Pooping In Public, The Newest Hotel Trend

open plan bathroom hotel
Bentley Smith, Flickr

They say traveling together will either bring you closer together or destroy your relationship, and the latest hotel design movement is certainly putting that concept to the test.

According to The Guardian, open-plan bathrooms are a growing trend in luxury hotels. Instead of hiding in a separate room, showers, baths and even toilets are now being placed right inside the bedroom. Occasionally, you’ll find walls separating the wet areas from the bedroom — although see-through glass does little to shield you from the eyes of your travel companion.A few hotels that have embraced this concept include the Lloyd Hotel in Amsterdam, the Renaissance Beijing Capital Hotel and the Ecclestone Square Hotel in London (though at least here you can flip a switch to turn the glass walls opaque).

While some couples might get a kick out of the less-than-private baths or showers, the placement of the toilet leaves a lot to be desired. After all, no matter how close you are with your partner, do you really want to be in on each other’s bowel movements? And what exactly do you do if you’re traveling with a relative, friend or business partner?

Making matters worse is the fact that some of these open-plan bathrooms are not just “open” to your roommate, but also to the public. At The Standard Hotel in New York, one suite features a floor-to-ceiling glass wall in the bathroom that faces out onto the street. And yes, people are watching. One hotel specialist told The Guardian that while staying at a different hotel in New York with a glass wall that faced the outside, she “could see a guy standing in a building looking at me having a shower.” Creepy or what?

Would you stay in a hotel with an open plan bathroom?

8 tips for surviving a visit with the in-laws

Sometimes your travels take you around the world, to dangerous locales where you don’t know the customs and need to always be on your guard to ensure your safety. And sometimes, they just take you to a visit with the in-laws, which can be equally awkward, confusing, and downright dangerous. Here are eight tips to help you survive a visit with you in-laws with your dignity, and your relationship, intact.

Bring a gift.

Whether this is your first time visiting your significant other’s family or your tenth, it’s always nice to bring a small token of your gratitude as thanks for the family’s hospitality. Flowers or a nice bottle of wine is a good, safe first time gift (unless the family doesn’t drink, then nix the wine idea), but you’ll earn bonus points if you bring something a little more personal.

Ask your significant other for details about his or her parents and buy them something that you think they will enjoy – perhaps a favorite bottle of scotch for Dad or the latest cookbook for a Mom who fancies herself as the next Martha Stewart. If the two of you have recently been on a trip, be sure to bring back a few little souvenirs for the family. Keep the gift to a reasonable amount though, generally under $20. Showing up for a first meeting bearing elaborate or expensive gifts screams “desperate to be liked.”Stick to “safe” conversation topics.
Politics, religion, money, unions….we all know these are sensitive subjects, but sometimes we get sucked into discussing them with near strangers anyway. Don’t fall into this trap, even if you think you know (and agree with) the position of your partner’s family. Until you’ve known them for a while, and know whether or not they can calmly have a debate or disagreement without taking things personally, just change the subject. Unless the family says something completely unacceptable (and even then, let your spouse take the heat for voicing a dissenting opinion for the both of you) just bite your tongue and never take sides. And remember, if you find your SO’s fam completely vile in their political or religious views, that doesn’t mean that your partner feels the same way they do.

Remember some conversation starters.
Have your spouse help you out with some safe topics you can pull out if the conversation starts to wane. A quick rundown of current family events (who is about to have a baby, who just got married), the latest news in each person’s life and the hobbies and jobs of each person should suffice. Come armed with a few anecdotes of your own, like a quick synopsis of the duties at your new job or a few highlights of the latest trip you took with your partner. This way, even if you get nervous, you have a few topics you can fall back on to avoid any awkward silences until you get to know everyone better.

Bring everything you need to feel comfortable.
This includes bringing your own toiletries, hair dryer, and any other items you need and which might not be provided by your hosts. Since you are sleeping in another person’s house, you may need to rethink your PJs as well. I sleep in a tank and pajama pants; at my in-law’s house, everyone gathers for coffee in the kitchen first thing each morning. After being the only person fully dressed on my first trip, I learned to bring a hoodie to throw on over my tank so I could join the PJ party and not feel uncomfortable. Just don’t overdue it; there’s no need to bring your own pillows or roll in with two suitcases for a weekend trip.

Verify sleeping arrangements before arriving.
This is a job for the spouse or partner. If it’s the first visit (especially if you aren’t married) and the house has multiple sleeping arrangements, be sure to verify which bedrooms you’ll using when you are in town. It’s embarrassing to arrive only to find that the girls will be bunking (even worse if that means literally in bunk beds) in one room and the boys in the other. Make sure your significant other checks out the sleeping arrangements in advance, and if the two of you aren’t comfortable with them, opt to stay in a hotel.

Bring snacks if you are a picky eater.
When you are staying at your in-law’s house, you are at the mercy of their taste buds. While you can sometimes run out for a bite, other times it’s just not possible. You may find yourself stuck in a house with nothing you care to eat, especially if your idea of a “healthy snack” and theirs differs significantly. Play it safe by stashing a few power bars or some almonds or crackers in your bags so that you have an emergency snack if needed.

Plan some alone/out-of-the-house time.
Like being stranded in a broken down car on the side of the road, spending time at the in-law’s can make you feel a bit trapped, maybe a little claustrophobic. Be sure to schedule some time alone with your partner out of the house. Even if it’s just a trip to the grocery store for some milk or a quick walk around the block with the dog, a few moments away from the pressure of impressing your family will allow you both to relax and reconnect.

For the hosting spouse – remember to have your partner’s back.
If it is your family that you and your significant other are visiting, try to remember that this can be a stressful time for your partner. Try to make it as easy as possible on him or her. Help him remember the names of all your aunts and uncles. Remind him which cousins to avoid after they’ve been drinking. Help her get into a conversation with your grandparents. Think about how you would feel in the situation and do what you can to make it a more comfortable one for the person you love.

Stick to these tips in the beginning, tready lightly with your new in-laws, and soon you may be one big happy family. If the in-laws are coming to visit at your house…..these rules still apply, plus one more.

Go out of your way to be the best host you can be.
Think about all the little things that would make you even more comfortable as a guest. Lay out fresh towels for the visiting family members. Stock the kitchen with their favorite foods. Leave some quality toiletries in the bathroom and a bottle of water by the bed, and put a few books from their favorite genre out on the bedroom. Put together a city guide for them, complete with pre-paid transit card so they can get around easily. Do your best to make them feel as welcome in your home as you would like to feel in theirs.

10 tips for traveling as a couple – and not breaking up

Traveling together for the first time as a couple can be a make-or-break experience. You can learn more about a person on a two-day trip than you can in a few weeks of dating.

When you travel with someone, you quickly figure out how he interacts with other cultures, how she manages money, how she handles stress, or how he deals with conflict when the two of you cannot escape each other. Not to mention, you’ll be privy to all those things the other person may have tried (maybe successfully) to hide from you before: she doesn’t look quite the same without her makeup on, and you do not want to go in the bathroom after he uses it first thing in the morning.

Travel can be a more intense experience than life at home, and that holds true for couples traveling together too. But, traveling with your mate can also be an enriching experience that brings the two of you closer. Here are some tips for traveling with your significant other, whether you’re planning your first trip together or have been exploring the world as a couple for some time.Start small
The length of time you spend on your trip should be directly proportionate to the amount of time you have been dating. Couples who have been together for years have a better chance of surviving long-term travel, while those who have been together for less than 12 months should stick to trips of a week to 10 days.

If you’ve only been dating a month or two, do not attempt more than a weekend jaunt for your first effort, and never plan a trip more days in advance than the amount of time you have been together. Known each other one month? I don’t care if you are in love. I still wouldn’t recommend you buy tickets for a two-week long trip for three months from now.

Pick the right location
I often hear people ask what is a good “romantic destination.” That’s the wrong question. Any destination can be romantic. Romance is more about who you are with, what you do, and your state of mind than where you are on the map. Sure, some locations are more picturesque or have more “romantic” lodging options, but that doesn’t mean they are the perfect place for you and your sweetie.

Focus more on what you want to see and do and go from there. If you get bored lying on the beach all day, you aren’t going to have a great trip, no matter how “romantic” the resort claims to be. Talk to your significant other and discuss what you each want to do and what your travel style is, and select a location based on those considerations.

Plan together
In many relationships, it seems like one person always takes the reins of planning while the other is content to be led. This can work out fine for decisions such as where to go to dinner, but when you are talking about spending several days, and possibly several hundred dollars, on a trip, both people need to contribute to the decision making. Once you’ve settled on a location, you can divvy up the planning responsibilities in one of several ways.

If one person is more of a foodie, he or she can select restaurants, while the person who is more passionate about history or art chooses which museums to visit. Another option is to alternate days when each person plans the itinerary. You’ll decided what to do on Monday; he’ll make Tuesday’s plan. The third option, and the one that works best for my husband and I, is to each make a plan based on what we want to do. Then we compare (usually finding that most of our “must-do” activities are the same) and craft a final itinerary from there.



Compromise

In the travel planning and on the trip, you have to realize that you can’t get your way all the time. When creating an itinerary that includes both what you want to do and what your significant other wants to do, you often will each have to give up a few things in order to make it work. One way my husband and I do this is to figure out how many activities, cities, or restaurants we can fit in on the trip. Then we each make a list of our top choices, filling in one from each person until we have maxed out our time. This way we each get to do the things that are most important to us.

Take time apart
For your sanity, and in order to do some things you may want to do that your mate does not, it’s important to take time apart on your trip. Whether it’s 20-30 minutes to clear your head with an early morning run on a short weekend trip, or taking off an entire afternoon of a week-long trip to visit a museum that your significant other has no interest in, spending some time apart is vital. It can help prevent you from getting frustrated with each other and having petty arguments, and it can allow you the time to do things that matter most to you. Plus, a little time apart can make you appreciate the time you spend together even more.

Talk budget before you go
Money is one of the main sources of disagreement for all couples, whether they be traveling or not. It’s easy to say, “I’m on vacation, I’ll deal with it later,” and then cry when you get your credit card bill. One member of the couple may also feel pressured to keep up with the other, which can then lead to resentment.

Before you begin booking your trip, talk openly and honestly about what you can afford and how you plan to divide the costs. Unless your finances are already shared, the best system is to set a budget and go dutch on all costs. This doesn’t have to mean splitting the check at every restaurant though. Just figure out how much you plan to spend on each expense and assign each cost to one person.

For instance, if your hotel will be $500 for five nights and the plane tickets were $250, you can pay for the flights while you mate pays for the hotel. If you’ve budgeted $100 per night for dinner, just switch off picking up the tab.

Be flexible
While I’m a firm believer in making an itinerary and planning a budget for every trip, I think it’s equally important to remain flexible. Things change. Sometimes after a long day of sightseeing, you just don’t want to go to that fancy restaurant you had selected for dinner. The day you wanted to climb the Duomo for the perfect view dawns cloudy and grey. Make a plan but plan for it to change. Always have a Plan B and Plan C and don’t let the little hiccups frustrate you. Sometimes the best things can happen when your plans fall through.

Keep a sense of humor
With precious little vacation time, sometimes we put too much pressure on ourselves to have the perfect trip, to enjoy every single second of it to the fullest. When that doesn’t happen, we’re crushed. But things go wrong on the road. Planes are delayed, luggage gets lost, hotels lose reservations and sometimes even the most highly recommended restaurant turns out to be a disappointment.

When bad things happen, try to keep an open mind. So a crazy Italian chef screamed at you for suggesting that the swordfish wasn’t all that fresh(as happend to me on my honeymoon), don’t let it ruin your trip. Find a way to laugh about it and you’ll end up with a better experience, and a better story to tell when you come home. So you’re hopelessly lost, it’s raining and your train leaves in an hour. The worst that happens could be that you are out a bit of money and spend an extra night in the city. Try to keep things in perspective. Remember, in most cases, the troubles you have are minor and temporary.

Make time for romance
Any trip, any restaurant, any hotel, is as romantic as you make it. When we’re running around sightseeing, trying to pack a lot into a short trip, it’s easy to forget to slow down and appreciate the time we have with the one we love. Sometimes we need to schedule romance. On even the most budget trip, find a way to do something special for your partner. Whether it be a picnic with a view, an order of breakfast in bed, a splurge meal, or just a long moonlit stroll under the lights of the city, be sure to plan at least one thoughtful surprise for your significant other.

Protect your investment
Of course you and your love are never, ever going to break up. And certainly not before your week-long trip through Napa Valley or your two-week jaunt through his ancestral land of Ireland. But…..these things do happen. I know several people who’ve lost hundreds of dollars worth of plane tickets because they were dumped right before the trip, or who suffered through an uncomfortable vacation (rather than lose the money) and broke up as soon as they got home.

Don’t let this happen to you. Make sure that your ticket cost can be refunded or that the tickets can be changed. If you need to put down a deposit, find out when the last day to get a refund is. For a trip of significant cost, look into travel insurance, which often contains a “cancel for any reason” provision that would cover heartbreak and allow you to recoup all funds if the relationship goes sour.

What makes a good travel companion?

While traveling alone can be rewarding and adventurous, the majority of your travels will include a partner or two. Be it a significant other, friend or family member, you will typically find yourself on a trip with some company. If I’ve learned anything from my travels it’s that your choice of partner can make or break a trip. Not all friends make for good travel companions. You have to choose wisely before inviting someone on a trip with you. So, what makes a good travel companion?

I asked my friends and Twitter followers for their thoughts on the matter and mixed their suggestions in with my own to compile a list of traits that every successful travel pairing should possess. Find someone who fits these criteria and you can be fairly confident that you won’t be ready to kill each other before you even pack your bags.

  1. Be together but alone – At some point on any trip, people will want to do different things. This will either cause a fight because one of you is insecure or create an opportunity for you to split up, enjoy some alone time and keep everyone happy.
  2. Flexibility – Travel can create stressful situations. Plans will change on the fly or new ideas will be discovered. A good travel buddy can roll with the changes and see them as exciting opportunities.
  3. Hygiene – Hey, you’re going to be with this person (potentially in cramped quarters) for days, week or even months. Either you both have to be slobs or you both have to keep clean. Smell together, shower alone.
  4. Spontaneity – The ferry to a remote island that you just learned about departs in five minutes and you leave town tomorrow. This is your only chance. These are the opportunities that require split-second decisions and can create amazing memories.
  5. Extroverts have more fun – Befriending people at hostels, bars or on tours is a great way to change up the travel dynamic. But your friend needs to share your willingness to invite people into your plans. Gadling editor Grant Martin did it with great success.
  6. Shut up – Whether you’re standing at the edge of a cliff admiring the view or on a train after a long day, there are times when you just want some peace and quiet. The company is nice, but knowing when to be silent makes it better.
  7. Similar schedules – If you like to party all night, it gets annoying when your friend always passes out at 9:00pm. And if you want to sleep in, it’s no fun being nudged awake at 5:00am to go on a tour that doesn’t even interest you. There’s no right or wrong schedule for traveling, but you should be able to compromise.
  8. Share responsibilities – If one person is doing all the planning, keeping things on schedule, booking all the flights, buses and hostels while the other person plans to just show up, there’s a good chance resentment will pop up the first time you miss a train. Split up the leg work and share the experience from beginning to end.
  9. Respect – You and your friend can disagree about a lot of things – foods, activities, destinations – but don’t criticize each other. If your friend wants to eat grasshoppers while in Mexico and that grosses you out, let her enjoy the experience without having to hear you gagging in the background.
  10. Cultural sensitivity – If you’ve ever traveled with someone who got into an argument over a language barrier, belittled someone or, in exasperation, yelled out something to the effect of “That’s what’s wrong with these people,” you know how mortifying it can be to apologize for your friend’s behavior. Best to travel with people who can handle cultural differences as well as you can.

Of course, these aren’t the only things that you want to keep in mind when choosing a travel companion, but they’re the biggest concerns. You’ll surely also want a friend who won’t mind if you stop to take lots of pictures or will share their photos with you if you’re not a shutterbug. And it never hurts if you don’t mind sharing a jacket or iPod when someone didn’t pack properly. Compromise and common courtesy go a long way towards keeping the peace.

Picking the right travel partner will ensure that you not only enjoy your trip, but that you will have shared experiences that will strengthen your friendship when the trip is over. I am fortunate enough to have a group of friends that gets along as well on the road as we do at home. We have stories from around the world that will bond us for years to come. If you’re hurting for a good travel buddy, you could always look online. Or not.

Have more suggestions or a story about how you picked the right/wrong travel companion? Please share in the comments. We’d love to hear from you.