What’s the first thing you do when you get to your vacation destination? Go out for a celebratory drink? Unpack? Take a nap? While all of those are good ideas, they’re not at the very top of my list of things to do when I arrive in a new city. Here are five things I like to do to help me get settled in my destination and to set myself up for a great sightseeing experience.
1. Grab a map
Your trip will obviously be a much saner experience if you know where you’re going, so pick up a map as soon as possible. Even if I’m traveling with a guidebook, I find it helpful to have a separate map to refer to. Most guidebooks tend to have a bunch of different neighborhood maps scattered throughout the pages making it a pain to figure out how one district relates to the next, so it can be helpful to have one larger map that gives you the lay of the land. Plus, there will likely be times when you don’t want to lug around your heavy guidebook, such as when you head out to explore the nightlife.
2. Get a transit pass
Single rides on metros and buses can quickly add up and before you know it you’ve already exceeded the value of a day pass. So if you’ll be taking a lot of public transit during your trip you might as well get a multi-day pass as soon as you arrive in town so you can make the most of it.
3. Get up high
Find a good vantage point where you can scope out the city from above. I find it really helpful to understand how the city is laid out and knowing the proximity of one neighborhood to the next makes it easier to plan out your sightseeing. You might also spot things that look interesting and worth checking out that you hadn’t previously considered.
4. Stroll around the neighborhood near your hotel
This is one of the first things I do when I check into my accommodation. It’s nice to know where I can grab a cup of coffee, find a convenience store, get a quick bite to eat near my hotel, and so on. Orienting myself like this always makes me feel more settled in a new place.
5. Speak to your hotel receptionist or concierge
Find out if there are any special events going on in the city that might be worth checking out. Nothing sucks more than getting to the end of your stay and discovering something really cool was happening that you didn’t know about. You may need to buy tickets or make reservations for some events so it’s best to inquire in advance.
The current owner, Joe Nebhan (son of John Nebhan), began working odd jobs around the hotel when he was 8. He took over management of the hotel in 1981 and soon realized that the Gardner could not continue operating as a retirement hotel and so he began to operate the El Paso hotel as an El Paso hostel and hotel on Feb. 9, 1984. Hostels offer dormitory-style rooms at reasonable prices and are primarily used by young and international travelers.
To this day Gardner still operates as a hotel in half of its rooms. The other half operates as El Paso International Hostel, with up to four bunk beds per room and a shared bath in which Men stay on the second floor and women on the third. The Gardner is the only hostel in El Paso and one of about 10 hostels in Texas. It was rated in 1996 by American Youth Hostels as the best in the country.
In the early 1990’s, Nebhan made a striking discovery. As he was cleaning the opalescent glass in front he noticed a glint of copper. After a thorough cleaning, a copper trimming was revealed. Nebhan decided to take things further and found that oak was hiding beneath eight layers of paint at the building’s entrance. This inspired Nebhan to redo the hotel and bring it back to its roots… The front desk was replaced by a style that would have been used in the 1920’s. The skylights were uncovered and the blocked windows were replaced with stained glass and a telephone switchboard from the 1930’s is now on display in the hotel’s lobby. He tried to restore the hotel to its original appearance as much as possible.
The oldest public phone in the area sits against the wall along with 1920’s-era artwork that adorns the wall. The hotel’s original elevator with a collapsible door still runs guests to the upper floors and much of the original hotel is still intact today. To those zooming past the hotel at 311 E. Franklin as they enter Interstate 10, the Gardner Hotel of El Paso is much more than just another old building that lines the road. It’s history.
Stepping inside the lobby of the Gardner Hotel and El Paso International Hostel, guests are transported from busy Downtown streets to a place that is reminiscent of another era. Its marble staircase leads to rooms that have seen countless guests.
The hotel was opened in 1922 by Preston E. Gardner, a lawyer who in 1923 ran for mayor of El Paso and lost to Richard M. Dudley, after whom Dudley Field is named. The Gardner Hotel was originally intended to be a five-story 100-room hotel, but when construction costs went $50,000 over budget and only three floors had been completed, Gardner stopped building. Because of fears of fire in the 1920s, the Gardner was constructed entirely of steel making the hotel almost completely fire proof.
Gardner Hotel has a lot of history but most notably, on Jan. 9, 1934, bank robber John Dillinger and two members of his gang checked into the Gardner Hotel. Dillinger signed the name John D. Ball on the registry and stayed in room 221. But because Dillinger didn’t break any laws during his stay, the El Paso Sharif’s Department did not arrest him. Dillinger checked out a few days later but was captured Jan. 25, 1934, in Tucson after being recognized by firefighters who had saved his heavy luggage from a burning hotel there.
Gardner sold the hotel to William McMurray in the 1930s. But as Mr. McMurray got older, the El Paso hotel was sold to Joseph George Nebhan. After Joseph Nebhan gave the hotel to his son, John Nebhan, all but six guests were thrown out and all but a maid, a janitor and a clerk were fired and it was run as a retirement hotel from 1962-1983.
Staying in a hotel is part of a mobile professionals way of life. Having your mobile gear stolen while staying in a hotel, is not an event you’d like to have happen. Protect yourself and your mobile gear with these steps to ensure safety. You are responsible for your mobile gear at all times – even when you aren’t with it. Stay safe when traveling and don’t become a victim of crime.
1. Room Selection
When given a choice about which room you’d like to stay in, or you are booking online: choose a room which is in or near the main building, choose a room which faces inward towards the lobby or other rooms – avoid isolated areas, stay near a fire exit, stay away from areas where people may gather – vending machines, stairwells or basements.
2. Room Security
Check all the window, patio door and entrance doors to ensure that they lock properly and there are no defects with any latches. Don’t try to fix anything yourself but advise the front desk and if need be, change rooms.
3. Crowd Safety
Be careful with all your baggage especially your mobile gear when in any crowd. If someone seems to be paying special attention to yourself or your baggage, report them to Security. Try not to use your mobile gear in crowded areas unless you have no choice. In those cases, don’t bring all your gear with you, only what you need to work.
4. Keep Your Mobile Gear Secure
When in your room and working, close the drapes if you have rooms that face yours. Why advertise what you have with you? Ensure that your laptop case has a lock and use it. When you leave your room and won’t need your mobile gear – don’t leave it out in the open. Pack it up and lock it. Place the laptop case somewhere out of sight. Make sure to lock your door and put up the Do Not Disturb sign. You can even leave a light on so that it looks like the room is occupied.
Before your stay
Reserve the big room! I know it probably costs a bit more, but we found that having a bigger room was a life saver. We asked for a King Study (title probably varies from hotel to hotel), which got us a King size bed and a couch/chair area. Baby boy’s pack n’ play fit nicely somewhere in the extra 8 feet or so. That way he wasn’t on top of us when we were all sleeping (we are used to sleeping in separate rooms).
Pack a bag essential for the room. If you are on a long trip, with a short stop on the way in a hotel, pack a carry-on that has enough clothes, toiletries, etc. for one night. It saves lugging the big suitcase up to the room!
Ask for a refrigerator. Many rooms do not have one, but the desk will bring one to you if you ask ahead of time.
During your stay
Ask for more towels. I don’t know what happened but we were always running out of towels and washcloths. I guess there was always something wet to dry up!
Use a noise machine or phone app. There are lots of weird noises at hotels, and everyone knows that waking the baby is the last thing you want to do. I use the relax and sleep app on my cell phone for “white noise”. That way baby boy won’t hear the hallway noises.
Hang the do-not-disturb sign. Don’t forget! ”Maid Service” is not what you want waking up your baby from an important morning nap!
Bring a baby monitor. When you have only one room in a hotel, there isn’t much to do after 8:00 (or whenever baby’s bed time is) except go down to the lobby. If your monitor’s signal reaches all the way down there, at least you can hang out and talk in a voice other than a whisper.
Things to do in the hotel lobby:
- go swimming
- play cards
- guess the life details of other guests
- watch TV on your tablet
- fill up on complimentary coffee
- As you check out
Ask for a late check out. Many hotels if you ask far enough in advance will give you a check out of 1:00ish. That was perfect because then baby boy could get a good morning nap in (because he often missed his afternoon nap in the car) and be well rested. Happy baby = happy parents.
Let’s face it, as much as we love camping, hostels, and Eco-lodges sometimes a hotel is the most reasonable option. Luckily, even when staying at the least environmentally-friendly hotel you have a lot of control over your environmental impact. Here are 11 of our favorite tips and tricks for being a little friendlier to Mother Earth during your next hotel stay:
Unplug, unplug, unplug. The first thing you should do when you walk into a hotel room is unplug. 5 lamps? Unplug 4. Mini-fridge? Unless you’ve brought a turkey and mayo sandwich, unplug. Coffee maker? Unplug. Hair dryer? Unplug. Appliances drain energy even when they’re not on. If you just spend 2 minutes unplugging items you will already have made a difference.
Hang your towel. In my experience housekeeping is haphazard in their pledge to “save the environment one towel at a time.” Most times I hang the towel and come back later to find they’ve replaced it anyway; but about 50% of the time they leave it for me.
Move the soap. An easy trick to reduce your waste is to bring the bar of soap with you to the shower when you shower and leave it by the sink the rest of the time. Seriously, when was the last time you used two full bars of soap at a hotel? (Or even one full bar?)
Stick the “Do not Disturb” on your door. Or just call housekeeping and tell them you won’t need their services during your stay. To prevent the hotel from wasting water by changing your sheets and towels, wasting electricity by vacuuming, and spraying harsh chemicals all over your toothbrush, just ask them to refrain from cleaning your room during your stay.
Adjust the thermostat. By lowering the temperature by 2 degrees in the winter or raising it by 2 in the summer you will save a lot of energy. And you won’t notice the difference.
When you leave the room turn everything off:
- Thermostat (if the weather is mild)
Flush less frequently. No need to flush every time. Practice the “if it’s brown flush it down, if it’s yellow let it mellow” rule.
Bring your own toiletries. I personally know the pains of the 3 oz of liquids on planes rule. A liter of genuine, carried-back-from-Ireland Whiskey was confiscated from us on a 6 am flight the day the emergency (and now permanent) rule came down. True story. But think of all of the plastics that are used to create tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner. And all of the extra packaging in luxury hotel items. Plus, by bringing your own shampoo you can prevent a bad hair day from bad shampoo.
Take shorter showers. Sometimes a long, hot shower feels incredible. But do you need that every day? The average US shower head spits out about 2.5 gallons per minute, which means in a 15 minute shower you use nearly 40 gallons of water. Yikes!
Leave the pen (and other freebies) behind. I don’t know why, but I’m a sucker for free pens. Even the crappy ones that explode in my purse on the airplane ride home. Do the earth a favor and leave these items behind.
Recycle. Find out if the hotel recycles. If they do, ask if they separate it out from waste-bins. If they don’t, take your free USA Today and empty cans and bottles and toss them in an extra pocket in your suitcase to recycle later. They weigh almost nothing.
Even the most luxurious hotel suite won’t feel like home, but the contents of your suitcase can make your hotel stay as comfortable as possible. You’ll need some basics, of course, but tucking a few personal touches into your luggage can make your stay more pleasant. Once you’ve counted all the flowers on the comforter and flipped through every TV channel, you’ll be glad to have packed some entertainment options.
Some hotels have laundry services, but if your trip is a week or shorter, it’s most affordable for you to just bring enough clothing to last for the whole trip. Think ahead to what types of events you’re going to be attending during your stay; if you’re on business, you’ll likely need two suits with a variety of shirts, plus two casual outfits to change into for walking around the hotel at night and shoes for each outfit. Bring at least one set of pajamas and enough underwear and socks to last for your entire stay. If you’re on a one-night trip, bring pajamas but plan to wear your pants again the next day; bring a clean shirt to pair with it. Bring a light sweater or sweatshirt in case your hotel is chilly. If your hotel has a pool or gym, you may also want to bring a bathing suit, exercise gear and sneakers.
If you have the room to spare in your suitcase, a bathrobe and slippers will help you feel cozy after a long day of travel or work. Although it’s safe to assume that your hotel bed will always have clean linens when you check in, bringing your own pillowcase gives you peace of mind about what you’re resting your head upon. Set up a framed photo of loved ones next to your bed. If you have a stuffed animal that brings you comfort, tuck it into your suitcase; no one will see you snuggle up to your childhood teddy bear in the privacy of your room.
Many hotels offer miniature versions of toiletries in their bathrooms, so you can save room in your luggage by leaving basics like soap at home. Do check that your hotel offers these items first, though, so you’re not stranded without any shampoo, and bring your own hair-styling products, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrush and contact lens solution. Pack your own facial products and body wash if you have sensitive skin, since the provided toiletries may not be right for your skin type. Your hotel may have complimentary aspirin at the front desk, but bring any prescription medications you need.
If you have one, a laptop will save you from boredom on a long night in a hotel. Even if your hotel doesn’t offer free Internet access, packing a few DVDs will provide you with hours of entertainment. Don’t forget your power cord. If your hotel stay is a rare break from a stressful life, take advantage of your bathroom and turn it into a spa. Bring bubble bath, a paperback or magazine and a bottle of wine. Pack a glass and corkscrew too. Chill the wine in the ice bucket, then sink into the tub for some peace and relaxation.
Packing food to take to your hotel not only cuts down on travel expenses, it saves your kids from being subjected to the onslaught of fast food that families often consume while on vacation. For added convenience, some hotels include mini-refrigerators and microwaves in each room or available for rent. If you have space, pack some plastic utensils, paper plates and bowls.
Start off the day with a hearty breakfast. Pack plain bagels that your kids can top with jam or honey packets. Bake a host of mini-muffins before you depart on your vacation and store them in plastic storage bags or containers. You can also include a variety pack of cereals, the kind in small boxes; some companies even use boxes that double as bowls. Purchase an 8-ounce carton of milk from a nearby market or the hotel’s own convenience store. You can make instant oatmeal in the hotel microwave by simply adding water to the dry mix.
Lunch and Dinner
For a kid-friendly lunch, you can easily make sandwiches with just a loaf of bread and jars of peanut butter and jelly. Ready-made tuna kits, featuring sealed pouches of tuna, mayonnaise and crackers, do not require refrigeration. Some soups come packaged in microwaveable bowls, including flavors like chicken noodle or split pea. Certain brands also sell microwaveable bowls of macaroni and cheese or spaghetti that require nothing more than added water. If your room does not have a microwave, you can use hot water from the coffeemaker found in most hotel rooms. For something more homemade, cook some spaghetti ahead of time at home and pack the pasta in a gallon-size storage bag. Bring a jar of spaghetti sauce and warm the two ingredients in the microwave.
Parents concerned with keeping their kids hydrated should pack plenty of juice boxes. Save on space by purchasing half-pint bottles of water. For added variety, include on-the-go punch mixes that you can easily store in your purse or backpack. When your kids get thirsty, just throw the mix into a bottle of water and shake for a punch concoction. Many hotel rooms provide plastic cups. You can also get ice from the front desk or in the hallway at some hotels.
Snacks offer the widest range of non-perishable options, including granola bars, raisins, pretzels, trail mix, fruit rolls and crackers with spreadable cheese or peanut butter. Consider small fruits that don’t take up much space, such as tangerines, apricots or plums. For rooms equipped with microwaves, take bags of microwave popcorn. Pack tubes of yogurt and individual gelatin or pudding packs if your room includes a mini-fridge. Reward your kids for good behavior with lollipops or bite-size candy bars.
by Jane Gosford
Staying at a hotel can be an amazing experience. Hotels of today offer guests every amenity under the sun. Many of these amenities are offered at no charge. With all of the items offered to you by hotels, it can be surprising when you find that you’re missing the creature comforts of home. Before you leave for your next trip, be sure that you pack these essential items to make your hotel room feel a bit more like home:
Even if your hotel has the most luxurious bed that money can buy, you may still find that you have trouble falling asleep. You’d be surprised at how much effect your broken-in pillow has on a good night’s rest. The next time you get ready to leave your house for your big vacation, stop and grab your pillow. Those sleep-filled nights will be well worth the extra luggage.
If you have room in your suitcase, be sure to pack at least one towel. Unless you are staying in a five-star, luxury resort, chances are that the towels supplied to you are smaller than the bath towels you use at home. They also won’t be as soft and fluffy as if you had washed them yourself. Bringing a towel along with you is just one simple way of making your hotel stay more comfortable.
Let’s face it: pay-per-view in a hotel room can get expensive! If you’re traveling with children, you’ll want to keep them properly entertained. Pack your kids’ favorite gaming system and a few games. If you aren’t traveling with kids, you may still want to bring along your laptop, portable DVD player or iPod. Even though you’re on vacation, you’ll still have down time. Having access to the same types of entertainment you have at home can make your time in a hotel room more pleasant.
Adapters are especially important to pack in your bag if you are traveling to Europe. Other countries don’t use the same voltage as the United States. This means that your chargers, hair dryers and curling irons won’t fit into the wall sockets in your hotel room. You can find adapters at most stores that sell electronics.
If you are sensitive to smells, bring along a bottle of Fe-breeze on your next trip. Bring along the same scent that you use for your home. When you get into your hotel room, spray the curtains, the bedding and even the shower curtain. Spraying your room with Fe-breeze will rid it of the chemical smell found so frequently in hotel rooms. You’ll be able to relax more easily when your room smells a bit more like home.
If you’re traveling on your own, whether it’s for business or pleasure, bringing along a few pictures of loved ones can make your room feel homey and inviting. Pack a favorite photo of your kids, spouse, friends or pets in your carry-on bag. When you get to your hotel room, pull them out and set them on your nightstand or dresser. You’ll instantly make your hotel room feel more personal.
No stay in a hotel room will ever be as comfortable as your own home. By packing your own pillow, a towel and a few pictures, you can make your hotel room as relaxing as possible. You may not be planning on spending all of your time in your hotel room, but the time you do spend in it should be as comfortable as it can be.
Stay safe and protect your valuables in and around your hotel room.
Worried about protecting yourself from dangerous strangers while traveling? Concerned about protecting your valuables from theft while staying in a hotel room? Here are some safety tips to keep in mind.
To protect yourself:
Keep the door to your room locked at all times. If you are inside the room, turn the deadbolt and fasten the security chain.
When you leave your hotel room, pull the door completely closed behind you. Make sure the latch has engaged. Take a moment before you leave to try the door and make sure it is closed and locked.
Do not open your door to strangers. Use the security viewport to see who is outside your door. Do not trust someone claiming to be a hotel employee if you are not expecting one. If you are unsure, call the front desk to check. Leave the security chain engaged while opening the door for further protection.
Check all windows and doors in your room every time you enter it and leave it to make sure they are closed and locked.
When entering or leaving the hotel after dark, use the main entrance.
If you travel often, consider buying a portable alarm system to hang on the doorknob for added protection. These movement-sensitive devices can awaken you if a door lock should happen to fail.
To protect your valuables:
Use the safe provided in the room to store keys, wallets, extra cash and credit cards, jewelry, and other small valuable items you are leaving in the room. If no safe is supplied, check with the front desk. They may have locked storage available for your use.
Don’t leave cash, travelers checks and expensive electronics and jewelry lying around the room.
Leave larger expensive or breakable objects at home, if at all possible. If you must bring them, store them in the closet and out of the way of the cleaning crew.
By using your common sense and taking a few precautions while on the road, you can protect yourself and your loved ones from danger and hang on to your possessions.