I hate to lead with bad news, but here goes: to truly enjoy a successful vacation you’re going to have to go back to school. Sort of.
That’s right, folks, to truly have fun you need to do your homework.
You have two choices (its always good to have options, right?) to choose from, but I suggest you explore both.
1) You can use the internet for something other than tossing virtual birds or “liking” things and do some research on your destination. You may even learn something that could prove invaluable; for instance, a friend’s grandparents failed to check out the “internets” and so they found themselves smack-dab in the middle of a zombie walk!
They were fine, by the way, Grandma simply suffered a heart-attack-like-event…
2) If you’re going to be engaging in an actual conversation with an actual person, you should make the most of it.
When calling a hotel/resort’s reservation line, remember to take advantage of the knowledge at your disposal and ask as many questions as you can about the property, the rooms and the area. That way, you can arrive armed with valuable insight, like just when a horde of zombies is going to be parading around town.
And always remember to ask whether or not you’re speaking to someone who is actually working from the destination you’ll be traveling to; most of the time “Betty” from No-Name Hotels, Chicago is in actuality “Aliyya” from Shell Company Incorporated, Dubai.
So what should you be looking for?
Room size. If you have a family, you need as much space as you can afford.
Discounts/coupons. Auto Club, seniors, major credit card companies, etc. You need your cash, try to save as much of it as you can!
Smoking or non? You’d be amazed how many people wait until they arrive at the room – and I’ve unpacked their bags – before they ask that question…
Is the hotel busy that week? Say, because of a march of the living dead?
Is there a fridge or kitchenette in the rooms? This is the sort of question that makes a bellman say to himself, “If someone asks me that one more time, I’ll go Russell Crowe on their ass and bash them upside the head with a phone!” He actually did that, look it up.
Restaurant hours and recommendations. Hunger is a primal need. It takes preparation to fill it. Ask about free breakfasts as well.
Free Wi-Fi? You’re reading this, so you must realize the importance of the ‘net in our lives, right?
Check the exchange rate. This is a must in Niagara Falls.
To cover the full spectrum of questions would take several posts and cost hundreds of lives.. Sorry about that, I veered into a speech from Animal House. I love that flick…
At any rate, there are a million questions you can ask that can help you decide when to book or how to avoid hidden fees (they’re extremely popular these days, so watch out!), but most of them are hidden away in your noggin so you’ll have to make a custom list. Just remember to consult it when checking in! There is no shame in standing at a counter and reading from a laundry list of queries that will save your trip if asked correctly.
1) A credit card is both a blessing and a curse. I f you rely on cash, you’ll spend less, and that ain’t bad. If you want to avoid being at the mercy of a high cash exchange rate, you can use your plastic, which also comes in handy for incidentals and large purchases like dinner or car rentals, but the inevitable bill can leave a bad taste in your mouth. And speaking of bad tastes…
2) Be wary of packing snacks to save money on food. A lot of people swear by this practice, but trust me, I see most people hauling the snacks back out with them at check-out time. Your kids want real food, not three square meals of granola bars and fruit snacks – washed down with juice boxes and Red Bull!
3) Don’t underestimate your child’s ability to spot a cheap knock-off. There are a few parenting gurus out there who advocate buying souvenirs at department stores before you leave home (T-shirts, accessories, toys, etc.), others suggest visiting websites that sell knock-off Disney dresses and accessories. It’s your call, but I’ve seen this tactic fail more than once, and unlike these armchair experts, I’m actually “in the field”, as it were. Take a hard-line with your kids and only buy souvenirs you can afford.
4) Guys, be smart and purchase a “PVG”, before you leave. Let’s face it, fellas, you’re going to mess up while you’re away, so buy something nice for your lady ( a “Post Vacation Gift”) and give it to her when you get home.
And that’s it, folks. I’ll revisit this topic again, but for now, follow my advice and do whatever it takes to eliminate “vacation stress”, and that means before, during and after. You’ll be glad you did.
See you in the lobby, kids…