by Patricia Draznin

January 16 is National Nothing Day, the official day “to sit without honoring or celebrating anything,” which my husband and I plan to observe with gusto—somewhere warm and sunny. And as we gear up for Florida, I’d like to share some jewels of travel wisdom you can use when planning your next vacation so you won’t have to make the same mistakes I’ve made. You can make new ones.

Experience has taught me that booking a hotel online to save money requires just a few simple skills, very much like the ones you have right in your own home such as patience, persistence, and the ability to recognize BS when you read it. Because if you’re like me, you’re determined to find a waterfront villa for the price of a Motel 6. But as I’ve learned the hard way, hotel descriptions are written by highly imaginative copywriters, also known as liars, who can turn a skuzzy half-star motel into the Waldorf. Don’t even ask me about the hotels I’ve accidentally vacationed in, meeting people I’ll always remember, especially in a police lineup. But now I’m a seasoned traveler who can translate hotel descriptions at a glance. And so can you, by using my handy hotel lexicon:

Description Translation
Big Joe’s Hotel Eleganté is conveniently located. Big Joe’s Hotel Eleganté is conveniently located next to Little Bob’s Pizza, Rifle Range, & Nuclear Test Site.
Our lavish penthouse suites offer oversized boudoirs with Louis XIV canapé beds, personal fitness room and Swedish masseuse. Your economy cubicle with Spartan motif offers a twin bed, usually with sheets, and is conveniently located between the elevator and public bathroom.
This fine resort facility is your place for fun in the sun. This place sucks.

In a perfect world, hotel descriptions would be a little more realistic because the copywriters would have actually seen the place:

Smitty’s Hotel, Laundromat, & Bowl-A-Rama is a trucker’s moist oasis in the heart of sunny ________ [name of your tropical destination]. Completely renovated in May 1957, Smitty’s offers near-average accommodations at a surprisingly affordable price if you pay in cash on Wednesday when the accountant is out. (Ask for Al.) Our guests enjoy all the modern conveniences including live electrical outlets, a Murphy shower, and trash pickup on Tuesdays (the dumpster’s out back). Smitty’s is your place for fun in the sun, always conveniently located.

Before booking my accommodations online, I always phone the hotel to make sure it meets my superior standards and to ask questions such as why they list “running water” as an amenity. When I phoned Fort Lauderdale’s See-More Hotel, a male receptionist answered in fluent New Jersey, “See-More, Vinnie speakin’.” Then he put me “on hold” by setting the phone down on the desk to discuss shower drainage with a guest, because apparently 1) the hotel doesn’t have a phone system, and 2) Vinnie is also the front desk clerk and for all I know, the plumber and chambermaid.

If there are no further questions, my traveling friends, you’re ready to plan your next vacation. I know I am. Florida, here I come. As soon I choose between See-More’s and Smitty’s. 

Copyright 2005 Patricia Draznin


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