A: Good question. And one you should ask of your hotel, too. Resort fees, which can add a full 30 percent onto a hotel bill, may cover everything from wireless Internet and gym access to faxing and use of a notary (huh?)—services and amenities that you may have no interest in using. Yet travelers who kick and scream about baggage fees are often surprisingly mute when it comes to these hotel charges. The difference? In the case of baggage, you’re at least paying for a service that you intend to use.
Pharmaceutical regulations are different in each country, so getting a new supply of meds on foreign soil isn’t as simple as it sounds. First, visit the U.S. State Department website to ensure your pills are legal: narcotics, psychotropics, and stimulants are banned in some destinations. Next, you’ll usually have to get a local prescription (you’ll need to know both the generic name and dosage for your medication). To find an accredited, English-speaking physician, check with the local consulate or the International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers, whose doctors often make house calls to hotels. Be sure to fill your prescription at a pharmacy recommended by the doctor or attached to a clinic or hospital—counterfeit drugs have become increasingly common abroad.
In the past few years, nearly all major hotel brands have phased out their polyester bedspreads in favor of duvets with easy-to-clean covers. Westin, Marriott, and Hilton, along with Four Seasons, Le Méridien, Ritz-Carlton, and St. Regis, all wash duvet covers between each stay. Some hotels simply use sheets to shield you from duvets. Make sure to sleep under the third sheet in these instances.
Q: How can I get a good seat on my flight if I don’t have elite status? —Anne R., Bozeman, Mont.
A: As airlines reduce their schedules and pack more people onto planes, economy passengers are increasingly feeling the pinch. Adding insult to (squashed-knee) injury, carriers also reserve covetable window and aisle seats for high-ranking loyalty-program members. But you needn’t get stuck in the middle. Here, some ways to find a better seat.
Choose your flights by cabin layout.
Seatguru, our favorite online airline-seat-map compendium, has recently added a new flight-search function that lets you filter results by comfort as well as the usual factors (price, duration, etc.). Mining the site’s trove of cabin data to assess both seats and in-flight amenities, Seatguru offers you an overall “G-Factor” rating of “Love it,” “Like it,” or “Live with it” for each flight—and tells you how much it will cost to trade up for a plane with more legroom or a seat-back entertainment system.
Better nail down those in-room amenities! Hotels.com has just released the results of a poll it conducted asking 8,500 travelers from 28 different countries what they have stolen from hotel rooms (beyond toiletries, of course). The results are full of surprises.
Danes are apparently the most scrupulous travelers among us. A full 88 percent of them claimed to have not stolen anything from their hotel rooms. Dutch and Norwegians rounded out the honor roll of ethical travelers, with 85 and 84 percent, respectively, taking nothing extra home with them. The most admittedly sticky-fingered travelers in the world: Colombians—57 percent of whom conceded to have taken something from a hotel.
What do people take? Thirty percent of Indian travelers admit to taking books and magazines from their rooms. Seventeen percent of Americans have walked home with linens and towels. Seven percent of Colombian travelers have slipped either a robe or a pillow into their bag. Electronics (!!!) are most popular with Finnish travelers (4 percent), while furnishings—including lamps, clocks, and artwork—go home most frequently with Chinese travelers (13 percent).
Of course, whether the results of this poll reflect the actual thieving tendencies of travelers or their honesty in filling out a survey is unknown. Who knows? Maybe those upstanding Danes are just pulling the wool over our collective eyes.
See if your hotel concierge can get you in. If not, you’ll have to use your wiles. At pint-size hot spots such as Atera or Blanca, your chances are slim. But established favorites, such as Daniel or Maialino, have more tables—and more cancellations. Call at or after 3 p.m., when the hosts finish reconfirming the evening’s reservations. There just might be a spot. OpenTable is also a great resource. It may not get you in to your first choice, but it will show you nearby restaurants that do have availability. If all else fails, walk in. Casual arrivals may find seats at the bar—and if you dress the part, some maître d’s will reward a bold, spontaneous request with a table.
By covering more than 4,600 hotels, IHG is certainly the largest company to make such a commitment to its loyalists of all ranks. And the IHG twist: you won’t need to be a guest of the hotel to access the internet. The service will be available free of charge even to loyalty-program members who just pop into the lobby.
JetBlue, arguably to most egalitarian of domestic carriers, announced this week that it will be introducing premium seating on transcontinental flights from New York to San Francisco next year in an effort to remain competitive on these routes. There's no word yet on what form these seats will take: first, business, lie-flat, behind a curtain, etc.
The airline also laid out plans to enhance its fleet with a new—and fast—in-flight wi-fi service called Fly-Fi, which should launch on the first JetBlue plane later this year. Giving the masses have something to celebrate, the airline also confirmed that basic wi-fi connections will be free—at least initially.