Travel is taking me places: my trip to Columbus, Ohio (part 1 of 3)

I spent my Labor Day weekend in Columbus, Ohio, attending my wife’s cousin’s wedding. The wedding itself was a lot of fun, my kids had a blast with their relatives, and overall it was a success. Plus I didn’t check email at all. This trip also allowed me to view the travel process in a different light than I’ve had the opportunity to recently. Most of my travel this year has been for business, with co-workers, and mainly to Hawaii. This trip was with the family (wife, 2 kids), for vacation, to the midwest. Makes you experience things differently, which I guess is an important lesson when communicating to potential customers/guests/clients/etc. Your business communications to one customer will be different than your leisure communications to the same customer. But I’m getting off-track here. I really wanted to share a few of the experiences I had on the trip in a 3 part expose on hotels, kids, and airplanes.

The Hotel Experience

We left PDX early on Thursday. The kids got to play on the airport playground (which will be covered in part 3) and get some energy out. The Northwest Airlines flights were on time and fine, though they wanted a dollar for a snack mix (I’ll cover my love/hate relationship with NWA in a separate post). Arriving in Columbus, Ohio, we checked into the Hilton Columbus at Easton. The staff at the front door was welcoming, and the lobby looked nice enough. In our room, I went to check out the bathroom to make sure there weren’t any dirty towels or “other stuff” in there. Believe me, I’ve seen it before. I was greeted by plush terrycloth robes and slippers, and some nice looking bath amenities.

On a silver tray, no less. Of course I find out later that my wife isn’t a fan of the brand’s scents (Crabtree & Evelyn). But they’re free, and you can’t travel with liquids, so you compromise and make due with what they supply, or you bring your own (I bring my own). In fact, I go to great lengths, which some might see as “overboard,” to making sure I’m comfortable when away from home. Which leads to the next experience… we went out to dinner, returned to the room and got everyone to bed. Awakening the next morning, my wife and I were craving some good, strong, Portland-level coffee. To be safe, we’d brought our own coffee from Stumptown Coffee Roasters, in my opinion some of the best coffee in the world (I’ll save micro-roasting for yet another post). Going to the coffee machine, we discovered that Hilton has tried to make the coffee experience easier for guests by installing those coffee pod machines in every room.

So we have a half a pound of Hair Bender sitting useless and we have to suffer with whatever Hilton has decided is “good coffee.” At this point, I begin to feel less like a guest and more like a visitor, meaning less welcome and uncomfortable than I would be at home. We head out in search of good coffee (we settled for Starbucks, but it’s not what we wanted). Returning to the room, the message light is blinking on our phone. Turns out it’s a recorded message promoting the hotel’s spa package. Now I’m not even a visitor, but a trapped, targeted customer. At least at home I can be on a “do not call” list. Don’t remember that being an option when we checked in…

Don’t get me wrong. The hotel was fine. It was clean, the kids had a good time playing tag around the lobby furniture (yes, those are my kids), swimming in the pool, enjoying the concierge lounge (courtesy of my in-laws who were staying on the “concierge level”). There were some good experiences (mainly dealing with family and friends), some not-as-good experiences (mainly dealing with the definition of hospitality). And what was the end result? We’ll have to wait and see what hotel I choose for the next family trip. Then again, we’re usually camping.

Next up… Exploring science, discovering fun: Part 2 of 3

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