When is the last time you ordered a meal or drink from hotel room service? If you’re like many travelers, you probably haven’t done so recently. In fact, many hotels (including one of NYC’s most popular hotels, the New York Hilton Midtown) have decided to make room service a thing of the past.
According to PKF Hospitality Research, room service accounted for just over 1.2 percent of standard hotel revenue in 2012. PFK’s Senior Vice President John Fox said in an article on PeterGreenberg.com, “I don’t think anyone makes a profit on room service, because of its labor costs. I’m sure all the big hotels will be looking at what Hilton is doing.”
A spokesperson for the New York Hilton Midtown told Yahoo Travel, “Like most full service hotels, New York Hilton Midtown has continued to see a decline in traditional room service requests over the last several years as customer preferences and expectations continue to evolve.”
As a substitute, many hotels are offering alternatives, such as the ability to order food from an on-site restaurant, while others (such as New York Hilton Midtown) will offer café-style “grab-and-go” restaurants within the hotel.
So is this really the end of an era? Not quite! In an article on HuffingtonPost.com, a spokesman for the American Hotel & Lodging Association said the number of hotels offering room service actually increased by 8 percent between 2011 and 2012.
In fact, many other hotels have gone the opposite direction, trying to make their room service offerings more of a draw by offering unique in-room dining options. For example, the JW Marriott Chicago offers an array of specialty treats, including artisan cheeses paired with craft beers, a tasting plate of appetizers and desserts, and even wine and food pairings.
If you’re a solo traveler looking for in-room dining options outside of room service, fear not. Most hotels will offer menus for local delivery options, such as Chinese food or pizza. If you find yourself in a larger metropolitan area, check out an online delivery service such as GrubHub.com or Seamless.com. You’ll be able to try out some of the city’s best restaurants without leaving your hotel room or breaking the bank.
- Why these Hilton workers see losing their jobs as a gift, and what it says about unions (pix11.com)
- The End Of Room Service? Not So Fast (flyjumptravel.wordpress.com)
- When Less Is More: Do You Need to Get Rid of Your “Room Service”? (business2community.com)
Photo credit: ChicagoCeli (Flickr, Creative Commons
Whether you’re hitting the road for business or pleasure, one thing’s for certain: it’s becoming more and more expensive to travel. Fortunately, there are dozens of little ways to save money while traveling. While the little things (such as a bottle of water from the minibar) may seem insignificant, they can add up to big savings. We saw a recent article on PeterGreenberg.com about different small ways to trim off your hotel costs, so we borrowed some of his, and came up with a a couple of our own. Here are six of our favorite tips to cut more than $100 from the cost of our hotel stay.
1. Supply Your Own Wifi
While some hotels offer complimentary wifi, others charge big bucks for it. According to HotelChatter.com, the average cost of wireless Internet service at a hotel is $13.95 per day, or about $97 per week (and is not all that fast). Instead, supply your own. Many smartphones have the ability to act as a wireless hotspot — it pays to call your wireless carrier and find out. You can also park in a nearby coffee shop, and for the price of a latte, hang out for a couple of hours and check email.
2. Bargain With Your Hotel
You may be able to negotiate some perks with your hotel. Before arriving, call to see if they’ll offer any specials, such as free parking. It also helps if you’re a member of their loyalty program. Some hotels offer better rates to loyalty program members than their “lowest” rates.
3. Bring Your Own Snacks
Everyone knows that taking something from the minibar is a bad idea — unfortunately, most people tend to break when they’re starving or need a drink. Ditto for visiting the hotel “store” or the vending machines. Instead, come prepared by stocking up on drinks and snacks at a nearby store.
5. Find Different Parking
Parking at your hotel may be the easiest option, but it may cost up to $75 per night. Do some research online instead; you may be able to find nearby parking for up to 50% less. Visit sites like BestParking.com or even Google Street View to check the parking situation. Also, check out this Lifehacker article on finding parking in a new city.
6. Don’t Just Look At Hotel Prices
You’ve made the decision to forgo location in favor of a lower price. However, if you find yourself far away from your final destination, you may not be saving much after all. Do some research and consider how much you’ll spend on cabs or other transportation costs to and from the city’s attractions. You may find that the savings at the cheaper hotel are eaten up with transportation and parking. Do the math, and you may find it’s cheaper to stay at the more expensive hotel. What are some ways you’ve trimmed costs from your hotel budget? Leave your tip in the comments section, and let us hear from you.
Using the airplane node for your mobile device isn’t just for when you’re traveling in an airplane. There are additional uses for the this mode that many travelers find extremely useful. For example, putting your phone and tablet device in airplane mode can help avoid roaming charges, and can help you avoid unwanted hackers who are looking for easy-to-grab private information.
When you’re traveling in an unfamiliar place, you may be especially susceptible to hackers who are looking for illegal access to your private information. In an article featured on Bloomberg.com, computer security expert Tom Kellermann said that he has recently identified multiple security hacking attempts on his personal mobile device while he passed through busy airport terminals.Kellermann said that while airports are some of the safest places you’ll find for physical security, mobile security is another matter. A hacker with enough know-how can access the mobile devices of several travelers at once, looking for email addresses, passwords, and other sensitive information. But if you have your phone in the airplane mode from the moment you step foot in the airport, you are more likely to avoid this scenario happening to you. Airplane mode turns off your wifi and cellular connection, making it impossible for hackers to latch on to your private information.
In addition to keeping your personal information safer, there are are additional reasons for using the airplane mode. If you’re traveling internationally, putting your phone in this mode will not only provide extra security but will help you avoid roaming charges. You will still be able to use your mobile device to access information you’ve already downloaded, or to use your phone as a camera. But as long as your device is in airplane mode you won’t be using your cellular connection, therefore you’ll avoid the huge roaming charges that can occur if you access cellular data when traveling in international destinations. If you do need to use your phone’s data connection while traveling internationally, use it in a wifi hot spot. Just remember to reset the airplane mode as soon as you’re done.
Taking extra steps to keep your personal information safe is never a bad idea. Practicing phone security as soon as you step into an airport will help keep your private information where it belongs: with you, and no one else.
- Why Your Phone’s Airplane Mode Isn’t Just for the Airplane (bloomberg.com)
- Traveling with Tech (classicaltech.wordpress.com)
- Three Airport Travel Apps That Work, Save Time, Make Flying Fun (gadling.com)
- More Than 10 Travel Tips to Beat Airport Drama (lifehack.org)
Christopher Penn is an expert in technology, marketing, social media, and how all three can work together to create better business opportunities for you. We’re fans of his, and read his blog fairly regularly.
Due to the nature of his job, Penn travels a lot, and recently he shared some travel tips for a better travel experience. Now, we’re going to make your life a little easier by sharing them with you.
1) Treat your hotel coffee like a teabag. Genius! The free coffee in your hotel room is flavorless and not hot enough, but if you brew it starting with hot water and place the coffee pouch in your cup before you hit the “brew now” button, you’re destined for hotter, more flavorful coffee.
2) If you forgot your toothpaste, create a saltwater solution using water and two packets of salt from a fast food restaurant. It’s not the same as proper oral hygiene, but if you’re about to meet with an important client after scarfing down a quick meal, this tactic will suffice.3) Shower with the bathroom door open. Most hotel rooms have dry air which can leave you with sinus problems. If you shower with the bathroom door open, moisture from the bathroom will permeate the rest of the room, making your hotel room a little more tolerable.
4) Sign up for frequent traveler programs. Sure, you might have to unsubscribe from a lot of emails after a while, but frequent traveler programs often offer free perks like pressing your suit, or an occasional free upgrade to a better room.
5) Always use good manners and etiquette. Not only is being polite and treating people well the right thing to do, but occasionally the good karma will benefit you, too. People may not always help people they like or who are polite, but they rarely go the extra mile for people who are rude or mean.
6) If safety is a concern of yours, ask for a room on the second floor. You’ll be less susceptible to break-ins and if a true emergency happens, you can jump from a second floor window with significantly better chances of survival. We’ll take his word on this one.
7) Get water from the ice machine instead of the bathroom tap. The water quality is often better because it’s colder and filtered.
8) If you have several hours to kill and are terrible at ironing, load up the iron with water and then mist your clothes. Give them a little stretch and hang them up to air dry, close to an air vent if possible. Or use that free ironing perk you got when you signed up for the frequent traveler program from #4.
9) Bring an HDMI cable. If you have to practice a speech you’re giving later, you can use the HDMI cable to connect your laptop to the TV — most nicer hotels have HD TVs, which have HDMI slots — and practice as if you were on stage. Plus, if you’re a Netflix fan or brought some DVDs, your laptop will double as your movie projector.
Pretty great ideas, right? So here’s a call to all you road warriors out there — what are some tips and tricks you’ve learned from your travels?
- Secrets to Happier Hotel Guests in 2013 (hmghotelsblog.com)
- Coffee solution (timesonline.typepad.com)
- 21 Travel Uses for Ziploc Bags (travelbloggerz.wordpress.com)
- Making the Most Out of Business Travel (epicatravel.com)
- Hotel-room lock hack tied to ongoing thefts (nbcnews.com)
- 8 Business Travel Tips & Tricks (flashstorageguy.wordpress.com)
Southwest Airlines has made a name for themselves in the airline industry through their light-hearted atmosphere and democratic customer service policies. Southwest’s policies generally rival those of other airlines. For example, their “Bags Fly Free” policy allows up to two bags per passenger to fly free of charge, while many other airlines charge a minimum of $25 or more per checked bag.
In an era when airlines are differentiating themselves by the type of add-ons they offer and the prices of those extra benefits, Southwest has historically made a name for themselves by keeping things simple.
Southwest is now being a bit more creative with the fees that they do charge passengers. For example, Southwest has picked up on the fact that many passengers like to board their planes early.
For an extra $10 fee, Southwest passengers can opt for the Early Bird Check-In and improve their position in line to board the plane. As it turns out, there are plenty of customers who will pay an even higher fee to avoid waiting in line to board and having the last pick of where to stow their carry on luggage. For those passengers, Southwest offers a new $40 fee which guarantees that they will be among the first 15 people to board the plane.
To some, this $40 fee just to board the plane early may seem a bit pricey, but for the right passenger this could be a valuable decision. Travelers who are bigger in size or taller than the average person generally have trouble making their way down a narrow, crowded airplane aisle or sitting in certain seats.
So this $40 early boarding fee could serve these people well. Mothers with small children or busy business people could also benefit from this service. They can board the plane quickly and easily, get settled, and busy themselves with other things while they wait for takeoff, while everyone else is still finding their seats.
Photo credit: Phil Ostroff (Flickr, Creative Commons)
Now that half of Americans use smartphones as their primary mobile device and the number of smartphone users worldwide tops 1 billion, it’s safe to say that most of us are using smartphones or some type of mobile device on a regular basis. In travel especially, it’s common for smartphone users to rely on their devices for entertainment, flight information, and especially navigation.
In the Fall of 2012, Apple came out with its own navigation program dubbed Apple Maps, kicking Google Maps off their iOS platform with their new upgrade. But they may have put the cart before the horse, because Apple Maps failed miserably in the eyes of most iPhone users — and cartographers, journalists, travel professionals, tourists, and people who were lost — due to its inaccurate directions and shoddy 3D renderings. Three months later Google Maps came out with a free iPhone app, but by this time many tech consumers had learned this lesson the hard way: If you’re taking a trip to a city largely unknown to you, it’s a good idea to study maps before you travel.
With the failure of Apple Maps came an outpouring of digital navigation apps, both older companies like MapQuest and also newer startups have been trying to capture the market share freed up by the failure of Apple Maps. So it’s easy to predict that sooner or later, you will be able to find at least one navigation application that serves you well.
But one thing that is difficult to predict is your cell phone service. You may have all the latest map applications downloaded, but if your phone can’t connect to its network, your applications will likely be useless or severely inhibited.
That’s why it’s best to spend some time scanning the layout of your travel destination before you ever leave. You can get a feel for the city before you even set foot there. It may also be useful for you to bring a paper map or travel guide with you on your trip. In the event of a lagging data network, flip through your guidebook for advice on what to do. As for what to do with your smartphone if you don’t use it for navigation. . .?
We suggest using it as a camera.
These days, it seems like everyone’s a food critic, doesn’t it? Between blogs on Tumblr, photo sharing on Instagram, and the myriad of other ways people share information, more and more people are talking about, taking pictures of, and finding even more enjoyment from their food.
But it’s not only about being a food critic. Food is becoming more of an experience. As we focus more on the quality of food that we consume, people are becoming more analytical about their restaurant choices both at home and especially when they travel.
Whole Journeys, a food travel company owned by Whole Foods Market, exists purely to connect Whole Foods customers with the food sold in their stores. Whole Journeys travelers get real, genuine experiences with the local cultures who produce Whole Foods products. The company was founded on the fact that people want to make meaningful connections to other cultures through food.
Travelers are now considering food as a major part of the decision on where to travel. For example, a couple deciding where to vacation in Europe might select Italy over Germany in part because the food selection aligns more closely with what they enjoy. Even if you’ve never been to Italy, movies like 2010’s Eat, Pray, Love drive the point home that food can be a major reason to visit a particular destination, and it can even serve as a method of self-exploration. If nothing else, a few great culinary experiences are added benefits that can enhance your trip and nicely complement your other travel experiences like sightseeing and visiting museums.
Celebrity chefs and other television personalities are also adding to the growing popularity of food tourism. Anthony Bourdain’s television shows No Reservations and The Layover focus on the best places to eat in a given city, and Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives also highlights fun, unique restaurants with excellent food.
The idea behind shows, books, and websites like these is to give the viewer advice on how to eat like a local, and how to truly enjoy the experience.
One of our favorite business blogs is Spin Sucks, written by the PR company Arment Dietrich and its founder and CEO, Gini Dietrich. They frequently feature guest bloggers who are experts in their line of work, and we especially loved a post about paid time off (PTO) by Lindsay Bell, a relatively recent hire at Arment Dietrich.
Not that Lindsay is an expert in paid time off, but she’s an expert in being a working stiff (in a former life, of course) and living among the ranks of “no vacation nation,” otherwise known as professionals in the United States.
Of course, American workers have paid time off, but what little they do have is often eaten away at by life’s little nuisances: sick kids home from school, a busted sump pump. Suddenly, those vacation days in your PTO bank are gone, and you’re as pale, pasty and stressed out as you were before it ran dry.
Her post is about unlimited paid time off (UPTO), and we’re rather intrigued by the idea. We’ve written about one company’s revolutionary vacation policy , but there are less-extreme versions, too.
These company policies recognize that most American workers never actually stop working; it lets them strive for a greater work/life balance; and it implies a real sense of trust on behalf of management in the company’s employees. Companies monitor the amount of time taken and still require notice for longer periods away from the office, but in offices with UPTO, employees no longer need to ask for a half-day just to go to the doctor or run an errand in a neighboring town. They just do it.
Our take: Whether you have five days or an unlimited amount, use your vacation time, for heaven’s sake! And if your days are numbered, so to speak, don’t just use those days off to run errands, pay bills or paint your house. See the world. Make it count.
We love the idea of unlimited time off, though it may not be practical for every industry. It’s going to be hard to implement and monitor universally — we urge caution and careful thought for companies considering it — but we’ll agree with Lindsay that times have changed, and it’s time to start reevaluating policies like PTO at companies whenever possible.
- Do You Even Need a Vacation Policy? (noobpreneur.com)
- Paid leave offerings vary at Iowa businesses (thegazette.com)
- Why Don’t Americans Take More Vacation Time? [INFOGRAPHIC] (community.ally.com)
- Letter: Employees don’t take advantage of paid sick days (oregonlive.com)
Traveling abroad can be exciting, especially if you get a little time to enjoy yourself while you’re there, but whatever your reason for being overseas, being unable to get in touch with your loved ones and business contacts can really breed anxiety.
Luckily, there are plenty of options available for travelers willing to do their homework and a little legwork to stay in touch. Here are Laptop magazine’s top five ways to save money when you’re trying to stay connected overseas.
There are two main types of cell phone systems that are used widely around the world, CDMA and GSM. Sprint and Verizon Wireless use CDMA domestically, and beyond our borders, it’s used in South America and much of Asia. AT&T and T-Mobile use GSM in the United States, most of Africa, Europe and the Middle East.
Even if your phone is technologically compatible with your destination, you’ll still need to ensure that it works with the radio bands of the area. If everything aligns, check with your carrier to find out whether they offer special rates for international calling and data.
If you have an unlocked phone, you should be able to rent a SIM card that works in your destination country. If your phone isn’t unlocked yet, you’ll need to ask your carrier for a code to do so. Stop in to your wireless provider — the official store, not the “authorized dealer” and ask for help.
VoIP stands for “voice over Internet protocol,” and it includes services like Vonage, Skype and Google Voice. If your destination has readily available wireless Internet access, you can connect your phone to the network and make calls through those services — it’s much cheaper and tends to be quite reliable provided your connection is solid. You can connect your phone to a wifi hotspot and call using one of these services. You can even use Facetime on an iPad or iPhone to speak with loved ones at home.
Having trouble finding wi-fi? Snag a mobile hotspot to get connected when you need it most. Tep Wireless and XCom Global are two companies that rent mobile hotspots to travelers and let you pay based on the amount of data you use.
When all else fails, you may want to pick up a cheap rental phone that’s internationally compatible when you reach your destination. Tep Wireless and Telestial offer rental smart phones for predetermined lengths of time for much less than other potential scenarios.
You’ll definitely pay more for international calling and data than you would domestically, but it’s a small price to pay to be able to stay in touch with colleagues, clients, friends and family while you’re abroad. Provided you do a little research before your trip, you can get a good deal that keeps you connected when you need it.