Room & Bored
By Diane DeVaughn Stokes
I love to travel and obsess over each detail, which is why when something goes wrong, I can’t believe it! Yet, just about every vacation we have had featured some weird disaster to add to a long flowing list from the past twenty- five years. From rental car breakdowns to room theft, we’ve seen it all. And yes, I am writing a book on those crazy mishaps to better prepare other travelers on how to take lemons and make the very best lemonade possible. If you let the problem ruin your vacation, you’ve lost everything…your money…your time…and your sanity. We try to face every negative and turn it into a positive situation.
In the early days of our marriage, because of a small vacation budget, we skimped on the cost of the hotel room saving the bigger portion of the budget for activities like scuba diving and food! What good is spending all that hard earned cash for a room you are hardly in? I call that “Room and Bored” because you get BORED staying in a gorgeous room with no money to do anything else! But we have learned the hard way, after some real disasters, that there is a happy medium. We have had stained carpet, broken windows, no locks on doors, moldy smelling linens and tons of bug issues. Yes, and sadly, bed bug issues too.
The worst was St. Croix about twenty years ago when a local travel agent, who obviously was never asked to help us again, booked us at a property she had stayed at many years before. Little did she know the hotel now had bars on the windows and was run down and shabby. We arrived late in the evening, so it wasn’t until morning that we realized we were in a rotten neighborhood, and the place was a dump. Having paid three nights in advance, we demanded to talk to the owner and requested our money back for the following two nights. Then we headed out in our rental car to find paradise at an affordable price. Keep in mind this was long before the Internet.
We knew the Buccaneer Resort was out of our price range, but we went there anyway in hopes that they would have something to rent us. At this point, who cared what it cost! It wasn’t about money, it was about saving our vacation and if we had to put it on our charge card, so be it. But when I told them our sob story, they gave us a nice discount on a poolside room that was only available because of a late cancellation. Yahoo, vacation saved!
Another disaster happened on the island of Exuma in the Bahamas. We checked into a well-known and respected property, one of the few on the island, and while taking a shower I started to feel something hit my head. Yes, it was little bits of plaster, as in the ceiling. Above me, a guest was taking a shower, the tub leaked and was causing my ceiling to collapse, right on top of me. I grabbed a towel and ran screaming out to the pool where my husband was curled up with his rum-punch reading Tom Clancy (or some other male-macho drivel).
As we went to the front desk to complain, after I put on some clothes of course, we got the typical island rhetoric, “no problem, mon.” They agreed to move us to the only room they had left which was one used by employees. It wasn’t in the best of shape but at least the shower came with a ceiling! Plus, they gave us free meals for the rest of our stay…not bad compensation.
In Tuscany, we paid in advance to stay two nights in a small inexpensive barn-like rental on a real working olive farm. How romantic…NOT. The radiator clanked all night long as the heat tried to warm the meager dwelling. We checked out the next morning. I demanded my money back for the
second night, and the owner refused. After going back and forth in broken Italian with the proprietor, Chuck reminded me that the room was only $65 a night, and we had just spent $300 plus on a room in Florence. “LET IT GO”…and I did. It worked out because we found a beautiful place to stay in a vineyard on a Tuscan hillside with free wine!
Switzerland was gorgeous and the late October temperatures were perfect, but at sundown it got cold. So picture this: My husband and I are out on our balcony in Wengen, having a champagne toast in our white spa robes provided by the hotel. Deciding to continue the romance inside, we realized the sliding glass door would not re-open. We were locked out! First we laughed, then as the sun went down and the temperatures dropped, we started waving and hollering for help. We saw people passing by, but they were too far away. Finally we attracted the attention of an elderly woman carrying groceries. “Please help us, and call the hotel manager.” Realizing that she probably did not speak English, we hoped she would recognize the sound of panic in our voices and the irony of our situation. Seriously, who stands around in nothing but a robe on a hotel balcony after sunset in the Swiss Alps? By this point we were freezing, and to get help, Chuck was either going to have to drop twenty-feet to the ground or try to crawl along the adjoining balconies. Thirty very cold minutes later we were rescued by the hotel manager, who forgot to tell us that the sliding door automatically locked upon closing. Since we became the talk of the neighborhood, the manager paid for our meal that night!
But there have been many great rooms along the way, like the room with a tree growing up through the roof in St. Lucia, the over-the-water bungalow in Bora Bora, and the magnificent Hawaiian Suite we were given in Honolulu over looking Diamond Head when I told the desk clerk we were there to conceive! But no one wants to read about the good stuff, only the bad. So let me tell you one more room horror story.
In Abaco, another island in the Bahamas, we were staying in a lovely property, because by now we realized that paying a little bit more for the room might lend itself to better accommodations. But anyone who has ever stayed in the islands knows that power can go out at anytime, which it did. That means no lights, no hairdryers, NO AIR CONDITIONING! Leaving the doors open to be devoured by mosquitoes was our only option for air.
Then, in the middle of the night, we heard some screaming coming from a few rooms away where a man had slipped and fallen, and his wife was calling for help. We rushed to their aid, as did other hotel guests, but we could find no one at the front desk, no management on duty. I knew this man needed to get to a hospital and needed ice for his bruised face and broken nose. So I worked my way to the out-door bar, slung a chair through the locked wooden slats and broke in. Once I got the ice back to the naked injured tourist, Chuck escorted him and his wife to the waterfront. He claimed to have a friend staying at the marina. Maybe in the morning they could take him to a hospital on a neighboring island. This tiny speck in the Atlantic only had a clinic that was open two days a week. Can you imagine no staff on duty, no electricity and no hospital?
So while most people these days complain about all the headaches involved in air travel, I can only attest that for us, getting there is not usually the problem. It’s always a room or hotel issue. And even though the Internet and Trip Advisor have certainly added re-assurance by letting us read reviews and view our hotel room before we get there, pictures, videos and opinions don’t always tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Our mantra is check it out first-hand, then check in! If we don’t like what we see, we demand our deposit back, and move on.
Vacations are too precious!
About this writer
- Diane DeVaughn Stokes is a TV Host and Producer working on new statewide culinary TV show, and a spokesperson for many commercials throughout the Carolinas. She and her husband own Stages Video Productions in Myrtle Beach and share a passion for theater and travel.