Sometimes you don’t want to know if something is clean or not (in my case, it’s just about anything I order in a restaurant). Other times, it’s all you can think about.
That’s the contention of a new Hampton Inn ad questioning the cleanliness of sheets in other hotel chains. Let’s take a look.
Effective, right? Perhaps, but according to an interesting piece by consumer advocate Christopher Elliott, it’s a little over the top. Writes Elliott, “Sheets are usually changed between guests, and sometimes state law requires it, but there’s no guarantee that they will be.” He does contend, however, that “it’s probably safe to say that all major hotel chains, including Hampton, instruct their housekeepers to change sheets between guests.”
Elliott indicates a few gray areas to keep us on our toes — for instance, what happens if a housekeeper sees a made-up bed but assumes incorrectly that no one slept in it the night before, then doesn’t swap out the linens? What-if’s aside, his overall conclusion is reassuring: “It’s possible for you to end up sleeping on someone else’s sheets. But if you’re staying at a major hotel chain, it’s highly unlikely.”
That’s the sort of thing I like to hear, though truth be told, I wonder about a lot of other things when it comes to hotel cleanliness. For instance, when’s the last time the bathroom was really scrubbed — and why is there hair in the drain? What’s that weird stain on the duvet? Actually, inasmuch as most hotels don’t wash bedspreads between guests, I try not to think about who — or what — was on top of that duvet before me.
Were those drinking glasses sanitized before they were placed in the room? Or were they left over from the last guest, simply rinsed out and deemed “ready to use”? Depends on where you’re staying. According to our guide on finding a clean hotel room, “It’s the law in both Missouri and Kansas that hotel room glasses and cups must be sanitized. Kansas’ law goes even further to state that washing of glassware must take place outside of the room.”
I have a friend who won’t go barefoot in a hotel room, for fear of what may be lurking in the carpet. I’m not that bad, but … well, now I’m thinking about that duvet.
– written by John Deiner
Every Tuesday, we’ll feature the best travel bargain we’ve seen all week right here, on our blog. Be the first to find out which deals make the cut by subscribing to our blog (top right) or signing up for our weekly deals newsletter.
The Deal: Travelocity’s Easter sale features an array of impressive discounts on hotel stays and vacation packages for travel April through August. Choose from a selection of cut-rate hotel and package options in popular vacation destinations across the globe, including Mexico, the Caribbean, New York, California, Latin America, Hawaii and Florida. Receive as much as 65 percent off the price of your stay, plus get extra savings like free-nights and resort credits, depending on which property you choose.
One of the things we love about this deal is its sheer variety. We found discounted rates for all-inclusive Caribbean resorts, rustic national park hotels, big-city high-rise properties, and even Disney World and Disneyland accommodations featured in this sale. Nightly rates start at $42 (for a Travelodge hotel in Riviera Beach, Florida). For each property, travelers have the option of saving on hotel-only stays, or adding airfare and getting discounted prices for a vacation package. It’s great to have options!
The Catch: Depending on which hotel you’re looking at, various minimum-night stay requirements might apply. Many of the properties we looked at had a three-night minimum-stay requirement for the discount, but be sure to check when booking.
The Competition: Hotels.com is running a similar Easter sale, with discounts of up to 40 percent at select properties around the world. But the Hotels.com sale doesn’t feature marked down vacation packages, and travel dates are limited to select days in April.
Editor’s Note: IndependentTraveler.com is a member of the TripAdvisor Media Group, an operating company of Expedia, Inc., which also owns Hotels.com.
Find these bargains and more money-saving offers in our Vacation Package Deals.
– written by Caroline Costello
Hey, hotels — are you listening?
Earlier this week, we threw out a question to our followers on Twitter and Facebook: What’s one amenity that you wish all hotels would start offering?
While we got several creative responses — @PatWoods1 asked for bidet toilet seats, and a hungry @TwavelTweeter longed to indulge his sweet tooth with “in-room hot and cold running chocolate” — there was one answer that kept coming up over and over again: free Wi-Fi.
“Remember when hair dryers weren’t in all rooms? That changed. [Free] Wi-Fi should be ubiquitous, too,” said @karasw.
“[It] could be as little as 60 minutes per day, or free all day,” said @seaescapetravel. “This is huge. Today is all about connecting.”
“Free Wi-Fi. Seriously,” @thegeekTicket concurred. “Why do expensive hotels charge for it? It’s ridiculous.”
This last response highlights the primary Wi-Fi frustration for many travelers — that all too often, luxury hotels charge guests for Internet access, while budget properties let you connect for free. If you’re paying $400 a night for a hotel room, why should you have to shell out another $19.95 a day just to get online? Is the hotel trying to chase us out to the Starbucks down the street?
I’ve seen properties where the Wi-Fi is complimentary in public areas but not in individual guestrooms, which seems almost more obnoxious. If they can offer free Internet in the lobby, they could clearly offer it everywhere else — but instead they’re making us put on shoes, leave our comfy rooms and crowd into a noisy lobby with all the other Internet addicts. Thanks a lot.
Our readers aren’t the only ones to get hot under the collar about this issue. Gadling.com recently finished a March Madness-style bracket tournament involving the biggest hotel pet peeves. The worst offender: no free Wi-Fi.
Which hotel amenity is most important to you? Leave a comment below or vote in our poll.
– written by Sarah Schlichter
With a lobby on the 103rd floor and a rooftop bar on the 118th, the brand-new Ritz-Carlton hotel in Hong Kong puts a whole new spin on the term “a room with a view.” The ultra-luxe property, which opened on Tuesday, is now the world’s highest hotel; its 312 guestrooms and suites overlook Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong Island from a height of some 1,600 feet. (A nice perk: Telescopes are available in all suites.)
Dining options at the hotel include the Italian restaurant Tosca, Tin Lung Heen (for Cantonese cuisine) and the Chocolate Library, where chocoholics can indulge in everything from savory dishes to chocolate afternoon tea. And don’t miss the 116th-floor spa, where you can savor the view through floor-to-ceiling windows while you indulge in a variety of therapeutic treatments. (Afraid of heights? Slap a few cucumber slices over your eyes and you’ll be just fine.)
Rates are nearly as sky-high as the hotel rooms. The best deal we’ve seen so far is the special Introductory Package, valid through the end of April — you’ll pay about $500 a night for a single-occupancy room with buffet breakfast.
Learn more about Hong Kong in Hong Kong Essentials.
– written by Sarah Schlichter
On a recent trip to Atlanta, I learned that one of city’s newer boutique properties, the Ellis Hotel, offers a women-only floor. “What a cool idea,” I thought. As a woman who often travels solo — and who hasn’t always felt safe doing so — I liked the idea of a keycard-secured area just for female travelers. Why hadn’t I heard of this before?
After I got back home, I did a little research. Turns out that there are a few other hotels around the world that offer women-only floors — and there are even places where men are forbidden throughout the entire property. I was intrigued and impressed by many of the hotels, like the woman-owned and -operated Lady’s First Design Hotel in Zurich, which reserves 12 part-time staff positions for local unemployed women in need. The Luthan Hotel & Spa in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, gives female travelers, particularly Saudi businesswomen, a comfortable place of their own within a country that still has fairly rigid gender roles. The hotel is staffed entirely by women, so Muslims can remove their veils when they arrive. And I love that the female-only Artemisia Hotel in Berlin has a gallery featuring work by women artists.
But as I looked into other women-only hotel spaces, I didn’t feel quite as inspired. Take the Naumi Hotel in Singapore, which offers a “ladies floor” with “feminine touches of pink hues and flowery wallpaper,” according to its Web site. “For a total immersion of the senses, the discerning lady traveller can enjoy the range of female magazines over a cup of coffee, pamper herself with premium amenities or even indulge in a refreshing spa session.” Flowery wallpaper? Girly magazines? Swoon!
In the guestrooms on its women-only floor, New York City’s Premier Hotel provides a yoga mat, straightening iron, curling iron, lighted makeup mirror and “women’s magazines.” And the aforementioned Ellis Hotel in Atlanta offers, among other amenities, a “kiss cam to say goodnight to your loved ones.” Hmm. Wouldn’t a male traveler ever like to call home and get a little face time with his kids?
On one hand, I’m encouraged that hotels seem to be trying to respond to what women want. But to what extent are they simply pigeonholing us into tired old stereotypes? Sure, some female travelers do read fashion magazines and appreciate frou-frou bath products … but assuming that all of us do, just because we’re women, feels a little reductive to this particular “lady” traveler.
Of course, some will also raise the question of fairness. If there’s a women-only lounge or floor, why shouldn’t there be one just for men? And do women really want or need to be segregated in their own section of a hotel?
Personally, I believe there’s value in the safety and camaraderie fostered by women-only spaces, and I’m glad there are hotels out there that offer the option to female travelers who want it. Just make mine without the girly mags.
– written by Sarah Schlichter
I’m a serious budget traveler. On the road, my accommodations of choice typically involve shared bathrooms, views of brick walls and tube TV’s that get three to five channels. But on a recent trip business to Colorado, I had the good fortune of staying at the Ritz-Carlton, Denver — a far cry from the moldy basement apartments and bargain-priced B&B’s to which I am accustomed.
The hotel is wonderful, and it definitely lives up to that song “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” which plays on repeat in all the elevators. (Okay, it doesn’t, but I think it should.) At the beginning of my stay, I put great effort into finding something wrong with the Ritz, thus proving that luxury hotels are a big rip-off and that I am a genius for unearthing $60-a-night centrally located rooms while evading bed bug infestations and burglary.
But there was nothing wrong with the Ritz. Service was impeccable. Hotel staff smiled at me as if I were an adorable kitten. The sushi bar menu didn’t include anything vegetarian, but the chef insisted on creating a customized vegetable roll just for me, which he promptly served on the house. I even looked under the bathroom sink and on top of the shelves in the closet for dust; there was none. I was beginning to see the point of paying $300 per night for a hotel room. But there was one little problem (and it wasn’t the Ritz’s fault).
As a newbie luxury hotel guest, I couldn’t figure out whom to tip and whom not to tip. I had this nagging feeling that I should hand a folded bill to every person who said “Good evening,” held open the door or dispensed advice on what to see in Denver — and this would be a lot of people. I visited the ATM and stuffed my purse with one-dollar bills. I felt like I was on my way to a strip club.
In Hotel Tipping, we recommend tipping the valet $1 to $2. Good to know. But at the Ritz, at least three people were involved in getting us into our vehicle each time we needed it: one guy called for the car, another drove the vehicle to the front of the hotel and a third staff member opened the car doors for us. This process caused me much anxiety. I frantically stuffed bills into everyone’s hand, afraid I would neglect to tip someone, thus unleashing untold karmic retribution upon myself.
We asked, and it turns out valet staff members pool their tips at the end of the day, so there’s no need to go crazy throwing money at everyone in a uniform standing near the car. This piece of information was quite helpful, and now I’m on the hunt for even more tipping tips!
Share your best advice on tipping in the comments below, and you could win a swanky Ritz-Carlton travel spa pack (pictured above).The person who shares the most creative, practical tipping tip by March 22 will win the prize. Be sure to include a valid e-mail address when you comment.
–written by Caroline Costello
There’s been a tremendous amount of talk lately among various travel outlets about hotel rooms. Not the rooms themselves, mind you (though that’s always important), but the views out the windows.
Ostensibly, all the chatter is linked to the arrival of Room77.com, a California-based Web site that purports to show you what you’ll be looking at from the window in your accommodations, thus helping you choose a specific floor or even a room when you book. You put in your specs and the site creates a virtual shot of the view. There’s also an iPhone app that lets you know on the spot (read: at check-in) what to expect when you open the door, thus allowing you to request an immediate room change and negating that annoying trip back to the front desk.
It’s all very cool, and very much in the nascent stages. Only three-star hotels and above will be offered, and only 16 cities are represented so far (though that translates to a rather impressive 425,000 rooms). You can’t book directly on the site yet, but that’s reportedly going to change soon. All in all, it has the potential to be a powerful force once it catches on — and it’s great fun playing around on the site to see how it measures up at hotels where you’ve already stayed (I, for one, am mightily impressed by its accuracy).
For its part, USA Today conducted a recent poll asking readers if they cared to see the view from their hotel room prior to arrival. A whopping 88 percent indicated that they would.
I wonder: What’s up with the 12 percent who don’t?
A huge fan of hotels, I’m always a bit anxious at check-in, as much over the quality of the room as the scene on the other side of the glass. My strategy to avoid disappointment? I always ask for a room on an upper floor. Even if the hotel is three stories, it’ll keep me from being at eye level with the Winnebago in the parking lot or the kids racing around the pool. I also routinely request a “quiet” spot, which means nowhere near the ice machine or elevator bank, and away from the main drag.
How to Get the Best Hotel Room
That backfires on occasion, inasmuch as the dumpster is usually out back, leading to a fair (unfair?) share of garbage-filled vistas. And there’s no accounting for construction eyesores (which even Room 77 may not be able to avert). Once in Las Vegas, I was psyched to get a suite near the peak of the Venetian, a soaring monolith on the Strip. But when I got to the room and opened up the curtains, a giant crane was swinging a girder bound for the Palazzo, the sister resort under construction next door.
Room 77 wouldn’t have done much to help ward off the worst view I’ve ever had, at a bed and breakfast in Chincoteague, VA. Promising a “waterfront location,” the inn was actually plunked in the parking lot of a neighboring marina. A huge truck for storing fish — with a bellowing refrigeration unit that ran 24/7 — sat about 10 feet outside my window. When I asked to move, the only other choice was … the other side of the truck. I stayed put and kept the shades drawn.
What’s the worst view you’ve ever had?
– written by John Deiner
I set the alarm, switched off the lamp and plopped down into my hotel bed, so deliciously soft and inviting that it felt like landing on a cloud. Curling up into my mountain of pillows, I settled in for a much-needed night of shuteye … when there suddenly came a teeth-grating sound from next door. “Oh, my God!! Stop texting me! Stop it! No, you shut up! My grandmother will hear!”
I don’t know about Granny, but I could certainly hear the dulcet tones of my pre-teen neighbor in the next room, who appeared to be having her own personal slumber party at 12:15 in the morning. I gritted my teeth for 15 minutes or so, pulling the duvet over my head to block out the sound — but that just left me suffocating under the blankets while my neighbor’s whiny voice bored through the barrier like an angry mosquito.
I considered my options (besides wringing her skinny neck, which I quickly but reluctantly discarded). Should I pound on the wall? Call the front desk? Trudge out into the hallway, barefoot and squinting, to knock on her door and beg her to let the poor, tired grown-ups around her sleep?
I went with the first option. A rap on our shared wall and a polite “Could you please keep it down over there?” seemed to startle the girl into an abashed silence, and I finally drifted off to sleep.
The next day, I asked a hotel staffer whether I did the right thing. She said I could have called the front desk, who would’ve sent a security person up to the room to warn my noisy neighbor. Per this hotel’s particular policy, after three such warnings a guest would be asked to leave.
Good to know. But on my next trip, I’m adding something new to my packing list: ear plugs.
– written by Sarah Schlichter
Every Wednesday, we’ll feature one practical travel tip here, on our blog. Get our clever weekly tips and other travel resources in your inbox by subscribing to our blog (top right) or signing up for our newsletter.
Winter’s days are numbered. Just ask famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil, who didn’t see his shadow today and predicted an early spring. But spring’s purportedly speedy arrival isn’t necessarily good news for travelers, depending on where they’re headed next. When warmer temperatures arrive, prices for accommodations in some destinations, like Europe, New England, Alaska and seasonal beach towns, will soar.
Considering that costs and demand for the upscale property you’ve been eyeing in Paris will be ballooning in the coming months, now is an auspicious time to think about ditching the hotel and setting up a home exchange — a process that should be started well in advance of your departure date. All you need is your own house and a sense of trust in humanity.
The trust part is pretty important. You don’t want to find yourself lying awake at night worrying about a stranger carelessly leafing through your antique book collection while you’re on vacation. To ease your concerns, check out our Home Exchange How-To Guide, which provides basic instructions for setting up an exchange, including ways to protect yourself and your home:
“The odds [of your home being in good hands] are favorable, particularly if you’re doing a direct swap, because you will be expected to care properly for the home of your trading partner while he or she is staying in yours. … Be sure that both of you are adequately insured (this includes car insurance if your vehicle will be involved in the swap). … To prevent problems or misunderstandings, you may wish to ask for references before agreeing to an exchange. It’s also a good idea to sign an informal written agreement that outlines the terms of your exchange.”
Have you ever participated in a home exchange? Share your experiences and tips in the comments below.
– written by Caroline Costello
You walk into a hotel with a couple of suitcases, fully intending to bring them up to your room yourself. But a bellhop in the lobby, eager to help (and, well, eager to get a tip), leaps forward and grabs your bags. How do you react?
In a recent interview with manners maven Lizzie Post (great-great-granddaughter of Emily), we touched on the topic of hotel tipping, including what to give a bellhop who’s stored your bags for the day. But we didn’t get a chance to chat about what to do when someone forcefully offers a service that you don’t actually want.
So we want to hear from you, our well-traveled readers: how would you respond to an overly enthusiastic bellhop?
A. Just let him take the bags and give him a tip — it’s not worth making a scene.
B. Let him take the bags but don’t tip. You didn’t ask for the service, and you don’t want to reward pushy behavior.
C. Politely but firmly say, “No, thanks, I’ll carry them myself,” and wait for him to drop the bags.
D. Make a mad lunge for the bags and start an impromptu game of tug-of-war, with onlookers in the lobby taking bets on who will win.
Vote or suggest your own response in the comments!
– written by Sarah Schlichter