I'll Take a Two-Star Room with a Free Breakfast Buffet

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For many years, I traveled at least two weeks each month conducting training programs for an International Training Company. I would pack my bags on Sunday, say my goodbyes and head off for the airport on Sunday afternoon. For the next five nights I would be in five different hotels in five different cities until I finally flew home on Friday night.

The company took care of all the arrangements—booked the travel, hotels, rental cars and meeting rooms. We even had a per diem to cover meals and other expenses, but by the time Wednesday rolled around, all five days worth were spent. Stretching that per diem became a challenge. My success largely depended on the type of hotel where the training was held.

I have stayed in some beautiful hotels, and some that needed a face lift. All had their charm. But I always dreaded having to stay at a hotel situated in the downtown area of a major city because of the strain on my per diem. Downtown hotels usually meant having to pay for parking—even in their own garages. It also meant that breakfast was served in the restaurant and not offered free as a buffet in the lounge. And strangely enough, some luxury hotels didn’t even put coffee machines in the rooms. I guess luxury meant paying for room service if you needed a cup first thing out of bed. They offered a lot of luxury, but for a guest on a budget, not a lot of hospitality.

I enjoyed staying at hotels that offered such features as a breakfast buffet, full or continental, available from at least 6 a.m. In many hotels with only restaurant service, breakfast wasn’t available until 7:30 a.m., which was too late for my schedule. It was so nice to come down at 6 a.m., get a cup of coffee, a bagel, some fruit and whatever looked good off the buffet. I learned how to balance a plate of food and two cups of coffee, get it to my room and still be able to open the door without spilling anything. And the best thing was that I could stretch that per diem further by wrapping up an extra piece of bread, a container of peanut butter and jelly and a piece of fruit for lunch.

I confess, I was squirreling away food, but one other challenge was enough time to eat lunch and relax a bit, pack up and check out in the 75 minutes between sessions--an impossible task even getting carry out from the hotel restaurant. The hotel may have only had two stars, but for a guest on a budget, they were the brightest in any constellation. When I checked into my next two-star destination, there was a bowl of fruit at the front desk and a coffee station open 24/7 in the lobby. Business travelers on a budget, parents with hungry children who just need a little snack, and any guest that needs a cup of coffee to get the blood moving early in the morning appreciate convenience more than a pricey mint on the pillow. Luxury, like hospitality, is what the guest perceives it to be.

Mary Nestor-Harper, SPHR, is a workplace consultant, blogger, motivational speaker and freelance writer for Hospitalityjobsite.com. Based in Savannah, GA, her work has appeared in Training magazine, Training & Development magazine, Supervision, BiS Magazine and The Savannah Morning News. When she’s not writing, she enjoys singing Alto II with the Savannah Philharmonic Chorus and creating original gift items available on http://www.etsy.spoolhardy.com/. You can read more of her blogs at hospitalityjobsiteblog.com and view additional job postings on Nexxt.

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