travel

Chicken cuddling, loaner gear and hairdo help with your next hotel stay

Each season I do a round-up of unusual hotel perks for CNBC. Here’s the latest.

In-room coffee makers, Wi-Fi, a bottle of water and, sometimes, complimentary nationwide phone calls are now among the standard amenities travelers will find included with most hotel rooms.

But to stand-out and, in many cases, justify, the sometimes hefty ‘resort’ or ‘convenience’ fees many properties now tag onto bills, more offbeat and intriguing perks are showing up in the list of amenities included. 

For example, the Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda offers guests complimentary daily garden and Hamilton Harbor tours. And the JW Marriott El Convento Cusco offers built-in oxygen systems in every room and coca leaf tea, to help guests acclimate to the high altitude in Peru.

From hairdo help and loaner athletic gear to culinary classes and cuddling chickens, we found a wide variety of unusual amenities being offered to guests at hotels in the U.S. as well.

Hairdo help, sparkling wine and shopping bonuses

Located near Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market and the Puget Sound waterfront, the Thompson Seattle welcomes guests with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine. The perks build from there with complimentary blow outs and bang trims at a nearby salon plus tickets to area attractions and museums (when available. Even better, the Uncovered Seattle program, secures discounts and/or bonus offers for guests at a dozen downtown boutiques, jewelry stores and spas. (Rates start at $279. Daily ‘destination fee’: $25.)

 Gear shed with hoverboards, cameras and guitars

(Gear Shed at The Hotel Zags; courtesy Harriet Baskas

In Oregon, The Hotel Zags Portland fits into the Rose City’s hipster scene with complimentary perks that include a ‘gear shed’ filled with everything from bicycles and basketballs to hoverboards, skateboards, guitars, fishing poles and cameras.

Soon-to-launch lobby events include astrology programs, art classes in the hotel’s living wall courtyard and “forest bathing” – walks in the city’s greenery.

Hotel guests also get one $15 mini-bar or hotel sundry shop credit each stay, access to an elaborate game room and passes to a nearby gym. (Rates start at: $199; Guest amenities fee: $24/day.)

Gourmet bagels and bonus amenity closet

In New York City, the Park Terrace Hotel overlooking Bryant Park the bonus perks are both tasty and thoughtful.

A community closet on each floor is stocked with take-what-you-need amenities such as deodorant, Malin + Goetz soap, collar stays, toothbrushes and other necessities travelers often leave behind. And the hotel’s complimentary daily breakfast offers a veritable Big Apple food tour with gourmet classics such as Zucker’s bagels, Murray’s Cheese and Doughnut Plant donuts. (Rates start at $350/night; No resort fee.)

Fairy houses, Whiff Walks and Garden Pun Tours

In Vermont, summer and fall guests of the Woodstock Inn & Resort are offered a bounty of free classes and complimentary tours at the resort’s 3.5 acre, certified organic Kelly Way Gardens.

In addition to nibbling tours and aromatherapy Wellness Whiff Walks, guests can try to spot the fairies living in tiny houses made from repurposed gourds.

Additional amenities include local shuttle service and admission to Billings Farm & Museum, home to Jersey cows, draft horses, Southdown sheep and heritage chickens. (Summer rates start at $279; Resort fee: $35/day)

 Monogrammed pillowcases and airport greeters

The 5-star Peninsula Beverly Hills pampers guests with plenty of posh perks.

A hotel greeter is stationed at Los Angeles International Airport to welcome arriving guests who have booked transfers to the hotel. “Peninsula Time” allows extremely flexible check-in and check-out times, so guests may, for example, check in at 8 a.m. and out at 10 p.m. A Rolls-Royce ferries guests to area destinations. And returning guests find personalized monogrammed pillowcases on their beds.  

Frequent guests of the Peninsula Beverly Hills may also store luggage onsite while they jet off to another city and make use of the hotel’s complimentary unpacking services when they return.  (Rates start at $595: No resort fee)

Culinary classes, creative writing and charming chickens  

Courtesy Sunrise Springs Spa Resort

Amenities at the Sunrise Springs Spa Resort in Santa Fe, New Mexico include unlimited experiential wellness activities ranging from fitness, yoga and meditation to cooking and creative writing classes and courses in making healthy beauty products.

The resort also offers guests stress-busting opportunities to hang out with puppies and with the resident flock of fluffy and friendly Silkie chickens, who have fur-like feathers. (Rates start $265; No resort fees.)

Stargazing and snorkeling gear

Guests at the Fairmont Orchid, a luxury resort along the Kohala Coast of Hawaii Island can use complimentary snorkel equipment to spot fish and Hawaiian sea turtles in Pauoa Bay and take advantage of a complimentary 45-minute photoshoot with a professional photographer. (Photo packages can be purchased). The resort also offers complimentary star gazing sessions and classes in Hawaiian crafts and culture. (Rates start at $269) Daily resort fee: $35).

Apps help travelers find a place to store luggage

There’s that ‘in-between’ time – when you arrive in a town before hotel check-in time, or when you checked out of your hotel or Airbnb and want to do some sightseeing – when you need a place to leave your luggage.

Hotels will sometimes store your gear, but in a story for CNBC this week, I found a group of apps that match travelers seeking short-term bag storage with coffee shops, restaurants, gift shops and other businesses with strage room to spare.

These luggage storage networks, such as Vertoe, LuggageHero, Stasher, Nannybag, Knock Knock City, Bounce and others, have apps that lead users to vetted nearby drop-off spots, with payment made online.

When dropped off, security ties are usually attached to bags to prevent tampering. Insurance is included in the fee and, after pick-up, users are invited to rate the experience online.

Storage fees vary and are charged by either the hour or the day:  

Both Knock Knock City and LuggageHero charge $1/hour or $10/day with a one-time handling fee of $2/bag. Bounce charges $5.99/day. Nannybag charges $6 per bag for the first day and $4 per bag for each additional day. Stasher’s fees are $6/day/per item and Vertoe’s fees start at $5.95 per day/per item (overnight storage counts as two days) and vary by location.

The storage-app ‘industry’ is still young and most company founders I spoke with said they decided to get into the business after finding themselves lugging their luggage around a city after checking out of an Airbnb.

“We started in New York City and Brooklyn with people offering bag storage in their apartments on Craigslist, like Airbnb for luggage,” Selin Sonmez, co-founder of Knock Knock City, told me, “But we found the business hours posted for some people’s homes weren’t reliable or always accurate and others required users to walk up flights of stairs with their suitcases.”

Knock Knock City now also operates in San Francisco, Boston, Washington, D.C., Seattle, Philadelphia, Chicago and Miami and only partners with ground floor venues that have strict business hours. Sonmez said any location with an average star rating below 3.5 (out of 5) is removed.

Like the other luggage storage app services, the list of Knock Knock City partner sites is eclectic. Customers can store their bags at bike shops, clothing stores, restaurants, a massage therapist’s office, an eyebrow bar, at hotels and in hostels.

In addition to helping businesses put unused or underutilized space to income-producing use, “We’re helping local economies by getting travelers to explore neighborhoods and getting foot traffic in the doors,” said Sonmez.

That’s the pitch that convinced ATLAS Workbase, a coworking space by Seattle’s Space Needle, to sign up as a Knock Knock City site.

“There are a lot of Airbnb rentals in this area and a lot of tourists, so it solves a real need,” said Kim Burmester, ATLAS Workbase vice president of sales and marketing, “But our real goal is to get traffic in here as our key target audience is the traveling professional.”

As convenient as storing a suitcase at a coffee shop for a few hours may be, travelers who don’t want to deal with any baggage hassles have other options.

Travelers can send luggage (and golf bags, ski and snowboard gear or bicycles) ahead with door-to-door shipping services such as Send My Bag, Luggage Free or LugLess (part of the Luggage Forward family) that offers both drop-off and door-to-door luggage shipping services. (Pricing depends on destination, weight and how soon you want your bag to arrive).

Or, for $9.95/month and $99 per standard U.S. shipment, you can skip worrying about making travel arrangements for your suitcase altogether. 

Dufl sends customers a suitcase to be filled with clothes or accessories and then picks up the suitcase and stores the items in a “virtual closet.” Customers can request that the suitcase, filled with any of the stored items, be waiting for them at a hotel and then, after their trip, return the suitcase and the clothes back to Dufl for dry cleaning and storage until the next trip comes around.   

Southwest selling tickets to Hawaii. Flights start soon.

Want to go to Hawaii? One more airline is now flying there from the west coast.

Southwest Airlines announced it will start flying between Hawaii and the mainland on March 17, 2019, with an inaugural flight from Oakland International Airport (OAK) to Honolulu’s Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL).

On April 7, Southwest will start service from Oakland International Airport to Kahului Airport (OGG).

In May, Southwest will start service from Norman Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) to Honolulu on May 5 and to Kahului on May 26.

Southwest is also adding interisland service and will fly roundtrip between Honolulu and Kahului four times daily beginning April 28 and four times daily between Honolulu and Ellison Onizuka International Airport at Keahole (KOA) on Hawaii Island.

Still to come: details about the schedule for Southwest’s flights from San Diego and Sacramento, and for flights that will serve Lihue, on Kauai.

Sale prices for the announced flights were offered – and sold out within minutes – on Monday, but poke around and you may still find some great deals on Southwest’s flights to Hawaii.

No doubt other carriers, such as Hawaiian Airlines, Alaska, United, American, and Delta, that fly to Hawaii from gateways across the U.S. may kick off sales and special promotions of their own in the coming days.

In fact, here’s a link to a flash fare sale Alaska Airlines rolled out today on flight to Hawaii…

Visting the Bankside hotel in London

I’m in London this week for a few days to be part of the judging panel for the second annual Travel Retail Awards program for TRBusiness. 

My assignment: evaluate spirits, cosmetics, chocolates, small electronics and other products sold in airport shops.

Tought job, right? But I’m taking the testing and evaluating very seriously.

While in town, I did take the change to stop by the Bankside, a new very fun and “design-forward” hotel in a cool neighborhood on the the south bank of the River Thames. (Sea Containers London, another swank London hotel I’ve had the pleasure of staying in before, is just a few doors down the street.)

I wasn’t able to spend the night at 161-room Banskside (part of Marriott’s Autograph collection of properties), but I did get a tour around the art-filled lobby, a look at a room and a lovely (hosted, thank-you!) dinner in the Art Yard Bar & Kitchen.

While I couldn’t try everything on the menu, I can heartily recommend the dishes I tried, especially the Monkfish Catapanla, (a hearty fish stew for two with several types of seafood), as well as the Pear Parfait and Dark Chocolate Fondant desserts.

The Bankside has several ‘bonus’ amenities that seem unique and/or quite amusing.

Guests find marshmallows on their pillows at turndown. Bars with taps to dispense several types of water (sorry, not beer) are in each hall. And just outside the elevator on each floor is a vending machine where guests may purchase small bottles of pre-made cocktails, wine, liquor and other ‘necessities,’ such as an emergency engagement ring, and handmade sparkly pants.

Worms to whales: the wildlife that shows up at airports

Bearded Seal on runway at Wiley Post-Will Rogers Memorial Airport in Utqiaġvik (fomerly Barrow) Courtesy Scott Babcock, Alaska Dept of Transportation & Public Facilities.

My “At the Airport” column on USA Today this month is all about the wildlife that shows up – uninvited – at airports.

The story details some of the visitors, such as the seal (above) that showed up on the runway during a snowstorm at Alaska’s Wiley Post-Will Rogers Memorial Airport in Utqiaġvik (fomerly Barrow) last year, the wily coyotes that can climb over barbed wire fences and the loons, carbiou, alligators and, mostly, birds that airport wildlife management teams must deal with.

This moose stopped by Jackson Hole Airport in October 2015. Photo courtesy Philip Bollman

To report the story I did a ride along with Nick Atwell, wildlife manager at the Portland International Airport, and talked with wildlife biologists who work with airports around the country. You can read the full column – From worms to whales, the wildlife that worries airports – at the USA Today site, but here are few more fun photos.

Coyotes chased this bear cub across a Colorado airport. USDA Wildlife Services tranquilized, tagged and relocated the cub. Photo_USDA Wildlife Services

 

The USDA’s Wildlife Services staff helps capturs and relocate alligators – some up to 9 feet long – at many southern airports. Courtesy USDA

Buffalo standing outside terminal doors at Yellowstone Airport. Courtesy Jeff Kadlec.