Tag Archives: hotels

With hotel stays costing $4K, Democratic delegates are rooming together

Facing hotel bills running into the thousands of dollars, some delegates to the Democratic National Convention are planning to do like college students on spring break and squeeze as many people into a room as they can.

Nicole Lutkemuller, a Bernie Sanders delegate from Tahoma, California, said her two-bed room at the Marriott Hotel Philadelphia Downtown is costing nearly $4,000 for five nights.

So she’ll be sharing it with four other Sanders delegates she identified through a roommate matchup project on a Sanders Facebook page.

Lutkemuller plans on taking a sleeping bag, and the five will trade off sleeping on the floor and the beds.

“We’re hoping for a cot, but there’s a limited number,” she said.

The high cost of hotel rooms during the convention, which runs Monday through Thursday, has been a sore point for some delegates.

The prices were driven up by expected high occupancy rates, which allow hotels to command a premium.

Expectations for a great summer for Philadelphia’s hotel industry were running high even before the convention, with Memorial Day weekend occupancy rates hitting the highest level in at least a decade, the city’s tourism bureau said.

Ed Grose, the executive director of the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association, said it appeared occupancy would run above 90 percent on peak nights of the convention.

Even with demand dictating prices, hotel managers were surprised by how much some hotels were charging and by what they said was the willingness of the DNC to accept rates as proposed.

“Usually the customer will come back and say, ‘Eh, we’re hoping for something a little lower,”” said Kevin Murnane, general manager of the Doubletree by Hilton Center City.

In the Doubletree’s case, that’s not what happened, he said.

“The DNC — they were OK with — they don’t get involved. They just took the price, and when you see, there’s some pretty high prices. There’s some huge prices out there,” Murnane said.

He didn’t want to discuss his rates.

But a Pennsylvania delegate raising money online to stay at the hotel said his delegation quoted him a discounted room rate of $2,100 for five nights.

The DNC said its convention committee negotiated individual contracts with each of the 95 hotels it worked with.

In a statement, the committee said, “Negotiations for convention hotels include not only rates but many other elements of a hotel experience, such as attrition, function space and food and beverage.”

Jan Bauer, a Hillary Clinton delegate from Ames, Iowa, who attended the DNC in New York in 1992, Denver in 2008 and Charlotte, North Carolina in 2012, said she was shocked by how much her room at the Marriott downtown would cost.

Because she is disabled, Bauer said she couldn’t share a room with other delegates, though some family will stay with her.

She said her room is costing more than $500 a night before taxes.

The Charlotte hotel cost a little over $200 a night — still expensive, Bauer said, but nowhere near the cost this year.

Like some other delegates, she turned to online fundraisers.

But, she said, “It’s kind of embarrassing to be asking for funding.”

Sanders supporters booking campgrounds to Occupy the DNC

Bernie Sanders is proving to be good for the campground business. Campgrounds outside Philadelphia are getting booked up by Sanders supporters planning to protest during this month’s Democratic National Convention.

Thirty miles south of the city, all 200 short-term camp sites at the Four Seasons in Pilesgrove, New Jersey, have been booked during the week of the DNC, the vast majority by Sanders backers, said Cheryl Robinson, one of the owners. Requests for the remaining long-term sites are also starting to pile up. Robinson said that Four Seasons has been booked up only during major holidays and when Pope Francis visited Philadelphia last year.

“We are getting phone calls constantly,” Robinson said. “A lot of times they don’t want to let us know that they’re Bernie supporters. We ask if they’re coming for Occupy the DNC, and then they kind of giggle and embarrassedly say, ‘Yes, we are.’ “

Sanders supporters are expecting tens of thousands to take part in rallies and demonstrations while the Democrats are in Philadelphia from July 25-28.

It’s not just Four Seasons that’s seeing an uptick in business in southern New Jersey, during what is normally a lull in between the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Timberlane, in Clarksboro, and other campgrounds are getting booked up, and spots at Parvin State Park in Elmer are starting to go, said Laurie Cestnick, a Massachusetts neuroscientist and organizer of the Occupy the DNC Facebook page. All are less than an hour’s drive from Philadelphia.

Kimberly Bernstroff, a disabled veteran from Las Vegas, is planning to come to the DNC with her two children. Her father is flying in all the way from the Philippines to attend with her.

They plan to camp out in tents at the Four Seasons because a room is too expensive. Hotel rooms where delegates are staying cost are costing about $500 a night and even hotel rooms outside Philadelphia cost $150 or more a night.

“My father will be protesting, and I will be showing up,” said Bernstroff, adding that she has “not decided on the extent of my involvement” because of her children.

Robinson plans to put Sanders supporters in sites next to one another and is preparing extra space in case all long-term sites book out, as well, saying they have “no plan to turn anybody away.”

“They seem to be like old hippies, or young hippies if you will, just people who are just easygoing and laid-back,” she said. “One lady says ‘all we’re going to do is sing ‘Kumbaya.’ “

Though Robinson isn’t a Sanders supporter, she’s considering making “Four Seasons feels the Bern” shirts for her customers who are.

What a hotel can teach us about home design

You know that feeling you get when you walk into a hotel room and you just want to fall on that big white bedspread with the fluffy pillows?

Here are some tips from three hotel brands — Renaissance, Baccarat and Loews — on how to create that same serene and inviting atmosphere at home.



Marriott opens the Renaissance NY Midtown hotel this spring in Manhattan. Its design concept involves creating moments of “surprise and delight” in public spaces like the lobby and dining areas, as well as in guest rooms. For example, open a closet door and inside you’ll find bold graphics livening up a space that’s usually unadorned.

Toni Stoeckl, vice president of Marriott’s Lifestyle Brands, offers these tips for a similar approach in home design:

  • Target all the senses, including “what you see, the music, the fragrance,” said Stoeckl.
  • Pepper the environment with “moments to love,” he said. But remember: “Less is more: If you have too much art, you can’t pay attention to any one piece.” Good interior design is “more about uncovering beauty and decluttering space.”
  • Keep design elements “real and authentic. No fake flowers, no fake candles.”
  • Change artwork periodically. “Have a few pieces of art that you rotate,” said Stoeckl. Consider using the seasons as a scheduling guide for when to change displays.
  • Showcase objects and art that have layers of interest or meaningful stories. For example, a large, bright red work of abstract art near the hotel’s front desk is comprised entirely of buttons, but you can’t see the buttons until you get close. The button art was inspired by the hotel’s neighborhood: It’s in Manhattan’s Garment District, and many of its design elements are connected to the apparel and fashion industries, from little ceramic sewing machine decorations in guest rooms, to quotes from famous designers placed on coffee tables in the club lounge. Another large artwork displaying a quote from Diane von Furstenberg — “Attitude is everything”— is made from tiny pushpins.

“We want you to look at the space, but there is another layer, and we want you to look again,” said Stoeckl.



Baccarat is not just a famous brand of French crystal. There’s also the Baccarat Hotel & Residences New York, across from the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan. Chandeliers, glassware and artwork made from Baccarat crystal are hallmarks of the hotel decor, but so is lighting. “The idea of illumination is one of the central reasons why we created the hotel,” said Kemper Hyers, head of design for Starwood Capital Group, which created the hotel.

Yet lighting is sometimes overlooked in home design. Lighting your home isn’t just about finding the perfect lamp, Hyers said. It’s also about “painting with light. How do I bring this room to light?”

Some tips:

  • Experiment with tape embedded with LED lights. It’s inexpensive, easy to apply and remove, and widely available. The tape is not only handy for illuminating a shelf or dark corner, but it can also light a wall behind a piece of furniture or spotlight a work of art.
  • When you buy LED bulbs, “don’t go any cooler than 2700 warm white,” said Hyers, referring to the numerical scale used to measure bulb color. The higher the number, the whiter and cooler the light.
  • Bulb design improves every few months, so look for the latest options and “play with a mix of bulbs.” You can even buy LED bulbs shaped like classic “Edison bulbs with the long filament, perfectly done,” Hyers said.



Loews Hotels launched a “Loews Knows” campaign in December offering short videos at https://www.loewshotels.com/loews-knows with “hints and hacks” from housekeeping managers and other staff. Topics range from cleaning to entertaining to creating the right ambience.

Some tips:

  • For “insanely fluffy bed pillows,” toss pillows in a dryer with a tennis ball.
  • To dust “like a pro,” use a microfiber cloth (avoid terrycloth). Spritz cleaning solution on the cloth (not on the surface you’re dusting) and wipe in a circular motion from high to low.
  • To create a cozy ambience for a relaxing bath, light a candle, add essential oils and Epsom salts to the water, and provide accessories, both functional and decorative: sponges, stones, body wash and handmade soap. Place a drink and book tubside, with a fluffy robe and slippers.
  • To make a guest room welcoming, fold down covers, stand pillows up, put a bottle of water on one side and a glass of milk with cookies and sliced fruit on the other, close the shades and leave one light on by the bed.
  • To remove crayon from walls, spray WD-40 and scrub vigorously with a rag or paper towel. To remove coffee stains from fabric, blot with light beer, club soda, white vinegar or baby wipes, then scrub with a toothbrush. To remove a red wine stain, soak a cloth in white wine and blot gently.


Traveling with pets: the dos and don’ts

For many people, pets are an integral part of the family, and a vacation would feel incomplete without their presence.

But traveling with pets raises concerns over where to stay, what mode of transportation to use and how the trip will impact the pet’s behavior and well-being.

Of course, selecting a pet-friendly hotel is key.

El Portal Sedona Hotel won first place in the “Best Pet-Friendly Hotel” category in USA Today’s 10Best.com travel award contest.

But many other hotels and motels also welcome pets, from film legend Doris Day’s Cypress Inn in Carmel, California, to Loews’ historic Don CeSar Hotel in St. Pete Beach, Florida, to Milwaukee’s Hotel Metro.

To ensure an enjoyable getaway for all members of your pack, including the furry ones, consider the following tips:

• Map out your entire travel itinerary before the trip, taking your pet’s safety and comfort into consideration at every step. Where will your animal companion stay when you are exploring places that may not be pet-friendly? Are there parks or pet-friendly restaurants near your hotel? Where is the closest veterinarian in the event of an emergency?

• If you are worried that your pet will suffer anxiety or disrupt other travelers or hotel guests, consult your vet in advance of the trip. A vet may be able to prescribe anxiety medication or a mild sedative to calm your pet if needed and will likely have other travel tips to offer.

• Don’t take a hotel’s claim that it is pet-friendly at face value. Many hotels accept pets, but not all welcome them. If you are considering a hotel that will charge you extra for bringing your furry friend, look for another option. Hotels that are truly pet-friendly will not upcharge you and will take steps to ensure human and non-human guests alike have a comfortable stay. When in doubt, call the hotel, ask about their pet policies, and try to gauge their true attitude toward pets.

• Plan the transportation of your pet. If you are flying to your destination, research the airline’s policies for transporting animals. Larger pets must fly in the cargo hold, where some airlines will only carry animals at certain times. If your pet is small enough to fit under the seat, research the best type of carrier and whether the airline recommends a particular brand. Familiarize your pet with the carrier well in advance of the trip.

Try to book direct flights, if possible, to minimize the length of the journey. If you are driving, be sure to schedule stops every few hours to allow yourself and your pet a chance to stretch and breathe some fresh air.

For safety in the event of an accident, your pet should be kept in a crate or carrier that is restrained by a seat belt in the back seat. Of course, avoid leaving your pet in the car, even on days that feel cool or when you will only be gone for a short time. On a 72-degree day, the temperature inside a car can soar to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit within an hour. Feed your pet only a small meal before traveling to reduce the risk of motion sickness.

• Pack items that are familiar to your pet, such as a food bowl, bed, favorite toy and crate. Maintain your pet’s health while away by bringing pet food and any medications that may be needed.

• Don’t leave your pet alone in the hotel room. Aside from the fact that most hotels do not allow pets to be left alone, doing this may cause your companion to become anxious and possibly disruptive to other guests. If you are planning an excursion and bringing your pet will not be an option, see if there is a kennel nearby where you can board him or her for a few hours. In the event that your hotel does allow you to leave the pet in your room while you are gone and you choose to do so, be sure to leave your phone number with the front desk in case of an emergency.
• Ensure that your pet is up-to-date on vaccines and other preventive measures, like heartworm and flea or tick treatments. Some hotels require this, and it will protect your pet and other animals that you may encounter in the course of your travels.

• Remember that as much as you adore your pet, not everyone you encounter on your trip will share your sentiment. This may be the case even at pet-friendly hotels and restaurants. With that in mind, be considerate of all guests by ensuring that your pet is quiet and well-behaved. Keep your pet on a leash or otherwise contained. Only allow your pet to use the restroom in designated areas, and be sure to clean up afterward.

• Dogs can be fun hiking companions. If you decide to take your dog along for a hike, use a short leash. Not only do many public trails require you to use a leash that is 6 feet long or less, but a shorter leash will allow you to keep your dog from unseen hazards off the trail. Carry a pet first-aid kit and consider taking a first-aid class before your hike.

Most importantly, make sure your dog is sufficiently fed and hydrated. Do not allow your dog to drink from streams or other natural sources; filter the water first to prevent bacterial infection, just as you would do for yourself. If you are planning a strenuous hike, consult with your vet to ensure that your dog is up to the challenge. If you are hiking in warm weather, be sure to take frequent rests and consider using a cooling collar for your dog.

Keeping these suggestions in mind will help ensure a pleasurable vacation for your whole family, including its furry members.

Travel news: Cuba guide, New Orleans lights, hotel emojis

Tourism in Cuba has boomed with the resumption of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S., and a just-published travel guide offers an up-to-date look at visiting the country.

“Cuba As Never Before” by Louis E.V. Nevaer, looks at not just classic attractions like Havana’s rum museum and Ernest Hemingway sites, but also offers a guide to some of the newest places of interest to tourists, including the contemporary arts scene, private restaurants known as paladares and even Airbnb listings.

The book also offers advice on car rentals, tipping, cruises, flights, tour companies and private guides, and explains current regulations on travel by U.S. citizens.  In addition, the book includes information on communities and subcultures ranging from Cuba’s gay and lesbian scene to surfers, Santeria and Cuban Jews.

Offbeat recommendations in “Cuba As Never Before” include La Marca tattoo parlor, Arte Corte Papito’s hair salon, and Promociones de ICAIC for original Cuban movie posters.


New Orleans is bringing back an unusual art installation and festival of lights called LUNA Fete that debuted last year.

The outdoor art-and-lights event uses historic buildings as a canvas for contemporary lighting, animation and interactive video. The event begins Nov. 29 and ends Dec. 5.

The undertaking is inspired by the Fete des Lumieres in Lyon, France, which attracts millions of visitors annually. The New Orleans project was one of three similar initiatives launched last year in the U.S., with the others in New York and Boston.

A work called “The Pool” by artist Jan Lewin, in which a pool of swirling circles of light and color changes as spectators interact with it, will be shown at Lafayette Square each night of the festival.

A second work by OCUBO, a Portugal-based studio, will use the facade of the Power House Theatre at 1847 Polymnia St. for the projection of a story featuring local children along with graphics and animation, also to be shown each night of the festival.

A third work will be presented Dec. 4-5 at the Contemporary Arts Center New Orleans, where the artist Miwa Matreyek will present live performances integrating her shadow with animation of dreamlike scenes. That will be an indoor event with $10 tickets.

Local artists’ projects will also be shown throughout the week around those three sites and along Julia Street, New Orleans’ contemporary arts district.

The event is being produced by Arts Council New Orleans. Details at http://www.artsneworleans.org .


The Aloft hotel in Manhattan’s financial district has launched a new way to communicate with guests who need room service: by emoji.

The program is called Aloft TiGi for text it, get it.

The hotel sells six specialty kits, ranging from $10 to $30, which guests can order by texting the right emojis to a dedicated number along with their room number.

Kits include “The Re:Fresh,” with toothpaste, toothbrush, razor, shaving cream and deodorant, which can be ordered using emojis that include a tub and shower; “The Hangover,” two bottle of vitaminwater, Advil and two bananas, ordered with emojis for a drop of water, a pill and a banana; and “Surprise Me,” promising “fun swag” and “cool stuff,” ordered with an emoji of a wrapped box.

The hotel then confirms the order via text and delivers it to the room. Charges are included on the checkout bill.

Details at http://www.alofthotelshub.com/news/aloft-hotels-launches-worlds-first-emoji-only-room-service-menu/ . The hotel is located at 49-53 Ann St.

Packers debut development plans for new ‘Titletown District’ near field

The Packers unveiled plans this month for a new business district west of Lambeau Field, a development that will feature a four-star hotel, brewery and restaurant and a 10-acre public plaza.

It has been dubbed the “Titletown District,” borrowing on the nickname assigned to Green Bay for being home of the 13-time world champion Packers.

The Packers said they would invest about $65 million into the project. When adding in estimates from other organizations involved, the total initial investment could be as much as $130 million.

Packers president Mark Murphy said the team doesn’t plan to seek public money for the project, though it might look into some tax credits normally associated with such developments.

“We continue to build on Lambeau Field as a destination, and to bolster economic development in the area,” Murphy said at a news conference at Lambeau Field.

“And with the way we continue to acquire land around Lambeau Field, we continue to have an eye on the future and trying to further regional economic development in this area.”

Like other NFL teams, the Packers are flush with cash, bolstered in part by the windfall from the league’s massive broadcasting deals. The Packers last month reported that revenue from the 2015 fiscal year topped $375 million, up 16 percent from the previous year.

The perennial NFC contender has a national fan base and one of the league’s most popular players in MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

But they’re unique from the 31 other NFL franchises in that they are a publicly owned team in the league’s smallest market. That creates bonds with the community that most NFL towns don’t have with their teams.

Plans for the plaza call for a “park-like setting” with year-round programming including fitness-related activities and cultural opportunities. There would be an ice-skating rink in the winter.

Future phases of the project could include residential buildings. Groundbreaking will likely start this fall with the goal of completing the project by fall 2017.

“Now as I look to the future, developing Titletown is an important factor to further (the) game day experience for our fans, which will always continue to be priority,” Murphy said.

But the driving force, he said, was to make sure the space was used year-round by the community as it evolved into an “authentic Wisconsin neighborhood.”

The Titletown district has been in the planning stages for years as the team bought up land. Thursday’s announcement ended months of speculation.

The three anchor tenants will be the 150-room Lodge Kohler hotel, run by the plumbing-and-hospitality company Kohler Co.; Hinterland brewery; and Bellin Health, a major Packers sponsor.

Herbert Kohler Jr., chairman of Kohler, said signing up for Titletown was “almost a no-brainer.”

“This is the first time for the Packers, a big development district like this,” Kohler said. “So they’re new to the game, and we knew we would have to design a special hotel for this particular location.”

Anchored by Lambeau Field to the east, the district already has a tenant to the far west with a Cabela’s retail store.

A similar commercial district is near the New England Patriots’ home in Foxborough, Massachusetts, called Patriot Place. Murphy said Titletown would be different because it would include residences and the public plaza.

On the Web …

Visit “Titletown.”

New, now, hot in travel: Coloring books with a sense of place

COLORING BOOKS WITH A SENSE OF PLACE: Coloring books for grown-ups are all the rage as a way to reduce stress and rediscover the simple joy of carefully filling in the spaces between the lines. 

Now Little, Brown and Co. is launching a new series of coloring books with a sense of place. “Splendid Cities” and “Secret Paris” will be published June 9, with “Secret Tokyo” and “Secret New York” coming out in October. Each book is 96 pages and costs $16. 

The books offer intricately designed black-and-white drawings filled with patterns and depictions just begging to be colored in. “Color your way to calm” is the series’ tagline.

In “Splendid Cities,” some of the cityscapes, architecture and details are real, inspired by San Francisco, Tokyo, Stockholm and other places, while some are imagined. The books due out in the fall evoke their destinations with representations of things you might find there, whether it’s ordinary items from a grocery store, flora and fauna, or items of clothing that are associated with the place — kimonos or lanterns for Tokyo, for example. 

The books will be available in stores and online.

CONDE NAST TRAVELER HOT HOTELS LIST: The May issue of Conde Nast Traveler features the 2015 “hot list” of the world’s best new hotels. The magazine says the 60 properties that made the list “combine old-school extravagance and service with just the right measure of modernity.” 

The list ranges from 21 Broad in Nantucket, Massachusetts, a restored 27-room Victorian mansion, to Raffles Istanbul, Turkey, a 185-room hotel in Zorlu Center, an upscale shopping and cultural complex. Others on the list include The Dean Hotel, Dublin; Delano Las Vegas:, Casas del XVI, Santo Domingo, in the Dominican Republic; Vina Vik overlooking vineyards in Chile’s Millahue Valley; Soho House Chicago; La Reserve Paris, and the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.

NATIONAL PARKS PASS: Planning a road trip to hit national parks this summer? Consider buying an annual pass.

The passes can be used at national parks, national wildlife refuges and other federal recreation sites. A pass covers entrance fees and certain other standard fees for a driver and everyone in a personal vehicle, or up to four adults at sites that charge per person (children age 15 and under are admitted free). 

The pass is $80 and can be bought in person at a federal recreation site, by calling 888-275-8747, extension 3, or online. Details at http://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm.