When we travel, we can't help but look through the lenses of home and hospitality. We just returned from a wonderful trip to the U.K. where we took loads of pictures and absorbed as much of the culture as we could, eating lots of fish and chips and my favorite, scones. (But that is a post for another time.) The 11-day trip consisted of two hotels, one large bed and breakfast, and a converted manor house and cottage. The accommodations ran the gamut from the giant international chain to the mom and pop shop and we learned from all. Here are a few thoughts we came away with. Some experiences reinforced the importance of things we already knew and some gave us new insights.
COVER THE BASICS
What are the basics? I would say that list includes, a bed, linens, towels (and someplace to hang them), plus cleanliness.
Most of our accommodations covered all of the above. (I had sheet envy with one of the places.) The B and B, however, had only four bath towels for six of us. But since there was almost no place to hang the wet towels, maybe they didn’t expect us to bathe. Fortunately, the staff was all too willing to bring more. That same place also had really weird pillows. Imagine taking the lumpiest pillow in your house, wrapping in a miniature mattress pad and putting it in a pillowcase that is way too short. No exaggeration. That is not the way to cut costs. You should want your guests asking, “Where did you get those pillows?” By the way, you don’t have to spend a fortune for that reaction. I also recommend getting a couple different thicknesses to cater to more people. Be sure to buy pillow protectors too.
Another thing we noticed was actually about bed size. Two hotels had short beds. Apparently, standard sizes in England are not that of the U.S. There was nothing to be done about that. But the take away is that if you are in the market for a guest bed, even if it’s a twin, make it an extra-long. You never know when tall guests will be visiting.
ADD EXTRA TOUCHES
It’s always pleasant to be surprised and delighted. For me, this often comes in the form of food. It was a really nice treat when all the places we stayed had something extra, like cocoa or cookies, to go with the usual coffee and tea set-up.
Other things that could fit in this category are access to an iron, ironing board, hair dryer, and curling iron. Most of those are standard in hotels but not something you always think about in your guest space. Allowing your company to be as self-contained as possible is actually a precious gift to them. Traveling is tiring. Sometimes, people, introverted or not, just need to get away from everyone to recharge.
On our journey, we also had need of adaptors for our electronics. We forgot to pick some up before we left. Fortunately, they were easy to find. But if you do have international guests, having a stash of adaptors is not a bad idea.
Something unexpected we encountered was non-intuitive showers, in other words, we had trouble figuring out how to turn the water on. The lesson learned there was that if you have a thermostat, T.V., faucet, etc. that is not so basic, provide written instructions or at least a demonstration.
One last thing that was a nice touch was umbrellas at our disposal. We had brought our own but it was thoughtful of our hosts to provide them, especially since the weather was less than sunny on most days.
HAVE A “WHATEVER IT TAKES” ATTITUDE
Sometimes, despite our best intentions towards our company, things don’t go as planned. Take, for example, when we built the cottage and were setting up for our first houseguests. As we were taking a break, the instant hot water heater burst as a result of freezing temperatures. The entire place flooded, except the shower, 24 hours before nine people were to arrive, three of whom were to spend the night in the now flooded space. We managed to get it dried out enough to use but there was no hot water. Fortunately, our guests had good attitudes and we were able to provide other places for them to clean up. We also tried to make up for the debacle by wowing them with other aspects of hospitality.
Another example came from our trip. At the previously mentioned B and B, we were promised WiFi and the system went down. Despite the owner getting it repaired while we were out, it went down again. I would not have cared much except that our son had a great deal of homework to do and needed to log onto the internet. The owner was so determined for us to receive the service promised, that he offered my son his own office and computer! Now that is going the extra mile! Fortunately, it did come back online so we didn’t have to take him up on it. But the point is that he was willing to do anything to fulfill his promise.
GIVE AND ACCEPT FEEDBACK
Hotels, bed and breakfasts, and rental properties can’t improve if they don’t know what is wrong. We had a guest who mentioned that the shower didn’t get hot enough. Because we hadn’t actually used it ourselves, we didn’t know. But now we can do something about it.
Our best stay in England was at a new cottage on the property of a converted manor house where we were attending a family wedding. It was beautiful! But we discovered one thing that was broken and also a stopped-up drain. When we left, I told the staff about both things for two reasons. First, I didn’t want the parents of the bride, my cousins, charged for the broken item that we did not damage. Second, I also wanted the owners to have the opportunity to provide the quality of service they were aiming to achieve. This would not have happened with a flooded shower during the next guests' stay.
If you have the good fortune of traveling or even visiting friends and family, learn from what you experience, whether it is good or less than desirable. Nothing I have mentioned needs to take a lot of money. No matter if your guest space is an air mattress in the living room or a completely private apartment, it is more about attention to detail and treating someone the way you want to be treated. You can do it!