Category Archives: Hotel Hell

Tips for Sales Reps: How to Find the Best Hotels for Your Next Road Trip

BusinessHotel

The majority of sales reps have a territory which is sufficiently large and requires some overnight travel.  If you are new to your territory, it can take some time to find that perfect hotel in each city.  In this article, I will provide some general tips on how to find the best hotels to suit your needs.

As some of you know, in my most recent position, my territory encompassed the entire country of Canada.  When I first started, 99% of the territory was unfamiliar to me and I made SEVERAL bad hotel choices on my first few trips.  I previously summarized some of my worst hotel experiences in my article discussing Why You Shouldn’t Always Trust Hotel Websites.  Based on my experience, I have devised a list of suggestions for selecting the best hotel for business accommodations, if you are in sales or will be on the road at some point in your travels.

Factors to Consider when Selecting your Accommodations:

1. Location

LocationMap

  • Proximity to Meetings: Ideally you should select a hotel that is located close to your first meeting of the day or has easy highway access in order to reduce your commuting time. However, in my experience I often sacrifice this luxury and will stay up to even an hour away from my first meeting in order to stay at a better hotel.
  • Neighborhood: If you don’t know the area, chances are you don’t know the neighburhood. I have stayed at highly reputable hotel chains that are located in such sketchy areas where I felt concerned for my safety getting in and out of my vehicle. You can try to read trip reviews prior to booking in order to ascertain the type of neighborhood a hotel is located in because usually if it’s really bad, people will indicate that in their reviews.
  • Traffic Flow: If I am staying I a major city, I will often stay somewhere where my first meeting is against the regular traffic flow.   Most people commute into the city in the morning and out of the city in the afternoon.  If I stay in the city, I will book my first appointment the furthest west and my last appointment closest to the city such that I am never caught in the bulk of rush hour traffic.

2. Parking

Parking sign.

  • Location: Not all hotels have on-site parking! Heck, some city hotels don’t even have an area to pull up and park while you check –in during rush hour. One hotel I stayed at only had parking in a lot that was 1km away and there was no unloading area during rush hour. Not very convenient when you’re carrying over 100lbs of luggage!  Be sure to call the hotel in advance if the parking accommodations are not clearly described on the hotel website.
  • Cost: Factor this into the cost of your total hotel stay. In the city, parking rates can be outrageous.  If that is the case, consider staying further out of town.
  • Valet: Sometimes hotels only offer valet parking which is not only costly, but inconvenient during the morning rush when EVERYONE wants their car! It’s also inconvenient if you have to get your car at 5am (typical for me) and the valet guy hasn’t shown up for work yet or doesn’t start until later. Avoid this if you can, unless you’re not in a rush.

 3. Amenities

HotelGym

  • Free wi-fi: Believe it or not, some hotels still have the nerve to charge for wi-fi. If you will be staying at a hotel for several days, make sure this is included in the price.
  • Gym: It is extremely important to incorporate fitness into your schedule. It is so easy to fall off track and out of your regular workout routine when you travel, so do your best to find a hotel with a gym and make an honest effort to include at least 30 minutes of physical activity in your day.  For more detailed tips, read my previous article on How to Keep Fit While on the Road.
  • Kitchen: I prefer to stay at suite hotels with full kitchens because that way I can prepare all of my own meals, eat healthier and make myself feel more at home (which can be quite nice if you are travelling for extended periods of time). For tips on all the meals you can prepare in a hotel room, be sure to read my article How to Eat Healthy While on the Road.

4. Reviews

Reviews

It is possible to spend countless hours on the web reading an endless sea of reviews for any hotel! I have to admit that I secretly find this entertaining and will waste a lot of time doing this solely for my own amusement. I mean who doesn’t find it amusing to hear people bitch it out over the pettiest little things???   However if you need to get down to business and  find a highly reputable place to stay ASAP, there is a new business travel app available called CinchTravel which amalgamates hotel reviews from multiple websites and provides the best suggestion for the particular area you search.  This app also gives you the ability to store your preferences such that when you type in the next city in which you are searching for accommodations, the app will give you the best flights and hotels based on that location, history and preferences.  Unfortunately this only currently available for iPhone and I have a BlackBerry, so I will have to do my searches the old fashioned way for now.

5. Rewards/Membership Programs

Rewards

Most major hotel chains offer some sort of rewards or membership program.  These programs are free and can provide you with a variety of perks including free early/late check-in, free wi-fi, free upgrades and points which you can use as credit towards future hotel stays.  The more you stay at hotel chains associated with the same rewards program, the quicker you will be eligible for free hotel stays which you can use for your own personal vacation.

6. Cost

cost

This is quite obvious but worth a mention and hence why I have listed it last.  Often if you can stay a bit further from downtown, you can get a much better deal.  After all, if you have your own vehicle, it doesn’t really matter because you can drive wherever you want.

I realize this may seem like a lot of factors to consider when selecting accommodations but all I can say is, it pays off to do your homework.

 

Travel safe my friends.

Cheers,

 

TSW

Please follow and like The Travelling Saleswoman:
0

Why You Shouldn’t Always Trust Hotel Websites

bates_motel_embed1

Have you ever booked a hotel online which you thought looked great on the hotel website only to discover that it more closely resembles The Bates Motel upon your arrival?  And found yourself wondering, “What the heck am I doing here? Why on earth did I book this wretched place?”  You are not alone!

Quite often hotel websites can be very misleading.  They contain photos of hotel rooms and facilities that may have been taken 10-20 years ago, or the last time the hotel was renovated.  Another scam is that some hotel chains may have standard photographs of hotel rooms that they use to represent all hotels in that particular chain even though in reality, some of their hotels are high end and others more closely resemble 1 star motels.  How are you to know the difference?

Another kicker is that usually by the time you arrive at the hotel (or motel), you won’t be allowed to cancel without any penalty.  Most hotels have very strict cancellation policies which usually require that you provide 24-48 hours notice or more to cancel your reservation.

Websites like TripAdvisor can be immensely helpful when selecting a hotel because for the most part, the reviews are legitimate.  Occasionally however, especially if the town you plan to stay in is quite small, even the top rated hotel might not just be up to your usual standards.  Sometimes even the top rated hotel can be well, much, much worse than you had ever imagined.  Below are some of my hotel booking horror stories:

Oriental Working Girl Oasis

Oriental Room

I needed to stay at a hotel that was relatively close to my first appointment that I had scheduled for early the following morning.  After reviewing all of the hotels on TripAdvisor (but without reading the reviews I must add!), I booked myself into a hotel that was rated 4/5 stars, was very highly rated in the provincial hotel rating system and wasn’t cheap. At $175 per night,  how bad could it be?

Upon my arrival at this “hotel”, I quickly realized that it was more of a motel and located within walking distance from a strip club.  In the hotel lobby, I noticed that the high ranking they received from the provincial hotel rating system was well out of date. They put me in a room that I can only describe as an ‘Oriental Working Girl Oasis’, to put it nicely.  The picture of this Oriental themed room is from the hotels website and was clearly taken before it was ever used.  What you can’t see in this picture is that the room:

  • had mirrors all around the bed and on the ceiling
  • stunk like cigars and perfume
  • had no windows, just a sliding door to the street
  • and everything was covered in dust (clearly nobody was using the desk!)

I didn’t want to touch or use anything in that room.

So what did I do?

I knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep, so I kept all of my clothes on including my boots and a hat, drank a bottle of wine, passed out on the bed (on top of the covers on my jacket) and just got up and left immediately for my meeting the next morning. I didn’t even open my suitcase. I left it in the car because I was sure that some sort of vermin or insects would get into it. I know this doesn’t sound very classy, but in speaking with other sales representatives, I’m certain that I’m not the only one who has experienced this!

In doing some research, I discovered that this small town with a population of just over 50,000 people has 4 strip clubs.  That’s 1 strip club per 12,500 people! In Canada, Windsor and Montreal both claim to have the highest number of strip clubs in Canada. Windsor has 10 strip clubs to service a population of 217,000 (ratio of 1:21,700) and Montreal has 75 strip clubs to service a population of 1.62 Million people (ratio of 1: 21,600).  Based on this basic internet research I’ve done, I’m pretty sure I was staying in the Strip Club Capital of Canada!   Next time around, I stayed at a very nice place that was over an hour from my first meeting.

 

Escort Escapade Hotel: The 5 Star Experience

woman-man-hotel-120427

This hotel I found online and not on a trusted traveler site.  I was looking for a nice hotel in this particular city where I had an early meeting the next morning.  In an internet search, this 5 star hotel came up.  The website looked nice and the pictures of the room looked fabulous.  The price was decent as well.  I must add that this hotel website was in both English and French and the English side didn’t seem to make too much sense to me.  The gist was that it was ideal for all business travelers and it had photos of what appeared to be business or high class couples enjoying champagne in the hotel room.  When I went to make the reservation, I noticed that you could only do so if you paid in full with PayPal in advance.  I called the hotel and they informed me that they do not accept credit cards but will accept cash or PayPal.  This was a HUGE red flag!  I asked my coworker to read the French side of the webpage, and well, let’s just say that there was a lot of information about this place that was either not correctly translated into English or not translated period!  In particular, this “hotel” offered packages for business travelers where the hotel room was accompanied by an escort! I was sure glad to find this out BEFORE I decided to book this hotel and show up.  Needless to say, I found alternative accommodations that did not come with an escort!

Hotel Hell

hotel corridor

I discovered this gem which I call “Hotel Hell” when I first started out in sales.  One of my superiors recommended to me that when I am researching hotels, that I should book those that were either in close proximity a major highway or the airport, depending on my schedule, so that is precisely what I did.   However, having just researched location and price, I did not spend much time researching the quality of these hotels and now I am much the wiser!

This hotel was supposedly close to the airport and very reasonably priced.  I had a very early flight the next morning, so I figured it would be fine to just spend the night.  As I pulled up to the hotel, I quickly realized that it was in much poorer shape than the photos on the website had indicated.  I noticed a bar/club/bowling alley on the main floor of this “hotel” and as I was pulling into the driveway, I witnessed a drug deal clearly taking place in front of the hotel in broad daylight.  I immediately thought I would be a target of some sort of crime since I was driving an Audi A4, which was a complimentary upgrade from the rental car company. So much for that being a blessing! I hesitated going into the hotel, but I didn’t know where else to go since there were no other hotels in sight, because it was NOWHERE NEAR THE AIRPORT and I also didn’t want to just leave my belongings in car since I was sure it would be broken into.

At the front desk, I was informed that I had to pay in full for the room in advance and they asked me if I needed the room for the night or just a few hours??? Yikes!! Now if that wasn’t a bad sign, I don’t know what is!

I proceeded to the room and well, I couldn’t believe my eyes! These are some highlights:

  • The huge old school 27″ TV had a large sign on it saying “Please Do Not Remove From Room
  • The bed sheets were filthy, torn and had clear hand prints on them
  • The window opened to the roof outside and had no locking mechanism
  • There was no phone in the room
  • Mouse or maybe rat excrement in the room corners

So what did I do?

I didn’t even want to sit on the bed it was so horrifically disgusting.   I needed to find another hotel room ASAP.  There was just NO way I was staying here.  The problem was, I was in an unfamiliar city, there was no phone book in the room and my computer was dead (but I’m sure there was no internet access anyways!) so I had no way of figuring out another place to go.  I had misplaced my city map and I felt lost.

So what did I do? I called my ex-boyfriend, whom I hadn’t spoken with in at least 5 years, hoping that he still lived in this city  which is where he had moved here after our break-up.  Luckily, he answered the phone and bailed me out.  He escorted me out of the hotel (no pun intended) which made me feel safer since he was a big guy and he drove with me to a much nicer hotel that actually was close to the airport. I’ll never forget when he arrived at my hotel room, he said to me, “What are you doing here? I wouldn’t even &*%$ prostitutes in this hotel!”  That was reassuring!

Needless to say, I’ve never stayed at discount hotels since, even if they are part of a major chain!

I also make sure to thoroughly research the reviews on sites like TripAdvisor and read them in great detail.  When booking hotels now, my preferences are in the following order:

  1. Hotel amenities
  2. Positive Reviews*** MAKE SURE YOU READ THE REVIEWS FOR DETAILS! I CAN’T EMPHASIZE THIS ENOUGH!
  3. Price
  4. Location

So the next time you’re booking a hotel, make sure you do your research and not just blindly trust the hotel website because otherwise, you might just be in for a horrific surprise.

Bates Hotel anyone? Count me out!

If you have the time, take 5 minutes to write a review of the hotels you stay at regardless of whether or not your review is good or bad.  All of us depend on those honest reviews.

Safe travels my friends.

Cheers,

 

TSW

Please follow and like The Travelling Saleswoman:
0