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I stay in a lot of hotels. I mean, A LOT of hotels (my husband and I joke that our apartment is just a place to keep our stuff. We don't actually live there). And for the most part, my experiences are quite positive. But occasionally, I might stay in a room that looks -- and smells -- like a family of Sasquatch had stayed there before me. Or one that's so noisy, I've considered grabbing the blankets off the bed and dragging them underneath the nearest freeway, in order to get some relative peace and quiet.
Fortunately, if you find yourself in a room you aren't happy with, there are plenty of options to improve your stay that don't involve spending the night underneath an overpass or plugging up your nostrils. Just keep calm, take a few deep breaths, and check out our eight essential tips for making your next hotel stay a pleasant one, no matter how bad the circumstances.
1.) Let the staff know that you aren't happy -- immediately. If you have a bellhop with you, don't let him leave unless you're satisfied with the room. If, after a quick glace, you find there's a family of possums in the closet or raccoons have chewed through the electrical wiring, let someone know right away. The sooner you inform the staff that you need to switch rooms, the easier it will be on all of you (plus, it spares housekeeping the task of cleaning your room twice).
Gallery: Hotel Carter
2. ) Be flexible. If you're willing to accept a downgrade (e.g., no view or balcony) or trade in a king room for two queens, the hotel will more easily be able to accommodate your request to change rooms. If there are no other rooms available in your price range, ask them to upgrade you to a problem-free room at no extra charge. While most places won't offer this up on their own, they likely won't refuse when you suggest it, either.
3.) See if the problem can be fixed. If you can't switch rooms, ask the staff to remedy the situation: if the room is dirty, ask for another pass by housekeeping. If a sink is clogged, request a visit from maintenance. If you suspect there's a poltergeist in the bathroom ... well, you know who to call. If you're still unsatisfied with your accommodations and have exhausted all other options, let the staff know that you'd like to move into another room as soon as one is available.
Gallery: Top 15 hotel rooftop views
But even those of us who make great (dare we say, flawless?) travel decisions falter now and then. Especially when it comes to picking a travel companion. For some reason, people tend to change dramatically when on a trip. It might be that the oxygen-rich recycled air has gone to their brain. Or that jet lag, combined with one-too-many in-flight drinks, has brought out their inner crazy. Maybe it's the stress of being somewhere new and strange. Whatever the reason, you may have the misfortune to find that, no matter how great you are at making decisions for your trip, you've managed to pick a travel companion who ... well, who just plain sucks.
Perhaps they snore incessantly, or chew with their mouth open. Maybe they've used your last clean shirt ... as a handkerchief. Whatever the reason, you are not getting along. As the trip progresses, you feel tempers running short and a screaming match between the two of you looms on the horizon. But you're stuck together. You might be thousands of miles away from home. You might have no one else to talk to. You might even be sharing the same bathroom.
First off, take a deep breath. Having a miserable travel companion doesn't necessarily mean you're going to have a miserable trip. These tips and tricks will ensure that you'll both get home in one piece, and, with any luck, you'll still be talking to one another, too.
Kill them ... with kindness.
You will notice I said WITH KINDNESS. As ridiculous as it sounds, being excessively polite and kind to your loathsome travel mate will probably help ease tensions (I'm not saying it's easy, but it will help). Plus, they'll find it exponentially harder to stiff you on the bill or be an all-around snot to you when you're acting so darn nice. And in the end, you'll come across as the good guy -- because a travel companion who's "being too nice" isn't really something they can complain about.
But lately, I've noticed a little rebellious streak has emerged within me, particularly in the realm of travel. I've realized that a lot of people like to issue travel rules. Definitive statements about what we should and shouldn't do as travelers. And frankly, that seems silly.
Now, don't get me wrong: if the U.S. government issues a travel warning about heading to a foreign land, I think you should listen (or, you know, at least read the warning). I don't think that walking down dark alleys is strange cities is necessarily a good idea. But I do think that some travel rules were made to be broken. And that by doing so, you'll actually have a better time than if you had obeyed them. Here are seven travel rules I recommend you ignore.
Rule: Never check your bag.
I've heard this rule repeated time and again by experienced travelers (and I'm not going to lie: I've said it myself a few times as well). They warn that checking your bag makes you that much more likely to lose it. Or have your stuffed damaged, stolen, or otherwise snooped through.
Still, this is a rule that is delightful to ignore. After all, checking a bag makes going through security a breeze -- no need to worry about liquid restrictions, or having to lug your bag with you while simultaneously trying to remove your shoes, watch, belt, underwear, and dental fillings. Plus, checking your bag means that you'll be able to purchase an array of items that you couldn't otherwise pack (perfume, wine, etc). I'll never forget the time my hubby and I didn't buy an absolutely amazing bottle of liqueur because we didn't want to check our bags. I still think about it, and would have gladly waited an extra 20 minutes at baggage claim to have it.
Rule: Pack light.
I once read an article in a travel magazine in which the author implored his readers to pack nothing for their next trip. Absolutely nothing. Underwear was meant to be washed in the sink. Shirts could be re-worn several times.
For me, this isn't exactly a viable option -- perhaps because "washing underwear in the hotel bathroom sink" isn't on my vacation to-do list.