Bonnie Low Kramen shares her top travel tips and favorite hotel amenities
I travel. A lot. Well, not as much as Lucy Brazier or Vickie Evans, but a lot. In fact, I started writing this essay in the car to CDG, Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris and now I am completing it on my way home to EWR, Newark Liberty. Life is ruled by airport codes and it’s handy to know what they are. In the past months, I have been to LHR (Heathrow), JNB (Johannesburg), ATL (Atlanta) and IAH (Houston) too, plus a few more I’m sure.
Here are my top travel tips and favorite hotel amenities to appreciate on the road. I hope to save you some stress and angst the next time you travel.
Bonnie’s Top Travel Tips
1. Have local currency for tipping. Use your bank card at the ATM machine at the airport when you land and the fees are the lowest you’ll find.
2. But before you do #1, be sure to call your credit card company and phone company a few days before your trip to alert them of your travel plans. With all the fraud that is going on these days, doing this will prevent your card from being denied when you are starving for your fast food. Yes, this happened to me at JAX (Jacksonville International). Never again. Oh, and even if you read that you can give them this travel alert online, don’t believe them. This is one of those situations when it is best to speak with a human and receive verbal confirmation. www.gethuman.com
3. Have the addresses and phone numbers of where you are headed very handy. Even though the limo/taxi/Uber driver should know how to get there, he/she still may not know and there may be a language barrier. Save yourself aggravation and keep this information very accessible.
4. Do not travel internationally again without Global Entry or whatever system your country offers to re-enter the country FAST. This is one of the top ten inventions of all time, right up there with the GPS, especially if you travel a great deal. Yes, it costs some money and yes, it requires an application process and a short interview, but wow, is it worth it. Would you like to zip through Customs in less than 2 minutes or wait on line for 1+ hours? No brainer.
5. Have the bellman teach you how to work everything in the hotel room, including the shower. For example, in Dubai, everything – lights, drapes, air conditioning – was controlled through a small computer keypad on the desk. When you are in a country foreign to your own, these things may not all be user-friendly and there will be a learning curve. This is what tips are for.
6. Speaking of desks – Believe it or not, not all hotel rooms have one. I arrived in my lovely hotel room near ORD (Chicago O’Hare) which contained three television sets but no desk or chair. I moved to another room. Really??
7. Clocks – Not all rooms have clocks either. If yours does not, I became a fan of using my iPad as my clock. Just keep it charged.
8. Speaking of chargers and power adaptors – If you forgot yours (as I just did in Paris,) the front desk can usually loan you one or two unless they run out of them as happened to me in DXB (Dubai). Then it usually means buying another one somewhere. More unnecessary wasted time.
9. Speaking of forgetting things –Frequent traveling can be really fun but really tiring as well. At least for me, my fatigued brain easily forgets things, like the umbrella I left on the funicular at the Montmartre in Paris. And of course, it was pouring. Be sure to try to get as much rest as possible. Your computer isn’t the only thing that needs to re-charge. Jet lag can sneak up in a nasty way.
10. Reserve a taxi the night before. Don’t assume that just because you are staying at a busy hotel that taxis will automatically be there when you need one. Plus, Uber is not in every city in the world. We always need a Plan B, right?
11. A special shout out to the hotel managers of the world who cheerfully allow early check-ins, especially after flying all night and not being able to sleep on a plane and then a 2 hour ride to the hotel. You are very special humans who make this possible for extremely tired and cranky travelers.
Bonnie’s Favorite Hotel Amenities
1. I don’t like being cold. Therefore, anything that heats up makes me happy. Heated towel warmers, heated floors, and cozy comforters are three of my top hotel features. And in NYC, one hotel even had heated toilet seats. I kid you not and truth be told, it was kind of nice.
2. Motion-activated night lights next to the bed. What a brilliant idea! If you have to get up in the middle of the night in a pitch black room, a dim light will come on to light the way, wherever it is you want to go. No more tripping or bumping into furniture.
3. Complimentary coffee on your hotel floor. I enjoy a cup of coffee as I get ready in the morning. I loved my hotel in ATL that had a full coffee set up on each floor, not only in the main lobby. I was able to dash out in the comfy robe they provided and get my coffees without anyone seeing me, except for whoever monitors those hallway video cameras, that is.
4. Complimentary breakfast. It’s hard to find a bad meal in Paris and breakfast is no exception. A delicious hot and free breakfast is a very nice feature for all hotels to offer.
5. Free car service. Another shout out to the ATL hotel that gave free rides to destinations that are five miles or less from the hotel. Very nice. The only caveat was that I needed to come down to the lobby 15 minutes or so before I needed the ride. Done.
6. Comfy chairs. Not only in the lobby but in the restaurants. I judge a restaurants and bars not only by the food and drinks, but the chairs.
7. Snacks at the front desk. A bowl of apples, flavored water, energy bars are really nice to grab and go when you are just a little hungry. The Atlanta hotel went a step further and changed these snacks with the time of day. One afternoon the snack du jour was a huge bowl of colorful Tootsie Pops. Very fun and one sure way of feeling like a kid again.
It’s time to plug in my computer at my seat on the plane and yay, it works! Happy and safe travels to you!