Happy Hotel Hopping

In Tomorrow's Journey, Travel by Nathasha Alvarez

A modern kitchen in the Marriot Hotel.

I love traveling and staying at hotels. It’s part of the diva lifestyle that I’ve always wanted. As a child, hotels were fun! I remember going on a family road trip on my birthday and my mom found a hotel with a beautiful indoor pool located in the middle of the hotel.

I don’t like staying at any hotel but I’m not willing to overpay for a hotel. It is possible to have a feeling of luxury without paying hundreds of dollars for one night.

I’ve heard stories from disabled travelers who find the entire hotel experience to be a nightmare. The room isn’t accessible. They get overcharged for necessary requests. They find the service unacceptable. So I decided to write this article for you. There’s no reason you can’t have the great experience that I’ve had during my hotel stays.

For the record, I use a manual wheelchair and I can’t walk at all. I want to make sure that I give full disclosure. When I travel for business, I’m usually alone. When I travel for fun, I am with other people but I make sure that when I make reservations, the accommodations are there as a solo traveler in case I travel alone.

First, I search online for the hotel that captures my attention but doesn’t drain my bank account. I look for hotels that capture the feeling that I am looking for in that trip. For example, when I stayed at the Tuscany Village in Orlando, I loved the Italian look and it felt so serene. My purpose was to disconnect with everyone and focus on my writing. The price was right too.

When I found the Westin Resort online for $108 on a third party site like Booking.com, I thought I had hit the jackpot. My goal was to stay in Cape Coral to see a friend, relax and not overspend. But I didn’t see anything about an accessible room on the site and I didn’t feel like taking any chances once I got there. I think that all third party sites should be required to have accessible rooms on their site as an option. But because there was no additional information about an accessible room, I called the hotel directly. That’s where the nightmare started.

Turns out that if I book directly with the Marriot owned hotel for an accessible room, I would be paying $80 more than if I took a chance with the third party site. The person I spoke with over the phone said that I could always book with the third party then call the hotel to discuss my accommodations but they wouldn’t necessarily be guaranteed because I wouldn’t be reserving it directly with them. That didn’t seem reasonable. Why should I have to pay more for the same type of room?

Now this is where managing my temper comes into play. My temper is known to be short, shorter than my actual height. I channeled in my inner Oprah and asked for a manager. I realized the person on the phone has only so much authority. I made sure to thank them as I waited for the manager. It’s the little details in life that can help you get more of what you want in certain situations and this situation warranted me to be calm.

When Faced with an Obstacle Go Over it.

That’s my best tip when making hotel reservations. Speak to the highest person on the totem pole. Make sure you get their name and write it down. Now that you have the person with authority, discuss the purpose of your stay, the challenges you’re finding making reservations in their hotel and work together to make your hotel stay there the best experience ever.

Realistically, that’s the goal of every single hotel. Customers should become raving fans. Many hotels are missing out on a large customer base when they don’t bother to include us. So if you’re a hotel manager or owner, listen up!

A Good Experience

A couple of years ago, I stayed at the Hilton Grand Vacations at Tuscany Village and not only did I speak to the manager before my trip but once I got there, I asked to speak to that particular manager to let them know that I wanted to check out the room with them.

I did it with a smile. Many times people feel a haughty behavior will work for them. Most of the time, it works against them. The manager was very pleasant and we both checked out the hotel room to make sure that I had everything I needed. He made a call to get a couple of items that I requested like extra pillows.

Many of you might say that my way is too complicated but is it? Isn’t it more complicated to get to your location and realize that the room is totally inaccessible and you don’t have a contact person to resolve the issue?

A Not So Good Hotel Experience

Trust me, I’ve had that experience when I stayed at The Roosevelt Hotel. Even though I could have stayed with my sisters in their homes, I wanted to stay in the hotel where the conference was taking place. It would make it easier for me to mingle with others, be on time to the morning seminars and allow me a place to relax if I got too tired in between seminar sessions. But The Roosevelt Hotel wasn’t ready for someone who used a manual wheelchair. Learn from my mistakes. Trust no one. Write down names and what they promised.

During my stay at The Roosevelt Hotel, the lift to take me to the split level of the restaurant could only be operated by a manager and finding the manager was like searching in one of those Where’s Waldo? books. It got to the point that I had to tell the manager that I expected someone other than him to have that key if he wasn’t going to be around when I wanted to dine. He gave the key to the bartender who would tell the other bartenders.

I thought that was a reasonable accommodation. But it took a little bit of pushing on my end and I am not referring to my wheelchair. Sometimes you have to speak up and remind people about the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Hotel Tip: It’s All in the Details

My next effective tip is to be extremely specific in what you must have in the room. For example, it’s not enough to say that you need an ADA room or an accessible room or a wheelchair accessible room. You have to be specific about your needs.

Recently, at the Westin Cape Coral Resort, I found out that my reserved room is considered an ADA accommodation room, but it didn’t have a roll in shower. I had asked for that accommodation more than three times and still I was given a room with a tub. But once I spoke to the right person (the manager), I received the roll in shower that I needed.

Now you’re thinking, ok I got it. Call the hotel directly, write down the name of the person and be specific about your needs, is that all?

No! That’s not all. If only it were that easy, but it’s not and we know it. Now you might get to your destination and everything is happy happy, then you can stop reading.

But what if there are a few other issues?

First, stay calm. I know you’re upset. I know you want to reserve a room like everyone else and you want to enjoy life like everyone else. I understand. Until the world values us the way it values people without any disabilities, it’s not going to happen but that doesn’t mean we should stop traveling and enjoying life. Living an audacious life isn’t always easy but the rewards are fantastic.

The more we go out into society, the better chances we have of educating others and hopefully making places more accessible for all of us.

The next big tip is to understand that you’re being an advocate whether you want to be one or not but the experience can be rewarding on an internal level and a financial level.

I’ve had managers who have given me discounts when I check out because they realize that I actually helped their establishment without losing my cool or threatening them with the ADA cops (they don’t exist but I’ve seen fellow disabled friends shout that at people).

Hotel: Last Resort!

Last resort (pun intended), when all else fails, and you don’t know what to do, ask them to set you up at another hotel where you can get your accommodations at the price you would pay if you had stayed with them.

On my trip to Seattle, I stayed at the Courtyard by Marriot. I was told over the phone that their airport shuttle service had vehicles for wheelchair users. When I arrived, the shuttle didn’t have that. The driver said he’s never seen one. I called the hotel, I asked for the manager, I let him know that he needed to come up with a solution. He did. He sent me a vehicle from another hotel and said that they would pay for the transportation both ways.

Despite these hiccups, my actual stay at the hotels have been amazing. Some of the hotels have left me complimentary vouchers for dining, room service or local attractions.

Don’t let anyone steal your joy of hotel living! Each hotel has its own personality and there’s no reason you shouldn’t experience the feeling.

If you have any questions on traveling, leave me a comment. Share this with anyone you know who might benefit from it.

Bio and more!

Hey! It’s me, Nathasha Alvarez. I’m writing my own bio. I have Osteogenesis Imperfecta aka Brittle Bone Disease. You can find me anywhere on the internet. I’m your AudaciousLady on Twitter and the voice of AudacityMagazine on Twitter.

You can find me on my personal Instagram here.

I became a foodie and made an Instagram account. See me here!

I love bubble baths so I made an Instagram account for that too! Https://www.instagram.com/bubblebathdiva

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