For many, hotel stays are the absolute worst part of travel. An unfamiliar bed, in an unfamiliar room, with unfamiliar people who are supposed to make it feel like home, just seems to rub some travelers the wrong way. I personally love staying in hotels, as it gives me an excuse to live differently than I do at home. While the type of hotel experience you have is dependent on your attitude going in, there are quite a few things you can do to make your hotel stay as easy, fun, and enjoyable as possible.
FIND THE RIGHT HOTEL
I spoke with my friend, Carolyn Laroche, who is the Front Office Manager at the Inn at Brunswick Station in Brunswick, Maine, about how travelers can make their hotel stay a memorable one. I was going to write up a whole thing from what she told me, but I have to say, her answers were AWESOME, so I’m just going to print what she wrote to me below. Some great stuff in there, so pay attention.
Part Time Vagabond (PTV): What should travelers look for when choosing a hotel or inn?
Carolyn Laroche (CL): Find a property that best suits you and your traveling companions. For instance if you are traveling with children, a property with a pool might be priceless. If you don’t plan on spending much time at the hotel, maybe the amenities won’t be as important to you. If you are doing a car-less trip, are there restaurants, shops and a pharmacy within walking distance? Find out what the transportation is like in the area.
CL: There are a couple of ways we can tell that a guest is going to be “high maintenance.” It usually starts at booking; there may be several emails with special demands. [What sets people apart] is often in how they approach the staff, with demands instead of questions. An “I was checking to see if our room might be ready” comes off very differently than “I am here to check into my room”. Showing up at 9am and demanding a room when check in time is 4pm will get your stay off on the wrong foot.
PTV: What are your favorite types of guests?
CL: I have two kinds of favorite guests. The first is the ones that allow me to share my enthusiasm for where I live and work and the opportunity to show them why I love it here. I enjoy hearing [about] where they explored, what they enjoyed and what they discovered in the course of their day.
The other type of favorites guests are the ones who started out with a challenge. It may have been a booking error, a problem with their room or something out of my control. By solving the problem for them it can turn a bad situation around and create a great experience out of it.
PTV: How should guests ask you for special rates, deals, or amenities? Should they?
CL: It never hurts to ask about discounts or special promotions. It is often easier to work a deal in the non-peak season. You may find the shoulder season around the peak season offers great weather, fewer crowds, and better bargains.
If you are celebrating a special occasion while traveling it helps to mention it at time of booking. If possible the hotel may do a complimentary upgrade at arrival or a special in room amenity.
PTV: What should travelers do to make their stay pleasurable for both them and for your staff?
CL: If a guest has special requests, allergies, or quirks, or is going to be an early arrival, it is helpful to let the hotel know before walking in the door. It may be harder to accommodate a “top floor, away from the elevator with a down allergy” request when the first we heard of it is when you’re standing at the Front Desk.
PTV: What are some secrets or tips you can give travelers to help make their stay at a hotel memorable?
CL: Talk to the staff, they are the experts in their region. A favorite question I like to ask the hotel staff when I’m travelling is, “If I had only 24 hours in your, area what I should not miss?” Most likely I will find the hidden gem breakfast spot, or where I can see a breathtaking view.
Try to take in the local flavor of where you are traveling. Is there a food that region is known for? Is there a seasonal festival to enjoy? A local brew?
PTV: Describe your ideal guest.
CL: If I had to define a trait of what my ideal guest is, it would be one who is flexible. They may have encountered traffic, the weather might not be what they’d hoped for, but they have a plan if they can’t check in early. Hotels cannot always honor a noon check in (Ed. note: this is especially true if it’s the busy season. Hotels have limited staff who have to turn over [clean, restock, reset, etc] a ton of rooms really quickly. Give ’em a break), but great guests are ready to store luggage and head off on their adventures, rather than sitting in the lobby staring at the Front Desk. Those guests are ready to make the most of their vacation. They make it easiest to want to help them.
The guests who, when they ask for our help, give us some clues about what they like. I can rattle off 50 things for you to do when you stay at my hotel, but if you are really into history, tell me so I can guide you to exactly what you like. We know your vacation time is valuable, so help us help you make the most of your vacation time. My ideal guest is one who treats the staff as a partner in making the most of their vacation, the ones who come back at the end of the day and tell us about all their wonderful explorations and adventures. We like to get excited about what our guests are excited about. For many of us this is not just a job, but a calling.
CL: While I am going to give great service to all of my guests, it is more rewarding to the guests who do not demand free upgrades, early arrivals or late check outs. A guest who is rude to the staff.
PTV: Any other tips for travelers coming to stay at a hotel?
CL: To make the most out of your hotel stay, doing your homework can really pay off. It’s not just about reading hotel review sites about the property; it is learning about the area where you are going to, different activities, points of interest and restaurants.
If you are having a problem bring it to someone’s attention when it starts. It is harder to address a problem at check out if I’ve not been given the chance to try to solve it.
Confirmation emails or letters are important. Not only does it ensure that the hotel has your arrival and departure date and room rate correct, it also has the property address if your smart phone battery dies in transit.
Do you have any tips for making hotel stays that much better? Leave them in the comments below!