Caity's Travel Tips is featured in my monthly newsletter. The following is a sample post. You can sign up for my newsletter below.
Hotel Trends—for Better or for Worse?
The days of luxury airline travel are long gone. No more free meals on domestic flights or free luggage. Passengers use self-service check-in kiosks and are often required to tag their own bags. Will they soon be responsible for tossing their suitcases on the luggage truck out back? After just a short time of traveling for business, I’m also finding hotels are no longer a pampered oasis after a hectic day of air travel.
The first time a bellman knocked on my door and handed me a paper bag, I stared at it in confusion. I opened the bag to find a grilled cheese sandwich and french fries that I’d ordered from “room service.” Where was the white-linen-covered tray and silver dome the room service attendant lifted from the plate, unveiling the chef’s culinary masterpiece? The receipt stapled to the bag read Market-to-Go. More and more hotels are eliminating traditional room service and sit-down restaurants and are instead offering takeaway food markets. What next? Will lobby vending machines be spitting out cold grilled cheese sandwiches? Or perhaps a card on your guest-room desk will provide instructions on how to download the app for Uber Eats or Door Dash. Of course, the concierge won’t be able to provide nearby restaurant suggestions, since his position will soon be obsolete. His vacant desk will display instructions for downloading Google maps and destination apps.
Back to vending machines. I’m finding more vending machines and fewer gift shops in hotels. This is great at midnight if you discover you are out of toothpaste or Tums and the gift shop would have been closed. Yet there goes the complimentary tube of toothpaste and sympathetic smile the front desk attendant once provided. Will these machines also be dispensing destination T-shirts and gifts for parents to take home to their children? According to recent buzz, they may soon be selling the complimentary Aveda and Crabtree and Evelyn toiletries once supplied in your bathroom. So during your next hotel stay, stock up on toiletries for future travel.
Many hotels have replaced the printed guest services guides with iPads. But what if the iPad doesn’t work or isn’t charged? This recently happened to me. Or some guests don’t have a clue how to navigate modern technology? This will become one more source of frustration in a person’s hectic travels. In this case, wouldn’t printed guides be more cost effective?
Many hotels have started offering guests perks for declining housekeeping services, such as bonus points for their loyalty program members or a voucher for food outlets. Since both of these amenities may soon be extinct, the “perk” might be having your room cleaned every third day or once a week if your stay is that long. Kudos to the hotel for this eco-friendly step, since I don’t need clean towels daily and I make my own bed out of habit. But again, what next? Cleaning supplies and rags will be provided in your closet where the iron and ironing board were once stored?
How about eliminating items that wouldn’t be missed? Like the bathroom phone or the shoehorn and buffing cloth in the closet? I question whether all of the cuts in services and amenities are being reflected in lower room rates. I think any cost savings is going into guest services iPads or the annoying light-activated TV displayed in the bathroom mirror. As if I can watch TV while putting on mascara. Twenty-four-hour room service and other amenities play a role in determining a hotel’s star rating. Will today’s 4-star hotel become tomorrow’s 2-star? Or will star ratings become a thing of the past, just like personalized customer service?
Click here to subscribe to my newsletter for Caity's monthly travel column.
The following is a selection of Facebook posts about the many embarrassing, frustrating, and "enlightening" mishaps I've experienced while traveling.
These are fact, not fiction.
Please Remain Seated
After dinner at a busy restaurant on the San Antonio River Walk, I went to stand and the heavy iron chair came with me. I dropped back down in my seat. I felt behind me to discover that the belt loop on my jeans had somehow become wrapped around the chair’s fancy scroll design. I attempted to undo my pants button to loosen the loop but the waistband was pulled too tightly.
The couple next to us flagged down a waitress and requested a scissors. No way was I cutting the loop off my new jeans. However, I was questioning just how well they fit. I scooted the chair forward, covering my lap with the tablecloth. I sucked in the deepest breath possible after a pasta dinner, enabling me to unbutton and partially unzip the jeans, freeing the loop from the chair. Although I was a tad embarrassed about the incident, my coworkers and I laughed the entire way back to the hotel.
Taking a Nosedive in Dublin
I’m a total klutz, like my character Caity.
A few weeks ago, while I was crossing a busy Dublin street, the light turned yellow. A bicyclist zipped toward me, attempting to time the light as it turned green. I leapt onto the sidewalk, my shoe catching on the curb. I fell toward the pavement then steadied myself midair before heading toward the ground once again, all the while propelling forward. My knees hit the concrete and a paper shopping bag flew from my hand before my palms braced my fall. My bag shot down the sidewalk as I yelled out, in what seemed to be slow motion, “My cooooookies!” The bag contained my mom’s favorite Irish cookies.
My friend Laura helped me up as I shook the confusion from my head. Two concerned tourists returned my damaged bag to me. Rather than checking my palms for blood or my pants for tears, I checked my cookies. Seriously? Luckily, I had no broken bones, merely a few broken cookies.
Failing at French
I studied in Paris for a college semester. My penpal from Normandy came down to visit one weekend. When I exited a restroom at the Eiffel Tower an older woman sitting by the door held out a bowl containing a few coins. I’d only encountered a bathroom attendant once or twice in my life, so I wasn’t prepared with change. I smiled apologetically and left.
Feeling bad, and a bit naïve, I asked my friend for change. “You don’t need to pay Madame PeePee,” he said. Unsure I’d heard him correctly, I said, “Madame PeePee?” He nodded, laughing. The woman came barreling out from the bathroom, shaking a fist, giving us a verbal lashing for using the slang nickname. We turned red with embarrassment, apologizing. When the woman yelled at a curious tourist with a camera, we took advantage of the distraction and fled.
That was one French phrase I never repeated and I made sure I carried change the rest of the trip.
My real-life travel mishaps definitely inspire Caity’s character.
I travel frequently for work and I’ve become comfortable dining alone in public. I’ve learned to blend in…most of the time. While perusing a menu in a rural Irish restaurant a centerpiece candle ignited it. I attempted to blow out the flame, causing it to leap out and torch my napkin. After tossing my glass of water on the fires, I smiled reassuringly at the concerned diners. I apologized to my waitress, giving her the damaged menu and my order.
Following dinner, the owner ran after me for two blocks due to a billing error. I joked that I’d thought the additional charge was for the cost of the menu and napkin. Thankfully, I wasn’t too embarrassed to return to the restaurant, since it is still one of my favorite spots in Ireland.