$20K Stolen In Brazen Miami Hotel Room Theft

Miami Beach Hotel Theft

Courtesy Local10.com

As a rule of thumb, it’s not a good idea to travel with anything you can’t afford to lose. The latest example of that comes from Miami Beach, where last month a bold thief got off with $20,000 in goods from a hotel room. Amazingly, he didn’t even have to force entry. A housekeeper let him wander right in after he flashed a hotel key card and told her it was his mother’s room.

The man ransacked the room and found $1,800 in cash and $10,000 in jewelry. He stowed the loot and some other items — including an iPad and credit cards — in a suitcase. Then he waltzed away with the bounty.

This is a good reminder that hotel rooms can easily be compromised. While this perp found a way to casually stroll in and out, thieves can easily pick door locks — even the ones with plastic key cards that used to seem so innovative. And hotel safes aren’t as secure as one might hope. When you’re in the lobby or out and about, be sure to keep your hotel room number to yourself so would-be thieves can’t target you. In fact, whenever possible, the best thing to do is to just leave your valuables at home. It’s just never a good idea to attract too much attention.

[via Local10.com]

Galley Gossip: 9 Safety Tips For New Flight Attendants (And Solo Travelers)

1. “The Gift of Fear,” by Gavin De Becker, should be required reading for all men and women, especially for those of us who travel, particularly for women who travel alone. I’ve recommended this book to more flight attendants and passengers than anything thing else over the years. It’s saved my life more than once.

2. Skip the first floor. They’re easier to break into. That’s why you’ll never find a flight attendant below the second floor in a hotel. There’s a reason for that. It’s in our hotel contract.

3. Leave the lights and television on when you’re not in the room. Put the Do Not Disturb sign on the door. It gives the appearance that someone is occupying the room, so no one will break in.

4. Stay Healthy: Never leave home without a small antibacterial spray. A mini bottle of vodka works just as well. Hit up the remote, the light switches, doorknobs and taps. You don’t want to get sick while you’re stuck at a less than desirable layover hotel.

5. Walk with intent. Walk down the street like you have a place to be, like you know where you’re going and need to get there quickly. Do that and people will leave you alone.

6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’re walking alone and feel like someone is following you, tell someone! If for some reason you feel scared and you’re all alone, share it with somebody! Trust your gut. Know that most people will help.

7. Treat your hotel key like a credit card. Keep it away from your cellphone. Don’t leave it out for everyone to see. Don’t say which room you’re in out loud when you’re discussing what time to meet down in the lobby. Ditch the paper sleeve it came in. This way if you lose your key you won’t have to worry about any uninvited visitors.

8.. Hide your personal information on your luggage tag. Turn it around so no one can read your name, address, phone number. This way you won’t get a surprise knock on your door – or a phone call on a day off at home from a stranger who knows you by name who’s still mad that all you had left was the pasta in first class.

9. Dress appropriately. You’ll probably live a lot longer if you wear the appropriate outfit in the appropriate neighborhood. Ladies, I’m talking heels. Short skirts. The idea is you want to blend in. You also want to be able to run if need be.

[Photo Credit: Heather Poole]

Bedbugs Being Dealt With By Tough, Heartless Science

Medill DC/ Flickr

Nasty bedbugs are bad news for everyone. Travelers drop them off or pick them up at just about any hotel. The people that run those hotels hate them too. Bedbugs require a great deal of attention just to keep circling your room. But now, some good science has bad news for bedbugs. All bedbugs will die via a safe, non-chemical resource that instantly, physically ends them.

Researchers at Stony Brook University have developed a product that they say, “literally stops bedbugs in their tracks” in a report from Laboratory Equipment.

What they have and how it works is best described as like the workings of a spider web. Once something gets caught … that’s it, party over.

The bedbug experts have developed a web-like product with microfibers 50 times thinner than a human hair. This stuff can catch the smallest of insect, for the most part.

So in come the bedbugs on a little stroll that might have ended on your leg but they (and any other bug that comes along) get entangled and trapped in the web.”The microfibers trap them by attaching to microstructures on their legs taking away their ability to move, which stops them from feeding and reproducing,” says lead researcher Miriam Rafailovich, Distinguished Professor of Materials Science and Engineering.

God, I hope they never turn that stuff on me. Sounds effective. There will be no last personal experience for any of these insects. They will all die the same death.

This new, patent-pending tech is being offered for commercial purposes by Fibertrap, a company that specializes in non-toxic pest control methods. More on this as details are revealed.

Bed Bugs Are Becoming More Resistant to Insecticides

The Death Of Room Service?

room service
Will Merydith, Flickr

I’ve always felt that one of the great luxuries of staying in a hotel has nothing to do with how premium the furnishings are or how fancy the décor is. No, what really makes a hotel indulgent is the fact that I don’t have to do things myself. The bed needs to be made in the morning? Not my problem! Towels need replacing? Good thing fresh ones are just a phone call away. Stomach rumbling in the middle of the night? Why step out of my pajamas when room service can bring me whatever my belly desires?

Well now, one of those luxuries is under threat with the New York Hilton Midtown announcing that it is going to stop offering room service at its 2,000-room establishment.The four-star hotel has been experiencing a drop in the number of people ordering room service – a trend seen across the board. In the past year, room service accounted for just 1.2 percent of total hotel revenue in the United States.

Experts attribute the fall in room service requests to greater competition from restaurants popping up near hotels. They say some hotels have tried to counter this by putting restaurants and cafes in their lobbies to attract guests.

Whether the Hilton’s decision to dump room service will spread across the hotel industry is yet to be seen. However, the decision to kill off room service may come back to bite the hotel according to travel strategy firm Hudson Crossing. Analyst Henry Harteveldt told news.com.au that the Hilton’s star rating might be downgraded because it would no longer officially be considered a full service hotel. “If room service is a requirement to earn a four star rating from independent organizations like AAA, Hilton’s move may put (that) rating in jeopardy, unless the hotel can obtain an exemption.”

Hotel Tonight: Testing The Last-Minute Hotel Booking Service In New York City

Hotel Tonight logoI just finished renovating my one-bedroom Brooklyn apartment, an experience that has driven many a New Yorker to drink, or even better, to a hotel room. With my husband and me both working from home, a toddler at heel and not many friends with “extra” room for us to crash, we were forced to decamp while our apartment was without a kitchen or bathroom. Looking for options, I first turned to Airbnb, my preferred source of accommodations now that I travel with a baby, and while it’s recently been ruled semi-illegal in NYC, there are still plenty of listings. Most neighborhood options were either sketchy (I’d rather not share a bathroom with “several” other bedrooms, even if it was featured in a film) or comically overpriced (though cheers to the creative thinker who includes their own Netflix account as an amenity). Searching the major booking engines for hotels yielded either insulting (uh, Brooklyn is still part of NYC) or downright offensive ($400 for a La Quinta in the middle of nowhere?!) offerings, so I turned to what would become my new obsession: hotel hopping with Hotel Tonight.

Hotel Tonight is a mobile-only app service that provides daily hotel deals for one (or sometimes a few) night only with sometimes stellar discounts, but only available starting at noon for the same day (sometimes for multiple nights). It’s ideal if you are, say, out and about and decide you’d rather sleep at a hotel rather than home, or like playing it fast and loose with your vacation bookings. Prior to my “staycation” week of hotel hopping, I had used it only once for a last-minute hotel room in Boston, discovering a hotel I’d never heard of, at a price far lower than anything else available. I liked its well-curated stock of hotels, sleek interface, to-the-point reviews and especially the fact that you get to “trace” a hotel bed to confirm your room purchase, an odd kind of satisfaction akin to a scratch-off lottery ticket.The first day I excitedly logged in at exactly noon, using the Wi-Fi from outside my local library with suitcases at the ready to head to my home for the night. I did some cross-referencing with individual hotel sites and booking engines, finally settling on the new-ish Hotel BPM in Sunset Park. Though it’s less than five miles from my apartment and I consider myself to be a fairly intrepid New York explorer, it’s not an area I’m familiar with or would think of for a hotel. Even my car service driver was bemused and curious about the location, just off the Brooklyn Queens Expressway and quite handy to Costco, if, say, you wanted to bring your own extra-large package of toilet paper. I was pleasantly surprised with the room, a spiffy green-and-white design with some hi-tech touches like a smart TV that can connect to Hulu and Netflix. The DJ/music theme was sort of lost on me, as well as its connection to the neighborhood.

The immediate area of the Hotel BPM can feel a bit desolate and industrial if you walk the wrong way, but my toddler enjoyed a nearby playground with the questionable feature of being located right under an elevated highway. Though I imagine the front desk could have given me tips, I followed a friend’s recommendation to the nearby Kofte Piyaz, where I had some of the best Turkish food I’ve found outside Istanbul. Walking back past many Mexican and Spanish delis and diners, I had to wonder what would drive a tourist out here, other than low room rates? The hotel’s website is very “rah rah, Brooklyn!” which feels a bit disingenuous when you discover the beautiful “Brownstone Brooklyn” or trendy Williamsburg is nowhere in sight, and our borough’s famed bridge wouldn’t even be visible from the roof (if I could get on it, not sure they have granted access to the public yet). The hotel hosts happy hour downstairs on weekends, but on my Tuesday stay, you were on your own if you wanted a drink.

On day two, we went down to breakfast, where I had the interesting experience of understanding all of the hotel staff’s conversations (including local references), but none of the (mostly foreign) guests’. We didn’t know where we’d spend the night or even the few hours between hotels and checkout time coincided with Hotel Tonight’s rollout of daily offers. I hesitated a minute too long and missed out on the Nu Hotel (well located by Smith Street, although next to the county jail) and decided to gamble on waiting to book anything until 3 p.m. check-in time, when rates sometimes go down further while hotels still have empty inventory. We hauled our suitcases and child to the excellent Green Fig coffee shop, where my husband spent a few hours on conference calls and I repeatedly checked for rooms, and we both gorged on Italian sandwiches made on buttery garlic bread. Waiting didn’t help with prices, but we booked the Super 8 Park Slope and hopped on the subway to Union Street.

The “Park Slope” in the hotel’s name is technically correct (maybe Gowanus is more apt), but a bit of a misnomer as Prospect Park is a good mile away. I’d still recommend the hotel for location, being an easy walk from newly hip 5th Avenue, getting-cooler 4th Avenue, and right on almost-there 3rd Avenue. There’s a pretty stellar dive bar across the street and a few cute, bordering on hipster, restaurants a block away. Rooms are small but fairly nice for a Super 8 (hotel is brand new), with slow but free Wi-Fi (you can pay a few bucks per day for high speed, that’s how they get you). In retrospect, it was probably our favorite of the Hotel Tonight stays – a solid option if you want to save some money and hang out in a residential area with lots of nightlife.

On day three, I willfully ignored the sign informing me that breakfast was only to be eaten in the sad breakfast room, and took a yogurt and a poor excuse for a croissant back to my room and sleeping baby. Checkout was an unusually early 11 a.m., but we managed to stall for an hour before heading for Wi-Fi with suitcases and all to a series of 4th Avenue coffee shops. I was stymied again by the Nu Hotel with an $80 jump-in room rate, but decided on a lower price for the Union Hotel a few blocks away. I had walked by the Union the night before and was intrigued by its minimalist logo and optimistic website renderings.

The Hotel Tonight description had warned me it was “basic,” but I still burst into laughter when I couldn’t even open the door to our tiny room without hitting the bed. New York might be infamous for small hotel rooms, but if you saw this in a movie, you’d think it was over-the-top cliche. With maybe a foot-wide swath between bed and doors, the room would necessitate coordination of exits of multiple people. Still, points to the Union Hotel for a good location with a bevy of food and bar options, breakfast vouchers for a local diner and a sleek decor (with a bathroom very similar to my own in progress a few miles south).

The next day, we checked out and headed back to the Two Moon Cafe (go for the big backyard and Wi-Fi, stay for the rosemary-and-sea-salt shortbread), our favorite from the previous day, and killed time before our contractors cleared out. Returning home to a semi-finished apartment with no sinks or hot water, my fingers itched to check what Hotel Tonight might offer up. A few days hotel hopping in my own city had given me a different perspective on a place I already know well, some good advice for friends visiting in the future and some much needed hot showers. Every day at noon I think about checking for hotel offers like Pavlov’s dog, and depending on the destination, I might try for an all on-the-fly trip, booking rooms every night or two. It’s just a hi-tech version of walking into a hotel and asking for a room for the night, with a lot less legwork, and without that nifty hotel bed to trace.