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When (and how) to talk to your hotel’s general manager

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A hotel’s general manager can make your stay at a property that much better, said Bettina Landt, general manager of the White Elephant on Nantucket in Massachusetts. Landt also said that most guests don’t take advantage of what they offer.

Following are tips on how to use your hotel’s general manager:

Most travellers only talk to their hotel manager when there’s a problem. Instead, you should seek them out as soon as you arrive. They can be a huge help, and a great friend.
Most travellers only talk to their hotel manager when there’s a problem. Instead, you should seek them out as soon as you arrive. They can be a huge help, and a great friend.  (LARS LEETARU / The New York Times)

The hotel is sold out

Although there’s no guarantee, general managers may be able to get you a room at their properties when the inventory is showing as sold out.

It’s always worth asking to speak to them for help. If they can’t help you right now, they probably know when a room may become available and how you can snag it when it does, since they know the cycles of their inventory better than anyone.

You’d love to upgrade

While hotels usually assign rooms the day before guests check in, room availability often changes the day they arrive. The check-in staff has some discretion to upgrade guests, but the general manager yields more authority to do so.

If you’re looking for an upgrade, ask to speak to the manager when you arrive and before you check in. Make it clear that you want to get to know them and ask their help while you’re in town, if they’re available. Be cordial and accept their answer if they don’t have any upgrades available. Another insider tip: General managers usually look over room assignments, and if you’re a regular guest, your chances of an upgrade are more likely.

What to do around town

Guests usually turn to the concierge staff when they want ideas of local activities, sights and restaurants, but the general manager can also help, Landt said. “We’re ambassadors for the destination and love giving advice on what to see and do,” she said.

Landt often shares her favourite menu items at various restaurants on Nantucket with guests, and recommends her favourite activities for children that her own children have enjoyed. Also, general managers are well connected in their destination and can make introductions to local artists, store owners and managers at bars and restaurants whom you may not normally meet.

You want someone in your corner

Many guests don’t meet their hotel’s general manager and may not even know who they are, but they should, Landt said. “I love when guests introduce themselves,” she said. “Over the years, I’ve formed great relationships with many of them.”

She advised seeking out the general manager a few times throughout your stay just to say hello and share feedback on the hotel as well as your trip, overall, even more so when someone is doing a great job and deserves praise. This personal connection sometimes has benefits: general managers will often arrange for a round of free drinks at the hotel’s bar for guests they know, and will also take care to ensure that they get a prime table at the property’s restaurant. But don’t go into it expecting to get something out of it. It’s certainly enough to make a new friend when you’re far from home.

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Travel & Escape

Dealing with baggage on your trip

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(NC)Nothing is more embarrassing than having to unpack your baggage at the airport. It’s common to overpack because you want to make sure you have everything you need for your trip – the right shoes, a jacket in case it’s cold, a bathing suit in case there’s a pool. But you must be mindful of the baggage restrictions. So, how can you be smart with your baggage when travelling?

The first thing to do is talk to your TICO-certified travel agent about the weight restrictions and number of bags you are allowed to take. Some airlines charge per bag, while others may offer one bag for free depending on weight.

You’ll also need to know if there are security requirements for carry-on and checked baggage. For example, there may be prohibited items such as gels and liquids. These limitations vary from airline to airline and depends on if your flight is international or domestic, so you’ll need to check the policy of the airline you’re travelling with.

Naturally, you want to avoid incurring baggage fees, so talk to your travel agent, or contact the airline directly. You can also visit their website to review the luggage policy.

Here are a few more tips to help you manage your baggage when travelling:

  • Clearly label all baggage with your name, home address, and contact information
  • Place an identification tag inside the baggage in case the outside tag is torn off
  • Lock bags with CATSA/ACTSA travel locks
  • Put a colourful ribbon or other identifying marks on your bags so they are easily recognizable
  • Carry valuables in your hand luggage; jewelry, money, medications, important documents, etc.

You can’t carry everything with you, so be smart when you pack. Take only necessary items and focus on your trip.

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Travel & Escape

What travellers need to know if a destination wedding is cancelled

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(NC) It’s two weeks before you’re scheduled to attend a destination wedding and then you get the call. The wedding has been called off.

Sure, you’re upset for the couple, but now you’re faced with plane tickets and hotel reservations. So, what can you do?

There’s no reason why you can’t go and enjoy the trip, but bear in mind you may face a price increase, especially if this was part of a group booking. Group bookings often include a minimum number of travellers to get the discounted price, as well as terms and conditions regarding changes or cancellations.

You could ask other travellers to come along to keep the group discount. But name changes often count as cancellations based on the terms of the vacation package and premium charges may apply. If you booked with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour company, it’s better to contact them and ask about options before making any decisions.

While it’s devastating for the couple who planned the destination wedding, the fact is that the cancellation affects all the confirmed guests. So, it’s important to know your options so you can salvage an unfortunate situation. Always book with a TICO-registered travel agency, website or tour operator so you can circle back and find out what they can do for you.

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Travel & Escape

Be safe not sorry when booking travel online

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(NC) With so many travel websites available these days, many people are choosing to book their vacations from the comfort of their own home. Many travel websites are easy to navigate, and offer great vacation packages, so it seems to make sense.

But before you hit “submit”, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Here are a few tips that can make you more aware when booking travel online:

  • Look for the TICO registration number or logo. All Ontario travel agencies and websites must be registered with TICO, the provincial travel regulator that provides consumers with protections if they don’t receive travel services. The registration number or logo is usually found in the About Us or Contact sections of the website.
  • Know where your credit card payment is going. Some websites are only search engines or booking agents for other providers.
  • Review the terms and conditions, particularly those that relate to cancellation, changes to bookings and refunds. Know what the travel agent or tour operator’s responsibilities are.
  • Keep a paper copy of your transactions, correspondence and confirmations.
  • Double check which currency the prices are quoted in. You could be paying in Euros instead of Canadian dollars.
  • Keep in mind that tax amounts can vary in travel advertisements. Ontario travel agencies and websites can display their taxes in four different ways:
    • A total price
    • A base price plus total taxes, fees and additional charges
    • A base price with a detailed breakdown
    • All taxes, fees and additional charges.
  • Research your destination to find out if there are any travel advisories, which can be found on the Government of Canada website.
  • Check the online travel agency’s website for a live-chat feature, email address or toll-free number to talk to a travel agent. Travel agents are a great resource to answer any questions you may have to ensure you are making an informed travel purchase.

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