Each month, ExpertFlyer sits down with an executive in the travel industry to provide insight to changes in the industry and how it affects the way you do business. It’s another way ExpertFlyer is providing additional information to empower the business traveler.
This month, ExpertFlyer sat down with Melanie Nayer, an award-winning editor and writer for various travel and online publications, including The Huffington Post, New York Daily News, The Boston Globe, Gadling.com, Women On Their Way, SingleMindedWomen.com and more.
Melanie’s goal is to bring readers the best inside information on travel, food, and culture from her experiences around the world.
“Every city has something special about it — it’s up to you to find it. No matter where you go, come home with a memory.”
— Melanie Nayer, award-winning travel editor and writer
You are an expert when it comes to hotels and what to look for from a woman’s standpoint concerning safety, deals and scoring the best rooms. Give us some pointers.
Most importantly, never stay at a hotel you aren’t familiar with, especially if you’re traveling alone. If you’re heading overseas, read the customer reviews from other travelers on sites like TripAdvisor and Expedia to get a sense of the area, the hotel and the amenities.
Some things to look for:
1. How many rooms does the hotel have? Boutique hotels are beautiful and intimate, but they can also be secluded and dark. If you’re a nervous traveler, stay at a big brand hotel where there’s a 24-hour concierge and easy access to hotel staff.
2. How close is the hotel to the city center? If you’re traveling to a big city, try and stay at a hotel near the center of the city, which isn’t always the financial district. If you’re out late it’s likely there will be plenty of options for getting home if you’re staying in a busy part of town. In many cities, like Boston, New York, and Los Angeles, the financial district of town shuts down after 6 p.m. and the streets are desolate, which can be a little eerie when you need to get back to your hotel after dark. The extra money you’ll spend on cab fare to get from the center of the city to your business meetings during the day will be worth it when you’re leaving dinner or events late at night and need an easy trip back to the hotel.
3. Does the hotel have 24-hour security? If you’re renting a car for your trip, does the hotel have a parking lot and is it monitored? You can easily find these answers on the hotel’s webpage and if not, call the hotel and ask. Additionally, you might want to ask if the hotel locks it guest room floors, meaning you can’t get onto a floor without a guest-room key.
When you check in:
1. Ask for a room in the center of the floor. These rooms are far enough away from the elevators that you won’t be disturbed by ‘dings’ all night long, close enough to emergency exits so you can get out in a hurry, if necessary.
2. When you get to your room, immediately check the locks on the door and make sure they work. If not, ask to be moved. Hotels will accommodate you and if you run into problems with the front desk staff, ask for a manager.
3. Forget the “please clean this room” sign — it’s a signal to thieves that you’re not in the room. Room service will get to your room at some point during the day and they don’t need a reminder from you. If you don’t want room service, just let the front desk know.
Scoring the best hotel room: Before you book your room online, call the hotel and ask what rooms they have available for the same price you’re seeing online. A lot of times, if you book directly with an OTA (Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz, etc.) the hotels have offered a certain type of room for a special promotion. However, it’s likely you can get a better or bigger room, or at least room with some added amenities, if you call the hotel directly. Additionally, loyalty points go a long way. If you are a member with a particular hotel make sure to use your member number when you check in. Hotels are devoted to their frequent customers and will give upgrades, freebies and additional amenities to their repeat guests.
Which hotel chains are the most women-friendly and why?
Hotels in the Wyndham and Marriott brands (including Ritz-Carlton) and Kimpton hotels all have women-specific programs, which automatically gives them an advantage in my book. Some Marriott’s, for example, have women-only rooms, and Wyndham’s have an entire program called “Women on Their Way” that offers advice and travel tips for women travelers. The Kimpton hotel’s have a “Women InTouch” program that ensure women have everything they need during the stay, from in-room amenities to last-minute business plans and details. Niki Leondakis, the COO of Kimpton hotels and restaurants, has done a great job of pulling this program together, having been a woman business traveler for most of her life. The hotels have anything a woman traveler can want, including spare sewing kits to Spanx for those last-minute events that somehow creep up while we’re traveling.
Is there any way to avoid the hidden extras like in-room WiFi, valet, etc?
Always! First thing is, talk to the hotel reservations desk. Explain that you want a deal and ask what they can do to help you. Check out the promotions currently on the hotel’s website and ask them to put something together that might help you out. Additionally, you should ask the concierge or check-in attendant when you arrive to waive any extras, especially if you’re a repeat guest. In most cases, hotels will work with their guests to ensure everything is to their liking. They want your repeat business!
What are some other useful hotel tips you can share with our readers?
Yes, here are three more tips that you can employ as you plan your next trip:
- If you don’t get the room you want when you book, ask the hotel to put a note on your record with your specific requests. Hotels hold rooms for last-minute bookings and if there’s availability when you check-in, it’s likely you can get an upgrade or higher floor when you arrive.
- Remember: the top floor isn’t always the best floor. It might provide amazing views of the city, but if you’re overlooking the roof of the hotel next door, who cares? Choose a room on a lower floor if it’s a better room (more space, bigger beds, sitting area, etc.) and forgo your view for additional comfort.
- The most common question I get asked from business travelers is how to find the best hotel deal. Reality is: deals abound, but you need to be realistic. You don’t need to save $50 a night if it means compromising your safety. To score the best deal, plan in advance, book in advance, but don’t pay for anything in advance. Your credit card will be needed to hold any room, but you can always cancel a hotel room without penalty as long as it’s before 24 hours of your check-in. This gives you time to continue to search for a better deal at another hotel, or in many cases, the hotel you’re staying at will have a last-minute promotion that you can get in on because you already have a reservation.
At ExpertFlyer we are all about helping our subscribers make the most of their reward programs. Can you talk about how frequent travelers can leverage their loyalty points with hotels?
I’ve loved watching the airline and hotel industry forge a friendship over the past couple years. It not only benefits both businesses, but consumers win big. JetBlue and Virgin America, for example, have partnerships with specific hotels so you can choose where your points are allocated when you fly. For some of us, we have more frequent flier miles than we’ll ever use, so this is a great option — now you can choose to put those miles toward a hotel stay, which makes earning free nights even easier. For those travelers with memberships at legacy airlines like American, Continental and Delta, check the credit card you’re using — it’s likely those frequent flier miles can be used toward hotels, too, especially if you’re using the airlines’ specific credit card. It’s all in the fine print!
How do you find hidden gems in every city, i.e., sites, food, cultural points of interest, that are off the beaten path?
ASK THE LOCALS! The best source of information in any destination is the locals who live, eat, and breathe in the area. Talk to your cab driver, stop someone on the street, ask the ice cream man — the hotel concierge is great for the top tourist attractions, but if you want something completely original and off-the-beaten path, ask a local.