10 Ways to Become Everyone’s Favorite Traveler

We consider ourselves hospitality professionals here at the Refuge.  We all share a passion for welcoming guests and helping them explore our islands, as well as going forth ourselves to experience the rest of the world.  Here are a few tips we’ve compiled over the years to make every trip count.

  1. Plan ahead.  Know what the area offers, and be sure to allow appropriate time to appreciate the things that are important to you.  Be sure to check the comments section on TripAdvisor so you don’t waste time and money on something your family won’t enjoy.  You’ll also have an idea bout what is a “must-do” and what can be skipped in the event that your trip gets cut short.
  2. Take advice from locals.  The staff of your hotel (not just the concierge) and restaurants probably live in the area and have great suggestions they’d love to share.  Just be aware that they are working and might have other customers to attend to–so don’t keep them all day!
  3. Be flexible.  Rainy days happen, but that doesn’t mean you have to sit in your hotel room watching TV all day!  Ask around for suggestions for museums and unique experiences that can be enjoyed even when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
  4. Don’t sweat the little things.  They are not worth the stress!  Be sure to enjoy yourself and go with the flow.  You are on vacation, after all–why ruin it for both you and your fellow travelers?
  5. Don’t be afraid to ask for things that may seem out-of-the-ordinary or outdated.  Forget a charger for one of your devices?  Most hotels have a box of them at the front desk and would be happy to let you use one.  They also usually have access to envelopes, stamps (at-cost,) needle and thread, FAX machines, outgoing mail, delivery menus, borrowable board games,  a first-aid kit, and even jumper cables.  While every hotel might not have everything in this list on-hand, many do– it’s worth it to ask rather than go without or run to the store to buy something you’ll only use for a few days.
  6. Always book your stay either via the hotel’s website or over the telephone with their reservation staff.  While Online Travel Agencies like Travelocity and Hotels.com claim to have the best deals, the information they send to the hotel is minimal at best.  Your special requests might not be included, and there is often no way for the hotel to communicate with you if something is wrong.  The OTA keeps your information and just sends the bare minimum–your name and credit card information–to the hotel.  In the event that problems do arise with your reservation or at the hotel itself, the OTA has no obligation to help correct the situation by finding you another place to stay or transferring your funds.  If you book through the hotel’s website or directly with them over the phone, they can often give you the same (or better) price you found online.  You can also ask questions and see if your special requests can be met.  You also save the hotel a hefty commission fee, which their accounting departments appreciate!!
  7. Make special requests, but be reasonable–and please don’t get too upset if we’re unable to help.  You’d like to have flowers and champagne delivered to your room?  No problem!  A bowl of M&M’s?  We can handle that–but unless you’re really someone special, we won’t pick out the brown ones.  You’d like an extra chair, or a nightstand to accommodate your CPAP machine?  We can absolutely arrange that for you.  Gluten-free?  We can point you toward a few options at our continental breakfast; however, it can be very difficult to accommodate a peanut-free, gluten-free, strict vegan diet.  (Most places will, however, be happy to recommend a nearby restaurant or store with a good reputation for special dietary needs.)
  8. Tip well.  Appropriate tipping for wait staff is 15-20%.  Appropriate tipping for hotel cleaning staff is $1-$2 per guest, per night–and double that on check-out day.  (If you can, tip throughout your stay as the cleaning staff typically changes throughout the week.)  Tip especially well if you require more than the average patron.  For example, if you have a toddler who loves to throw his food in the floor at dinner, the waitress will be much happier about cleaning it up if she’s being compensated accordingly.  The same applies for your housekeepers.    If you accidentally stain your sheets or soil the carpet, leave a little extra and an apologetic/explanatory note.  It takes a few seconds and can really brighten (or at least, help not ruin) someone’s day.  For example:  On a recent trip to Busch Gardens, our 10-year-old fell asleep with his scary “bullet wound” face paint on.  When we woke up the next morning, there were smudges of blood red goop EVERYWHERE.  Pillowcases, sheets, towels, washcloths– even a little on the couch.  We left a $15 tip, a couple of candy bars, and a note explaining that the offending substance was face paint to help them determine how to best clean their linens and furniture.
  9. Report problems right away so they can be fixed.  Similarly, leave comment cards for negative feedback–they go straight to the managers of the appropriate department, usually–and online reviews for positive feedback, unless there is something VERY wrong that other travelers should know about.  If you leave an e-mail address, many properties will send you coupons & special deals to thank you for your feedback.
  10. Share your experiences with your friends & family!  Encourage them to visit your favorite spots– and go with them for some quality time.  Many of our favorite guests have been coming for years and bring their friends, parents, kids, grandkids, and even co-workers.