Transcript: August 26, 2008
GG Editors: Greetings! Thank you for visiting for our weekly online chat. Unlike most Tuesdays, today we're fielding questions on Girlfriend Getaways topics. Let's get to it!
Philadelphia, Pa.: We are planning a girlfriend getaway to Florida. One of us will be leaving from Philadelphia. The other is leaving from St. Louis. What is the best way to arrange hotel accommodations so that they know we are traveling together and not booking as single accommodations?
GG Editors: Departing from different cities can be a little tricky. I've dealt with the same situation on most of my recent girlfriend getaways. I'm now based in New York City, but my best friend still lives in San Francisco. We've never had a problem coordinating hotels on our getaways to Albuquerque, Orlando, Honolulu, and Scottsdale. I recommend first booking your flights to figure out who arrives the earliest. That person should then make the hotel reservation with her credit card and plan to check in first. If booking online, make a note about any late arrivals. You should then call the front desk and add your friend's name to the reservation. That way you'll each get a room key even if the person who made the reservation is delayed. (Usually the hotel will require a photo ID and then a credit card for any extra charges. Unlike checking in at the airport for a flight, the credit card typically doesn't need to be the one that was used to book the room.) Either way, I've found that it's always best to update the hotel about your arrival time, especially if it will be after 3 p.m. In the event of overbooking, the last thing you'll want is to lose your reservation because the hotel thought you weren't going to show up. Have a great trip!
Oakland, Calif.: I am looking for a beachfront hotel in South Beach, Florida with double beds, swimming pool, restaurant, bar, moderately priced September 13-20, 2008. A hotel that is fun and has beach activities. A comfortable atmosphere for 2 African-American women. Any suggestions?
GG Editors: If you're on a budget, I would look into splitting the seven nights at two hotels. You can rough it the first few nights and then indulge the last few days.
Travel Themes and Dreams, one of our 40 Best Deals tour operators, recently introduced me to the Mimosa Hotel in Miami Beach. Located on Collins Avenue about a 15-minute drive from the Art Deco area of South Beach, the beachfront hotel has a pool and beach chairs for guests. The Caffe Frappe bistro and bar, which is open for breakfast and lunch, whips up mimosas and daiquiris until 4 p.m. daily.
An Internet promotion on themimosa.com quoted a $115 daily rate from Sept. 13-20. For seven nights, that comes to $909.65, which includes the 13 percent room tax. Split among two people, you'll each pay about $65 per night. The rooms come with CD and DVD players, and free Wi-Fi, but I hope you'll be too busy hanging out to check your e-mail. TripAdvisor.com reviews were mixed, but if you're just using the hotel as a home base, you may not be in the room much anyway.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the posh Hotel Victor is on Ocean Drive in South Beach. Located across the street from the beach, the boutique hotel has an infinity pool, two restaurants, and a 6,000-square-foot spa. Its website quoted a $329 daily rate for a partial ocean-view room, for a seven-day total of $2,003 using the prepaid option (the price quote doesn't include the 13 percent room tax.)
Oakland, Calif.: I want to organize a trip overseas with my friends, renting a villa on some coastal paradise. They have voiced concerns about the expense, even though they have all spent more money vacationing in hotels. How can I structure it so they think of it as affordable? One idea I had was to ask them to pay in installments. Any help is appreciated!
GG Editors: I think when people hear the word "villa," they think of something grand, opulent, and prohibitively expensive. Sure, places like that exist, but there are loads of villas that are no more expensive than hotel rooms (in fact, some are even less expensive). Of course, you already know all this—now you just have to convince your friends! Remind them that while the lump sum may look like a hefty amount, you'll all be sharing the expense. And villas can be economical in other ways, too. For example, if you were staying in a hotel, you'd have to eat out for every meal, but since villas have kitchens, you can shop at the local grocery store and have at least some meals at home. That alone can help you save huge chunks of money. Also, staying in a hotel means that whenever you and your friends want to gather together, you'd have to go out to a bar or restaurant—and spend money in the process. Villas, on the other hand, are fully of common areas, so you and your friends can simply stay put and enjoy each other's company. In the end, you're likely to spend far less than what you'd spend on a hotel vacation.
Your idea of having everyone pay in installments is great—it helps ease the pain of paying a lump sum all at once. Also, when you get to the villa, you might want to have everyone put a specified amount into a group "hat." You can use the money from that to cover any expenses you incur during the trip (groceries, wine, etc.). That will help your friends feel like the spending won't get out of control. Good luck, and have a great time!