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15 hotel tips from the airline crew

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I love staying at hotels. One would think that being an airline crewmember, I would dread layovers by now, but I don’t. In fact, it’s just the opposite; the longer I stay in this job, the more I grow to appreciate the amenities of a quality hotel.

There are so many different aspects such as room comfort, a fitness center, dining and entertainment, overall feel and nearby attractions — the list is endless. It’s a home away from home, a clean room, comfy bed, a wealth of appliances, television, no crying kids and most of the time a wonderful sanctuary away from the normal routine of life.

With the uncertainties in the airline industry of late, I think the escape provided by a hotel layover would be what I would miss the most. Since I do most of my writing from my layover hotel room, I thought it befitting to write one about hotel stays. I asked many crewmembers for their best tip on a hotel stay and the following were the top answers.

1. Special requests. At check-in, ask for a room with a window that can be opened. Cooped up all night with air conditioning or constant heat can be quite confining, and having fresh outside air can often make your stay (except maybe in Beijing). Sometimes a maintenance worker has to be called to open it but the receptionist usually knows which rooms already have adjustable windows.

2. Location. Don’t get a room by the elevator or ice machine. You will feel the vibrations all night long. It may not be apparent at first, but, believe me, when the lights are out, it will be. One more thing, if the hotel has a disco, make sure you get a room at least two floors away. I can’t tell you how many nights in South America I tried to sleep to the beat.

3. Stop the free show. First thing, go to your window and close the curtains, especially after dark, because the number of unwitting strip shows that I have been privy to and likely that I have provided myself through the years, is plentiful.

4. Pass on the cashier. The poorest place to exchange money is at the hotel. Not only will they give you the worst exchange rate possible, they might even charge a commission. Go to the nearest ATM for the rate of the day.

5. Do not disturb sign. If your room does not have one, call the concierge or make one out of the hotel stationery paper. Without it, the housekeeping crew will drive you bananas in the morning. I have lost count of amount of times a maid has caught me in a naked stumble for the bathroom.

6. Say Hi to hygiene. Take off your bedspread — the hotels probably clean them as much as the airlines clean their seat covers, which is once annually, if at all. Use a sani-wipe or at least a hand towel and wipe off the TV remote control. I shudder to think what the last occupant might have been doing with it. And I am sure most everyone has heard about the special media report on the scant attention the maid service gives to the room’s glassware. Be sure to clean any kitchen item before using, especially glasses.

7. Acclimatize the air. Set the air temperature right away, so you can get a feel for it and adjust it accordingly before you call it a night. If you only get to it before you sleep, you could wake to a frosty room or find yourself in a tropical sweat. Either way, your sleep will suffer.

8. Check the plumbing. Turn on the shower and flush the toilet. If there is a noticeable change in water temperature, keep your guard up, because hot spikes are probable. The number of times that I have been burned in the hotel shower is shocking, or I should say, scalding.

9. Avoid room service. It’s expensive, anti-social, anti-cultural and should be reserved for a special occasion or in desperate times, such as romantic interludes, sickness, sunburn or utter exhaustion.

10. Television timer. If there is a timer function on the remote control, set it, no matter how alert you feel now. Waking up to a horror or war movie on high volume is a scary experience.

11. Double take. When leaving, look around the room for things you might have left behind. Put your towels in the bath-tub and your garbage in the trash bin. Not only does it help the maid but you may re-discover that thingamajig you almost left behind.

12. Concierge caution. By all means ask the concierge for directions and recommendations on dining and entertainment, but be aware that many higher priced places offer bribes in exchange for their suggestions. If they tell you to mention their name to the owner, give it a miss.

13. Relax. Make some time for yourself. Lie in bed for an extra hour, take an extra long shower, lounge around in your robe. You may miss your family, but I bet you could use a time-out. If you take a break from the daily drama, you will be well rested for your return.

14. Take but don’t steal. We all know the things in hotel rooms that are considered OK for taking home, like pens and stationery, but other items like remote control batteries, toilet paper, light bulbs and towels are in fact stealing and can be charged directly to your credit card.

15. Earplugs. Yes, my top in-flight tip is also one of my top hotel tips. It’s very important that you get used to wearing them. Put them by the bedside table. Bring a back-up pair, just in case.

Do you have any hints of your own? Send them to me and I will update the list.

Enjoy your stay!

James Wysong is a veteran flight attendant who has worked with two major international carriers. James recently released a new book, “.” For more information about James, visit his Web site or send him an e-mail.