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What are hotel "amenities"?

Hotel Services And Amenities

Catharine Hamm (Travel Editor, LA Times) gives expert video advice on: What are the standard rules for tipping hotel personnel?; What recourse do I have if I arrive to find my hotel is undergoing renovation?; What recourse do I have if I am unhappy with my overall hotel stay? and more...

What are hotel "amenities"?

An amenity is anything above and beyond a room, for example, a hotel restaurant, a spa, a lobby bar and a pool. The easiest way to find out whether those things are available, besides looking online, is to call the hotel and ask. If there's a specific amenity that you want at a hotel, you need to make sure that it's included so that you're not disappointed.

What is a "concierge"?

A concierge is somebody who works at a hotel and very often has great contacts and can make things happen that you might not be able to do for yourself. For example, if you need theater tickets, or if you need a reservation at an exclusive restaurant, often a hotel concierge can use his or her contacts and make those things happen. They can also do some fairly ordinary things too, for example, helping you print out a boarding pass or helping you with flight arrangements, but they're great at doing things that just seem impossible.

What are my options when it comes to hotel parking?

You have several options when it comes to hotel parking. You can valet park, which generally tends to be more expensive. You can self-park, which gives you a little bit of control over when and where you take your car out. You can park on the street outside a hotel, though this is maybe not such a great idea if you're in a big city. If you are in a city, however, my suggestion is that you ditch the car and rely on public transportation, because parking can be tremendously expensive. I had a hotel room in San Francisco last summer for $79 a night, but my parking was $49 a night. It pretty much wiped out the savings that I got. It was a four star hotel, and I knew it was going to be expensive to park going in. San Francisco's very expensive, but $49 seemed way over the top. As somebody who prides herself on being a budget traveler, that was really a mistake.

What are the standard rules for tipping hotel personnel?

Tipping is always at the discretion of the traveler, and tipping itself is one of those hot-button issues that seems to evoke all sorts of responses. But generally from my perspective, you should tip the doorman, you should tip the bellman and you should tip the person who valet parks your car. Definitely tip the concierge, especially if that person has done something above and beyond. You should also tip the hotel maid. If you're having room service an extra fee's often included for room service, but sometimes people feel compelled to give a little bit extra, and that doesn't hurt either. So you should be prepared to tip as appropriate.

Should I tip the concierge?

You should tip the concierge, especially if he or she has pulled strings for you, for example, if that person has gotten you a terrific set of theater tickets, or tickets to the ballpark. I think a $2 tip is probably appropriate. And for each service he or she performs for you, I think you should give a tip.

What recourse do I have if I arrive to find my hotel is undergoing renovation?

I think the best thing to do if you discover that your hotel is being renovated, and it's disruptive to you as a guest, is to talk with the hotel manager. Ask him or her if there's anything that can be done to lessen your pain and suffering, because it really can be very disruptive. If, on the other hand, it's a hotel renovation that's not inconveniencing you, I think it's greedy to ask for some kind of a discount or compensation.

What recourse do I have if I am unhappy with my hotel room?

I think the key, if you're unhappy with your hotel room, is to make your wishes known when you're on the premises, rather than stewing about it and then writing a letter later. So, for example, I would talk to the hotel manager or the assistant manager and say very clearly, "I do not like my room. These are the reasons why. Is there another place I can be moved?" I think they will then try very hard to make you happy because the one thing they don't want is an unhappy hotel guest.

What recourse do I have if I am unhappy with my overall hotel stay?

If you're unhappy with your hotel stay, I think the best thing to do is to get in touch with the hotel's manager. You may do that as soon as you get home. What you need to do is to write a letter. When you're complaining, and this is true of hotels or anytime you write a letter of complaint, state what's wrong without being angry or emotional, and say what corrective action you expect them to take. For example, if you've stayed six nights in a hotel, I think it's probably unreasonable to expect that person to knock off six nights worth of hotel stay. However, I also think that if you have been inconvenienced or somehow your hotel stay was less than stellar, they may be able to offer you a small discount.

What can I do if I'm worried about the cleanliness of my hotel room?

There's some things to do to ensure that you have a germ-free stay at a hotel. One is to take with you a bottle of disinfectant and spray it on the common surfaces, for example, the telephone. My dentist always removes the comforter from the bed because she thinks those are places that germs are lurking. One thing that I've done is to take a silk sleepsack, which is basically a silk sleeping bag, to act as a barrier between you and the sheets if you're unsure whether the sheets are clean. Another thing that is probably a good idea to do is to take a pair of rubber flip flops with you if you have a shower that you're unsure of at a hotel. It helps guard your feet from athlete's foot and other undesirable things that you might find in there. There are ways that you can protect yourself from germs in hotels. They may sound unsavory, but it's really for your benefit. Generally, however, hotels are clean. That's one of the hallmarks of staying in a hotel, but just to be sure, it doesn't hurt to do some of those things.