Making the Most of Your Hotel Stay

When sleeping overnight in a hotel, location and a good rate are just two aspects of an enjoyable stay. Here are some inside tips to help ensure you have a safe, healthy, and happy hotel visit.

Be nice to the staff.
It goes without saying, but basic manners go a long way in hotels and restaurants. Be kind and appreciative to the staff, especially the front desk agent who checks you in. He or she, more than anyone else, can make your stay either a pleasure or disaster.

Keep an eye on CO.
You’re probably aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO), and may even have a CO detector in your home. CO is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO — often called “the silent killer”” — can kill before a person is aware of it. The effects of CO vary from person to person, but symptoms generally include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue.

When booking a room in a hotel room, ask if they have CO alarms installed in the rooms. If not, don’t book or accept a room equipped with a fuel-burning device, such as a wood-burning stove or gas fireplace. If you stay there anyway, definitely do not let the unit run through the night.

Also, do not book a room that opens onto an enclosed parking area, or next to an indoor garage. There could be CO gas in the air. You may also want to invest in a portable carbon monoxide detector. If symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, weakness, and/or confusion occur, get to fresh air quickly.

Think twice about valet parking.
Remember that scene in the movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when the garage parking attendants took Cameron’s father’s prized 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California convertible for a joyride? “Borrowing” parked cars goes on more than you may realize. Granted, it usually happens with really nice cars, so if you’re just tooling around in a rental, you probably don’t have to worry.

Beware of bedbugs.
It’s not pleasant to think about, but bedbugs are a problem in many hotels across the nation. If you’re worried about bedbugs in a hotel, you can check for them yourself in the bed, sofa, and chairs. Here’s what you need and some telltale signs to look for:

  • Pack a few useful items for identifying bedbug infestations, including a flashlight and a magnifying glass. You can also use an old credit card to scrape and dig for signs of bedbugs.
  • Adult bedbugs are flat, brown, oval, and wingless, about 1/4 to 3/8 inches long. They change from brown to purplish-red after they eat, becoming larger and more cigar-shaped. Young bedbugs look like adults, but smaller.
  • Check the bed’s mattress, box spring, and sheets for any signs, such as rusty or reddish stains on bed linens, pillows and mattresses.
  • Look at carpeting or flooring around and under beds. Bedbug excrement leaves dark spots, about the size of a period on a printed page. Bedbug waste “bleeds” on fabrics like a pen or marker would.
  • Inspect the furniture for bedbug eggs and eggshells, which are white and about 1 mm in size. Open and inspect zippered coverings on furniture and pillows, and at frames and feet of sofas and chairs.
  • Check walls, wall hangings, paintings, clocks, baseboards, floorboards, and electrical outlets. Use an old playing card or credit card to probe and scrape out any live bedbugs, remains, or waste.

BYOG: Bring your own glass.
It’s a little known fact, but hotel housekeepers sometimes use furniture polish to ensure the hotel room glasses sparkle, and don’t have any spots. So, it’s probably a wise idea to pack your own drinking glass, or ask the hotel bartender if you can borrow a clean glass during your stay.

Don’t sleep with the duvet.
Most hotels wash the sheets and blankets on a regular basis, but few, if any, ever wash the duvet covers. So, do yourself a favor and strip that bad boy right off the bed when you get there. If you think you might get cold at night, call the front desk and (nicely) request a clean extra blanket.

Don’t be cheap — tip well.
Tip well, especially a bellman if he brings your luggage up or down from your room in a timely manner. Don’t forget the housekeeper who has to clean your room after you leave, and again, the all-powerful front desk agent — give this person a $10 bill when you check in, and it will help ensure you’re stay is a pleasant one.

Double check incidentals and mini bar bill.
If you’re billed for incidentals and/or the mini bar, be sure to review the bill and make sure charges are legitimate. Hotel staff has been known to steal from a room’s minibar, sticking the guest with an unwarranted bill. If the charges aren’t yours, dispute it. To avoid room extras, bring your own supplies.

2015 Reader’s Choice Travel Awards

Ever wonder what your fellow travelers’ favorite airlines, hotels and cities are? If so, read on as we present some of the winners of Condé Nast Traveler’s 28th Annual Readers’ Choice Awards.

According to the website, this was the largest travel survey in their history with more 128,000 travelers submitting millions of ratings and tens of thousands of comments to help Condé Nast compile a list of travel favorites.

Here are some of the results, including the best U.S. airlines, hotels and big cities:

Best U.S. Airlines

1. Virgin America
Overall Rating: 81.726

2. JetBlue
Overall Rating: 75.433

3. Hawaiian Airlines
Overall Rating: 72.583

4. Southwest Airlines
Overall Rating: 70.086

5. Alaska Airlines
Overall Rating: 69.453

Best U.S. Airports (for waiting out a winter storm)

1. Portland International Airport, Oregon

2. Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport

3. San Francisco International Airport

4. Palm Beach International Airport

5. Philadelphia International Airport

6. Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

7. Orlando International Airport

8. Tampa International Airport

9. Raleigh-Durham International Airport

10. Logan International Airport

Best Big Cities in the U.S.

1. New York, NY
Overall Rating: 85.944

2. San Francisco, CA
Overall Rating: 84.298

3. Chicago, IL
Overall Rating: 83.875

4. Boston, MA
Overall Rating: 83.513

5. New Orleans, LA
Overall Rating: 82.870

6. Washington, D.C.
Overall Rating: 81.722

7. Honolulu, HI
Overall Rating: 80.874

8. Austin, TX
Overall Rating: 80.584

9. Seattle, WA
Overall Rating: 80.33

10. Portland, OR
Overall Rating: 79.892

11. San Diego, CA
Overall Rating: 79.564

12. San Antonio, TX
Overall Rating: 79.440

13. Nashville, TN
Overall Rating: 78.782

14. Denver, CO
Overall Rating: 75.535

15. Philadelphia, PA
Overall Rating: 75.210

Top 25 Hotels in the U.S.

1. Waldorf Astoria Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Score: 96.25

2. The Restoration on King, Charleston, South Carolina
Score: 95.47

3. XV Beacon, Boston, Massachusetts
Score: 95.455

4. The Willcox, Aiken, South Carolina
Score: 94.933

5. The Inn & Club at Harbour Town, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Score: 94.668

6. The Surrey, New York, New York
Score: 94.62

7. The Alfond Inn, Winter Park, Florida
Score: 94.537

8. West Street Hotel, Bar Harbor, Maine
Score: 94.375

9. The Inn Above Tide, Sausalito, California
Score: 94.178

10. Hotel Vermont, Burlington, Vermont
Score: 94.168

11. Watch Hill Inn, Westerly, Rhode Island
Score: 94.042

12. Montage Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, California
Score: 93.921

13. Wentworth Mansion, Charleston, South Carolina
Score: 93.878

14. 21c Museum Hotel, Cincinnati, Ohio
Score: 93.479

15. Four Seasons Hotel, Westlake Village, California
Score: 93.46

16. Old Edwards Inn and Spa, Highlands, North Carolina
Score: 93.356

17. Gage Hotel, Marathon, Texas
Score: 93.193

18. The Chanler at Cliff Walk, Newport, Rhode Island
Score: 93.122

19. The Pitcher Inn, Warren, Vermont
Score: 93.119

20. Lumiére Telluride, Telluride, Colorado
Score: 93.092

21. Hotel Valencia Riverwalk, San Antonio, Texas, United States
Score: 92.907

22. Mokara Hotel & Spa, San Antonio, Texas
Score: 92.868

23. 21c Museum Hotel, Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky
Score: 92.778

24. North Block Hotel, Yountville, California
Score: 92.778

25. Trump International Hotel & Tower New York, New York, New York
Score: 92.711

Source: Condé Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards 2015

2015 New York City Holiday Events Calendar

The holiday season is rapidly approaching, and for those of us living in the New York Tri-State area, we are lucky to be just a short car ride away from one of the most festive and exciting cities in the world. To help you plan your upcoming activities, here’s our annual New York City holiday events calendar.

89th Annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

The lineup for the 89th annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was recently announced, and this year’s event promises to be as fun and festive as ever.

Considered the official kickoff to the holiday season, this year’s parade will feature appearances and performances from Mariah Carey, Trey Songz, Cirque du Soleil, Andy Grammer, Miss America Betty Cantrel, the cast of Sesame Street and many others.

Four new giant characters will join the parade procession including Angry Birds’ Red, DINO the mascot for Sinclair Oil, Ice Age’s Scrat and his Acorn, and a new version of Ronald McDonald. There will also be 12 marching bands performing along the parade route and performances from casts of Broadway shows such as “Fiddler on the Roof,” and “The King & I.”

The 2015 parade starts at 9:00 am sharp at West 77th Street and Central Park West, then proceeding to Central Park South to 6th Avenue (Avenue of the Americas), and ending at 12:00 noon at 34th Street in front of Macy’s Herald Square

There are three recommended areas on the route for watching the parade: the first leg along Central Park West, Time Warner Center and, finally, along Sixth Avenue between Central Park South and 38th Street. Note the section from 38th Street to Herald Square and Macy’s department store is the telecast area and closed to the public.

When: Thursday, Nov. 26, 2014, 9:00 am — 12:00 pm
Where: 77th Street and Central Park West to 34th Street/Herald Square, Manhattan
Info: For more information, call the parade hotline at (212) 494-4495.

Holiday windows in NYC

One of the most cherished Manhattan holiday traditions is also a free one — enjoying the department store window displays of some of New York City’s finest and most iconic department stores, such as Macy’s, Barneys and others.

Here are some stores and addresses to put on your holiday look list:

  • Barneys New York, 660 Madison Avenue between 60th and 61st Streets
  • Bergdorf Goodman, 754 Fifth Avenue at 58th Streets
  • Bloomingdale’s, 59th Street and Lexington Avenue
  • Cartier, 653 Fifth Avenue at 52nd Street
  • Henri Bendel, 712 Fifth Avenue at 56th Street
  • Lord & Taylor, 424 Fifth Avenue at 39th Street
  • Macys, 34th Street and Sixth Avenue
  • Saks Fifth Avenue, 611 Fifth Avenue between 49th and 50th Streets
  • Tiffany & Co., 727 Fifth Avenue between 56th and 57th Streets
  • Van Cleef & Arpels, 744 5th Ave, between 7th and 8th Avenue

Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting

‘Tis the season for the 83rd annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting! The 2015 tree has been chosen and will be lit for the first time on Wednesday, Dec. 3 with live music performances from 7:00 – 9:00 pm.

The giant tree is traditionally a Norway Spruce, and is lit with 30,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights on five miles of wire. And to top it off: a Swarovski crystal star.

When: Tree lighting is Dec. 3. The tree stays lit and can be viewed until 8:00 pm on Jan. 6, 2015.
Where: Rockefeller Plaza, between West 48th & West 51st Streets and 5th and 6th Avenues, Manhattan.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Since 1933, people of all ages have been enjoying the Radio City Christmas Spectacular show. This New York City holiday tradition features 140 performers, spectacular sets and costumes, the world famous Rockettes, and an appearance by Santa Claus!

From a unique take on “The Nutcracker” to the original “Here Comes Santa Claus,” the show features ice skaters, dancing teddy bears, dozens of Santa Clauses, and thanks to state-of-the-art technology, a 3D ride with Santa through the skies of New York City.

When: Nov. 13 through Jan. 3
Where: 1260 Avenue of the Americas, New York City

New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train show

One of the lesser known, but equally festive and family friendly New York City holiday events is the New York Botanical Garden Holiday Train show. Enter the Botanical Garden’s Enid A. Haupt Conservatory — a stunning Victorian-style glasshouse and a landmark itself — and watch the Garden-gauge trains loop a quarter-mile of track past 150 New York landmarks, including the original Yankee Stadium, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the Trans World Airline Flight Center at John F. Kennedy Airport, and several bridges that remind us that Manhattan is, indeed, an island.

This year’s exhibition features 3,000 square feet of additional exhibition space, making room for dozens of new trains, bridges, and tracks; a captivating short film of the show’s behind-the-scenes magic; and a stunning multisensory finale of light and sound.

When: Nov. 21 – Jan. 18
Where: 2900 Southern Blvd, Bronx, NY 10458

George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™

Another timeless New York City holiday classic, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™ is the holiday ballet of all ballets. From the moment the lights go down, you will be transported to a magical place inhabited by marching toy soldiers, a glowing one-ton Christmas tree, adorable children, mischievous mice, crystalline waltzing snowflakes, the Land of Sweets and some of the most glorious dancing on earth. As in years past, 90 dancers, 62 musicians, 32 stagehands and about 100 students from the School of American Ballet team up to make The Nutcracker a magical performance for all ages.

When: Nov. 27 and runs through Jan. 3
Where: West 62nd and 65th Streets and Columbus and Amsterdam Avenues, New York City