Is everyone watching the new glamorous and enticing "Pan Am" show on ABC? It certainly has stirred our fantasies about flying and travel. And more than that, I find that people are very curious about how it really is flying around the world as a crew member.
I'm asked all sorts of questions: What are my best insider tips and tricks? How do I stay safe when traveling and especially in hotels? What are my dos and don'ts? What's interesting is that when I give them my "hotel room to-do check list," people act a bit surprised. That's when I decided to ask a few of my frequent flyer friends to see what they do when they first get to their room.
My favorite response came from a worldly and savvy business woman. In a very matter of fact way, she said "I go straight to my window and see what my view is like!" I bet most of you would agree that that's as important as the quality of your room. So I let her in on what I was taught from day one as a crew member, and it is my routine to this day. I assured her that "if you do these things -- and it takes just a few minutes -- you will have peace of mind that your room is clean, safe and properly stocked".
Check your room: This step is to ensure that no one is in your room, and that everything works. Start by checking the bathroom and looking behind the shower curtain, if there is one. Check under the bed to be sure the floor is clean and clear and behind the curtains: pat them to be certain there's nothing behind them. Make sure any sliding glass doors and windows are functional and that the locks work. Check in the closet to be sure it's empty. Look through your peephole in your door: Is it installed correctly so that you can see out into the hallway?
You will also want to do this -- and I mention this with a grimace on my face and with trepidation because its a huge problem now, in even the most luxurious hotels: Check under your mattress (especially at the headboard) to see if there is evidence of bedbugs. It looks like ground black pepper is on the white cover over the box spring. If you see that, leave your room immediately!
Find your exits: Not sexy, but this is absolutely essential to your well being if there's an emergency. If you have to evacuate the hotel, you need to know exactly where to find the exits. Granted, the chances of that happening are pretty slim, but emergencies do occur. In the course of my career, I was evacuated on three different occasions, once at 3 a.m. in an old European hotel in Manchester, England. This hotel was a virtual maze in broad daylight, never mind in the dead of night. Fortunately, I knew the closest exit and safely met my crew outside.
First, look at the inside of your door and you'll find a map of your floor showing the emergency exits. Locate the exits, then go out into the hallway and count the doors between your room and that nearest exit. Now, close your eyes and walk the hall with your hand on the wall, counting doors as you go. If the electricity goes off you'll have to do this without being able to see where you're going and distances can seem much farther away in the dark when you can't see where you are going. Try it, you'll be surprised.
Check and see if you have all your amenities: You don't want to wait until you need something to discover that it isn't there. Even the most deluxe hotel can slip up once in a while, so check to be sure you have an adequate supply of hangers, towels and wash cloths, as well as shampoo and soap, and a working hair dryer if you need one.
Locate the TV remote and make sure both it and the television are functioning properly. If there's a mini bar, is it well stocked? Is there a clock? Is it showing the right time? Do you know how to work the alarm and is it already set? (I've had the dubious pleasure of being awakened at 4 a.m. because the previous guest had needed to be up at that hour.) Is the heat or air conditioning working and can you change the temperature? Is the telephone working? Even if you'll be using your cell phone, you might want to contact the desk or call for room service.
Call now for what you need: Now is the time to call housekeeping for extra pillows, blankets, towels or anything else you think you might need. Do you have clothes that will require pressing before you wear them? If so, is there an iron in your room, and is it working properly? Some hotel irons seem to spit water for no apparent reason. I discovered this the hard way when I ruined a good blouse, so you might want to try ironing a towel before you iron your clothes.
Now you can relax and unpack now you're sure you'll be staying in that room. Again, it may be weird to do these things at first. But if you take a few minutes to check your room when you first arrive, the rest of your stay will be a lot safer, more relaxing and more likely to be free from unpleasant surprises.
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