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Category: Hotel

Any room for clothes?

Any room for clothes?

I am currently sitting in a rather small room in a Mercure Hotel. No upgrade, again, despite my platinum status. Hotels always seem to be full when I book which is unlike other bloggers who always seem to get upgraded.

 

Wardrobe for clothes or what?

Anyway, my comment today is not about this but the wardrobe. I was mildly amused by seeing it full with a fan, iron, ironing board and safe.

 

Where do you put the clothes?

Thank goodness I was only here for a night and had nothing to hang. If I had needed anything smart I suppose I could have ironed them before wearing as I would have had to store them creased in my suitcase!

Safe – anything but

I also noticed the safe was secured to the back of the wardrobe by a single small and flimsy screw. So not so safe.

Smile through grittted teeth!

So at least there was some amusement to overcome the irritation of a small doubleroom, noisy neighbours and no upgrade.

The vagaries of hotel booking sites

The vagaries of hotel booking sites

I am off on my travels soon and was looking to book some hotels.

In one place I am going I cannot find any well known hotel chain so instead of booking direct to get loyalty points with the hotel I thought I would look at these hotel agency sites particularly those that give some benefits such as airline points etc.

Interestingly I ended up on one site and looked at pricing for the same hotel and dates using my pc and my ipad. To my surprise the prices were different.This seemed odd as I was looking at the quotes simultaneously

 

Is this dynamic pricing?

I found this irritating. Is this what is known as dynamic pricing?

The only thing different was the IP address. but it was 2 computers. I suppose I was logged in on both so the system could see it was the same “logee” looking on 2 computers. The prices were only a few pounds apart but why any difference at all?

 

Conclusion

I suppose it shows the vagaries of the system and that pricing is so variable; whether you use a hotel website, a web trawling or price comparison site. Many sites will all take commission and it seems this is complex and so prices are very likely to vary from computer to computer as well as minute to minute.

Again I feel frustrated as a user but that I simply have to accept this. Do my research and press “buy” accepting that had I searched a few minutes later or even on a different computer I might have got a different price.

 

Elite status – Likelihood of room upgrade

Elite status – Likelihood of room upgrade

How often do people with elite status that states upgrade get it?

I have elite status with a couple of hotel chains and have paid for hotels through American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts bookings.

In all these cases the booking states that there will be an upgrade “if available”.

I do not think I have travelled at particularly busy periods but it is fair to say that I reckon I have been upgraded no more than 50% of the time.

 

50% – is this good odds?

I have no idea whether getting an upgrade half the time is good or not. On some of the blogs I read I the distinct impression that some people get upgraded almost all the time, even to suites at times.

When I have been upgraded the room has been good and I, of course, have been very pleased.

 

Am I being paranoid?

I know that I am not a famous blogger, film star, rich business man, politician or an incredibly heavy user of the hotels so I suppose I do not get any VIP annotation to my booking. This must mean I am low on the pecking order of elite status holders to be offered an upgrade. Or am I being overly paranoid.

 

Keep trying

As I continue my travels I will continue to offer my loyalty and keep a running total of my successes and I will update these comments in the future.

Hilton – Gatwick South Terminal

Hilton – Gatwick South Terminal

I have a week off and am starting a brief trip of 3 European capitals. Namely Paris, Berlin and London. Currently London still is in Europe!!!

To start my trip I took a train to Gatwick and I am staying overnight at the Hilton Hotel – Gatwick South Terminal. My flight leaves early tomorrow morning to Paris.

 

Getting to the Hotel

The hotel state it is close to the Terminal. Indeed it is. I got off my train and walked into the South Terminal. I turned right and then right again and ended up on a travelator towards the car park. I then caught a lift down a floor and then along a covered walkway – effectively across the multi-storey car park and arrived at the reception of the hotel. All in all a 10 minute walk. All covered and quite well signposted.

 

First Impressions

As I entered the lobby it was, unsurprisingly, busy. There were restaurants and a Costa as I entered and on reaching the reception this was long and well staffed so I was dealt with very quickly.

 

 

Check in

I hold gold status through my Amex platinum card and this was recognised immediately. I was able to check in online. I thought I would try this. Perhaps my only “issue”. I had requested a high floor away from lifts. Through the online system I was allotted a room on the first floor. The Hilton system allows me to see hotel floor plans and choose my room> I was thus able to see that this room was just behind reception. Not the place I wanted. So I changed this for a 4th floor room.

 

Again this was recognised at check in and that this had 2 beds. The receptionist offered to change this to a double bed room and also said she would upgrade me. I had booked a basic room so was expecting as a gold elite member a one category upgrade. However to my delight I was offered an executive room. This was in the new wing and I see from other comments this is the recommended area of the hotel to be in. I was very pleased.

 

The Room

My new room was on the third floor so I caught the lift up and then walked though the older part of the hotel and across the glass bridge to the new wing.

I easily found my room and on entering it was very pleasant and bright.

The room had a double bed, single armchair and ottoman and a work desk.

It was clean and functional. Some of the edges around the desk, for instance, were a little worn but I suppose this is a sign of being well used.

The bed was firm and comfortable and I slept very well.

 

The Bathroom

This was bright and clean, It had a separate bath and shower. There were Tim Roth toiletries. All in all nothing overwhelming but good and functional.

 

For an airport hotel I was very impressed.

 

The Executive Lounge

As part of my upgrade, impressing me even more, was access to the executive lounge. This was offering drinks and aperitifs from 1830 to 2030. Wine, and spirits and some snacks. Perfectly fine. Beefeater gin, and mediocre wine, but certainly drinkable.

 

The loung had a mixture of sofas and tables and chairs. Perhaps a few more comfy chairs in smaller groupings would have been better.

i find it interesting people watching in lounges. Even for middle aged and older patrons the art of conversation seems dead – long live the ipad. Perhaps a subject of another post!

 

Final Impressions

Overall my initial impressions are favourable. Reading other reviews opinions are mixed and I accept they will be influenced by the type of room etc and I think I have been lucky. However the first impression is always generated by check in and the staff and I was impressed.

 

I would certainly consider staying again.

 

Sorry there are not more photos but I do feel inhibited in taking photos that show many other people.

 

 

The pettiness/snobbishness of elites

The pettiness/snobbishness of elites

As I sit in the executive lounge (a lucky upgrade) of the Hilton in Gatwick I have listened to the Guests around me.

 

It makes me wonder about then expectations of said “customer” and how they live in their day to day reality.

 

When reading reviews of airlines, hotels and lounges it makes me wonder how we reference or compare our experience and so opinions.

 

Relaxing in the lounge I watched a rather overweight older guy in  vest and shorts come into the lounge.

 

“Is that the type of person or dress we should expect” ?

My interpretation is that he did not fulfil the “dress code” but that is my impression.

 

I watched another guy with rather ill fitting T-shirt and trousers enter the lounge. He seemed incapable of sitting down without straddling the chair. Again a slightly odd behaviour. His female partner was able to  take a seat without throwing her leg over the chair. Who am I to judge behaviour? Odd to me but probably acceptable from the part of the world he comes from.

 

This post is generated my overhearing my lounge seat “mates” who comment on the snacks.

“They only provided tongs to serve crisps (chips for those in the USA). How can we serve these without crushing them?”

Mmmmm, Yes you can crush them but what other implement can you provide to help serve them? A spoon, ladle or some other scooping implement could be considered but remains unwiedy in a limited space. It may not be perfect but for most customers it seems ok.

 

My Point

My point is that opinion is usually informed by past experience and expectation. Perhaps influenced by class or assumed snobbishness without an acceptance of the environment.

 

Serving crisps with tongs would be anathema in a Michelin starred restaurant but is it really so wrong in a busy business airport hotel with self service?

 

I would love to see some of these customers providing similar canapés to an uncertain but large number of clients if they were the hotel manager

i really feel we are too quick to judge and too slow to contextualise.

 

I hope i will remember these comments in further posts

Back in Sydney, Australia

Back in Sydney, Australia

I am back in Sydney

Just over 10000 miles and 22 hours of flying I have arrived.

The process of immigration and quarantine check was quick. The bags took a little time to arrive and I noticed mine had had quite a ride. There was a small hole in the top of the case and the padlock and one of the zip pulls had been torn off. It had been kindly put inside the case. So one chore for the holiday is to buy a new suitcase.

Hotel arrival

I took a taxi to the Shangri-La hotel. I had booked a horizon club room so I was directed to the Horizon Club to check in. As it was still before 0900 no room was available. I had not expected anyhing so after a cup of tea I went to the spa to shower and change.

I then wandered down to Circular Quay. From my previous trip I had a Opal card – a prepay card for transport (similar to the UK Oyster or Hong Kong Octopus card. Why do they al begin with O?!) I found I still had Aus$ 5 credit so added a bit more.

Ferry to Darling Harbour

I hopped on a ferry to  Darling Harbour and had a nice view of the bridge and Opera House.

 

I got off at the second Darling harbour stop – Pyrmont. I didn’t stop at the Harbour but walked further to the Sydney Fish Market. Lots of others were doing the same.

 

Sydney Fish Market

I was not sure what to expect. It is a real wholesale market but there is an area that sells to the public and they had a fantastic selection of fish and crustaceans, Loads of varied sizes of prawns to huge lobsters.

So I had a mid morning snack of Sydney Rock Oysters freshly shucked and melted cheese and scallops. Very nice.

 

Early present buying

I remembered that near Chinatown I had found a good supermarket where I had bought some chocolates and other sweets for friends. I decided to do this early as I had some time. I was able to find the shopping centre and supermarket. On the way I noted a political statement in the sky acknowledging the newly inaugurated US president.

 

In the supermarket I came across some Chinese dragons and drummers starting the celebrations for Chinese New Year.

 

Quite an unusual and varied start to my holiday.

 

No upgrade.

I returned to the hotel to collect my key and go to my room. I had booked though American Express’s Fine Hotels and Resorts and was hoping for an upgrade as the terms state this will occur (if one is available) Sadly one was not available so I had the room Iboked overlooking the opera house.

This is the second time I have booked with Fine Hotels and Resorts and have yet to get the upgrade. Perhaps I book too good a room in the first place.

 

Opera House and Botanic Gardens

Once I had settled in I went for a walk to the opera House and Botanic gardens to get the good views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. the gardens are a really pleasant place to spend some time and seem well used by the locals.

 

Finally back to the hotel for a drink and an early night. The jet lagged finally caught up with me.

 

All packed and everywhere to go

All packed and everywhere to go

My Australia holiday starts in a few days

I  have got out all the stuff I want to take and am packing it in my case.

It is probably too much. How many shorts do you really need for a week’s holiday?!

I find myself planning my day wear and evening wear, and then some spares, I could get some stuff washed whilst I am there but have yet to routinely use hotel laundry, or even room, services. As I become more settled in my travels I will. But sometimes it feels so expensive.

So I now find myself pretty much packed but I am not due to leave for a few more days. Do I just leave the case in the corner or unpack and repack trying to weed out stuff and really am unlikely to use? I accept not the greatest dilemma of my life but something to ponder.

And another question:

 

Cabin or checked?

I admire those people who seem to be able to pack for all eventualities and fit it all into cabin bags. Clearly their sense of colour and style matching is better than mine and they are also able to exist on a couple of pairs of shoes. (I find these take up a lot of space). I am already taking 3 pairs. A relatively smart set to travel in. Some trainers to walk the streets and flip flops for less strenuous walking or beach roaming. However I do note that some of those who say they only take cabin luggage do seem to take a lot of it; a cabin suitcase, a tote bag and a handbag. My shoulders are not broad enough or strong enough to carry this.

 

Checked for me!

So I will check a suitcase and then have a small cabin bag that I can drag around the airport and fit a bit of duty free in along with my computer and a few other bits and pieces.

Yes I will wait longer to collect my bag from the luggage carousel and wait on tenterhooks until it arrives.

But I will certainly be less anxious that what I have brought doesn’t match well and I will have a few choices of clothes to wear rather than a multi use outfit.

So I am  looking forward to being chilled with my first cocktail on arrival

Cheers

Hotel Booking Timing – More Insights

Hotel Booking Timing – More Insights

Since my last post on this I have been tracking a couple of hotels in Sydney. These are the Shangri La

(from; Shangri-La.com)

 

and Sofitel Sydney Wentworth.

(from; sofitelsydney.com.au)

 

I realise this is a small sample. I have focused it even more by checking only on the American Express Travel site and the hotel’s own websites.

Even with this limited data it has been interesting, and confusing.

As expected there is no simple answer.

The prices vary almost  day by day and one hotel’s prices will go done whilst the other one’s increase. Room availability is also variable. I realise this is, to some, stating the absolutely obvious.

Of course there will be huge variation. The hotels use a very dynamic pricing model depending on the apparent bookings, and hence remaining availability they have. In parallel to this many people, companies and travel agents and websites will be holding, booking and cancelling rooms as peoples’ plans or minds change. As availability drives cost and this is changing minute to minute then the cost will change dynamically.

I also presume the hotels add special offers and in the internet world flash sales lasting a few hours or a day only will impact on the pricing levels.

 

What is happening now?

As I write this I see that the price for the Shangri  La hotel has increased whilst Sofitel has dropped quite a lot. This trend has continued for the last week or so. I also note that in both hotels the rooms available are becoming more restricted. Yes, of course this is obvious. As you get closer to arrival, plans are firmed up and more rooms and booked. in other words the hotel has less room availability to offer. Perhaps Shangri La is more full at the moment or Sofitel have simply decided to discount further their current available rooms.

 

So what am I going to do?

Well, I made my booking about 2 weeks ago. This seems to have been the right time for the hotel I chose and so I am sticking with it. However, as the hotel seems to be pretty full as evidenced by the small list of rooms types showing as available I bet I will not get the upgrade as part of the American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts service I used. This raises the question if it is worth paying more for the potential of these perks; but that is another post!

 

And my conclusion?

It is a mug’s game and a lottery.

 

You need to make a decision at some point that you are happy with the price and the type of room and simply go for it. Yes, it will change. Sometimes up and sometimes down. The type of room availability, especially the premium rooms, will become less available or much more costly.

So my game plan is to book as soon as I confirm my holiday but on terms that can be cancelled and track intermittently for a while. I will not wait until too close to my arrival to make a final decision. At that point stop tracking.

Should I book 5 star hotels?

Should I book 5 star hotels?

I soemtime struggle to decide on what class of hotel I should book.

Of course it is really attractive to stay in luxurious accommodation. Many will comment that this is part of the holiday and it is fantastic to stay in a place with spectacular furnishings way above what you have at home. I agree, and it is wonderful. However, I do sometime baulk at the thought of paying over £200 per night to sleep.

 

On the other hand people argue that as the room is there to sleep in and you are unlikely to spend very much time there because you will be out sightseeing.  So why pay so much? A 3 star room will be comfortable and functional. OK, it will not have the high end toiletries and as fluffy towels as the 5 star room but so what, you will still sleep well and save a packet!

So what do I choose?

I will sit on the fence.

It really does depend on what I am doing and often how “rich” I am feeling when I am booking.

If it is a really special holiday then I will splash out. This is definitely the case if I am holidaying alone as I am less likely to be out partying in the evening and so will make more use of the room.

If I am staying somewhere for business or am spending most of the time out and about worth friends then I will probably book a cheaper room.

I wonder what I will book next!

When is the Best Time to Book a Hotel Room?

When is the Best Time to Book a Hotel Room?

When is the best time to book an hotel room and on what rate?

Looking at a number of travel blogs I often see articles on when the best time to book a flight is. It does seem to vary from the USA to the UK and even then I get the distinct impression that there is little science behind it.

Do you book on a Tuesday or only a Wednesday when it falls on the full moon?!!

Hotel Booking

I have seen fewer articles about the timing of booking hotels. Again, this seems to be a rather hit and miss affair.

Since I booked my Australia holiday I have been considering which hotel to book and whether to book directly with the hotel or with an agent or other provider such as American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts.

Over the last few weeks I have booked, cancelled and rebooked several rooms. Initially I booked directly with the hotel and then I discovered a better deal with American Express Fine Hotels  for the same room. Then I found and even better deal in a different hotel. Finally I decided to book, only for a little more, a club room.

Price Variation

Whilst I have been altering the booking I have checked at other times and the prices do vary. They seemed to have been higher a few weeks ago. Now lower and I am wondering if they will increase, as other sites suggest, closer to arrival. I will continue to monitor.

Price Deals

Having booked with fully cancellable rates I think I might plump for a cheaper internet non-refundable deal closer to my arrival. I think this will allow me to get a cheaper rate for the same room although I doubt I will get any perks such as a room upgrade or gifts even with hotel status.

Watch this space…