I am typing this post from a seat inside a Pensacola hotel. Our last for this trip, thankfully, as I am ready to unpack my suitcases and resume some type of normal life, even though that life will take place thousands of miles away from the life I have known for the past few years.
Hitting hotel after hotel has brought up some key points I’ve forgotten about traveling, be it for business or for pleasure.
Traveling takes on a variety of forms depending upon what you want to travel for. Are you heading out of town for a weekend trip with the family? Meeting some business associates for a conference? Looking for a romantic stay with hubby, or a little R&R with the girlfriends? Chances are one hotel will not meet all of these expectations.
Since I’ve had the (un)pleasure of staying in quite a few places over the past nine days, I thought I would share some thoughts regarding traveling.
Choosing a hotel can be difficult if you are not familiar with the area. So, my first stop is always www.tripadvisor.com. By punching in the hotel’s name you can find out a lot of information about not only the building but its amenities, location and reviews written by other travelers. I actually used trip advisor to book all of our hotels this stay.
And how did it go? For the most part, pretty well.
We stayed at a few Embassy Suites during this trip. I love this chain for business travel, and I know that there are a few other hotels designed primarily for those traveling for business. These hotels are typically quite, with not a lot of banging of doors going on late at night. The rooms are generally clean and efficient, with high speed internet access. Breakfast is included and generally really good, with hot and cold items as well as coffee and tea.
I guess my downfall with this type of hotel is that when traveling with the kids it may not be the perfect type of place. While there were other kids staying in the Embassy Suites we stayed in, for the most part it is for business people. So, I always felt a little out of place when I lugged the kids to breakfast, which was generally filled with people dressed in suits and slacks. Also, the amenities there are great for those with kids, such as a guest laundry room and a pool, but again the majority of people traveling stay in business type hotels, so there were few kids.
I’ve traveled for business before, and I know that when traveling for business, the last thing on my mind is having to contend with crying kids who are throwing tantrums because they want a third bowl of some sugary cereal that they never get at home (oh, that would be my kid!) So it always makes me a little uncomfortable to stay in a place designed mainly for those traveling for work. I don’t want to impede on their days, since their days are often filled with meetings that start early in the morning. A crying kid at 3AM is not a good thing when the guy next to you has to be up in two hours.
For business travelers, I think having a place to work (such as a business center or just internet access from the room, which most hotels have nowadays) is important. Breakfast close by, without leaving the building, and free, is also a great addition.
For families that travel, an entirely different set of amenities is important. For instance, while a laundry room on the premises is nice, if it has only one machine you can’t get a lot of laundry one. On this trip, between the sicknesses that wreaked havoc on the family and just the daily travel, we had a lot of laundry to do. In several hotels geared more toward family we were pleased to find two or three washing machines and dryers, which meant I could get it all done at one time.
Another key item to have when traveling with kids, particularly younger kids I would imagine, is at least a refrigerator, if not a microwave or, at the very best, a stove. We stayed in one place that we thought would be very kid friendly only to find the ‘kitchen’ consisted of a refrigerator filled with alcohol (okay, it was in New Orleans, but still!) and that if you wanted another refrigerator you had to rent one out from the front desk. Running to and from the store for milk and other sundries isn’t the best option when traveling, so next time I’d definitely ask if the fridge in the room could be used for our items and not just for a bottle of wine!
Some other things I learned while staying in a variety of hotels this time around:
A suite is not always what you may think! We paid more money in Orange, Texas for a room touted as a suite. However, the ‘living room’ area, which consisted only of a couch and a fridge and microwave, was not separated from the ‘sleeping area’, which really did us no good. A suite does not mean you will have two separate areas, so ask. The television was by the beds, so my husband and I couldn’t even stay up and watch some tv once the girls went to sleep because it wasn’t placed in front of the couch!
Everything is not always included! I was really shocked to find a $10 gym fee on my bill in New Orleans. I thought that the gym would be included in our stay, so I didn’t ask, but apparently at this particular hotel chain you have to pay to work out!
Again, ask about the ‘suite’. Do you have a separate room for beds and living spaces? It’s important with young kids who go to bed at seven if you want to stay up a little later!
What do the laundry facilities include? Do you have one on premises (some of the hotels we stayed in did not). If you do, how many machines and how much do they cost? Most were $1 a load to wash, $1 a load to dry.
Is breakfast available on the premises? The day we had to travel out of the hotel for breakfast meant getting everyone up, cleaning everyone, packing up the car and going off site. It took us about an hour to get to eat, and the girls were really hungry. When traveling with family it’s easier if the breakfast is on the premises, and is included: The breakfast items that were not included in our one stay would have cost $20 at the hotel restaurant for a simple eggs and bacon fare!
If traveling for business, does the hotel provide internet access? Can you get online in your room? Also, is there an additional fee? In some places we stayed the internet access was included in our rate, while in others it would have been an extra fee to get online.
Does it cost to park? In several hotels we had to pay an additional $20-$30 fee for secure parking! Granted, these were in the more popular places, such as San Antonio and New Orleans, but this cost can definitely add up and take a huge bite out of the wallet!