If I could just stay at the Four Seasons or the Fairmont every time I leave home, my chronic pain would probably slink off quietly one night and die. The beds are soft , the pillows fluffy, the bathtubs deep, and the staff accommodating. Luxury hoteliers are accustomed to quirks far more difficult to deal with than a ground floor room in a quiet part of the property with a scent-free pillow. They tend to have valet parking, golf carts to help mobility-challenged guests move about, and on-site spas with a wealth of services specially designed to destress deep-pocketed clients.
Le sigh. Back to reality.
Because most travelers with pain can’t afford ultra-luxe accommodations for every trip, it’s a good idea to know what you need and how to get it, within the scope of your travel budget. Here are four steps to guide you to the right room every time.
Step 1: Figure out what you need and what you want.
- Mattress: Do you need soft? Firm? Specialty (like Sleep Number or memory foam)?
- Bedding: Are you allergic to scented detergents or down comforters? Do you need extra blankets to sleep comfortably?
- Pillows: Do you need more than one or two? Can you tolerate down or do you need foam? Do you usually require a body pillow or a knee pillow?
- Room space: Do you require a fair amount of space to move about comfortably with any mobility aids you use?
- Air: Are you scent-sensitive? Temperature sensitive? Accustomed to air conditioning while you sleep?
- Sound: Do you need it quiet when you sleep? Can you tolerate earplugs?
- Light: Do you need it to be full dark to get to sleep? Or do you require some light, a TV, or some other light in your bedroom?
- Bathroom: Do you have any special needs or wants for your bath-away-from-home? A tub? Roll-in or step-in shower? Hand rails? A shower stool? A Jacuzzi?
- Floor: Can you climb stairs easily, even after a long day?
Step 2: Find your compromise points.
Unless you actually can afford the Ritz, you probably won’t get your ideal hotel room. Once you’ve gotten your list together, read it over and make notes on what you can do without. You can bring your bed pillow from home, and maybe a favorite blanket too. Ear plugs can solve many a sound problem (and I so, so highly recommend getting used to earplugs if you plan to travel often). You can add your own folding stool for the shower, along with your favorite scent-free toiletries. But if you’re highly scent-sensitive, an inn that drowns its rooms in sweet perfumes won’t be a good choice. Dealing with uncomfortable beds is part of the travel deal, but if sleep is impossible on concrete-slablike surfaces, the average Motel 6 will probably put you in traction.
Step 3: With your list of “must haves” and “high wants” to guide your research, check the Internet, to find a few hotels at my destination that will meet my musts. Orbitz, hotels.com, and TripAvisor are some of my favorites. Friends’ recommendations are even better, when I can get them. There’s nothing like the word of somebody I trust who’s actually slept on the beds, smelled the sheets, and used the commode.
Step 4: Pick up the phone. Talking to real human beings works so much better for booking a room. These days, not only can you get the accommodations you need at your accommodations, you can often negotiate the price of the room while you’re at it. With the travel industry still struggling, a sympathetic desk clerk might be able to shave 10-20 percent off the price of a comfortable room at a good motel or even a bed & breakfast. I start with my favorite-looking place, and keep calling until I find the right home away from home.
That’s it! Enjoy your trip. But do keep that list on hand for next time.