Just call me Eloise. Once again, I find myself living in a hotel. You see, if an employee wants to move up in the hotel industry, it often means moving around. A lot. And my husband moves up in his jobs. A lot. So every couple of years, we find ourselves moving to a new town and a new property.
In some ways, it’s really cool. We’ve gotten to live lots of exciting places. But moving a household is extremely stressful. It was tough when it was just him and me, but it’s extra-tough now that we have kids. However, working in this industry has one fabulous perk. When you get to a certain level of management, you’re usually allowed to live in the hotel until you find a new home. This relieves much of the move-related stress.
So here I am, at a beautiful property in downtown Little Rock, Ark. I mean beautiful. The food served here is amazing Southern fare, so it’s right up my alley. We’re in a suite that’s larger than my old house, I’m sure. The staff is very friendly, and they make me feel right at home. So what have I got to complain about?
Well, as I’m sure you road warriors can attest, too many nights away from home can really take its toll on a traveler. Once you spend more than a week or so in a hotel room, you start to get antsy. So I want to pass along some extended-stay survival tips that have helped me over the years, just in case you find yourself stuck in a generically-decorated box for any length of time.
Space matters: Go big or go home. Get the largest room — preferably suite — that you can afford. Little known fact: Hotel rooms shrink by 10 square feet each night you stay in them. Even agoraphobes can become claustrophobic after too much time in a small hotel room. So treat yourself to as much space as possible.
Ask for lots of extras: A refrigerator is handy. A DVD player can help break the monotony. An extra lamp may make you feel cozy. Your room may not come standard with certain amenities, but it doesn’t hurt to ask for them. Just speak to a manager about any special requests. There may be a small charge for some of these items, but it will most likely be worth it. Having your own coffee maker and small refrigerator for your cream is so much better than having to call room service for your cup of joe every single morning.
Keep it clean: You may be a slob at your house, but you should be neat as a pin in your hotel room. Again, it’s all about space. If you have dirty clothes draped over every surface, the room will feel small and chaotic. A messy room will make you highly irritable without your even knowing it.
About that dirty laundry ... Many hotels offer laundry and dry cleaning service, but it’s often not great. If the hotel does laundry in-house, employees may not have the time or the expertise to treat your garments as directed on the care labels. And if it’s sent out, it may be done by the low-bidder laundry service, which often means low-quality. Ask a sharply dressed employee for the scoop. He should honestly tell you if the hotel service is up to par, or if there’s a nearby dry cleaner that does a better job. And maybe this is just a personal problem, but I can’t stand for other people to wash my underwear. If you’re like me, don’t forget to pack a pair of skivvies for every day you’ll be gone, plus extras!
Keep some privacy: When you’re living in a hotel, you’ll feel more comfortable if you don’t have strangers traipsing in and out of your “house” every day. Chris Elliott has suggested , and I agree. You really don’t need your room fully serviced every day — bed linens changed, tub scrubbed, floors mopped and more. Chances are, you only need what I call a “trash and tidy” — wastebaskets emptied and towels refreshed — every couple of days. Just leave the DND on the door and flag down or call a housekeeper when you want the TNT. Wait until you know you’ll be out for a few hours to get the full works. You’ll probably only need a full cleaning once a week or less.
You’re not on permanent vacation, so watch what you eat. I , but I also . I find these two passions are not compatible. Wanting to eat lots of room service while wanting to maintain your current weight is like wanting Obama and McCain on the same ticket. You must do one of two things: Eat less or exercise more. Take the time to go to a local market and get some fruits and veggies, low-fat string cheese, healthy cereal and unsalted nuts (this is where that refrigerator comes in handy). Use the hotel’s gym, or get a guest pass to one nearby. Order those exercise programs from the in-room movie menu. You’ve got to stay healthy, or else you’ll end up feeling rotten. (I can feel my hips spreading as I sit here and write this, since I just inhaled a delicious shrimp Caesar salad, but at least I went to a local yoga class tonight!)
Get out! When your room is large, and the staff is nice, and the food is great, it can be tempting to hole up in your room. Don’t. Get out of the building as much as you can. Try a new bar or restaurant. Visit an eclectic museum. Grab a map and go for an aimless drive. Take the kids to a park. Whatever interests you, get out and do it!
Amy Bradley-Hole has worked in the hotel industry for many years in many different positions and at all types of properties — from small luxury boutique hotels to large resorts, both in the United States and abroad. or on Tripso.com.