Friday, March 9, 2012

Get a room!

The Westin in Boston
Radisson on Lexington, NYC
There's a part of me that keeps waiting for life to slow down a little - it has been a pretty wild ride for the last 6 weeks or so, and I really am hoping to spend some quality time at home, putzing in my front garden and getting a few spring cleaning chores accomplished.  My busy family/ social calendar has provided me with a number of recent opportunities to stay in hotels and I thought it might be interesting to relate my experiences to you all, for what it's worth.

In the last month and a half, I have stayed at 6 different hotels in 4 different states - 5, if we include the District of Columbia.  We all know that hotels can be expensive, and I'm a fan of getting a good deal in all things travel related, so let me offer you some tips. 
  1. Create an email account just for travel related websites.  I receive offers from Hotwire,, Travel Ticker, Groupon, Living Social and Travelocity and it's nice to have them all in one place devoted to travel. 
  2. Consider linking your credit card with a rewards program.  I like the Hilton family of hotels (Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Embassy Suites, etc) and often use my credit card to earn points even if I have the cash in my pocket to make a purchase. 
  3. If there's a problem with your accommodations, don't suffer in silence!  Give the business an opportunity to correct the issue and make you happy.  That's how companies create repeat business and brand loyalty. Now, some specific hotel information from my recent travels...
I was in Boston at the end of January for a wonderful surprise birthday party. The Westin was the perfect place to stay for me - an easy walk to my transportation hub, South Station, and a Starbuck's right in the lobby.  My most favorite thing about this hotel, though, was the available map of recommended running routes.  It definitely is a niche thing, but one that I found to be the perfect amenity for me.

The first night, and also the last night, of my February train trip was booked at the Radisson on Lexington Ave in NYC.  Well, initially, that was the plan.  I had jumped on a Hotwire deal ($118 a night) and reserved the "bookend" nights of our vacation in a spot that would be convenient to Grand Central Station.  Upon our arrival, though, I began to consider other options.  The hotel wasn't bad, it just wasn't great.  The carpeting seemed dirty and the bathroom was really small.  The proximity to Central Park was good and the staff was pleasant, but, I certainly wasn't looking forward to returning to this place.  
Koi pond!
Since we were arriving in D.C. after dark, I thought we should spend our initial night in a location convenient to Union Station.  I selected the an Embassy Suites in the Foggy Bottom area of D.C. and then proceeded to navigate our way to the wrong Embassy Suites.  Oh, well, it was a lovely, mild night and we ultimately jumped into a cab to get there.  We were feeling beat and we indulged in takeout delivery, which is one of my fairly new, favorite things to do - very self-indulgent.  This hotel was nice and the standard Embassy Suites courtyard was kicked up a notch by the addition of a Koi pond, a cool bonus that came with an opportunity to feed the fish in the morning.  The best thing, though, in my opinion, about the Embassy Suites is how perfectly they are set up for families.  From the two-room suite to the generous breakfast and the evening cocktail hour (manager's reception), they really know how to provide value.  And how to address a less than happy guest, but that story is for part two of this post.

To be continued...

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