hospitality support crew, including bellhops, the concierge and room service staff, have a lot of power over your experience. The check-in staff, for example, can bestow on you a large corner suite with a breathtaking view or put you in a small first-floor room that faces the parking lot. They can also ensure your second keycard doesn’t work — a passive-aggressive way to dispense a little payback to rude customers.
When you’re on your best behavior, the bellhop can do more than carry your bags. He can also give you a quick tour of your room so you can familiarize yourself with temperature controls, the shower, phone and maybe even slip you the Wi-Fi password. Typically, bellhops are tipped $2 per bag, but you can also hand out a $5 for an extra bit of feel-good.
No matter how frustrated you may get by delayed flights, lost luggage or wrong directions, people who work in the travel industry can do quite a lot to put you at ease and solve some of your problems if you show some respect and kindness. Earn the goodwill of the service people you meet and have an extra nice time during your getaway.