By Wendy Perrin
On a recent Sunday evening, my husband Tim gave me a surprise. He dropped off the kids at Granny's and announced we were going to the Four Seasons New York for the night.
The view from our room on the 41st floor
Our getaway was only 12 hours long, but it seemed much longer and more therapeutic, probably because it felt like we were beamed to another planet. The Four Seasons' elevator shot to the 41st floor, and my normal life -- that of a frazzled working mother with two preschool boys -- vaporized. We stepped into a schmancy suite (yes, suite!!!) overlooking Central Park.
This strange planet had no pizza stains anywhere, no screaming or crying, no phones or TREO ringing, no deadlines to meet, no flights to catch. There was enough time for a nice hot bath (with Bulgari bath amenities rather than rubber duckies). There was even the possibility of an uninterrupted night's sleep!
THE SUNDAY-NIGHT UPGRADE
Now, we are NOT the sort of people who can afford a five-star hotel suite. But we DO know about the Sunday-night upgrade at city hotels catering to business travelers during the week and leisure travelers on weekends.
Because Sunday nights are slow, because we had checked in so late in the day (few guests would be arriving later than us), because we were staying only one night, and because Tim had mentioned when making the reservation that we were celebrating a special occasion--our first night alone together without the munchkins in a year and a half--we had been upgraded to an executive suite.
THE BLISSFUL BED
I collapsed into the dreamy king-size bed, burying myself in the softest, crispest, coolest Egyptian-cotton linens I've ever felt and gaping at the nighttime skyline. I drifted off, wondering how much it would cost to wrap up the bed, linens and duvet and all, and take them home with me. (Apparently you can buy them from the hotel's gift shop.)
A SPA OF ONE'S OWN
At 8:00 a.m. I was off to the spa, which I had entirely to myself. I grabbed a cup of coffee and a newspaper, climbed into the whirlpool, and lay on my back, the jets massaging my shoulders. An attendant came around and placed a rolled-up towel under my neck where it hit the edge of the hot tub. In case I got too warm, a handy-dandy basin filled with ice and cold wet washcloths sat next to the tub. I wanted to move in.
A CHANGE FROM CLIFFORD CRUNCH
Next came breakfast at the hotel's Restaurant 57: a tall glass of fresh sweet mango juice, then chicken hash with poached eggs and cilantro, then a giant cappuccino. I don't think it's just because my usual morning routine is to scarf down the kids' leftover Clifford Crunch cereal before running to catch the train that my leisurely hash tasted so sensational.
TIME TO BEAM OURSELVES BACK TO EARTH
It was 10 a.m. Tim raced to Granny's to rescue her from the boys. I raced to a meeting with my editor-in-chief, who asked: How would I feel about starting a blog? What would I envision for it? The entries needn't be highly researched, in-depth columns like "The Perrin Report", she said. They could be whatever timely travel advice and insights popped into my mind as I went about my job. Could I work it into my schedule? And, by the way, where had I been all morning?
When I told her about my 12-hour vacation, she said that that's exactly the sort of thing I should blog about. It could be my first entry.
And so it is.
The moral of this story:
SCORING THE FREE UPGRADE
You can increase your chance of nabbing a better hotel room for free by going at the hotel's off-peak time and politely requesting if there happens to be a room available that is on a top floor or has an especially good view. If you happen to be celebrating a special occasion, mention it: Smart hoteliers want your time at their property to be as memorable as possible, so that you'll tell your friends about it and come back often.
Got any tried-and-true tips for snagging a free hotel-room upgrade? Post them here.
And, speaking of the Four Seasons New York, if anyone has managed to get into its hotter-than-hot new restaurant, L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon, tell me how you did it.