Learn to Pack light on Expectations

Whether you are going for business or pleasure, travel can be a mixed bag no matter what comfort level you are traveling in.

I have spent most of my life traveling- first with my parents, then my mom – a world class diva who would make hotel managers give her a tour of available suites before choosing – I have traveled for work, for pleasure – on adventures – economy and higher end.  I have basically traveled the spectrum.

Recently, I took a photographic journey that went through England, Ireland and The Netherlands.  At the same time – a close friend was traveling thru Spain with her teenage daughter – this blog is really about her experiences and managing expectations.  Next one will be about my experiences.

Molly leads a very very very comfortable life in the Northeastern region of America.  When she travels – I tend to think she feels she’s merely substituting one luxurious home for another where the common folk might not speak your language but hell for what you are paying – everyone in your hotel better damn well speak your language (that’s the arrogance of the wealthy American).

Sometimes I find that people that pay the most for their travel, often times have the relatively harder experiences. Somehow people equate their spend as an insulator from the issues that can arise during the many aspects and sometimes pitfalls of a trip.  I find actually that that has the exact opposite effect.  Lets use a hotel as an example –Molly was spending a lot on a hotel room per night the higher her expectation for perfection was – and to be clear – her idea of perfection was, is and always will be her home – which incidentally no hotel, manager or design team has yet to visit! 

Perfection is a high bar with lots of room for disappointment.  Whereas the mid-ranged or even budget travelers expectations often times are more realistic.

But if I’m paying a lot shouldn’t I be expecting a lot in return? 

Here are the 2 most obvious variables that go into the nightly price of an expensive hotel:

Name and Brand Equity

What the layman doesn’t understand is that even highend hotels are franchises not corporately owned or necessarily closely monitored–hence it is harder to govern quality control.  So just because you are staying the Ritz Carlton doesn’t mean it will be the same experience in every location. 

Here is a quote from an article I read online printed in the Chicago Tribune: 

Marriott and Starwood — like other hotel chains — own very few individual hotels. Instead they manage or franchise their brands to hundreds of individual owners, often real estate development companies. Those individual hotel owners are responsible for setting nightly room rates. It isn't uncommon for a developer to own a Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and Sheraton in the same city.  That's how Strategic, for instance, owned hotels under the Westin, JW Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and InterContinental brands.”

(for the full article:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-blackstone-anbang-sold-fairmont-intercontinental-20160314-story.html) 

Location, Location, Location

And there it is – prized locations cost a lot of money -they cost the hotel operator money to build, and maintain – and likely pay higher taxes.  Location is king and you pay for it dearly – everyone does regardless of the quality of the hotel.  Because you are paying for a great location doesn’t mean that you are getting all of the first class services you might expect.

What to do what to do what to do?

I find that people tend to bring their set of standards and values to a different location when they travel … it’s nuts!  Keep your expectations in check – especially when traveling on foreign soil …. Even in America a country that is vast – the southern customs and renown hospitality are quite different then what’d you’d receive in the northeast.   Don’t over pack your expectations.  I wish I could implore that upon my friend!  You are traveling to see another culture – do not try to impose your culturally sensibilities on another unless you are starting your own hotel.  ADAPT! 

TripAdvisor is an amazing tool!  Use it.  Here again though read at least 10 different and the most recent reviews that a property has.  George may have loved his experience at xyz grand plaza in Lisbon but Frank, Ellen and Page hated it – at least you’ll know more of what you are getting into– remember one person loving or hating a property doesn’t mean you’ll feel the same way – so read – you’ll get a pretty accurate vibe of a place.

The real solution is to be flexible and keep a great attitude.  If a hotel is horrible, you can always change it- if you cant then try to make the best of it – chances are you aren’t at the location you are traveling to BECAUSE of the hotel … I mean did you go to Paris for the Ritz or did you go for Paris?  Make the most of your geography – explore it!  Your time is limited at your hotel – it is a hotel not your home.

A good attitude is the best thing and the first thing that should be packed and after all, it weighs nothing!

Last note – overall, it is far worse to have airline issues than hotel issues!

Liz Saul