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Never underestimate the power of a good night's rest, especially while on vacation or a business trip. To ensure the best possible hotel stay with the least amount of worry, follow these helpful hotel tips compiled by the ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents). ASTA members are trained professionals who know hotels, the services they provide, and, most importantly, the quality you expect.
CHOOSING A GOOD HOTEL
Choosing the right hotel is half the battle. Most Americans will spend hours finding the perfect airline ticket, but only minutes to research a hotel room, often going with the lowest price option.
While price is a universal factor, remember that all hotels want a full house and strive for this goal every night. To get the best deal, book early through a travel agent and try to be flexible with your dates. Hotels that cater to business people surprisingly will have great weekend rates, which they consider "off season."
Travel agents will ask for special package deals loaded with options or discounts for seniors, families or the military that may apply. They also understand your needs and expectations, so they will be able to choose the hotel that's best for you, based on the amenities and services it provides, along with its proximity to the interstate, airport, restaurants and attractions.
MAKING HOTEL RESERVATIONS
While direct online booking is an option, it's still advisable to book through a travel agent. If you choose to contact a hotel directly, travel agents recommend that it may pay to connect in a more conventional way - by phone. Many hotels, both national and independently owned, have toll-free numbers to connect you to reservation specialists. If no such number is available and you must call the hotel directly, be sure to call in the afternoon or night, for the mornings are hectic times while guests checkout.
When making a reservation, confirm the quoted rate and record the confirmation number and the name of the person with whom you spoke. Ask the reservation specialist to repeat him or herself, write down the details, and be clear about the type of room you are getting, if it's smoking or non-smoking, and what are the check-in and checkout times.
Once the room is reserved, document all hotel information and a full itinerary to leave with a friend or neighbor in case of emergencies. If you book your room through a travel agent, make copies of the reservation confirmation they provide you, for it will clearly state the hotel's information and your arrival and departure dates.
Have this confirmation information or a printout of your e-mail reservation available when you check-in. Hotels never intentionally misplace or incorrectly enter reservation information, but it's always a good idea to bring evidence just in case.
GUARANTEEING HOTEL RESERVATIONS FOR LATE ARRIVALS
There's nothing worse than driving all day through syrupy traffic only to arrive at the hotel and discover your reservation is expired and there are no more rooms available. The key to never having this happen is knowing how late is late.
Most hotel chains will hold a normal reservation until 6 p.m. For those arriving later in the night, ask to guarantee the reservation with a credit card number. Even those pulling up after midnight with a guaranteed reservation will find a warm bed waiting. Hotels hold the right to cancel reservations that are not guaranteed. If you are delayed en route, call the hotel and ask to hold your reservation until you arrive.
OVERBOOKED HOTEL - NO ROOM IN THE INN?
Even though losing an expected room due to over-booking or a misplaced reservation may come as a shock, don't let it get you down. Most hotels will assist in remedying the situation by transferring you to a sister location, an associated hotel nearby.
If the lost reservation was guaranteed, then the burden falls on the hotel to ensure that your new room at the sister location is of equal or greater quality and at no additional cost. The hotel should cover any transportation expenses incurred by paying for a taxi or providing the use of their shuttle service.
If this courtesy is not extended, then ask to speak to a manager or contact your travel agent to act as your advocate.
CUSTOMER SERVICE WITH A SMILE
As a valued consumer, your satisfaction is important. Hotel staffs are thoroughly trained, working around the clock to meet your needs. However, problems may arise, such as uncooperative neighbors, so know the hierarchy of the hotel's customer service for a swift resolution.
A quick call to your travel agent is always a good first step, for they speak the hotel language and understand reasonable reparations for each problem. Through advocacy and advice, travel agents can assuage most situations, pleasing you and the hotel.
Staying within the hotel, the front desk clerk is trained to handle problems without involving the manager, so state your complaint clearly and allow them to arrange a remedy. From forgotten toothbrushes to room relocations, front desk clerks offer the quickest and most direct assistance.
If your complaint falls outside their jurisdiction, politely ask to see the manager. Managers better understand the necessities of customer loyalty and possess the authority to offer guests discounts on current or future stays.
If nothing is resolved with the manager, contact the hotel's customer service department. Be sure to write down the names of the people you spoke with, the dates of your stay and the rates charged to aid the operator in assisting you in the most proficient capacity.
CHECKING INTO YOUR HOTEL
The only obstacle during check-in should be the line at the counter. With your reservation made, hotels will want to usher you to your room as quickly as possible, so have your confirmation information ready and verify that the rate charged is the rate originally quoted.
Know the proper check-in time and ask specific questions about the area and the provided services. Request a card with the hotel's name, address and telephone information in case you get lost exploring the city.
FULLY STOCKED - THE THINGS YOU MIGHT NEED
Depending on your needs, ask if the hotel offers or provides the following:
- Laundry service or in-room ironing board and iron
- Hair dryers
- Voltage converters
- In-room coffee makers, refrigerators or kitchenettes
- Morning newspaper service
- Complimentary meals (usually breakfast)
- Access to fax machine, copier or printer
- Mini-bar or refreshments
- Data port
- In-room safe
- Cable television, movies or video games
- Portable cribs or rollaway beds
- Shuttle service to airport or other points of interest
- Recreational facilities
- Telephone access charges
- Adequate parking
Hotels often have a limited number of internet-ready rooms or hair dryers, so ask for specific items during check-in.
HOTEL SAFETY TIPS = SLEEP TIGHT
Safety is a priority for you and the hotel. From your car to their bed, take a few precautions and don't leave anything to chance.
Park in a well-lit space near the hotel entrance or your room,and be sure to lock all doors and keep valuables in the trunk and out of sight. If given the option, always ask for a room with an interior entrance. At the front desk, ask that the attendant write your room number down so that no one can hear it, and quickly pocket your key if it has the room number printed on it.
Once inside your room, lock your door with the deadbolt and the chain lock, and familiarize yourself with the fire exits posted on the back of the door. Do not open the door for anyone unless you verify the identity of the person either through the peephole or verbally, even if you are expecting a friend or room service.
CHECKING OUT WITH NO SURPRISES
At the end of a hotel stay, checking out should be a pleasant experience as long as there are no surprises like left-behind items or incidental charges. Check the room thoroughly before vacating, including drawers, closets and the bathroom, especially behind the shower curtain and the back of the bathroom door.
Most hotels have established checkout times ranging from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. If you need additional time, request it in advance, or else you may be charged an additional night.
Review the bill to ensure all charges are accurate, and you received all entitled credits and discount. Get a receipt, and if you pay in cash, make sure it is marked, "Paid in Cash."
HOTEL TIPPING ETIQUETTE
Unless your hotel has already accounted for gratuities, tipping various employees is expected, depending on the amount and quality of the service. Here's a general guide:
- Bellhop - $1 to $2 per bag (extra if bags are heavy or cumbersome).
- Coat check - $1 to $2
- Concierge - $2 to $10 depending on the service; 10 percent of the cost for securing hard to find items like tickets to the theatre or sporting events.
- Doorman - $1 to $2 for hailing cab (extra in bad weather).
- Housekeeping - $1 to $2 per night (extra for upscale hotels or if room was particularly messy).
- Room Service - 15 percent or at least $2, unless gratuity is included.
- Valet - $1 to $2 each time you request your car (extra in bad weather).