Hotels can be so much more than places to sleep while traveling. They can be among the most interesting and memorable aspects of a trip. However, because hotels range from elegant luxury establishments to country inns to chain hostelries off the interstate, they can be a bit confusing unless you know what to expect from them and what they may expect from you.
It's usually a good idea to book rooms in luxury hotels well in advance. These hotels provide many extra amenities and services. You probably can count on having bathrobes, hair dryers, and a minibar in your room. (Beware of minibars: You can be in for a very expensive and sobering surprise when you pay your bill.)
When you arrive, a doorman greets you, and a porter takes your bags. Tip the porter at least $1 per bag. If the doorman hails a cab for you, tip him $1. If he has to stand out in the rain, you might want to tip more.
Proceed to the registration desk and give the clerk your confirmation number. Married couples should sign in under both of their names. If a woman uses her maiden name in business, she should include that in registering so that telephone calls can be fielded accurately. Unmarried couples should both sign in as well. These details may seem unnecessary, but they are important for security purposes and, practically speaking, for things like telephone calls.
Mind Your P's and Q's
The Citizens Emergency Center at the State Department in Washington can give you up-to-date information on health precautions for virtually any place you plan to visit. Call 202-647-4000.
The porter takes the bags to your room. Sometimes the desk clerk will direct you to the room, and the porter will follow with the bags. The porter or bellman will open the room, turn on the lights, adjust the air-conditioning, put your luggage on stands, draw the curtains, show you the minibar, and explain how the television works. If you don't like the room, ask the porter to call the front desk about a replacement. Remember that the porter is not authorized to change your room and must clear your request through the front desk.
The next thing you should do, no matter what sort of hotel, motel, or inn you are staying at, is to find the emergency and fire exits. Check to see whether you need more towels, pillows, blankets, hangers, or an iron. If you do, call housekeeping right away. Calling late at night when there is a reduced staff can create difficulties and delays.
Luxury hotels have a concierge, in the European tradition. The concierge desk is generally located near the registration desk. Here you can obtain theater, concert, and sports tickets; look at local restaurant menus and make dining reservations; and find out about car rentals, sightseeing tours, babysitters, and even traffic and weather conditions. A good concierge is a miracle worker who seems to know everything about everything.
These hotels, typified by those in the Marriott and Hyatt chains, are designed for the business traveler. They are clean, comfortable, and efficient. They also are cheaper and offer fewer frills than the luxury hotels. Available for business travelers are conference rooms, computers, facsimile machines, copiers, and secretarial services.
Pack a travel iron and hair dryer. You might be able to borrow these things from the hotel, but you might not be able to borrow them exactly when you need them. You can't afford to be held up for an appointment because you are stranded waiting for an iron.
Business people suggest you avoid doing business in your hotel room. And if you are on a business trip, never share a room with a member of the opposite sex—colleague or not. This behavior damages your credibility, as well as that of your company.
Especially if you are traveling on business, put in your breakfast order the night before and allow yourself plenty of time to receive and eat it before leaving for your business appointment. It's fine to greet the room service waiter in your robe. The waiter will set up the meal in your room. When you're finished, call room service to come for the tray or cart, instead of leaving it in the hall. A service charge is added to the bill. If a tip is not included on the bill, the usual amount to leave is 20 percent.