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Travel Tips: 10 Questions to Ask Your Concierge

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I know many people think concierges are antiquated, but let me tell you, the incredible facts and insight they provide make me believe they're the closest things anyone can get to a living, breathing destination guide. Don't let them just draw maps or make reservations at places you're unable to book via OpenTable. Tap into the years of knowledge and often-unlimited access a concierge has cultivated in their city.

Here's a list of 10 Questions You Should Be Asking Your Concierge to Get the Most Out of Your Stay

How much lead-time would you prefer in order to book the best restaurants or secure the impossible theater or sporting ticket?
If you're traveling on a logistically complicated trip, it's perhaps best to contact the concierge and introduce yourself via phone or email as soon as you've booked your room. This way, you can pose important plan options in advance of your stay - and be able to maneuver your schedule around when they are accommodated sooner rather than later. Sure, a concierge can get you a last-minute reservation, but this is not always ideal. It's always worth to plan ahead. Some concierges don't want to know too far ahead, but others prefer planning months in advance. Just ask.

What time do most locals dine and where do they like to eat?
One of the first things I like to find out when I arrive in a new town or city is to find out if it's an early-to-bed or late-night kind of place. "What time do most locals dine" and then, "Where do they like to eat?" is a two-part question I always like to pose. Finding out the correct answer will prove to be helpful, especially in places like Spain, where they abide by afternoon siestas, and restaurants are still empty at 8 p.m. There's nothing more travel buzz-killing than being forced to eat in a chain restaurant with a bunch of noisy tourists.

Can you recommend a private guide?
If you have extra time on your trip, don't speak the language, and feel that you're not really getting the cultural experience you've desired, I'd suggest requesting a private guide for a day. There's nothing like experiencing a destination with a local holding your hand and sharing in his or her favorite places. Often if you're an independent traveler, you may not need more than a day, but this type of one-on-one service will teach you the lay of the land and also could provide insight into subtle cultural moirés. Most concierges have a Rolodex of trusted guides and you'll be able to negotiate hourly or day rate through them, so you'll have some accountability.

What's the best way to hail a cab?
While it's always easy to catch a cab from the hotel, when you're out in the city, it's not always such a cinch. This is where it also may be good to ask if there are any hand gestures you should avoid. Some of my favorite cab hailing, finger-pointing techniques are considered obscene in certain countries and are especially unhelpful in the rain. Also, concierges can help point you in the direct of hiring a private car and driver if your logistics are complicated, or even securing a private rental car if you're prepared to test the road yourself.

How safe is walking around the surrounding area alone at night?
As a woman that often travels alone and is accustomed to walking around at night by herself in certain cities, I always find this an invaluable question. What is safe in one city is not in another and I duly trust a concierge's advice.

Where's the most authentic place to go shopping for a local specialty, especially artisanal handicrafts or jewelry?
Years ago, I received a simple, but charming garnet necklace from my friends. They had bought it from a Prague jeweler they had found via a suggestion from their concierge. The jeweler was not listed in guidebooks and still to this day does not have a website. It remains one of my all-time favorite travel presents, a beautiful memento of their Eastern European trip. If it's hard to navigate a shopping trip alone, ask for the guidance of a personal shopper.

Where can you eat that is kid-friendly, and also for when you want to have a little quiet meal alone, are there babysitters you recommend?
There are times when you travel with children and you want to take them everyplace to show them other cultures and participate fully in your trip. Then there are times when you just need a little break or it is inappropriate to bring them certain places. It's daunting to think about finding a babysitter in another city, but your concierge also has in his Rolodex a list of qualified child care providers, so you can have a little adult time with some peace of mind.

Are there any hidden treasures you'd recommend?
Whether it's a small museum, a fantastic art gallery, a charming local park or my favorite, a great espresso place, every destination possesses local treasures. These gems usually don't wind up in guidebooks, eager to cover the biggest attractions, but often provide the most memorable excursions.

How much time do you need to get to the airport?
This answer varies depending on the time of day as well as weekday versus weekend traffic. Add in various sporting events, which always seem to be nearby airports, and this equation is usually complicated. While the front desk should be of help with this, often they're not; when in doubt, ask the concierge.

Do you know where I can borrow or buy a phone charger? It's a daily occurrence everywhere people travel: the plight of the missing phone charger. Don't be ashamed and try to suffer through a trip with a phone dwindling in charge. Everyone loses their phone charger when they travel. Chances are your concierge will have your model handy to borrow, and if not, surely will be able to help point you in the right direction so you can truly look like everyone else out on the street: walking around their city using their phone as GPS.

Just remember that it always helps to be patient as most concierges are trying to appease several dozen guests at a time and to always be polite. It's definitely worth your time to wait for help and remember, a little thank you tip will go a long way!

And for your next hotel stay, here's a fun opportunity: for the the next 30 days, check out the Global Explorers Challenge on Facebook. Answer the daily trivia questions and you can win complimentary 2 night hotel stays and reward points at our properties worldwide. It's a fun way to explore new destinations and hotels as well as sharing all your hotel experiences and recommendations to fellow travelers.