When I was little, staying in a hotel was just about the best thing ever. I would enter the room slowly, taking in the strange smell of startched linens and carpet cleaner. I would insist on taking in every little detail, from the outdated wallpaper to the mass-produced framed art on the walls. Even the bathroom needed to be inspected and admired.
While my family would plunk down their suitcases and run off to the pool, I would stay behind and open every door and closet. I would often unpack my tiny flowered suitcase and carefully transfer my possessions to a dresser drawer. This is my home for the night, I would tell myself. And I would really believe it.
Twenty years later, I spend more nights in hotels than I actually spend at home. It’s tough at times. After a few months of excitement over a never ending supply of tiny soaps, I became aware of something. I’m lonely. And often bored. And wishing I was home.
Slowly, I’ve been coming to terms with my hotel life. It’s not ideal, and it’s not forever (better seniority eventually means better trips and less overnights away from home!). In the meantime, here’s a few ideas for surviving hotel life and making the most of your time away from base.
1. Make your hotel room a home.
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Immediately hang up all your uniform pieces and jackets, just like your would at home. Line up your shoes by the door. Don’t get too crazy spreading your clothes all over the room, because you will have to pack up again! Set up all your snacks on the little counter by the coffee maker for easy snacking. Make tea. If the lights are too bright, drape a pretty scarf over a lampshade to give your room a cozy feel. I always bring one tiny little keepsake in my suitcase (a card that my boyfriend gave me when I got my wings); set it on your nightstand next to your bed. Welcome home.
2. Get serious about your food.
If your hotel room doesn’t have a refrigerator and/or microwave, call the front desk and ask if you can switch to a room that has them. Often, hotel staff are even willing to bring these small appliances, and even dishes to your room. If nothing else, ask to use a staff fridge to store your perishables. Bonus: For the most advanced hotel life hack, check out this guy who cooked an entire meal using his hotel room coffee maker and an iron.
Remember to refresh your ice packs for your lunch bag. It’s a hotel; they’re going to have ice machines on every floor. Make use of them.
3. Create a routine.
Often, hotel life can quickly disintegrate into collapsing into bed in your uniform and watching six hours of HGTV and not really getting any good rest, exercise or food. Develop a routine and stick to it. Change out of your uniform right away. Hang it up (yes, do it, otherwise you will have to iron!) Change into work-out clothes and head straight to the gym or go out and explore. Get at least a little exercise. You will sleep so much better.
For me, layovers are prime time for catching up on blogging, e-mails and planning my next adventure. I use my overnights like office hours, and am actually pretty productive! Well, that is, unless I accidentally get sucked into a House Hunters International marathon…
4. Take advantage of the perks.
There are so many things that you can get out of your hotel room. Tiny soaps and lotions? I still collect them! Give them away to friends and family, or even better: donate them to women’s shelters and homeless drop-in centers.
Many hotels offer free breakfast buffets. Don’t be shy about loading up! Get a good breakfast in, and then collect everything that you can carry: oatmeal packets, tea, bananas, hard-boiled eggs, plastic utensils, jelly packets and condiments of all kinds.
Sign up for hotel loyalty rewards programs. Often you can mention your loyalty number at check-in and receive points for your stay … even if you’re not the one paying for the room! Those points add up and can be used for a hotel room stay on your next big vacation.
After you set up your home-y little hotel room, get in some exercise and food, it’s time to explore your surroundings! Ask around to find out what’s good. The front desk will be able to recommend local attractions, and you can always do a little research on your own as well. Check with your airline’s Travel/Benefits center to see what kind of discounts your Crew Badge can get you at local museums, state parks and other places of interest … you might be surprised!
Embrace your hotel life. Make it your home away from home.