Gordon Ramsay to host new hotel makeover show

Gordon Ramsay to host new reality television show on Fox called Hotel HellWhile mostly known for his angry outbursts on reality cooking and restaurant-themed shows such as Hell’s Kitchen, MasterChef, and Kitchen Nightmares, the screaming Scottish chef apparently also has talent in hotel management. While no air date has been set, Gordon Ramsay has been chosen to host a new Fox reality show called Hotel Hell where he will partner with hospitality experts to revive struggling properties around the United States. Apparently, Ramsay has taken college courses in hotel management and has also been in charge of several hotel-based restaurants.

According to Entertainment Weekly, in a statement about the new project Ramsay said, “These are stories that everyone can relate to, because virtually all of us have had a bad hotel experience that’s turned a holiday or business trip into a total disaster. It’s time to put the hospitality industry to the test.”

Veterans thanked with free bed and breakfast stays

If you’ve served your country, there’s a bed and breakfast waiting to serve you.

Many B&Bs already give military discounts of 10 percent to 20 percent, but a Shinnston, West Virginia innkeeper is about to up the ante. Kathleen Panek has gotten more than 525 inns in 48 states (and two in Canada) on board with her plan give rooms away to active and retired service members on November 10, 2010, the night before Veterans Day.

Panek got the idea two years ago, and started with her own inn, Gillum House. Last year, it spread to a total of 10 in West Virginia, and this year, it has obviously surged.

Part of the reason for the success is that Panek has kept her expectations reasonable. USA Today reports:

Since most B&Bs are small, “we only ask inns to give one room,” Panek says, and about 25%-30% of participating establishments – including all those in Georgia, Missouri, Washington and several other states – are already full. But, she adds, “we’re getting new places signing up every day.”

Do you plan to do anything for Veterans Day? Leave a comment, and let us know!

[photo by Beverly & Pack via Flickr]

Four New England family packages for summer

The school year is coming to an end, and summer vacation plans are starting to pop up. With heat poised to sweep the nation, the cool New England air (at least relatively cool) makes it an attractive destination. There are plenty of deals out there at the region’s inns and resorts, so you’ll have plenty of options at your disposal.

1. New England Aquarium Family Package
Do you need a reason to stay at Boston‘s Fairmont Copley Plaza? It’s a great property right in the Back Bay, and parents who love martinis will want to run downstairs to the Oak Bar for a drink. In addition to the fantastic accommodations, you’ll pick up four tickets to the New England Aquarium (two adults and two kids). Prices start at $239 a night (not bad at all for this property) and are good through the end of the year.

2. Family Fun Package
Get away to Kennebunkport, Maine for four nights (with a water-view room) at the Nonantum Resort’s Carriage Inn. The package includes a full breakfast every day, dinner one night in the 95 Ocean restaurant, a poolside lunch one day and an overflowing Nonantum beach bag. You’ll also score tickets for the Intown Trolley, a scenic boat ride, bottled water, an in-room welcome basket, Kennebunk Beach Pass and resort coupons. Rates start at $1,249 for a family of three, with each additional adult costing $359 and each extra kid $100. The deal is available Sunday through Thursday from June 20 to September 2, 2010.3. StoryLand All-Inclusive Family Vacation
Visit with a bit of help from the Eagle Mountain House & Golf Club in Jackson, New Hampshire. This package includes a two-night stay, breakfast and dinner daily and a free nine-hole round of golf. You’ll also get tickets to StoryLand for every family member for one day. Rates start at $509 and are available from June 25 through October 10, 2010.

4. Catch Me if You Can
Visit Catamount Adventure Park, a new ropes and zipline canopy tour, and stay at The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. To help you get through the experience, you’ll receive a backpack with bottled water and trail mix for two upon arrival – and breakfast the following day. Rates start at $405, available from May 31 through September 16, 2010.

Moms make it clear: give us travel!


Keep your flowers, cards and candy: mom doesn’t want it! She wants to travel, so give her what she wants for Mother’s Day. The latest survey from BedandBreakfast.com reveals that travel is the top gift choice for (as told by moms). So, if you need a few ideas, check out the Mother’s Day deals we’re running here on Gadling. The only excuse you won’t have this year is that you couldn’t find any travel to give!

And, to help you along, BedandBreakfast.com is running a deal this Mother’s Day season. Use promotion code BBMOM10, and you can save 10 percent on the purchase of a $100 (or more) gift card.

Top ten alternative lodging options

When it comes to lodging, most people automatically look for a hotel. And if you want room service, a business center, gym, and all the other perks that come with a hotel, that may be your best bet. But if you’re looking for a more unique place to stay, if you want to save money, or if you want to experience a destination in an entirely new way, you have a whole range of options outside the sphere of Marriotts, Hiltons, and Four Seasons. Here are the top ten alternative lodging options.
Bed and Breakfasts/Guesthouses
A bed and breakfast (which in some countries, goes by the name guesthouse) is always my first choice for accommodation. Do I have a deep-seeded fetish for doilies, furniture that looks like it belongs in my grandma’s house, and forced interaction over tea and scones? Definitely not. Luckily, not all B&Bs fit that stereotype. Many offer chic, modern décor and accommodations that are just as luxurious and stylish as their hotel counterparts.

The reason I choose these types of bed and breakfasts is this: generally, as it’s a small business, the owners are very hands on and present. You don’t feel so much like another anonymous customer as a welcomed guest. At bed and breakfasts I’ve stayed at, the hosts have been more than happy to sit down and give me personalized recommendations for the city I was visiting, to offer champagne toasts on New Year’s Eve, and even to provide me with a ride to the airport when my cab didn’t show up on time.

Bed and breakfasts tend to be located in more residential areas of a city, which means that you can better imagine what life is like for those who live here, you see a different side of the city, and best of all, rates are often much lower than the average hotel. Plus, the included breakfast means you save even more.

Boutique Hotel/Inn

Boutique hotels and inns are often very similar to a bed and breakfast. They may not go by the name because they don’t want to be associated with the stuffy Victorian image of other B&Bs or perhaps they aren’t truly a B&B if they don’t serve breakfast. Many are more of a hybrid between B&B and hotel. Thanks to their small size, they may offer the personalized service of a bed and breakfast, but with some of the amenities that you’d find in a hotel. Every boutique hotel I have ever stayed in has offered free wi-fi and many have had small lounges for afternoon drinks or snacks.

Hostel
Maybe your days of sleeping in bunk accommodations with young, unwashed travelers are long gone. You’d never even think about staying in a hostel again. But if you are a budget traveler, you may want to reconsider that position. Many hostels offer private double rooms (with shared or private baths) in addition to dorm style accommodations. Actually, several that I have stayed at in the last year have only had private rooms and the shared bathrooms, while located next door to the room, were only shared between 2-3 rooms and were single-stall locking bathrooms. Sure, you still have to go down the hall to use the loo, but for a traveler on a budget, saving $10-$20 per night in exchange for doing so may be worth it.

At every hostel I have stayed at, I never had to wait for the bathroom, the other travelers were older budget travelers like myself, internet was free, and every few rooms shared a small kitchenette, which meant I could save even more money by cooking lunch or dinner in the hostel a few times. And again, the hostel prices were significantly cheaper than comparable hotels.

Apartments/Cabins
If you’re planning an extended stay in one location, or are traveling with kids or a few friends, an apartment or cabin rental can really make financial sense. It may cost a bit more than a hotel, but the money you’ll save being able to cook your own meals, enjoy a few drinks in your living room, or wash your clothes in your own laundry machine, may offset any extra expensive. And if you have a few friends to split the cost with, you can save big.

Camping
When I think of camping, I think of packing a tent and a cooler and heading “up north” with friends. Or at least, that’s what I used to think of. Now I’ve learned that you can camp just about anywhere – in the US, Asia, Africa, and even just outside of Europe’s biggest cities.
Camping doesn’t have to mean roughing it either. Many European campsites, for example, are located 15-20 minutes by bus outside of the city center and offer dining halls, internet access, swimming pools, and modern bathrooms. In Africa, if you can’t quite afford a $500 per night luxury lodge, just buy a tent when you arrive, drive to the game park, and pick one of the many available camps where you can score a spot for about $20 per night, eating in the camp’s dining hall and relaxing in the communal swimming pool.

Agritourismos/Farm Stays
When visiting a city, I generally like to stay in the city. I want to be able to step outside of my lodging directly into the fray. I want to wander all day down cobble stones streets, and then be able to totter home after a few drinks to fall asleep to the sounds of the city. But in some areas, the way of life is more rural. In these places, I want to get the full experience. Here, I want to look out my window and see rolling fields. I want to see how the people live off the land, and I want to retire each night to watch the sunset from my deck while eating food produced just a few steps from where I’m standing. In these places, I want to stay at an agritourismo.

Like a bed and breakfast, and agritourismo is family run and generally offers breakfast included in the accommodation. But an agritourismo or farm stay also offers much more. Guest will get an education in farming while immersing themselves in nature – horseback riding, wandering through fields, and learning about (or even helping with) the operations of the property.
Servas
Servas is an “international, nonprofit organization that provides opportunities for personal contact between people of diverse backgrounds. Members need to apply and pay a membership fee so there is a bit more investment required that with CouchSurfing, and the emphasis on cultural connection is even higher. Both hosts and travelers need to be interviews by a local coordinator in order to be accepted, and have a certain degree of responsibility once they become members.
Hosts welcome guests for one or two nights, and offer some kind of cultural exchange during the process. They are expected to spend time with guests and invite them to share an evening meal. Guests are expected to view the host site as more than just a place to stay. Then interview process and application fees for joining may help set some hesitant members’ minds at ease and people who aren’t quite comfortable with CouchSurfing may be more inclined to try Servas.
AirBNB
A cross between CouchSurfing and a guesthouse, AirBNB is a service that connects hosts – those with a space room or sometimes just a spare couch – with a guest in need of a place to stay. The catch is that unlike CouchSurfing, guests have to pay for rooms booked through AirBNB. Where CouchSurfing is more about community and cultural exchange, AirBNB is more about commerce.

But, many of the AirBNB listings are more than just offers for a couch. Dozens are listings for entire apartments, often at rates much lower than what you would pay for a hotel. The site has more comprehensive offering for big cities than small towns, especially in the US, so while you might score a pretty great deal for someone’s pied a terre in NYC or Chicago, you may have a harder time finding an apartment rental in Tuscany or Bavaria.
Homeswaps
Homeswapping requires a degree of flexibility, but the rewards can be great. Here’s how it works. You sign up on a homeswapping website like Home Exchange, pay your annual fee (usually under $50) and then list your house or apartment. You can wait for the requests to come in and respond according to your schedule, or you can approach others for a swap based on your travel plans.

Say you’re looking to plan a trip to Paris this summer. You check out the available houses in the city and begin sending inquiries to the owners asking about your preferred week. One couple may have a house available, and have an interest in coming to visit the city where you live, but they might not be able to travel on that exact week, so you work together and come up with dates that are convenient for both of you.

Most successful homeswappers live in a city that is more popular. For example, it might be harder to find someone from Paris who is interested in traveling to Cincinnati, Ohio, than New York City.
CouchSurfing
The most famous of all free accommodation, CouchSurfing is a million-member strong community of travelers. Some are offering places to stay, others are looking for a host to take them in on their travels. You post a profile and it’s up to you to decide who to host (or if you want to host at all) and who you feel comfortable staying with. Members span all walks of life, but they all seem to have one thing in common – a desire to see the world and travel cheaply, and to connect with other like-minded people while they do so.

Many hosts and surfers make a point to get together during the hosting period. When I stayed with a couple in Austin, Texas, last year, we all went out for dinner one night. We had a great time and they ended dup showing me a side of the city I never would have discovered on my own. Some people are uncomfortable with the idea of staying in a stranger’s house. And if you’re looking just to relax and escape this might not be the ideal situation. But if you want to connect with another culture and see a place from an insider’s point of view, give CouchSurfing a try.