Road Trips

We recently returned from a road trip to Utah.  And to tell you the truth road trips are so different now then what they were before.

This was the first time that our teenage son got to drive.  Some might think, “how scary!”  All I have to say is that Nebraska is mighty long and it gives him lots of hours of driving.  We chose to let him drive in the less busy parts of the highway when we normally would be getting tired. 

Another big difference than the days of yore is the speed limit.  As you go West, the speed keeps getting higher and higher.  Making the trip shorter.  (Remember Nebraska is mighty long).  What used to be 55mph now is 75 mph.  I like that they have signs that change the speed limit depending on the road conditions.  So if it’s freezing rain it’s slower, if it’s sunny it’s faster.  How smart. 

Now motels are mostly chain hotels.  It’s difficult to find the mom and pop motels that used to line the highways.  One good thing is that you know what you are getting.  The bad thing is that you get generic hotels all along the way.  But the advantage is that now you can make your reservation online with your smart phones and you don’t have to waste your time stopping in every town to see if they have room.  One trip we had to drive from Washington DC all the way home because there were no motels anywhere. It was bad.  Now we just decide how far we want to drive, look up the hotels in that town and make the reservation online.  We can even state when we are planning on arriving so they don’t give our room away. 

A friend of mine said that she still stops in the rest areas and gets the coupons for motels.  I haven’t done that in a long time.  But you can still get some pretty good deals that way.

The final way that road trips have changed for our family is the entertainment.  We’ve had our van with a DVD player for a long time now.  I don’t think my kids would be able to survive a cross country trip without a Harry Potter marathon.  We can stop along the way and get a new movie from redbox and return it somewhere else.  We can listen to satellite radio all the way.  No more searching for radio stations in the middle of Nebraska (sorry Nebraska) and all you could find was country stations.

Some things haven’t changed for us.  My kids will not go on a road trip without doing a license plate bingo.  They still write down all the states that they see.  They compete to find all the states and get really excited when they find a Hawaii license plate or Delaware.  We still try to pack our meals and stop to have a picnic in the rest areas.  Some of the rest areas are fantastic.  Some places have been must stops for a long time: Little America in Wyoming and Wall Drug in South Dakota.  You really look forward to that $.50 ice cream or that free glass of water.

Don’t stop taking road trips because air travel is faster.  Sometimes the journey becomes an integral part of the trip.  Plus your kids need to know what it was like for you when you were growing up. 

 

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What makes a hotel special?

I am going on a short trip over Thanksgiving and I am really looking forward to staying at the hotel I made reservations for. The reviews have all been great and the pictures are fabulous. I am actually afraid that we won’t want to leave the room.

I am not a fancy hotel person so I can’t comment on fancy 5 * hotels. But there have been some hotels that have simply captured my heart and made me want to go back. Why?

My favorite hotel is actually a B&B near Kusadasi, Turkey. It only has 11 or 13 rooms, none of them are fancy but they are nicely decorated using Turkish wares. The rooms don’t have any TVs or phones either. But it is still one of my favorites places on earth. It has the most beautiful gardens, the views of the surrounding vineyards are amazing, the employees and owners are like old friends, and the common areas as beautifully decorated. I actually came back early from sight seeing to spend more time in this idyllic place. This is one hotel I plan on returning with my family. Everything went really well, that is after we found it. The memories are simply perfect and it is the hotel by which I measure all other hotels.

The entrance to the rooms

The dining room of Bakkhos Guest House

Some of the gardens

Another hotel that I simply loved was in Milan. We had booked a hotel due to some great reviews but I found that the hotel did not meet my expectations. But fortunately there was another hotel down a couple blocks that took me and my family in. The gentleman at the front desk was so friendly and concerned about us. He put us in rooms that they usually don’t use because you have to take the elevator to the top floor and then go up some stairs. It wasn’t easy to get to but it was so worth it. We had two beautiful (albeit simple) rooms with gorgeous wood beamed ceilings, each room had a balcony and we had very roomy bathrooms. The breakfast was a typical Italian breakfast and we were the only Americans. I felt like I was visiting famiglia.

Other hotels are great because they look good or because of their great location. However, one common feature of my favorite hotels is that every one of them had great employees. They make all the difference in a hotel. I love it when I connect with the employees rather than just being their job.

For instance this summer we stayed at the Hilton Bonnett Creek in Orlando, FL. It is a good hotel, the rooms are nice, the pool is great but my favorite part was my interaction with the concierge. We were talking about Italy. She was born where my family lives. She hasn’t been there because she was born while her father was in the service but was very excited to meet someone who had been to her birth place. If I hadn’t had this interaction this hotel would have been one of the many good hotels with nothing too exciting to write about.

Some of my least favorite hotels have been because of the people who just do their job and don’t treat me as a friend. We stayed at a hotel in Lisbon that I have nothing to say about it because it was very sterile. The rooms were clean but not really memorable and the front desk personnell were not that great. In Madrid the lady at the reception was just so rude and the manager made matters worse. Needless to say that is one of my least favorite hotels.

Besides great employees all these hotels have made me feel at home. I want to go back, I want to sit and relax, I want to be there.

So hotel owners and employees remember that I want an experience and not just a clean bed to sleep on. I want to be able to remember your hotel because of something, be it great employees, great location, great amenities or because it’s simply home.