We are back with more advice. These next three focus on travel preparation. Mainly how to plan ahead to make sure that you have not only a great hotel experience, but an amazing vacation. These are things that you, the traveller, can do and should think about before you hit the “book” button.
- Don’t rely on online reviews!!
I understand the need to want to make sure that you are staying somewhere nice and clean, but here is the problem with sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp, people tend to only believe the bad reviews. I am guilty of this, I’ll read reviews on a hotel and more than 80% of the reviews will be 5 stars and only 1% will be 1 star, yet my brain will only focus on those negative reviews.
Over the past two years, I’ve noticed that people will make accounts on these sites just to write that hotel a negative review, as some sort of vendetta because of an isolated incident that has more to do with that individual and less to do with the hotel itself. Sometimes, I would even read negative reviews by people who told me at check out that they had a wonderful stay. There are also those people who are looking for things to write a negative review about. These people exist more than you think and they make our lives miserable, because no matter what you do, they will never be happy and there is nothing they enjoy more than telling people how unhappy you made them. All you have to do is click on their TripAdvisor profile and see how many 1-star reviews they write. (Pro tip: There are also such things as fake reviews, meaning, bad reviews from people who never actually stayed in the hotel and good reviews designed to help the hotel’s star average)
Here’s my advice, if you are picky about hotels, like I am, stay at brands you trust. Hiltons and Marriotts are global brands with hotels all over the world. They have an image to protect and a standard to uphold. You are not going to walk into one of their hotels and see it filthy and littered with bed bugs, you just won’t. (Pro tip: a ladybug is not a bed bug.) Also, if you are planning a trip, ask you friends. We all have a facebook and I’m sure at least one of your online buddies has been to Disney World.
(This random and a little personal, but I think you should know. Many times when you check out of a hotel, you get an emailed survey to tell the hotel how they did. Basically, an online review for the hotel itself. Know that anything under a score of a 9 was a failing grade. That failing grade impacted the front desk agent that checked you in. Meaning, if you gave the hotel a 7 and said that everything was amazing expect that the hotel sells Pepsi instead of Coke products, the agent that checked you in got a failing grade. Even if you praised that agent for her customer service and gave the front desk high remarks, your overall score is what matters and that poor agent is the one that suffers, even when it’s not her fault. It’s a stupid system. Luckily for me, I had a cool manager, but not all managers are so understanding.)
- A request is just a request!!
According to dictionary.com, the definition of request is, “the act of asking for something to be given or done, especially as a favor or courtesy.” When making a reservation there are all sorts of requests that you can make, including but not limited to; room type, rollaway beds, extra pillows and blankets, early check ins, and late check outs. The hotel will do everything in its power to grant these requests, but there are sometimes when a request just can’t be accommodated.
Our hotel, for instance, had two choices when it came to room type. We had rooms with two double beds or one king bed. That was it. In the midst of all the requests, there were people that were guaranteed a certain bed type. According to our old friend dictionary.com, guaranteed means, “an assurance that another’s obligation will be fulfilled.” This means that we, the hotel, have to give them that room type. After we took care of all of our guarantees, we would hand out the rest of the kings at a first come, first serve basis. Therefore, if you got in late there was a good chance that all the kings would be gone.
Make sure that you are making these requests ahead of time, if we had the kings we would automatically give them to our requests. This means, if you have no request on your reservation, than you got a double.
You don’t make a request by thinking it, you actually have to make it. (Pro tip: don’t lie to the desk telling them that you did make that request. It does you no good and definitely doesn’t help your cause.) You can’t just come in and tell the hotel what room you want. I mean you can, but you can’t be upset if they can’t make that happen for you. Odds are the room that you want, is the room that everyone wants.
Do not yell at the desk when they can’t make your request happen. If you had read your reservation, it would have told you that your request was not guaranteed. I know this for a fact because when people started yelling at me, I ask them to show me their reservation. People are always so cocky until you ask them for proof. (Pro tip: most 3rd party sites don’t allow you to even make a request. Yet another reason to book through the hotel itself.)
There are a fews ways to make your requests happen. For big things like room type and early check in, call the hotel ahead of time. Talk to the desk, be extremely nice. They may just go ahead and guaranteed that request for you or they may be honest with you and tell you that it’s not going to happen, leaving you time to find new accommodations if needed. Know when to call though, if you call too early they won’t be able to help you and if you call too late, you may not be able to cancel your reservation without a fee. Call about a week out and call during normal business hours. For smaller things like blankets, pillows, and rollaways, request them as you are checking in. Don’t wait until you are climbing into bed at 10:30pm, other guests may have already beaten you to the punch. These requests are limited and when they are gone they are gone. For example, our hotel had 300 rooms and only 11 rollaways.
- Do your research before you travel!!
If there is one piece advice, that I could give to all travelers, it would be to research the location of which you are visiting. I am from Franklin. TN, a rather small suburban town just 20 miles south of Nashville. This town is also where our hotel is located. Nashville has become quite the tourist destination, in fact, it is the number one bachelorette party location outside of Vegas and hotels downtown are becoming increasingly more expensive. Nashville is growing faster than it can keep up with, this means that because of price and lack of hotel space downtown, we often got a lot of tourists. On top of that, Franklin is a super cute southern town with lots of character and history. 🙂
Here is the thing though, Nashville is not New York City and Franklin is definitely not NYC or any of the cities or towns around the Big Apple. Yes, Nashville is a major American city, but we are not very big. We have no real form of public transportation and while New York may be “the city that never sleeps”, Nashville and especially Franklin enjoy a little bit of sleep. Which leads me to the point, if you show up to Nashville or Franklin filled with assumptions and not facts, you are in for a bad time.
Story time: one night right around shift change, 11pm, a couple called saying they were at the airport and needed a taxi or the hotel shuttle. Well, we don’t have an airport shuttle and that late at night it could take me an hour to get a taxi to them, if I could get one at all. So, I recommend they take an Uber. They replied that they don’t use Uber and wanted a taxi. (Pro tip: learn how to use Uber. Uber is a taxi service and despite what you’ve heard, they pose the same risk that a taxi would pose. If you are trusting a stranger to drive you in a taxi, why don’t you trust a stranger to drive you in an Uber?) Knowing that I was going to have a lot of trouble getting them a taxi, I told them that they should go to the information stand in baggage claim, as they would know just who to call to get them a ride ASAP. They weren’t happy. They then asked if they could order room service when they arrived, I had to inform them that our kitchen had closed at 11. This made them even more unhappy. They then left a nasty review on TripAdvisor basically calling me a bitch and ripping us a new one because there were no taxis and our kitchen could not accommodate their late arrival. (Pro tip: See #4.)
Had this couple planned and researched where they were traveling, this wouldn’t have happened. Nashville does not have taxis like other big cities and the few that we have aren’t hanging around the airport that late at night. They are on Broadway picking up the drunks. They should have called the hotel in advance, we could have set up a car service for them or given them a great piece of advice, rent a car.
As for the food, I am sorry, but the kitchen is not staying open just for you. Furthermore, unless you want to eat in one of the honky-tonks downtown, everything closes at around 10. The only things open are the Taco Bell drive thru and Waffle House. That’s not our fault.
Other things to know about the area. It’s in the Bible Belt, which means you can’t buy alcohol on Sundays and most of the small cutesy touristy stores and shops are closed. Beale Street is in Memphis, not Nashville. Memphis is 3 hours away and Dollywood and the Smokies are 3 hours the other way. It’s disgustingly hot in the summer, it rains a lot in the spring, God help us all if it snows in the winter, and tornado season is real thing. Our hotel doesn’t have a spa or an outdoor pool, all our rooms are the same size, we are not pet friendly, we do not offer free breakfast, and you can only put a rollaway in a room with a king bed.
If only there was a magical device with all of the world’s answers. What if this thing could predict the weather, show you information not just about our hotel, but of all hotels, and give you the lowdown about the local area? Oh wait, there is. It’s called the internet.
Jokes aside, plan ahead of time. Know how you are going to get from the airport to the hotel. Know how the weather is looking that week and pack accordingly. Research when the best time to visit that area is. Nashville has a ton of music festivals and Franklin often has seasonal festivals going on. These events are great to visit, but they can cause traffic issues and shut down roads and many tourist destinations. If you have any questions, call the hotel, they will be more than happy to help. Also, the front desk, once you arrive, are great people to ask. They can share some local secrets, like it’s better the visit Downtown Franklin on Saturday and Downtown Nashville on Sunday. They can also set up transportation and dinner reservations. They can tell you what places to visit and what to skip. They know all.
That’s all for today. Once again, I hope that this advice has helped you in some way. If you have any questions or concerns just leave us a comment. Thursday will we discuss hotel phones, common hotel issues and the best way to handle them, and walks.