… on hotels and transportation if necessary to assure your safety and comfort. It costs less for one to travel than for two. Lev was by no means frugal, but he was never interested in bragging rights for staying in the very best hotel, and he wasn’t too proud to hail a cab. He thought that airline club memberships and American Express Platinum were a waste of money.
Trying to fly from Corpus Christi to Washington, D.C., Tuesday en route to Nantucket, I was reminded of some of the reasons why I am willing to spend more now. My afternoon arrival turned into a nighttime arrival, and one of my personal travel safety rules is not to get into a strange cab by myself after dark. Fortunately, I had reservations at a full-service hotel with a concierge. I called from DFW to arrange for a car to meet me. I also had the assurance of knowing that the restaurant would still be open and room service available.
The concierge is my best friend when I travel alone, and excellent concierge service makes four- and five-star hotels worth the price. I usually email in advance, explaining that I am an older single woman, asking the concierge to recommend appropriate restaurants that I can get to safely. He’s the one I count on for drivers, as well as to advise me of any nearby areas where I should not walk alone.
What else is important to me in hotels?
- I want to be within walking distance of restaurants, shops and other amenities. While Lev and I thought nothing of walking a block or two on a dark side street in the French Quarter of New Orleans or in New York, I don’t do that by myself—especially at night.
- Restaurants and bar/lounge. I often eat dinner at the hotel, and I want a good restaurant—or two or three. I particularly like lobby lounges where I can get a glass of wine and a light meal. Club floors with private lounges are another option; but, with the exception of Ritz-Carlton, most disappoint me. Restaurants usually mean room service, which is the way I like to do breakfast.
- Lobby area. On the one hand, I like the hotel entry to be small enough—or security high enough—that tourists don’t wander through and where staff recognize me as I come and go. On the other hand, I like comfortable seating in the lobby, where I can meet a friend or business associate.
Lev became a believer in Amex Platinum when we spent one night at the Plaza Athenee in New York in 2007. Our free upgrade was to the master bedroom of the presidential suite, with a glass-enclosed sun porch and a wrap-around balcony from which we could see all of Manhattan. I like the free breakfast, guaranteed late checkout and early checkout when available. The points add up, and I once treated Lev IV and Cheri to a week at the Ritz in London.
While Lev was always Executive Platinum with American Airlines, I never paid attention to the benefits when he was alive. Now I value Platinum status. That 800 number is my security blanket when things go wrong, as well as my ticket to free checked bags. When 94 people lined up for standby after our flight to Corpus Christi was cancelled on Dec. 23, American automatically got me a reserved seat early the next morning. When the computer system tried to route me through Albuquerque and Charlotte on my way to Nantucket, I called the 800 number. I’m first in line to board, which means I can find a place to put my carry-on luggage. I used miles to join Admirals Club, where I spend hours between flights. I confess, somewhat sheepishly, that I usually fly business or first class now. It was one thing to be crowded next to Lev in economy class. It is quite another when it’s a 300-pound stranger. I usually buy exchangeable tickets so that I have the freedom to change my mind without incurring onerous penalties.
Travel has been my escape since Lev’s death, and I am convinced that my precautions have reduced the hassle and created wonderful new memories. As I recently advised a friend in a completely different context, “Pray for the best and prepare for the worst.”
Photo: White Elephant Inn, Nantucket. It meets all my criteria for safety and comfort.
What are your personal “rules” for safe travel?
What is most important to you in selecting a hotel?