9 ‘Secrets’ to Improve Your Hotel Stay

You want a hotel to be your ‘home away from home’, but many aspects of hotel pricing and policy are anything but homey.

Here’s what you need to know –

– You get the best rate by calling the hotel’s local number, not the 800 number. The 800 number usually links callers to an off-site, centralized call center that only has the standard room rates. You’re better to call the hotel directly and instead of asking for the reservations desk, ask to speak with the manager on duty, the general manager or the director of sales. They have the authority to negotiate room rates.

– Rooms are more expensive in the morning. The best time of day to make a reservation is right after 6PM. This is when hotels wipe out all the ‘no-show’ reservations that were unsecured by a credit card. They then offer those rooms at bargain rates.

– Everything is negotiable. Think parking is overpriced? If the lot looks half empty, offer less than the daily rate. Planning to make a lot of phone calls? Some hotels offer a per-day flat fee for local and long distance calling in the US (usually $9.95), but you must ask for it.

– Rooms are available even when a hotel has no vacancies. In any large hotel, a few rooms are usually listed as ‘out-of-order’ at any given time. The problem might be something as simple as a stain on the carpet or a chair that has been sent out for repairs.

If you’re desperate for a last-minute room in a hotel that claims to have none available, tell the manager you are willing to take an out-of-order room with a minor problem.

– A thief takes one credit card, not your entire wallet. It’s no secret that crime is common in hotels. The new twist is that some hotel thieves now take just one credit card when they find a wallet in a room, and leave everything else untouched. Often, the victim doesn’t notice the card is missing until the credit line is maxed out.

Travel only with the credit cards you really need, and check your wallet carefully if you accidentally leave it unattended.

– It pays to tip the housekeeper every day. Exchange a few pleasant words with the housekeeper if you see him/her, and leave a $2 or $3 tip each day. You’ll get better service. Housekeepers are the most overworked, underpaid, underappreciated people in hotels.

Knowing the housekeeper also reduces the chances that your room will be burglarized. Dishonest housekeepers are less likely to target guests they have met. And if a thief enters your room while it’s being cleaned and pretends to be you (a common ruse), the housekeeper will be able to spot the impostor.

– Your bags aren’t safe with the bellhop. Even in elite hotels, luggage can be stolen right off the luggage carts in the lobby. And the hotel assumes no legal responsibility for the loss.

If your bag is going to sit for more than a few minutes, ask that it be placed in a secure room. Keep valuable items in the hotel safe.

High-end luggage might impress fellow travelers, but it also impresses thieves. The cheaper or uglier your luggage looks, the greater the odds that a thief will target someone else.

– Hotel rooms are infested with germs. Certain items in hotel rooms never get cleaned. Trouble spots include the TV remote control, telephone and clock radio. Travel with a package of antibacterial wipes and clean these items when you arrive.

Also, while reputable hotels provide fresh linens, bedspreads might be cleaned only once every few months. Ask for clean blankets as soon as you arrive.

– The ‘lost and found’ is a great resource for cell phone users. If you use a cell phone, odds are that someday you’ll forget to bring your recharging cord or lose it in transit. If you’re staying in a hotel, there’s no need to buy a replacement. Recharging cords are the No. 1 item left behind in hotel rooms. Most hotels are willing to lend chargers from their lost and found.

Understanding Food Labels Can Help You Prevent Obesity

One of the best things you can do for your body is to nourish it with healthy foods. As the content and ingredients of our foods have changed over the past three (3) decades to provide convenience and longer shelf life, so has our weight. There is a direct link between the content of our food and the increase in obesity. With obesity posing such a national health crisis, many manufacturers are turning to food packaging labels trying to convince us that their product is a healthy choice–don’t be fooled so quickly! The terms below will help show you what these claims really mean and help you break the code!

“Calorie Free” These are foods that contain less than 5 calories per serving.

“Cholesterol Free” These foods must contain less than 2 mg of cholesterol and 2 g or less of saturated fat per serving (a low cholesterol product is not necessarily low in fat).

“Fat-free” These foods have less than 0.5 g of fat per serving.

“Lean” These foods contain less than 10 g fat, less than 4.5 g saturated fat and less than 95 mg of cholesterol per serving.

“Lite foods” A lite claim indicates only that the product has no more than 1/2 the fat, 2/3 the calories or 1/2 the sodium of the ‘regular’ version of the same food.

“Low-calorie” These foods have 40 calories or less per serving.

“Low Cholesterol” These foods have 20 mg or less of cholesterol and 2 g or less of saturated fat per serving.

“Low-fat” These foods have 3 g or less of fat per serving.

“Low in saturated fat” Foods that contain 1 g or less of saturated fat per serving and no more than 15% of the calories comes from saturated fats.

“Low sodium” These foods contain 140 mg or less sodium per serving.

“Saturated fat-free” These foods have less than 0.5 g of saturated fat and less than 0.5 g of trans fat.

“Sodium-free” Foods that contain less than 5 mg sodium per serving.

“Sugar-free” These foods contain less than 0.5 g of sugar per serving.

“Trans fat free or No trans fat or Zero trans fat” Foods that have fewer than 0.5 g trans fat per serving. Always read the food labels that make this claim; if you see the words “partially hydrogenated” on this package, then the product does contain trans fat. Any food with 0.5 g trans fat or less per serving can be given this label and eating these foods in quantity can add up over time. There are no safe levels of trans fat!

“Very low sodium” These foods contain 35 mg or less of sodium per serving.

Some labels also make claims for healthy benefits, here is what those labels really mean:

“May reduce the risk of heart disease” or “helps to lower cholesterol” The FDA backs the claim that this food may help prevent heart disease and/or lower LDL cholesterol when eaten regularly and as part of an overall healthy diet. This label is often found on produce and foods rich in soluble fiber, whole grains, soy protein and/or plant sterols or stanols.

A red heart with a white check mark The American Heart Association certifies that this product is low in cholesterol, total fat, saturated fat and trans fat; has less than 480 mg of sodium per serving; and naturally contains at least 10% of the daily value for vitamins A and C, calcium, iron, protein or fiber.

A yellow and black “whole grain” icon that looks like a postage stamp The Whole Grains Council verifies that this product contains at least 8 g of whole grains (a 1/2 serving of whole grains). If the stamp specifies “100% whole grain”, then the product has at least 16 g of whole grains (1 full serving of whole grains). Three (3)daily servings of whole grains are recommended.

Be cautious if the package makes any of these claims:

“Natural” This word can be deceiving, as it is not regulated by the FDA. Almost all packaged foods are processed in some way and could still contain a high fat or sugar content and offer little nutritional value.

“Made with Real Fruit” or Contains Real Fruit Juice” There are no laws in effect that require how much real fruit or real fruit juice needs to be in any food that makes this claim. So just a minute amount is all that is needed to be able to use these labels. In this instance, you need to look at the food label more closely and see what actual ingredients are in that product. If high fructose corn syrup or any sugars are listed as the first few ingredients, then that will tell you that the “real fruit or juice” content is minimal.

“Whole Grains” If this label doesn’t have that yellow and black postage stamp icon on the packaging, you can probably bet the whole grain contained is nill. Manufacturers can label any product as whole grain that contains just a minuscule amount of whole wheat mixed into refined flours, which means nothing good for your health. Avoid foods with the words enriched and/or bleached listed on the ingredients label. A healthy choice is one that states the product is “100% whole grain.” Products that are good sources of whole grains will also have a good fiber and protein content too.

Making healthy choices is really a matter of knowing what it is you are purchasing. Investigate those labels by reading the ingredient list and search for the real content. The real ingredients and those with the highest content will be found in the first few ingredients listed on the label. Be cautious with any food that claims to be “low” or “free” as the content is based per serving; you will not be doing yourself any favors if you consume many servings thinking this food is a healthy choice…it all adds up over time.

The best food choices you can make are those that may not even have labels and are unprocessed like fresh meats, fresh fish, whole fruits and vegetables, beans, high fiber and calcium rich foods. Don’t let the razzle dazzle on packaging fool you anymore! Just a little know-how will help you and your family to consume a healthy diet and a healthy diet will help stamp out obesity!

The Concept of Value Can Be Placed in Luxury Travel Destinations

“Your life-book should be written with many romantic luxury vacations within to spike the pages”

Traveling is in our blood. We have been conditioned and we desire to visit faraway lands, experience challenging new cultures and terrain to test our stamina, and to partake in different cultural experiences. We are inquisitive by nature and traveling proves to heightened our curiosity.

With the ho-hum existence we have going from home to office to home, rinse and repeat, travel can break the monotony. But daydreaming about the possibilities is not anywhere near the fun of the real experience. So how can one change this issue?

Researching online can uncover some interesting luxury travel packages or even discount luxury travel experiences yet some costs are still high. There is value available provided one understands the overall ‘big-picture’. Think beyond one vacation to a lifetime of vacations.

Luxury travel destinations are bountiful and calling to you yet you really don’t know how to swing it. Pushing off till next year could be a disaster, you need to get away. Stress never lets up when a boss is yelling, a partner is nagging, or the four walls of your place are closing in. How to escape?

First one must remove the ‘inside-the-box’ thinking that stress places on our minds. Focus on a lifetime of vacations to luxurious destinations, experiencing many different cultures and places. Things are going to occur over many years, maybe twice each year and you have to understand the overall implications of this decision.

If taking an elaborate vacation this year causes none for several years, that is hardly worth the effort. However, if one were to position themselves so that these types of vacations could be experienced every year, the mind could release the stress like white doves.

Value is the key and finding value in luxury travel destinations should be your goal. Value is evident in discount luxury travel every day but most do not know where to look, thereby, missing out on some very interesting text in the different chapters of their ‘life-book’.

What chapters need filler experiences in your ‘life-book’?

Does the Culture Fit?

Have you ever been a finalist in a career opportunity only to find you were not successful? Did this make you wonder why? Then, when you asked for feedback, you received only a vague response – something about “cultural fit”. While this of course is disappointing and maybe even mystifying, the concept of cultural fit itself is very true and very applicable. You see, recruiting for a new staff person is like a blind date. You typically meet a person once or twice, talk to the individual, assess whether or not there is a feeling of fit or “chemistry” and then make a decision.

But what does this chemistry or cultural fit look like? Cultural fit is all about whether or not the interviewer sees an integration of personal, professional and corporate values during the interview process and in the initial assessment. Appearance plays a big role. If the organization is very corporate in all of its business dealings and a candidate attends the interview far too informal and perhaps with rings and jingles on their toes…. clearly, there will not be a fit. If an organization is known for its aggressiveness and self-confidence, then a candidate who is timid and non-assertive will get eaten alive and therefore, once again, there is no fit. It is all a question of perceived values.

Values are personal and professional motivators that drive us in one direction or another. People and organizations both have values. For people, these are demonstrated by what individuals are interested in and what they want to do with their career. Values in organizations are demonstrated by professional ethics, which social agencies they support and how they conduct their business. In other words, if a candidate is inclined towards a helping profession, more than likely they won’t fit well in an organization that is focused on compliance of some sort or another.

What are some of these personal and professional values? Many of the values that are encountered in the workplace include such things as a desire for advancement, independence and autonomy, security and safety, fighting for a just cause, the ability to apply managerial or technical expertise, or the need for life work balance. Many individuals also have a geographic value in that they are not willing to move away from their home territory for a job. Still others value being associated with a large organization with a well known name and reputation because they get their security from this arrangement.

Organizations develop a reputation the same way individuals do. These reputations are typically well known in a community as people who leave these organizations often have stories to tell. As well, there are often news reports of organizational successes and/or trials and tribulations. Therefore, from a candidate perspective, it is important prior to any interview that you check out the values of your potential employer as best you can. Review their website, do a Google search on the web to see what type of profile they have. Ask for advice with your professional network.

Determine what is being said about your potential employer at street level. If you see nothing but conflictual situations, evidence of high turnover, or stories that pose even more questions, then you need to do a lot more research about the culture of the organization, whether or not you fit and even whether or not you wish to apply.

In addition, prepare yourself to ask some questions of the corporate recruiter. Ask for examples of how the values stated on the organizational website or in the job advertisement are applied in the workplace. Then assess these examples to determine for yourself indeed there is a fit for you.

As I have said earlier, recruiting for a new staff person is like a blind date. You typically meet a person once or twice, talk to the individual, assess whether or not there is a feeling of fit or “chemistry” and then make a decision. However, this decision making process should occur with both parties. So, the next time you are mystified about the lack of success with a particular job opportunity, take a moment to reassess the cultural fit.