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Simple steps to get travel right this summer

As the school year ends and summer travel begins, we thought it was a perfect time to think about ways to maximize enjoyment and minimize frustration. That's why we asked frequent traveler and guest blogger Scott, who recently shared his 5 Ways to Ensure a Quiet Hotel Room, to share some of the ways he makes the most out of every trip.

1.   Join the Club

When I’m looking for a hotel in a new city, I begin with the loyalty programs to which I belong. Each of these programs offers a variety of brands and properties to meet my needs for a particular trip. It might be a boutique hotel in an urban location from which I can explore the city on foot, a business hotel set up for me to work while traveling, or a spa-like retreat for relaxing with my wife. Loyalty programs offer discounts and upgrades that are not available to nonmembers. You can find the biggest programs with a quick Google search.

2.   Choose Your Location

I narrow down the choices available from the hotels in my loyalty programs based on their locations in relation to my planned activities. If I want to explore a city on foot, or by using taxis and ride shares, I’ll choose a hotel in a downtown spot. If I’ll be renting a car and taking day trips, I’ll look for a hotel in a central location with easy parking.

3.   Pack Right

I like to have options for what I wear so I’m not at the mercy of the weather. I also plan to cycle or workout in the hotel’s exercise room. What I’m not going to do is to rinse or hang anything out to dry in the room. For those reasons, I am a generous packer. I have friends who can pack for a two-week trip in one carry-on bag or backpack. To each his own.

For the actual packing, I’ve yet to find anything that beats Hefty’s zippered storage bag in the Jumbo size (2.5 gallon). These make it easy to keep outfits or groups of small items (e.g., socks) together. They also protect the clean clothes from those I’ve worn, particularly the sweaty cycling gear I’m not going to rinse out. I pack the bag and then sit on it to squeeze out as much air as possible while I’m zipping it closed. This process drastically increases the amount I can fit in my suitcase. The clear bags allow me to see what’s packed inside. Since I like to unpack and stow my suitcase, I can simply place the bagged clothing in hotel closets and drawers without worrying about what might have been there before.

4.   Practice Carry-on Bag Courtesy, Part 1

I’m more comfortable checking my bags and traveling with only what I’ll need for the flight in a hands-free backpack. When I do carry on my luggage, I try to be considerate of other passengers.

I suggest listening to the warnings of the gate attendant when they announce the plane is small or full, with limited room for carry-on bags. Take the pink slip and gate-check your bag before you roll your bag on the plane to find there’s no overhead space and you must roll it back off the plane. The time for boarding is already extended due to the number of passengers loading carry-on bags—don’t make it worse. Plan for this eventuality by placing the items you might need during the flight in the backpack or purse that will fit under the seat in front of you, including newspapers, reading glasses, earphones, Jolly Rancher candies (my recommendation for keeping ears from popping), medicines, a protein bar, a bottle of water, and travel pillow, eye mask, or blanket.

5.   Practice Carry-on Bag Courtesy, Part 2

In the old days, people carried suitcases. Nowadays, suitcases—even carry-on bags— have wheels. There’s a reason for that; they are too heavy to carry. That means they’re also too heavy to overhead press. If you can’t overhead press your own carry-on bag at least twice, once when boarding and once when deplaning, don’t carry it on. Yes, it’s lovely when someone offers their assistance, but it’s not a travel plan. If you do place your carry-on bag overhead, please be aware of the passenger sitting in the seat underneath. Sorry is not sufficient.

6.   Keep the Seat You’ve Chosen

If you’ve planned ahead and chosen your seat, you should not feel bad about sitting in it. Those who didn’t get the seat they would like will survive the flight in the seat they were assigned. Unless, of course, you truly don’t mind switching seats.

7.   Introduce Yourself

I like to make my reservations through the hotel’s website or by calling the hotel directly as opposed to using booking sites. If the opportunity arises, I try to introduce myself to the concierge or the hotel manager on my first stay. I’ve also dropped the hotel manager an email after my visit to share that I enjoyed my stay and look forward to returning. I let them know when there was someone who provided particularly good service. Everyone likes being noticed for good work.

When I’m ready to return, I start by emailing my “contact.” If you introduce yourself on your first visit to a hotel at which you’ve had a great experience, your second stay will be even better.

8.   Be Polite

It should go unsaid, but I’ll say it—be polite. I was going through the routine of checking into a hotel in Boston a couple of years ago when the desk clerk said I was the first person who’d been polite to her all day. Later that day, champagne and cookies were sent to me and my wife to say thank you. Dealing with tired travelers can be tough and simple manners could make a difference in what might be an otherwise tough day. Be polite because it’s the right thing to do. If it results in champagne and cookies, that’s a bonus.

9.   Ask First

If you or your travel companion become ill, before you head out to find a pharmacy, particularly in another country, check with the front desk or concierge. They may have a doctor on call or a pharmacy that can deliver whatever you need.

10. Take Advantage of the Valet’s Expertise

When the valet brings your luggage to your room, take advantage of their knowledge. Ask how the controls on the thermostat, television, draperies, and shower faucet work. Make sure you have the type or number of pillows you like. If not, ask them politely how that can be accomplished.

Make sure at that time that the hotel has provided enough luggage racks for your luggage. Many times, they provide only one luggage rack in a room or for a reservation with more than one guest. I don’t want to lay my open luggage on the floor or on the furniture. That’s what luggage racks are for.

Even if you’re in a hurry to lie down or to get out and about, those few minutes can save a lot of aggravation later. Tip accordingly for the valet’s time and effort.

11.  Tip Thoughtfully

That brings me to tipping, which can be a bit overwhelming without a plan, beginning with the manager who has assisted with reserving a great room. If the manager or concierge has made extra effort to help you to reserve a great room, or to get you tickets or a restaurant reservation, tip them for their service.

Something I didn’t realize until well into my years traveling was that I’d been neglecting to tip the hotel housekeeper. I’d been tipping the doorman, the valet, the concierge, and the room service waiter, but it had not occurred to me to leave a tip for the housekeeper. I try to follow the same suggestions that down etc offers for tipping housekeepers; I leave $5 each day that I’m there for the housekeeper who straightens the room with a note saying “thank you” so they know it’s meant for them.

Now, get out there and travel.

-Guest blogger Scott

Read more:

5 Ways to Ensure a Quiet Hotel Room

5 Tips for Tipping Your Hotel Housekeeper

Best Tips to Avoid Air Travel Challenges Over the Holidays

A Traveler’s Take on Paris: The 10 Places and Experiences You Shouldn’t Miss


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