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Hotel Insights for Travelers


The secret to success in anything is adequate preparation. Here are a few more tools to fend off the forces of evil who want to make your hotel stay too expensive and unpleasant.

hotel key

I booked a hotel for 5 nights and was told the rate was $109, a good rate, thought I. But then they told me that one night in the middle of the stay was to be $459. What’s that about, says I. Corporate demand and supply algorithms, say they, like the airlines. And some big soiree had been booked for that night, driving the price up. I was welcome to stay somewhere else that night and the same room, mind you, would be held for me, if I wished to return. Highway robbery says I, but they had me over the proverbial barrel, so I ate the extra expense (fortunately deductible, as I was in town for CME).

So to symbolically strike back at the industry and to help our dear readers improve their experiences, here are some tips that I gleaned out of the “Bottom Line” newsletter. First of all, you get the best rate by calling the hotel’s local, direct line, not the advertised 800 number. Then ask for the assistant manager on duty, who has the authority to further negotiate rates.

Keep in mind that everything is negotiable, if you speak to the person in a position to do so. So-called “resort fees” (don’t you just hate them?) and parking, for instance. If the lot looks half empty, offer half the stated amount.

And keep in mind that rooms are more expensive if you call in the morning, when there is still a chance of filling “your” room with someone else. In the late afternoon, when an empty, no-fee room looms, you have the best leverage.

Realize also that there is always a room available, even if there is “no vacancy.” Large hotels always hold a few back, “out of order” is the industry parlance, for some minor problem or for an “emergency.”

And when you get to the front desk to check in, smile, slip a $10 or $20 across the counter and ask if there might be an upgrade available for a “loyal customer.”

We know to tip the bellman about $1 per bag, but do not think that your bag is safe while sitting on his cart. Especially if it looks like a high-end bag. And, surprise, if your bag is stolen, the hotel will deny responsibility. So keep one eye on your bags or else check them temporarily into their storage room, with a receipt given.

Another person to tip is the maid, and do it every day with a note of thanks and who it is for. Hotels rooms are horribly germ-ridden and you need all the help you can get. If you want to get grossed out sometime, take a black light to view your “fresh” room, but prepare to be shocked when you look at the cleaned-every-3-months bedspread. Yuck. And I have written before how I like to give an extra bit to the hard-working poor, such as maids. Believe me, it will be much appreciated.

Just so you know, hotel rooms are not safe. Use the safe provided. Always. And a friend who travels a lot told me how he remembers to not leave the safe’s contents behind; he puts one shoe in it at night.

If you leave your cell phone charger at home and are about to mumble some epithet, never fear. Chargers are the #1 item left behind in hotel rooms and their lost and found will have plenty to choose from.

The secret to success in anything is adequate preparation and now you have a few more tools to fend off the forces of evil who want to make your hotel stay too expensive and unpleasant. Have a nice stay.

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice