Hotels

“Runway Chalet” now at JFK’s TWA Hotel

The 512-room TWA Hotel across the street from the JetBlue terminal at JFK Airport tempts travelers with a retro lobby complete with clacking flight board and the Sunken Lounge lobby bar.

Through February, the hotel has an ice-skating rink set up out back, right next to the 1958 Lockheed Constellation Connie airport-turned-cocktail lounge. (Skating fee: $15/adults; $10 kids under 12; skate rental: $10 adults/$8/kids; two free ice-skating shows each evening).

Now there’s another reason to stop by the hotel before or after a flight:

The Runway Chalet, a 1960s style ski lodged-themed bar, has landed at the hotel’s rooftop pool.

The tented and heated ‘chalet’ is decorated with vintage skiing gear and a retro ski lodge style fireplace.

The menu includes chocolate or cheese fondue, burgers and other items while the cocktail list includes concoctions such as the Idlewild Hot Toddy (Sailor Jerry rum and hot cider, with a cinnamon stick) and The Weather Delay (Belvedere vodka, hot chocolate and marshmallows).

Both the chalet and the rooftop infinity pool (heated to 95 degrees and referred to as a ‘pool-cuzzi’) offer views of JFK’s Runway 4 Left/22 right.

No need to be a checked-in guest to visit the Runway Chalet at the TWA Hotel’s Pool Bar, which is open from 11 am to 11 pm daily.

Doesn’t this sound more fun than waiting for an extra hour or two at the gate?

Holiday hotel packages to book now

Courtesy Peninsula Paris

Now that Thanksgiving is over, the marathon of gift shopping and holiday parties kicks in.

But the weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve are also a great time to travel.

Here’s a round-up of holiday-themed hotel packages I put together for CNBC.

Courtesy Gaylord National Resort

A chef is whipping up Christmas yule logs and other holiday treats inside a life-size gingerbread house at the Peninsula Paris. More than 2 million holiday lights dazzle in the lobby decorations at the Gaylord National Resort near Washington, D.C. And the Hyatt Regency in Seattle has a package that includes two tickets to Enchant Christmas, boasting the world’s largest Christmas light maze.

Holiday-movie inspired stays

Courtesy Ivy Hotel

If you’re a fan of holiday-themed movies, you’ll enjoy these holiday movie-themed hotel packages.

In honor of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” first released 30 years ago, Chicago’s Ivy Hotel is offering the National Lampoon Christmas Vacation package, complete with ugly sweaters, a move -inspired suite and a holiday dinner. According to the hotel, “The only thing missing are the surprise RV guests.” Rates start at $399; no resort fees. 

The Whitehall Hotel, also in Chicago, has a “Home Alone”-themed family package. The guest room comes with two Turtle Dove ornaments by the same studio that designed them for the film; fresh-baked cookies, a jar of M&Ms and a framed photo of Buzz’s girlfriend. Room service will also send up a “Little Nero’s Pizza” served in the same box as the movie, Mac n Cheese, Pepsi, and an ice cream sundae. Available through January 5. Rates start at $184.

In Cleveland, Ohio, guests can book overnight stays at A Christmas Story House,  the location of the cult you’ll-shoot-your-eye-out holiday movie starring little Ralphie and his little brother Randy. The Bumpus House (the infamous next-door neighbor’s home) is available for rent as well. Holiday rates at A Christmas Story House start at $845/night; rates for the Hound Dog Haven Suite and the Stolen Turkey Suite in the Bumpus House start at $245 and $295, respectively.

Room with a tree

Courtesy Refinery hotel

In New York City, the Refinery Hotel’s Winter Spectacular Stay package includes a fresh Christmas tree and an assortment of decorations; hot chocolate, holiday cookies and other edible holiday treats; and a Gingerbread house decorating kit. Rates start at $579. During December, kids checking in with their families will be able to pick a treat from Santa’s gift-filled sleigh and all hotel guests can partake of the complimentary hot chocolate and cider chart. 

Hanukah, and igloo and a history lesson

Courtesy Watergate Hotel

The Watergate Hotel (famous for its role in the Watergate break-in incident of 1972 and the political unraveling it initiated) is offering a 3 or 8-night Hanukkah package; from $1,450 and $3,029 respectively, not include taxes and urban resort fees. Available December 22 through December 30.

Each package includes two connecting rooms, a bottle of Kosher Olive Oil and, for kids, dreidels, a book about Hanukkah, and Kosher, nut-free chocolate coins (Hanukkah gelt). Private car service to and from the National Zoo or National Mall is also included.

For those who want to mix history, whiskey and dinner in an igloo, the Tzell Travel Group has put together a $3,000/night package that includes a stay in the room used for the Watergate break-in (Room 204), drinks with the Washington police department arresting officers who discovered the break-in and dinner in a decked-out Christmas igloo. (More details at 212-624-2997 or RKunikoff@Tzell.com)

Stay in the city or go skiing? 

Courtesy Kimpton Nine Zero

Can’t decide if you want to stay in the city or go skiing? Two Kimpton Hotels in New England have buddied up with a package that offers both, with a bonus helicopter ride

The Skyscrapers to Slopes Package is for two guests and includes a two-night city stay at Nine Zero’s penthouse suite in Boston, a two-night winter wonderland experience in a Cottage Suite at the Kimpton Taconic Hotel in Manchester, Vermont and a private helicopter ride between the two locations.

Ski passes to Stratton Mountain, a private in-room yoga session and two 60-minute in-room massages are included as are a personalized cocktail experience, Vermont cheeses, a fire pit experience with s’mores and hot cocoa, breakfasts and dinners. Available through March 31, 2020. Rates start at $14,500; resort fees included.

Grand Hyatt at SFO – a keeper!

San Francisco Int’l Airport has a swank on-site hotel

Grand Hyatt at SFO

Fresh fly-in convenience at SFO Airport

With the recent opening of the 12-story, $237 million Grand Hyatt at SFO, San Francisco International Airport joins the ranks of major airports with a luxury hotel on property.

It’s at least a half-hour journey from the airport to downtown San Francisco, so the new at-the-airport hotel is ideal for fly-in meetings and conferences and those times when you’ve got an early flight.

Sarah Cain, We Will Walk Right Up To The Sun, courtesy City and County of San Francisco; photo by Randi Malkin Steinberger.

The 351-room hotel has its own stained glass-adorned stop on the SFO AirTrain and tech-loaded meeting rooms with aviation-inspired names such as Supersonic, Stratocruiser, and Astrojet.

For on-site dining, Twin Crafts Market & Bar offers casual dining and a 24-hour market, while the Quail & Crane restaurant has a menu blending Northern California and Asian cuisine.  

 Art at Grand Hyatt SFO

All rooms at the Grand Hyatt at SFO have soundproof, floor-to-ceiling windows.

Rooms on one side of the hotel face the airfield of the International Terminal and each of those rooms is equipped with a handy airplane spotting guide and a loaner pair of binoculars.

Many rooms also have large bathrooms with soaking tubs that offer views of the airfield as well.

Rates at the Grand Hyatt SFO start at $329/night. Day-use rooms: start at $125 for 6 hours between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.  

Do you sleep well at hotels on the road?

Can you get a good night’s sleep in a hotel?

If you travel for business or pleasure, you likely spend a few – or many – nights at hotels. And, like many travelers, no doubt you are more loyal to one brand over others.

Free Wi-Fi, free breakfast and a generous points program towards free night stays may be important to you. But, according to the just-released J.D. Power 2019 North American Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index, what hotels really need to focus on are the quality of the beds.

The study found that while sleep quality is one of the most important components of a hotel guest experience, most hotels don’t deliver better-than-expected sleeping conditions.

“Delivering a superior sleep experience—from the quality of the bed, linens and pillows to the ambient sound and temperature of the room—is a huge opportunity for hotels to differentiate themselves from the pack and earn significant goodwill with guests,” said Jennifer Corwin, Senior Manager of Consumer Insights for Travel & Hospitality Intelligence at J.D. Power.

Here are some key findings of the 2019 study:

  • More zzzs, please: Overall satisfaction scores increase 114 points (on a 1,000-point scale) when hotel guests experience a better-than-expected quality of sleep.
  • The anatomy of a good night’s sleep: The top contributors to quality of sleep and, therefore, higher satisfaction scores, are comfort of bed; quietness of room; comfort/quality of pillows; room temperature; and comfort/quality of linens.
  • Satisfaction is higher when hotels offer extras such as such as white noise/sound machines, earplugs and robe/slippers.
  • Quality of sleep vs. the price of room: No surprise, really: the highest rate of better-than-expected sleep quality is in the luxury hotel segment.

The hotels guests love

These hotel brands rank highest in guest satisfaction in their respective segments:

Luxury: The Ritz-Carlton (for a fifth consecutive year)
Upper Upscale: Hard Rock Hotel
Upscale: Best Western Premier
Upper Midscale: Drury Hotels (for a 14th consecutive year)
Midscale: Wingate by Wyndham (for a fifth consecutive year)
Economy: Microtel by Wyndham (for a second consecutive year)

Is there a hotel or hotel brand where you sleep like a baby?

Let us know by leaving a comment below. And let us know if you travel with a sleep aid such as ear plugs, a favorite pillow or, perhaps, a stuffed animal.

4 important questions to ask before you rent that Airbnb

My story this week for CNBC offers advice for issues to consider, and questions to ask, before you hit “rent” on a Airbnb or other type of homeshare property.

Here’s the story:

The note taped to the TV in the Airbnb rental in what turned out to be a questionable apartment building in a sketchy neighborhood in New York City was the first clue.

“It said, ‘Anyone ask, you say you friend of Jay,’ remembers Washington, D.C.-based documentary producer Richard Paul, “We never met Jay.”

The note wasn’t the weirdest thing about the apartment.

“You couldn’t open the front door because it hit the ‘fridge,” said Paul, “The A/C didn’t work. The girl from the live sex show up the block smoked on the front steps. And we think a guy got pushed off the roof as we were leaving.”

Not the kind of vacation rental you want to end up in?

There’s always a chance the swank-looking, well-reviewed home, cabin, apartment or castle you book through a home-sharing site such as Airbnb or Vrbo (which includes HomeAway.com and a handful of other companies) will have some problems or not end up being as advertised.

Worse, you could end up booking an illegal short-term rental and, like some recent vacationers in Miami, having to vacate the property in the middle of the night.

Home-sharing companies post advice, rules and tips on their websites to help minimize problems for both renters and hosts. And they all encourage potential renters to be sure to read the reviews, rules and rental offerings carefully.

Millions of people have no problems with their home-share stays. But as the summer travel season comes around, CNBC asked a real estate lawyer to share some extra, ‘bonus’ questions to ask yourself and your host during the booking process and during your stay.

“Friend of Jay?”

If you worried about or unwilling to having to pose as a “friend of Jay,” ask the host directly if their landlord or the rule and regulations of their condo allow short-term rentals.

“If they lie and say in an email or a text that everything is good and it turns out not to be the case, that’s your legal basis for voiding that rental contract and possibly getting damages if you have to move out in the middle of the might and rental another property,” said Scott Reidenbach, the founding principal of Reidenbach & Associates, a Philadelphia law firm that concentrates on wide-variety of real estate-related issues.

If they say “Tell them you’re a friend of Jay,” and you go along with that, “Then you’re complicit,” said Reidenbach.

And while that happens all the time, the danger is you take the risk of being kicked out in the middle or your trip.  

Who you gonna’ call?

Be sure to get contact information for someone you can contact if you show up and something doesn’t work, the place is dirty or is otherwise not as advertised.

And – bonus question – ask if that contact person lives nearby.

“A lot of these Airbnb or Vrbo-type owners aren’t professional landlords and many don’t live close by,” said Reidenbach, “I’ve heard stories about people not being able to get anything fixed because the owner is a 1000 miles away,”

Read the fine print

A good vacation rental listing will not only include great photos and a list of property amenities, it will have some “house rules” that might include a curfew time for noise and/or parties, the number of overnight guests allowed and an age limit for children.

“You may have very young children, but the very fine print says a guest is not permitted to have children under 12 or 16. Or that the property is not safe for children under a certain age because of safety reasons such as being on a cliff, having an open fire pit or a pool that’s not safe for small kids,” said Reidenbach.

Ask yourself if you’re willing to flout the fine print. 

When in doubt, turn off the Wi-Fi

There have been recent reports of Airbnb guests discovering hidden cameras in bedrooms and bathrooms of the properties they’ve rented. 

Airbnb now requires hosts to disclose the presence of security – or other – cameras – in their listings, but in the spirit of “Say you’re a friend of Jay,” dishonest property listers may not always comply.

“Ask the question,” advises Reidenbach, “And to really protect yourself disable or unplug the Wi-Fi,” as many home security system and cameras are wireless and Wi-Fi-powered, “We’ve heard of people doing that and immediately getting a call from the owner asking if the Wi-Fi is down because the cameras stopped working.” 

Have you dealt with any of these issue in your homeshare rental? Tell us about it in the comments below.