Hard to believe, I know, but my favorite hotel night this year was at The Great Wolf Lodge in Scotrun, PA. Hey, when the kids are happy, I'm happy.
by Wendy Perrin
It's time to wrap up 2007 by sharing my best and worst travel experiences of the year. Perhaps you can benefit by learning from both my good fortune and my worst mistakes.
BEST HOTEL NIGHT:
The Great Wolf Lodge, Pocono Mountains, PA.
Before kids, I wouldn't have come within ten feet of an indoor waterpark resort. For
an exhausted mother of two inexhaustible young boys, however, it's
what the doctor ordered. (That's Doug in the pic below.)
There are ten Great Wolf
Lodges around the country; we chose the one closest. I
could list the many child friendly touches such as
the abundance of conscientious lifeguards, the bedtime stories in the lobby, the kids'
buffet, and the childproof room design, but here's what really made it parent friendly: By day's end the boys were so worn out
that they were asleep in bed by 8:00. Now that's what I call
WORST HOTEL NIGHT:
The Pudi Boutique Hotel, Shanghai, China
At a brand-new five star property in a futuristic city where business is so booming it's practically on steroids, there is
no excuse for rooms lacking WiFi. Imagine my frustration when I
arrived at 11:30 pm desperately needing to email a document from my laptop to my office, I plugged my universal plug adapter into the
electrical outlet (the same adapter that worked in every other hotel room in China), and it blew out the power in my room, leaving me in total darkness with no electricity (meaning, no phone with which to call for help). I walked down to the front desk, got the hotel engineer to come . . . and he managed to blow the fuse twice again. He eventually brought a different plug adapter, but that didn't solve the no-WiFi problem. When I tried connecting by wire and still couldn't get on the Internet, the engineer wanted to go into my computer and change the IP address (if you're in Conde Nast's Tech Support Dept. you know what a disaster that would have been). I switched hotels the next morning ... to a little three-star inn nearby where my laptop connected just fine.
BEST DEVICE FOR STAYING CONNECTED:
Palm Treo with AT&T service
I could not have survived 2007 without wireless email in the palm of my hand. I had it 24/7 -- whether I was on a train in China, at an ancient ruin in Algeria, on a ship hugging the coastline of Spain, or in the mountains of St. Lucia -- thanks to my Treo 650. The 650 is a dinosaur, I know, but it fits like an old glove. True, I could gripe about the phone sound -- which is often weak and unclear -- and the Internet access -- which is slow and incomplete. But that's why I also carry a SYNC by Samsung phone, also with AT&T service. I use it not for email but when I need strong, clear sound quality or need to get on the Web. For some reason, even though the service provider for both is AT&T, there are a few spots around the world where the Treo works but the SYNC doesn't, or the SYNC works but the Treo doesn't. Between the two of them, though, I can always reach my kids to sing them their bedtime songs, no matter what time zone I'm in.
WORST TRAVEL SNAG:
When our Dream Trip winner's ship sank
Remember that ship that sank in Antarctica over Thanksgiving? That's the ship that Gene Pembroke, the winner of Conde Nast Traveler's
Dream Trip Contest, was supposed to board this coming Friday for his Antarctic cruise. Since it's my job to make sure his $20,000 dream trip does indeed turn out to be a dream and not a nightmare, I had to scramble to get Gene
and his girlfriend Arlene booked onto another ship sailing out of the same port around the same time -- no easy feat,
considering that Antarctic cruises sell out a year in advance and that everyone else who was booked on the sunken ship was also looking for a replacement. Well, I got Gene and Arlene onto a great ship that sails out of Ushaia, Argentina, on Wednesday (yes, the day after tomorrow). Then the latest potential snag hit: Argentina decided, at the last minute, to introduce daylight savings time starting yesterday. There have been a slew of international flight changes with little advance notice, including Gene's flight tomorrow from Rio to Buenos Aires. It's now leaving an hour early. If he misses it, he'll miss the cruise! So at this moment he's in Rio, celebrating New Year's Eve on Copacabana Beach, while I'm home spending New Year's Eve trying to reach him on his cell phone. Correction: MY cell phone. I leant him my SYNC for his trip, in case of emergencies like this one. God, I hope he gets my messages.
Update on Jan 1 at 12:30 pm: The SYNC saved the day! Gene got my messages, and he and Arlene are happily en route from Rio to Buenos Aires on Aerolineas Argentinas. What a relief! Starting next week, Gene will be guest blogging here, by the way, as he continues his dream trip traveling the length of South America from tip to toe.
More bests and worsts, after the jump.