How Important Are Toiletries When You Choose A Hotel?
In an effort to help attract more guests, hotel chains across the globe have begun changing the quality of their toiletries, upgrading their shampoos, conditioners, body lotions, and soaps to top-shelf brands like Paul Mitchell and other high-end products typically found in pricey salons. An article by USA Today recently reported that Ritz-Carlton, InterContinental, and other Marriott brands like Courtyard, SpringHill Suites, TownPlace Suites, and Residence Inn are also getting on board. The folks at Hyatt have taken this one step further—in addition to upgrading their toiletries to high-quality bath and skin products from KenetMD Skin Care, Le Labo, June Jacobs, and Aromapothecary, they've also updated their in-room menus with healthier options that include smoothies, fresh juices, and well-balanced portions. Their new service, Hyatt Has It, also allows guests access to essential-but-often-forgotten items like makeup remover wipes, slippers, and shower caps (complimentary) as well as larger items like phone chargers, curling irons, yoga mats, and steamers (available to borrow or buy).
I recently stayed at the Marriott Residence Inn Mont-Tremblant where I was given small bottles of Paul Mitchell shampoo and conditioner. Did I love those little luxury touches and the way my hair looked? Yes. Would I purposely book my next hotel stay at a Marriott Residence Inn because of it? Probably not. But maybe that's just me.
What do you think? Do the types of toiletries offered by a hotel factor into where you book or do other, larger details like hotel location and overall price matter more in your final decision? Would a certain brand of shampoos or soaps be enough to ensure your loyalty to a specific hotel chain? Sound off below!
We here at Budget Travel were pretty disgusted by the recent New York Post's story about wealthy Manhattanites hiring disabled "black market tour guides" to pose as family members at Disney World. The benefit? For $130 per hour—or more than $1,000 per day—up to six of the disabled guide's "family members" can cut in line at popular rides such as It's a Small World and Pirates of the Caribbean, while the less fortunate wait, sometimes more than two hours, for their turn. The practice is, of course, not endorsed by Disney, and takes advantage of the park's sensitive policy toward disabled guests. While we share the revulsion just about everyone else feels about this illicit scheme, we're also a little puzzled. For one thing, major theme parks handle long lines really well, and increasingly keep them moving along briskly or keep folks entertained while they wait. Some of my friends have even told me that the whole line-wait experience is, for them, part of the fun. Not sold on that idea? Well, theme parks like Disney, Universal, Six Flags, and Busch Gardens offer express pass programs that can get you to the head of the line for free, or for a (relatively) modest fee. Here, details about the pass programs at some of the most popular parks. Think of this as your theme park cheat sheet (or, make that your NOT-cheat-sheet): Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom. FastPass is free, but distributed only on a first come, first served basis at machines around the park. You get to skip the line within specified times printed on the pass. Six Flags Great Adventure. Flash Pass starts at $43. A beeper alerts you when it's your turn to board select rides. Universal Studios Florida. Express Plus Pass starts at $20 but is free if you stay at an on-site hotel. It lets you skip lines at select rides. Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Quick Queue starts at $20 and lets you skip lines at select rides. TALK TO US! Do you have favorite strategies for beating the lines at theme parks? We'd love to hear them, and might share them in an upcoming Budget Travel story!
3 Easy Ways To Give Back When You Travel
Trying to make a difference in the world? Whether you're booking hotels that contribute to those who are less fortunate or want to try a hands-on conservation vacation at one of your favorite national parks, we've got three easy ways you can help others and make the world a better place while you travel. Affinia Hotels in New York City and Washington D.C.When you book a room at any Affinia Hotel by July 31st, your room rate (from $149 a night in D.C. and from $199 in New York City) will include a $10 donation to Operation Smile, a non-profit organization helping to provide surgeries for young children around the world who were born with facial deformities. As a special thank you for participating in this summer promotion, you'll receive complimentary WiFi at the hotel—a value of $14.95 per day—as well as a list of popular area attractions and a promotional Smile Kit that includes a toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash, mints, and floss to take care of your own pearly whites. Guests at the Affinia Shelburne, Affinia Dumont, Affinia 50, and Affinia Manhattan will also receive complimentary wine while attending Evening Libations, Affinia's signature wine hour. Click here for more information and to book your room or call 866/246-2203 and mention promo code SMILE. Aqua Hospitality Hotels in HawaiiBook a room at any of Aqua Hospitality's 21 properties on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, and the Big Island of Hawaii and you'll pay from $99 per night and receive a copy of the controversial New York Times Bestseller, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg, one of Fortune's 50 Most Powerful Women and CEO of Facebook. You'll get to learn a little more about LeanIn.org and 10 percent of every reservation will benefit the Patsy Mink Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Hawaii that provides educational opportunities for low-income women and mothers. Click here to book this package online and travel by Dec. 31, 2013 to receive the special rate of $99 per night or call 866/940-2782 and mention the Lean In Promotion. Conservation Volunteer Vacations in U.S. National ParksIf you're interested in helping to preserve America's great national parks, volunteer with the American Conservation Experience this summer and gain access to volunteer vacations normally reserved for AmeriCorps members and long-term volunteers. After a wildly successful program in California's Catalina Island last year, the organization has expanded this year's program to include Bryce Canyon National Park and Grand Canyon National Park as well, with 11-day volunteer vacation packages priced at $600 including your accommodations, supplies, and meals. You'll spend time preserving the parks during the day on weekdays and have nights and weekends to explore these natural wonders. Dates for Catalina Island are Jun. 17, Jul. 22, Aug. 5, 19, and Sept. 2, 2013. Dates for Grand Canyon National Park are Jul. 15 and Aug. 26, 2013. Dates for Bryce Canyon National Park are Jun. 17, Jul. 15, 29, and Aug. 12, 2013.
How to Visit Paris Without Getting Your Pocket Picked
We're all for the French government's new drive to make the country more welcoming to visitors. Its new publication "Do You Speak Touriste?" is intended to help put tourism—and its impact on the national economy—on the radar of more French citizens. However, one of the reasons France is considered unfriendly and unwelcoming—inspiring the country's 80+ million annual visitors to stay only a few days and spend less money than they do in the U.S. or Spain—is petty crime. Visit one of Paris's must-sees like the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower and you may get your pocket picked or your purse snatched. While j'adore the potential long-term benefits of this pro-tourist initiative the French government is pursuing, at Budget Travel we kinda prefer to cut to the chase. Whether or not the average Parisian ever learns to speak touriste, these tips from the U.S. Embassy in Paris will help you hold on to your stuff: Keep it simple. Don't carry more than you are willing to lose! That means a slimmed-down wallet with one credit/ATM card, an ID, and no more than $60 or so. Put a rubber band around your wallet and carry it in your front pocket. Zip it. Purses should have zippers and should be carried tightly under your arm. Backpack-style purses should be carried in front, not on your back. Copy that. Leave photocopies of your passports, credit cards, and other valuable papers at your lodging. Know the hotspots. It's not difficult to identify the places your most likely to get robbed: They are the top sites in Paris, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Champs-Elysées. In fact, pickpocketing at the Louvre got so out of control recently that workers there staged a strike to draw attention to the problem. Be wary of groups of kids. Pickpockets tend to be young and they travel in packs. On the metro, they may swarm around you when getting on or off the train; try to stay away from the doors and be vigilant about strangers' access to your pockets or purse. On the street, be extra cautious if strangers ask for directions, try to sell you something, or spill a drink or ice cream on you. At ATMs, don't let yourself be distracted by strangers asking you questions. TALK TO US! We love Paris and want to know: Have you ever had trouble with street crime while visiting the French capital?
How to do Broadway on a Budget
It's been a while since we've written anything about Broadway. We've already sung the praises of saving money on Broadway shows with TKTS and how to take advantage of standing room only, general rush and student rush tickets. Since our last story on Broadway ticket savings, there have been a number of great websites created to help you save even more money on Broadway tickets. Whether you're a student, senior or just an admirer of all things theater, here are some websites you need to know about. StudentRush.org offers free tickets—yes, you read that right—to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows on a regular basis. All you have to do to get access to the list is sign up for their "Will Call Club" emails. The only thing you have to pay is usually a $5 handling charge, depending on the show, that is paid via Paypal. You then receive an email confirmation and instructions as to where to meet the StudentRush.org representative. While the company is named StudentRush.org, the website states, "Anyone may join this site, although some of the discounts are restricted to current students with ID. All free ticketed events and non–ticketed events are available to anyone." You're able to purchase up to four tickets at a time; just pick them up from the representative before heading to the theater. Apparently it's a seat-filler type of thing—show producers provide them with a certain amount of tickets for each available show. Remember to check back a few times a week for the most updated list of opportunities. It should be noted that those under 35 are about to hit the budget ticket jackpot: The Roundabout Theatre Company understands that students and young professionals love going to shows but high ticket prices make that quite a struggle. Seeing our plight, they've come up with HipTix, a program that allows anyone between the ages of 18 and 35 to purchase $20 tickets to shows at their theaters. Just call their box office, sign up for HipTix and even order tickets (2 per person only) to a show—be sure you call to order tickets at least one month in advance as their shows tend to sell out quicky, so plan accordingly. This next program lets theatergoers accumulate "Show Points" to exchange for discounted Broadway show tickets. Audience Rewards has you sign up for free using your email address, and you are given the option to earn points by playing trivia games about different shows, purchasing items from partner sites, or you can simply earn points by buying tickets to shows and listing your membership number during the ordering process. This is definitely one of those websites I wish I had found earlier. For more Broadway (and Off–Broadway) discounts, you can visit websites like Playbill.com, BroadwayBox.com, and TheaterMania.com for general price cuts, or look up discount codes to your favorite shows at NYtix.com.