If hotel alarm clocks set you off, you’re not alone

Mention hotel alarm clocks to a frequent guest and you’ll probably get an earful. Those ever-present digital clock radios frequently evoke feelings of confusion, frustration and even rage. Read more “If hotel alarm clocks set you off, you’re not alone”

The truth about third-party booking “scams”? Maybe hotels can’t handle the truth

I don’t know anyone who’s been scammed by a third-party hotel site. But I should have known better than to admit it — and in the Washington Post, no less. Read more “The truth about third-party booking “scams”? Maybe hotels can’t handle the truth”

Do ethics matter in travel? Yes, and here’s why

Maybe you missed the announcement that the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) is introducing a “ground-breaking” new course focused on ethics in the travel industry. Read more “Do ethics matter in travel? Yes, and here’s why”

Why hotels are happy to accommodate guest requests — up to a point

When Jim Reid checks into a Westin hotel, he inevitably catches a whiff of a “woody cedar and vanilla” scent called White Tea. It’s a pleasant smell to most guests, but not to him. Read more “Why hotels are happy to accommodate guest requests — up to a point”

Will a Hotwire star dispute ruin my visit to Milwaukee?

When Brian Cross scored a “four star” hotel in Milwaukee recently through Hotwire, he assumed he’d be staying in an upscale property. But as I’ve noted in the past, Hotwire’s stars don’t necessarily compare to other established ratings systems.

And Hotwire — which doesn’t reveal the name of the hotel until after you’ve paid for it online — assigned him to The Ambassador in downtown Milwaukee. (Here’s how it stacks up on TripAdvisor and Google.) Cross also made a second booking at what he thought was a three-star hotel, with similarly disappointing results. He got a room at the Best Western.

“The Ambassador hotel is on the outskirts of downtown approximately 20 blocks away from the Milwaukee River, in a less than desirable neighborhood,” he says. “I would submit that due to the conditions of the neighborhood and the age of the hotel, you would not find many who would consider this location to be a four star hotel.”
Read more “Will a Hotwire star dispute ruin my visit to Milwaukee?”

Traveling with pets (but first, a Chihuahua-on-a-plane story)

There’s an unwritten rule in travel journalism that any story about pets on planes must contain at least one Chihuahua anecdote. I know, because I’ve written many of them. So let’s get right to Charlotte Coan and her travel companion, Cricket.

Coan, a retired educator from West Yellowstone, Mont., frequently packs her nine-pound dog in her carry-on luggage. But like an increasing number of travelers, she doesn’t tell anyone. She’s been caught twice, and the airline has forced her to pay a $150 surcharge for the pet.

“When I asked why I had to pay a fee in order to stuff my dog under the seat in front of me, I was told it was their policy,” she said. “I concluded that it’s really just a ploy to charge another fee.”

A lot of travelers have been arriving at the same conclusion lately, although exact numbers are difficult to come by. Instead of paying extra “pet fees” to hotels or airlines, they’re spiriting their animal companions into their bags or under blankets in the hope of saving a few bucks.
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Hotels try to kick the smoking habit

After President Obama’s negative comments about Sin City and his subsequent mea culpa (“I love Vegas — always have!”), I realize that this might not be the most prudent way to start a column. But how do you fire up a discussion about smoking in hotels without mentioning America’s capital of secondhand smoke?

Azita Arvani recently returned from a trade show in Las Vegas, where she requested a nonsmoking room at her resort. It didn’t matter.

“Smoke came in through the central air conditioning units,” said Arvani, a Los Angeles technology consultant. “I usually don’t have any problems with hotels and smoking. Except when I go to Las Vegas.”

That makes two of us. I’ve never been to Nevada’s largest city without spending at least a few moments of every day gasping for fresh air.
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