Tips for an Enjoyable Hotel Stay

When staying at a hotel, knowing you got a good rate and great location are just two aspects of an enjoyable stay. The other, of course, is whether you enjoy the hotel, in particular, and your room.

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 a 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, 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, and measure 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 the 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.

Ditch the duvet cover.

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 them. To avoid room extras, bring your own supplies.

Travel Update on the Caribbean Islands

In August and late September, Hurricanes Irma and Maria tore through the Caribbean. In some of the harder-hit islands, like Dominica, Saint Martin and Puerto Rico, the deadly storms caused a humanitarian crisis, leaving residents without electricity or running water for several months, which in many places still has not been restored. As damage varied among the Caribbean’s more than 7,000 islands, rebuilding and recovery does also—some are safe and open to visitors, while others still need time. Here’s a status update on of some of the Caribbean’s most popular islands. Each country varies, so travel plans should be double-checked and could change at any time.

Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao

The “ABC” Islands, to which the three Dutch islands are sometimes referred, were unaffected by hurricanes Irma and Maria since they are located near the coast of Venezuela. Aruba is usually the typical Caribbean getaway, Bonaire is slightly less developed, but has a strong water sports presence and Curaçao has a mix of city life, hotels and one of the best sea aquariums in the Caribbean.

Antigua

Antigua, part of the two-island nation Antigua and Barbuda, was spared the worst of Hurricane Irma. The V.C. Bird International Airport remained open and most of the island’s hotels, such as Carlisle Bay and Cocos Hotel welcomed visitors. Several restaurants and businesses are still open and ready to receive guests and some of the island’s most popular beaches, including Coconut Grove and Sheer Rocks, were among the first to receive tourists after the hurricane.

Bahamas

The Bahamas were struck by hurricane weather but sustained minimal damage. All major services like running water and electricity are functioning normally, and the damage that did reach the islands has undergone repairs to restore sites back to normal—or even better.

Cuba

Parts of Cuba still lack clean water and electricity, and the U.S. embassy suffered severe flood damage during Hurricane Irma, according to a travel warning from the State Department. Cuba, which recently reopened tourism opportunities to U.S. citizens, saw a 189 percent increase in American visitors in 2017, though recent restrictions will likely curb 2018 numbers. Cuba is still dealing with some major restoration efforts, especially in the northern region where Irma hit hardest.

Dominica

Dominica was slammed by Hurricane Maria and is still working on the largest of repairs. The nation’s tourism industry launched an awareness campaign last week to encourage people to start booking trips for 2018, for January’s Carnival events DominicaUpdate.com tells potential travelers that the entire island should have power by April 2018, and that 80 percent of the island currently has pipe-borne water accessibility.

Dominican Republic

The Dominican Republic suffered some damage during the hurricanes over the late summer and early fall. But it was not hit nearly as hard as other islands in the Caribbean and is ready to receive travelers. In fact, according to the website Caribbean Tourism Organization, travelers are welcomed in order to help restore the region’s economy.

Haiti

Haiti emerged relatively unscathed, though the State Department still warns against travel due to limited medical care infrastructure, ambulances and other emergency services.

Jamaica

Also mostly unaffected, Jamaica’s doors (and airports and ports) are open to tourists this winter. In fact, airlines added 200,000 seats on flights to nations like Jamaica as safe alternatives for travelers looking to change their itineraries, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Saint Martin/Sint Maarten

Saint Martin/Sint Maarten was among the hardest hit of the islands. After one month of rebuilding, the island was ready to welcome visitors. Princess Juliana Airport reopened and commenced commercial service on Oct. 10. Although many larger resorts are not equipped to host visitors, a good amount of smaller hotels can accommodate tourists. The island is unique because Saint Martin, the northern half, is French, while Sint Maarten, the southern half, is Dutch. Both halves of the island boast excellent ship ports, nature views and food.

St. Kitts

St. Kitts was one of the first islands to announce it was open for tourism after the hurricanes hit the Caribbean. After Hurricane Irma, the tourism authority announced the island was unaffected. The official account of the St. Kitts Tourism Authority tweeted Nov. 15 that the best way to help the Caribbean is to visit. Fun things to do in St. Kitts include hiking, going to the beach and visiting historic areas.

St. Lucia

Like many other islands in the southern Caribbean, St. Lucia was not impacted by either of the two hurricanes. JetBlue Airlines offers nonstop flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to the island. St. Lucia includes several activities for the lover of travel, including nature hikes and great opportunities for swimming and other water activities like snorkeling.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico remained relatively unscathed after Hurricane Irma hit, but was hit hard by Hurricane Maria. The hurricane knocked out 90 percent of the island’s power, and some areas are still waiting on restorations that may not arrive until May. Months after the devastation first struck, San Juan is open to tourism and is operating many of its most popular restaurants and hotels. Some traffic lights are still not working, and residents are still lacking basic needs, but major ports are open to visitors, and the island is slowly getting back on its feet.

Turks and Caicos

Much like the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos has restored nearly all hotel and restaurants, and minimal damage has been repaired.

U.S. Virgin Islands

Hit by both hurricanes, the U.S. Virgin Islands faced some of the most severe damage. The timeline for recovery is long, and though basic needs will likely be vastly improved by the end of the year, many hotels and restaurants are nowhere near ready for tourists. Some hotels and resorts are waiving cancellation fees, though a few have opened along with the major port for cruise ships to pass through. St John and St Thomas, major tourism hotspots, will require around $200 million to repair, according to NPR.

Sources: Newsweek and Daniela Cobos / ibtimes.com 

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