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The last time we saw a crowd of this size flock to South Florida was for Art Basel. While both events draw a champagne-chugging, hors devours-loving bunch, the vibe at SOBEWFF was so much more relaxed (read: not snobby) and we found people to be a lot friendlier to their fellow SOBEWFF attendees.
Maybe it’s the beach. Maybe it’s the booze. Maybe it’s the fact that no one attending SOBEWFF is a grouchy, starving artist. Not for long, anyway.
At times, the crowds can be a claustrophobic cluster and the humidity deadly, but we enjoyed the excuse to day drink, wander about some of SoBe’s coolest hotels and reveled in the many opportunities snap selfies with some of our favorite celebrity chefs. After four days spent in Miami living on small bites and booze, we discovered that the South Beach Wine & Food Festival is the bucket list item we never knew we had. Here are some tips on how to make the most of your visit:
Art Basel happened last month and it's taken our resident (Culture) Club Kid Brandy Alxander, and Art Basel Virgin, a while to process all that she saw and did. (Also, we kinda forgot about it in the holiday mix.) Nevertheless, here are some useful observations and tips to keep in mind for next year.
Every year for a week in December, Miami transforms into a city full of galleries and open bars for Art Basel. Thousands of artists and art enthusiasts from all over the world flock to the city, home to the U.S. branch of Art Basel since 2002. The art show originated in Basel, Switzerland in 1970, and last May, Art Basel expanded to Hong Kong.
After I was publicly shamed for not knowing what Art Basel was (I just moved here a few months ago from Vegas), I decided to venture into South Beach and check out the Basel bacchanal. Here's what I learned:
So far in our new Hotel Commandments series, we've had a top hotel butler hand down his secrets for pleasing picky luxury hotel guests, a hotelier dole out his hotel etiquette for hosting royal family members and a general manager advise on how to treat celebrities on location.
Today, we've got a special holiday-themed Hotel Commandments edition from Robin D. Carson, the general manager of the Kingsmill Resort, in historic (and utmost picturesque holiday setting) Williamsburg, Virginia.
If you're a hotel looking for ways to get in the holiday mood, look no further. If you're a family looking for a fun holiday getaway, check out what the Kingsmill is doing to make their place "look a lot like Christmas" this year.
The other month, a writer on our sister site VegasChatter ran into a perfect storm of check-in problems at a Vegas hotel, specifically dealing with the hotel's credit card and deposit policy. The frustrating story prompted us to put together some helpful reminders about paying for a hotel room. We're guessing most of you already knew these tips but a little refresher list can't hurt.
1. Find out exactly what the hotel's cancellation window is. Before you click the "BOOK NOW" button on a hotel's reservations site, be sure to read the hotel's cancellation policies extremely carefully. Almost all hotels have some sort of cancellation policy but it varies wildly. Usually, a hotel will want 24 hours notice before it cancels your reservation without charging you. But some require 48 or 72 hours while others would like a week's notice or more. (This is especially true during peak seasons.) If you're booking through a third-party website, they may have a different policy from the hotel, so be sure to read that too.
2. Find out exactly how much the hotel will "authorize" your credit card for. Just below the cancellation policy is where the hotel will also tell you what it will authorize, or charge, your credit card for. Sometimes, a hotel will charge 50 percent of the stay to your credit card at booking and then the other half when you arrive at the hotel. If it's a special "advance" deal where you get a lower rate than usual, the hotel will charge you all of the rate up front with no refunds allowed. Other hotels will charge nothing until you check-out of the hotel. Some hotels will also charge you a $100 deposit for incidentals, per day, when you check-in. This is crazy because you've just checked-in, how can you be charged for incidentals? And how can they charge you for incidentals you won't even use? Don't worry, the charge will be taken off your account once you check-out. So long as you haven't bought any incidentals during your stay.
It's one of the most frustrating aspects of a hotel stay these days--busted hotel WiFi. Short of traveling with your own WiFi network, there's not much you can do when the hotel's network is down. But before you start raising hell to the front desk about how you can't get on the internet, make sure you really can't get on in the internet first. Here are a few fixes to try. Good luck!
1. Make sure you're connected to the right hotel network. A lot of fake or poseur networks will pop up as a way to entice naive guests into signing onto that network and unknowingly, give all their private information away. Sadly, these internet pirates are a way of digital life now. So be sure to find out the correct network to sign onto from the hotel. Most hotels will offer this information on a card placed near the desk or on the key card envelope giving at check-in.
2. Make sure you've entered the right password, name or room number. This sounds like advice from Captain Obvious but often times, hotel networks will ask for a combination of your last name, your room number and a special passcode. Make sure you've entered all three correctly and in the right boxes. We've been known to enter in the room number in the name box and vice versa. (But only after we've been raiding the minibar booze.)
For some of you, checking out of a hotel may merely involve packing your suitcase, ordering up an Uber ride to the airport and then slipping out the front door without anyone noticing, except perhaps the doorman who will tell you to "stay with us again next time."
Other folks might take a little longer to get ready for check-out, often staying past the designated check-out hour only finally exiting after housekeeping (and sometimes, security) have told them that it's time to go.
But no matter what kind of checker-outer you are, here are 5 Things You Should Do Before You Check-Out.
1. Do a sweep of the room. Lift the blankets, look under the bed, pull out the drawers, check the bathroom (even in the shower) and peep in the closets (don't forget the safe too!) Our experience has been if you leave it behind, you will likely never see it again.
2. Grab your chargers. While you may sweep the room for obvious belongings--toiletries, clothing, jewelry, books--don't forget to check the outlets for all your chargers whether it be for a phone, tablet or computer. Fortunately, more and more hotels are putting outlets above desks and next to the nightstand so we no longer have to unplug a random floor lamp in the corner just to charge our phone. And having more visible outlets will mean we're less likely of leaving behind our chargers.
Hotel Tips / Do Not Do / Tips / Lists / Hotel Advice / → All Tags
We're gonna assume that if you've ended up here on our site, which is all about hotels, then you've stayed in one at least once before. Yet even frequent hotel guests can always use some helpful reminders of Things Not To Do When Staying in a Hotel.
Don't Expect an Early Check-In: Hotels have check-in times of 2 to 4 pm for a reason--they need time to get the room ready for the next guest. That said, hotels aren't always fully booked so if you arrive at 11am and want to check-in, staff could feasibly accommodate you. But...don't count on it in advance.
Don't Let The Hotel Walk You Unless...: They pay for your room and your transportation to the new hotel. If you aren't familiar with the term "walking", it essentially means the hotel doesn't have a room for you and must send you to a different property. This often happens when you book through third-party travel sites. But if you reserve directly through the hotel and they still don't have a room for you, then the hotel needs to pay for your stay elsewhere and any reasonable transportation (cab ride, car service) costs to get there.
Don't Use the Bedspread: We're just not going to apologize for our germaphobe stance on this. The stats are in and the covers have gotta go. Here's our suggestion: Take a hanger from the closet, use it to lift the top blanket off the bed and drop it on the floor. Thankfully, many hotels are taking a No-Comforter approach in the guestrooms, but a few are still insisting on those dreaded floral bedspreads that probably haven't been washed in a queen's age.
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We've long known that hotel rooms, even the most expensive ones, can't always be completely germ, stain or hole-free but a new report from ABC News's "Medical Unit" has us thisclose to buying our own personal germ zapping blacklight wand.
Researchers from the University of Houston swabbed 19 hotel room hideouts, from door handles to headboards, and found the fecal bacterium E. coli hiding on 81 percent of the surfaces, including the remote control, the telephone and the bedside lamp.
We've long avoided touching the remote control by either placing a shower cap over it or wiping it down (and thanks to the Lodgenet iPhone app we can avoid the remote entirely) but we never thought about the telephone, where we make our room service calls, or the bedside lamp. Gag.
As it turns out, the folks responsible for flinging the poo are not just the guests who stayed in the room before you but also the housekeepers. Apparently, bacteria was found on the mops and sponges they use to clean the hotel rooms. Oh dear lord.
So what's a traveler to do? Well, you could avoid hotels completely but that's no fun. Here are HotelChatter's Tips for a Cleaner Hotel Stay:
Hotel Fitness / Tips / GoRecess / → All Tags
Hotel fitness centers have made huge strides over the last decade--no longer are we forced to work out in a closet-sized basement space with some dumbbells and a solitary treadmill--but even though more and more hotels are beginning to offer fitness-oriented services, the average hotel gym still isn't as good as a real one. And rarely do they offer specialized classes like pilates, yoga, dance or boot camps.
Which is why if you're the type of person who needs to work out while you're on the road yet the hotel gym isn't up to snuff, GoRecess.com, might be the best new workout "gear" to bring along with you.
The website works like this--you choose the type of workout you want to do (yoga, cardio, pilates/barre, strength, bootcamp, dance pre/post-natal or martial arts), then you select the city you will be in along with what time/day you would like to work out and voila! GoRecess pulls up a selection of fitness studios that offer the kind of class you are looking for.
The holidays are over, well nearly, we've still got 2012 to ring in but already we've got a post-mortem of the 2011 holiday season from our favorite concierge, @ConciergeCorner.
1. On Shipping gifts: I will be happy to map out, recommend and even drive you to purchase gifts, but shipping and tipping, that’s on you.
2. Keep complaints to a minimum: You are visiting family but I’m away from mine, at work. Have a heart and don’t complain about the low floor of your third party booked room, thanks.
3. Restaurant reservations on Christmas Eve are tough: It’s Christmas Eve and for some reason you are under the impression that you are getting a table at the popular family owned Italian eatery. Sorry, not happening. Mr. Lucco is with his family but I’m sure Red Dragon Asian eatery has availability.
He's known as @ConciergeCorner on Twitter who's not afraid to dish on all the crazy things that guests ask concierges. But he also might be the concierge fielding your requests during your next hotel stay and he's got a few tips on how to get the most out of your concierge contact. This week, he's talking about How He Knows Who He Knows. (And no, that's neither @ConciergeCorner or his hotel in the photo above.)
In the hotel business, as in other industries, it’s as much about what you know, as who you know.
When a guest comes to me with a last minute request, I could know all the words in the dictionary, but it's people in the right places that can make things happen. The “must have” gaming system, new Apple product, limited edition handbag or what have you, it’s knowing the right people in a variety of places in the city that can make you a star in the guests’ eyes.
Concierges / Tips On Tips / Yelp / TripAdvisor / Tips / Concierge Corner / → All Tags
He's known as @ConciergeCorner on Twitter who's not afraid to dish on all the crazy things that guests ask concierges. But he also might be the concierge fielding your requests during your next hotel stay and he's got a few tips on how to get the most out of your concierge contact. This week, here are his thoughts on How Much To Tip the Concierge. (And no, that's neither @ConciergeCorner or his hotel in the photo above.)
To tip, or not to tip: an age old question in the hospitality industry. In an industry where at times over 50% of one’s pay is derived from gratuities, tipping is always appreciated. That said, my HR department pays each (hourly) position differently depending on what they feel we likely receive in gratuities. Sadly, their gratuity estimates are quite high and unrealistic.
Yelp ain't got nothing on us.
In the past, boarding passes, dinner reservations and transportation arrangements would be some of the most common concierge requests, but the emergence of sites like Trip Advisor, OpenTable and Yelp has changed this. Today, many guests will skip the concierge, opting instead to utilize websites. There are still some who will utilize our services, especially in the luxury segment. You can imitate the human touch, but you can't duplicate it. When it comes to a last minute dinner reservation at a popular restaurant or a sold out performance, I'm far more likely to be able to secure them for a guest than a website is. Given that this is something that only I, the concierge, may be able to accomplish; common gratuity is $5 or $10. For me at, I'd say the most common gratuity left is $5.