Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Etiquette of the Ideal Traveller

There is nothing that I enjoy more than traveling. I love exploring new places, revisiting favorite haunts and enjoying the company of old friends wherever they may be. Having owned and operated an inn and restaurant for eight years I have also seen the hospitality business from the viewpoint of the proprietor as well as that of a guest.

As I have mentioned before, one of the keys to a successful vacation or even a short visit is to have a plan. There is an increase in the number of travelers who like to "wing it" on the road, and I am all in favor of that. For some people it adds to the suspense and adventure. For others it allows a flexibility which a series of reservation would preclude. A plan, however loose, does help avoid disappointment and nasty surprises. Knowing vaguely where you want to end up for the evening gives you somewhat of a goal to shoot for. Although it is advisable to call ahead at least a day or two for accommodation reservations, walking in unannounced can often lead to a reduced price. If you do have a room booked, one thing to remember, especially when staying at small inns or bed and breakfast establishments, is that often there is no one on duty round the clock. If you are going to be late, call ahead and let someone know. If you must actually cancel at the last minute, expect to pay for your booking anyway. Remember that if a popular in is full and turning away potential guests, a no show is real money out of the innkeeper's pocket.

Well run establishments will often ask you what time you will to arrive or explain that someone will be avvailable to check you in until a certain hour. This enables innkeepers to have appropriate staff on hand and to settle you in to your room. They will also likely ask if you are traveling with pets or small children. Be up front with them. Surprising hosts with extra people in your party is unfair, disrespectful, and likely to lead to disappointment. The old adage 'the guest is always right' does not apply here. Do not assume that there are smoking facilities, that pets (even the most perfectly behaved one which do not shed or bark), or that there are cots or pull out sofas. Even though guests are paying customers, they are not entitled to having unreasonable requests catered to. If you have special needs or requests, by all means discuss them with the manager or host in advance. Most are willing to accommodate guest requirements if at all possible. That is after all what the hospitality business is all about.

One of the benefits of staying in smaller establishments is the fact that the innkeepers are likely to be familiar with local attractions and have eaten at the local restaurants. This makes it possible for them to make considered recommendations to fit your tastes and pocketbook. Larger hotels can tend to rely on temporary staff, especially in resort towns, and may therefore be less familiar with the local attractions. Local businesses will often place brochures and other collateral information about their establishments with the local accommodations. Availing yourself of this information can really assist you when it comes to getting the most out of your visit.

When deciding where to stay in a certain town or region, if you have clear ideas of what you want to see or be near, inquire ahead of time. For example, if you may require a pharmacy or even access to a medical facility, see to it that you will not be in for a surprise. If you are traveling with small children or pets, make sure that whatever services you might anticipate such as a bay sitter or a grooming shop are available. Likewise, if you want to be in a pet free, adults only place, ask about this when you are making your plans. Careful planning can make a real difference.

Good service is also to some degree a function of gratitude. If you are staying somewhere and you like your host, your room, your meal or the service in general, be sure to comment about your experience. Thank you is always appropriate. Innkeepers and their staff really appreciate it when guests show their gratitude. I advise leaving a cash tip in your bedroom for the housekeeper, whomever that person may be. Anywhere from $2 to $5 per night is appropriate. If an accident occurs in your room such as a broken lamp or a stained carpet, let the host know before you leave so that the problem can be addressed quickly. If you approach travel as a two-way street where both the innkeeper and the traveller are in this activity together, your time away from home will be more enjoyable.