That Suitcase Life

Staying in fancy hotels can pretty cool sometimes. ‘Sometimes’ being the magic word…When I was younger, I used to imagine how exciting it’d be, staying in posh hotels all the time and getting to eat dinner in their fancy restaurants alongside fancy drinks in the hotel bar. Now that I am older, wiser and know better, I can confirm that in fact, that dinner will be overpriced and disappointingly, your gin will cost you more than double what it would in a normal pub. Hotel restaurants in general (except in Dubai – where most of the best places are located in bars, due to the alcohol licensing laws) are pretty dire. In fact, eating at the hotel restaurant (unless it’s breakfast) is usually a last resort for me.

There’s a lot of disadvantages of hotel life that I had never actually considered prior to living the hotel life.

For example, late night munchies. You know sometimes, when you can’t sleep, and you just want something like slice of toast before bed? Or maybe a sliced apple dunked in peanut butter? No chance, unless you want a $5 surcharge on said toasted bread slice, not to mention, they probably won’t even offer your weird cravings of cheese and Worcestershire sauce or PB and banana. Even worse are the hotels who don’t offer anything other than your Michelin Star type menus – the ones where you’ll never find a simple “toast” on the menu. No, it’ll be “Gently toasted to perfection, home-made sourdough artisan bread, topped with a generous amount of organic, hand churned, Himalayan salted butter.” priced modestly at $15. Forget it. You’ll be lucky if you have a mini bar to raid the peanut M&Ms. I once got into a particularly nasty phone argument regarding a baked potato (you did read that correctly, I assure you…). After reading over yet another bleak room service menu, this particular day I was trying to uphold my most recent health kick. There was literally nothing healthy on the menu aside from a baked potato with tuna which was actually an option from the kids choice. When I called to order it, the woman on the other side bluntly said, “I am sorry, but you can’t order that.” Puzzled, I asked why not? To which she barked down the phone, that since I am not a child, and there are no children listed on the room, I can only order from the adult menu. After a huge debate, she reluctantly agreed that okay, I could order the baked potato, but only if I payed double and she would provide me with an adult sized potato in return. Excuse me??? The last time I checked, baking potatoes only came in one size!? She didn’t like my comeback, and swiftly disconnected the call, ignoring all of my subsequent calls too. I never did get to eat that day… I guess it was better for my diet anyway.

Another annoying thing about hotels is that thing that they do with the bedsheets. They tuck it into the bottom of the mattress in such a way that even Houdini would struggle to free his legs. Honestly, who aside from newborn babies, wants to sleep wrapped up in sheets like they are about to be dropped into a sarcophagus??? You’d never be able to reach your phone when you go to snooze the alarm. Oh wait – that’s because hotels seldom place a power socket anywhere near to your bed, so your alarm will be blaring at the other side of the room.

I know that hotels are trying to conserve energy (and ahem, reduce their electricity bills…) but, is it really necessary to have one or two plugs in the furthest away walls from the bed??? I invested in an expensive two metre charging cord from Apple which is a Godsend the majority of the time, however, even that doesn’t reach the bed in some hotel rooms! There have been times where I have been lying on hotel carpets that probably haven’t seen a hoover in a month, just to send messages or check a map before my phone gives up on life.

Charging of the phone can be such a drama in hotels. The odd time that I have forgotten an adaptor, I’ve had to call housekeeping to borrow one. The last time this happened and I asked for an adaptor so I could charge my phone, they kindly obliged and left a four plug local socket adaptor hanging on the handle of my door hahaha! Not quite the universal adaptor I was hoping for… There was one hotel who even laughed at me when I asked if they had a spare adaptor – cue me, sleeping with the TV on so that I could charge my phone in the televisions USB port to ensure my alarm went off in the morning.

Saying that hotels do provide alarm clocks. The majority of these alarm clocks though, should come with some sort of user manual. Honestly, I’ve seen cryptic puzzles easier to solve than the buttons on some of these alarm clocks. This also goes for A/C units. In Korea, I had to sleep with my room temperature set at 16 degrees Celsius when it was -2 outside, because the A/C unit was written in some sort of morse code, that would have taken an entire troop of code-breakers to crack. Needless to say, I was not amused, particularly after having spoken to three different people on the reception desk, no-one could understand through my Scottish accent what my problem actually was. The one and only time I think I ever slept with my feet tucked into the sarcophagus sheets!

I told my neighbour this story, and he told me a story about his stay in a Japanese hotel. After failing to find the answer on google, he had to call housekeeping (who in turn called an engineer) because he couldn’t seem to flush his fancy electric, heated seat toilet. The engineer came; took one look at the full toilet and him, then proceeded to push a little button hidden AT THE BACK OF THE TOILET, hidden away from sight as he glared at my neighbour. The only thing we learned in this instance, was that there is an actual guy on Youtube who has an entire channel dedicated to showing mere mortals like us how to work these fancy toilets. Unfortunately for my neighbour, this particular model wasn’t demonstrated. On the bright side, at least he got a funny story out of it! Another friend told me about the time that she somehow managed to block the hotel toilet, mere minutes before she had to check out and head for her return flight back to Dubai. Absolutely mortified that after multiple flushes, the toilet water (and all that was in it) kept rising higher and higher with every flush, she fabricated a story and wrote a little note of apology to the cleaners. This note read “CAUTION – Be careful when opening. I am so sorry, but the toilet seems to be blocked and overflowing. I would have contacted housekeeping but I had to collect the children from the pool before checking out.” She might have gotten away with this giant fib, if only the cleaner hadn’t dived straight into her room upon seeing her flee the scene in an airline uniform, obviously sans children.

When I asked my friends what were their worst hotel bugbears, one that kept cropping up was shower problems. Who the hell designed the one hot – one cold, balance taps? Turn the hot tap a millimetre too far and you’ll end up with skin looking like a cooked tomato; turn the cold one millimetre too far and you’ll feel like you’re taking a dip in the Atlantic Ocean. Trying to get that balance is such an effort, and by the time you have finally nailed the perfect balance, it’s already time to leave and head onto the next hotel where you’ll encounter the same drama. Every now and again, you get a shower that is set to the perfect 38.5 degrees – and when you find that One shower, it’s like a dream. Until you discover the hotel hairdryer is one of those decrepit energy efficient models which require you to hold in the push button the entire time you blow dry your hair. That’s okay if your hair is a three inches long, but what about the girls with Rapunzel locks, or even worse, a head full of extensions!? Repetitive strain injury much??? Dare you remove your hand from those buttons for a mere three seconds rest, and good luck trying to get the thing to switch back on again within half an hour. Many a time, I’ve had to venture out with damp hair and risk catching a cold.

If the shower, plug socket, A/C drama has put you in a bad mood. Don’t worry. You can always Skype your family and friends back home to cheer you up. NOT! ‘Cause more often than not, the wifi is reminiscent of the dial up that we used to use way back in the early days where the internet was still a scary brand new thing. Do you remember when your mum used to shout up the stairs to you to hurry up and log off of MSN because she needed the phone to call your auntie to urgently discuss what just happened in Coronation Street? You’ll be lucky if you can refresh your instagram, let alone pass the time on Skype or Netflix. It’ll disconnect on and off, and the battery will drain out of your phone faster than we drink the bubbly at Bubblicious on a Friday. Fear not, incase of internet failure – there’s always BBC News, CNN and a local channel for you to watch on the TV. The three channels that will always be there for you, and will never let you down. When the CNN channel eventually bores you to sleep, you can soundly snooze with your feet tucked up real snug, providing you’re sporting earplugs to drain out the screeching noise of the hotel elevators that your bed will obviously share an adjoining wall with, and wearing a coordinating eye mask to block out the sunlight spilling through those hotel curtains that seldom meet in the middle.

And that my friends, is the reality of hotel life. I do realise that this sounds like a pretty pessimistic post, but don’t be fooled. There are many times when I get to stay in really amazing hotels where no faults can be found no matter how hard you try to look for them, and from time to time, these hotel stays really feel like a mini holiday. But if you find yourself nodding at any of my hotel life problems, then here’s my top tips on how to survive!

So, my top tips for those who are forever living out of a suitcase and in a hotel?

  1. Bring a book or a few good magazines
  2. And cosy socks
  3. And your own toiletries because hotel ones are pretty dire, generally speaking
  4. Bring a laptop or iPad with films already downloaded onto it
  5. Invest in an universal adaptor
  6. If you have long hair, invest in a suitcase or travel hairdryer
  7. Bring snacks. Most countries are funny about fruits, but you can bring cereal bars, rice cakes and granola etc. Cereal for dinner is good sometimes!
  8. If you visit the same country often, then it’s a good idea to invest in a local sim card
  9. Sign up to the hotel’s reward scheme for free room upgrades and in-house offers
  10. If you’re going to somewhere where theres not much to do, bring your nail varnish, face/hair masks etc and turn your hotel stay into a mini pamper session
  11. Download offline maps before you go
  12. Download a translation app too, so you can translate your hipster coffee order
  13. Invest in a long charging cable – and buy the real deal (The ones from Ebay break after two or so weeks)
  14. Always have a gym kit, because when boredom strikes, you can always exercise
  15. As for the shower? Suggestions on a postcard please

Happy hotel life!

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