How Much Should You Tip Your Hotel Maid?
Does leaving a tip for the maid sometimes slip your mind as you race to check out of your hotel and catch your flight back home? A new campaign created by Maria Shriver's nonprofit organization A Woman's Nation might soon make tipping your room attendant harder to forget.
Starting this week, Marriott Hotels will give guests a not-so-subtle reminder to leave a voluntary tip for hotel room attendants by placing an envelope for tips in 160,000 rooms across the U.S. and Canada as part of an initiative called "The Envelope Please," created by AWN, which aims to recognize and empower women. The thinking goes that travelers are more likely to tip bellhops and concierges because they interact with them face-to-face. Hotel maids, on the other hand, perform unseen work and are less likely to get a tip.
The full text of the envelope reads as follows: "Thanks for staying at Marriott Hotels. Our caring room attendants enjoyed making your stay warm and comfortable. Please feel free to leave a gratuity to express your appreciation for their efforts."
However well-intentioned the program may be, some say it misses the mark. In an interview with the AP, Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, said, "It is not Marriott's responsibility to remind customers to tip; it's their responsibility to pay their workers enough so that tips aren't necessary."
We at BT highly encourage tipping hotel maids—but how much is appropriate, and how do you go about it when there's no envelope available? The American Hotel and Lodging Association suggests $1 to $5 per night depending on whether you're bunking at a low-priced motel or living it up in the penthouse suite in a swanky high-rise.
Here are a few other rules for tipping hotel room attendants that we go by:
* Tip every day instead of in one lump sum at the end. This will net you the best service.
* If you don't see an envelope, leave cash tips under the pillow instead of on the desk or nightstand. Doing that will clear up confusion about whether the money is intended for them.
* If you can, track down your maid in the hallway, give her the cash in person, and thank her for her good work.
How to Avoid 5 Common Scams in Bali
This article was written by Sia Ling Xin, who travels and writes about it for Asiarooms.com, a blog and online community focused on travelling in Asia. You can also find her on Twitter. Bali, also known as the land of gods, is an unforgettable island. Unfortunately, visitors are sometimes so taken by the island charm, they fall prey to common scams. Here's how to avoid getting cheated. Know your zerosIndonesian Rupiah (IDR) comes in large denominations, with 10,000 IDR and 100,000 IDR notes commonly used. $1 USD is approximately 12,000 IDR. A simple meal may cost you 40,000 IDR. With all the zeros floating around, it is easy to mix up your notes and end up paying $30 USD for a meal that actually costs $3 USD. Never be in a rush to pay. Instead, make sure you know how much change you should be getting back even before you hand over your cash. Merchants are less likely to take advantage of the confusion associated with large notes if they know you are careful. Always wait for your change, even if you want to leave a tip, in case you miscalculate the amount you should get back. The same advice goes for currency exchange. Always go to a licensed money changer such as a bank or hotel if you need to convert cash into IDR. While smaller money changers claim to offer better rates, they may confuse you with many small notes and end up giving you much less than you ought to receive. Turn the meter onTaxis are the default way to get around Bali, and drivers are aware of this. Always look for a Blue Bird Taxi (note: there are many cabs that are blue in colour, so look out for the actual words on the vehicle). Also, remember to shout out 'meter' before you step into the taxi. If drivers seem unwilling to turn the meter on, simply step out and wait for the next taxi. One is bound to come along within 30 seconds. Some drivers may quote you a seemingly low price, such as $3, but remember, taxis are super cheap in Bali, and $3 may already be a rip-off. Only take such cabs if you urgently need to get somewhere, and always negotiate the price down. Instead of making a counter offer, just shake your head. Desperate to secure clients, drivers have been known to cut from $5 to $1. If you take a metered taxi, you may find that the actual cost is only $0.80! If you are paying in IDR, always mention it upfront as well. Check out the competitionThere are often endless rows of restaurants and shops along the tourist stretches in Bali. Jimbaran Bay, famous for its beachfront seafood restaurants, is the epitome of perfect competition. Remember, there is always a better deal to be had. Do your research on how much you should expect to pay for a meal, and stick with that amount. If you find a good deal backed up with reviews online, go ahead and make a reservation. If you choose to be spontaneous and only pick a restaurant when you're there, be sure to check out at least 4-5 places before settling on one. Hesitation can work well in your favor—merchants are known to give discounts of almost 50 percent, throw in free beers, transportation, dessert, and dangle other carrots to get your business. The best part is you don't even need diehard bargaining skills—just look doubtful and as though you can walk away any moment, and they will be pulling out all the stops to get you to stay. Note it downIf you are promised a deal that seems too good to be true, one way to safeguard yourself is to write the price and main terms down. For example, if you are promised fish, mussels, clams, and crab at a 'special price' for your dinner, jot down the agreed quantity and price, then get the server's confirmation before giving your go-ahead and order. This will help prevent disputes such as you being served a tiny fish or just a couple of clams as you were offered a special, lower price which included less food than you thought it does. Sob storiesIf you hear anyone telling you a sob story (sick, injured, or poor family members are common tales), take it with a grain of salt. Whether it is your designated driver whom you hired to show you Bali, a random person you meet along the streets, or staff servicing you, try not to get too attached. It can be a ploy to illicit your sympathy and money. Ask them how they get by, what they do to make a living, and which hospital or welfare organization they seek help from. It is all right to give a small tip in exchange for their services. However, if it is a stranger, the best way to help is to donate to a trusted and established charity which benefits the locals. Click here to see a travel video about things to do in Bali.
World's Most Dangerous Flyover Regions
Our hearts go out to all those who lost loved ones on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 on July 17. While the events in Ukraine and the ongoing investigations, and diplomatic and political consequences, are beyond the scope of Budget Travel's mission, we have been getting questions from those who wonder, "How could a commercial airliner fly over a dangerous region such as eastern Ukraine?" With that in mind, we share the Federal Aviation Administration's guidelines for the world's most dangerous flyover regions. The FAA's list of "Notices to Airmen" (abbreviated NOTAMs) restrict American-operated commercial carriers from flying in airspace that is deemed hazardous due to conflicts on the ground, weapons testing, or active volcanoes. (The United Nations maintains its own restricted list, which, like the FAA's, did not include eastern Ukraine at the time Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down.) Here, the 14 regions restricted to American-operated commercial carriers: Dnepropetrovsk (eastern Ukraine): Planes are not allowed in this airspace at any altitude. Iraq: Planes are not allowed to fly below 20,000 feet, except for those that take off or land at Erbil International Airport. North Korea: Planes are not allowed in this airspace at any altitude. Northern Ethiopia: Planes are not allowed in this airspace at any altitude. Libya: Planes are not allowed in this airspace at any altitude. Simferopol (on the Crimean peninsula, a region whose status is disputed between Ukraine and Russia): Planes are not allowed to fly in this airspace at any altitude. Afghanistan: Airlines are warned that there is a risk of attack from small arms and portable air-defense systems. Democratic Republic of the Congo: Airlines are warned against flying below 15,000 feet. Iran: Airlines are warned that Iran and the U.S. do not maintain diplomatic relations. Mali: Airlines are warned against flying below 24,000 feet. Kenya: Airlines are warned that there is a risk of attack from portable air-defense systems. Sinai: Airlines are warned against flying below 24,000 feet. Syria: Airlines are warned against flying in this airspace at any altitude. Yemen: Airlines are warned against flying below 24,000 feet.
I love road trips! Long before I became editor of Budget Travel with its popular Road Trips series, I always loved packing up the car and heading... anywhere! From childhood trips to Martha's Vineyard to college weekends down the shore, for me the notion of "vacation" and "great drive" have pretty much been one and the same. When my wife and I lived in San Francisco, we fell hard for the stretch of highway between the City and San Simeon—the incredible road trip that took us through Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Big Sur. These days, we live in New York's Hudson Valley (just outside New York City), and we are planning a trip out west—Billings, MT. I was pleased to discover an exciting new road trips tool right on the Budget Travel website: Destination Anywhere, sponsored by Firestone. Check it out: You can enter the start and end point of your "ultimate road trip" and a search engine with information from FourSquare will provide you with a route and destinations along the way. I'm getting psyched for some fun stops between New York and Billings, including Hershey Park, PA; Cedar Point, OH; and Chippewa Falls, WI; and much more. Using the Destination Anywhere road trip tool also means you can enter to win a 7-day vacation at one of 1,800 resort destinations, a set of 4 Firestone tires, or a $500 Firestone Visa Prepaid Card (you can enter once daily to increase your chances). Your ultimate road trip may not be quite as ambitious as the New York to Montana trip I'm considering, but here at Budget Travel we've always promoted Great American Drives, and over the years our readers have offered some incredible road trips tips. Here, some of our favorites. Happy trails! MUSIC. Create a "road trip mix" of songs—let your friends and/or family pick out favorites that you can listen to along the way. And the mix will become a memorable keepsake of the trip to be remembered long after you've unpacked your bags. TREATS. Traveling with kids? Stop at the dollar store before your trip and load up on cheap amusements you can hand out over the course of your trip. Nothing will stop fussing or the dreaded "When will we be there" like a new plaything! GET SMART. Audiobooks can be pricey. But Cracker Barrel restaurants lets you rent them and return them along your route. Whether it's an inspiring session of Arianna Huffington's new Thrive or a third (or fourth) listening to The Sorcerer's Stone, an audiobook, like a music mix, can become a unique and distinctive part of your journey. GAMES. My own family loves playing the license plate game: Keep a list of every state (and Canadian province!) that you spot along the way. You'll be surprised at how quickly you spot Hawaii (considering it's thousands of miles out to sea), and how some of the lower 48 can be a little rare. We also play 20 Questions and the nonsense variation I invented, Infinite Questions, in which there are no answers, only ridiculously worded queries—intended to crack up everyone in the car—that can go on, well, at least until someone needs to make a rest stop!
Biggest Reward Program Blunders and How Not to Make Them
This article was written by Jake Redman, founder and host of ModHop. In addition to producing and hosting shows on SiriusXM Radio, he travels, spending his time in airports, lounges, and hotels, and shares his findings on ModHop.com to help others determine whether travel upgrades are truly worth the extra cost. Follow along with Jake's travel adventures on Twitter @ModHop and on Facebook. You what?! That's normally the response in my head when friends tell me what they just did with their frequent flyer miles or hotel points. "I bought a 19-inch Smarkyo TV for the bedroom, and it only cost me 50,000 frequent flyer miles!" Really?! Sure, I might spend a bit more time than most digging for the perfect redemption deal, but for that number of miles, you should be able to lock down a saver-level business class seat on a domestic flight (and even that isn't such a great deal). If I'm starting to sound like the travel version of the cranky know-it-all IT guy at your job, I'm not. Finding real value in your mile and point redemptions involves basic math, and I'm not at all good at it. The little I do understand is that points (airline miles in particular) can be valued between 1 and 2 cents each. Simply put it means that a small, off-brand sub $200 TV isn't likely as valuable a prize as a fancy plane ride to grandma's house. An over-valued merchandise-for-point exchange isn't the only blunder you can make when redeeming. Here are a few other examples of mistakes to avoid when you decide to trade yours in: Gifting milesSharing or "gifting" miles to someone can be the ultimate "ungift" to yourself. The bottom line is that unless the airline is offering a very hearty mileage bonus when you transfer the miles, it's not going to be worth it. Again, there's math involved, so bring a calculator if you decide to explore this option, and carefully consider the cost of the transfer, along with the airline's service charge. A 75-100 percent transfer bonus might be worth looking at, but those are rare and possibly near extinction. ForgettingA few programs have "miles that never expire," but many only give you a certain amount of time to use them before they disappear forever. One way to keep those miles alive is to earn more as cheaply as possible. For example, the Hilton Honors program keeps your points alive for 12 months after your last stay or point redemption. Once that time is up, bye-bye points. Our favorite way to save them from vanishing is to buy anything that costs any amount of money using their "Shop to Earn" portal. Any purchase made before your points' expiration date will keep them alive for another year. Whatever is on that direct-mail piece you just receivedThe dollar-to-credit card point value of what are sometimes referred to as "experiences" is subjective. A little bit of research shows that opportunities to try things like driving a real stock car or going for a hot air balloon ride is valued at about .01 per mile. If either has been your lifelong dream, and you don't know anyone with a stock car or hot air balloon parked in their backyard, then maybe—just maybe—there's personal value to this kind of trade. Otherwise, keep looking for something that gets you even just slightly closer to 2 cents per mile. Not using themI was at a convention of mileage and point nerds not long ago, and a newbie in one of the sessions asked what he should do with his miles. I forget the exact number, but, when asked how many miles he was sitting on he replied with a number so large that the crowd actually booed him. Don't be that guy. Airlines and hotels constantly try to find new ways to balance customer reward with profit, and it doesn't always favor you. Over time, it won't be much of a surprise to see those miles continue to be devalued, so time is increasingly precious. Find a way to use miles for things like seat upgrades on long flights or hotel rooms that cost a lot more than you would normally think of spending. Be patient, keep an eye out for the best value, and get the most from your piggy bank of points.