I realize the beleaguered dollar is partly to blame for landing many Americans in down-market digs. (The euro was trading at $1.47 during my visit). And I'm always annoyed by U.S. travelers who venture abroad and complain that conditions aren't more like those at home. But surveying that hotel room, as I mentally tallied the tab, had me wishing there were more moderately priced European hotel chains à la those in this country — colorless, maybe, but predictable. And affordable.
On the final night, I was without reservations in a city that was hosting an international road rally, and rooms of any sort were scarce. I finally located one in a run-down fleabag for the rock-bottom rate of $60. I slept in my clothes.
Treat: Get on the bus. Really.
When I was 16, I rode a Greyhound bus from Virginia Beach five hours home to Washington, D.C. I sat in the back near the bathroom, where the door flew open at inopportune times and my seatmate wanted to know if I'd ever used heroin or whether I'd done time. (No and no.)
I'm happy to report times have changed. In March, Greyhound Lines rolled out its BoltBus service, which makes short-haul, low-cost runs between New York and Washington, Boston and Philadelphia. The shiny new buses have extra legroom, plus Wi-Fi and power outlets. And with a graduated fare structure, they're cheaper than driving. (Fares between Washington and New York, for instance, are $1 to $25 each way. The earlier you book, the less you pay).
Moreover, the bus caters to a healthy demographic mix — families, students and solo riders of all ages. The driver was courteous. The restroom functioned. And no one, not once, asked me if I'd ever done time.
Kitty Bean Yancey
Trick: A license to print money?
How much does it cost to print a boarding pass? A few pennies worth of paper; ink and printer wear and tear, maybe.
In the past, this was a service found for free at hotel-lobby computer terminals or from accommodating front desk staffers and concierges. Having a boarding pass in hand saves a stop at the airport check-in area; checking in early also can assure a better seat.
Now more hotels are charging to print that pass, whether in the business center or at kiosks that swallow a credit card before spitting out that precious piece of paper.
In Las Vegas, it cost me $5.99 at a kiosk in the Sahara Hotel & Casino, and the MGM Grand also charged for the service. Hotels elsewhere are doing this, too. And I'm still fuming.
Treat: Hard to trump this hotel deal
As the hotel-condo market continues to slump (folks who can't find financing are even walking away from deposits), rates at some high-end properties have skidded.
In June, I was pleased to score a $199 studio in Las Vegas at Donald Trump's new Trump International Hotel & Tower, a gleaming non-gaming glass tower where every room and suite was designed as an upscale condo. Each boasts built-in bookcases with objets d'art, granite-countered kitchens with stainless-steel appliances, and spacious marble bathrooms decked out with tubs, TVs whose images appear in the mirror and separate glassed-in showers.
Add discreet and deferential service (no "you're fired!" attitude here) for a posh hideaway that defies the bawdy, gaudy, rowdy Sin City stereotype. Talk about hitting a luxury-hotel jackpot.
Trick: Carry me back to the old days