Friday, December 12, 2008

Hotel Scarcity During Emergencies

I spent some time today booking hotel rooms for people (including my travelling wife) without electricity because of the ice storms in New England. The power company estimated this morning that power would be out 1 to 3 days. This afternoon the estimate was several days. It is just a WAG, anyway. Fact is that the governor declared a state of emergency to cope with the crisis. With temperatures ranging between single digits (fahrenheit) and twenties, it does not take long for a house without power to become unbearable for our 21st century bodies.

So, staying in a hotel is sometimes a necessary luxury. Here is a checklist of my recommendations for booking a hotel room during a sudden emergency:

1. Act fast. The sooner you book your room, the better. As time goes on, more and more people will be booking rooms. Rooms, therefore, will become harder to find. Act fast and get yours.

2. Book refundable rates. Many chains and properties will let you cancel a reservation before 4 p.m. or 6 p.m. on the day of arrival. Combine with step 1 and book a refundable rate as soon as you can. Shall I even suggest that other properties (with non-refundable policies) might even relax their restrictions? Ask!

3. Enlist help. OK, so trolling may not be your first priority. If you are dealing with emergency stuff, contact someone to make your booking. In 1992, I used a travel desk for a booking when hurricane Andrew was evident and I happened to be near Orlando. They found me a room 50 miles away, but they found me a room.

4. Check in early. After you have taken care of what you can, go relax. Make your calls and Facebook status updates from the hotel. Also, with peak demand at hotels, rooms may be overbooked or your reservation may suddenly get "misplaced in the reservation system." Another also is that conditions will likely worsen after the sun goes down. There may be a curfew so that emergency vehicles can travel without interference. In New England tonight, everything will re-ice again. It will be even more difficult to travel at night, with the icy conditions and dark conditions (because of no street lights). Good thing there is a giant full moon, if the skies are clear.

5. Cancel those refundable bookings. Don't forget. You will be charged. Plus, other temporary refugees will need the space. In state of emergencies, assistance comes from out of the area. Those people need to be somewhere, too.
6. Share your good fortune. Do you have family, friends, or neighbors in the same situation? People are unexpectedly generous in times of crisis. Something to feel good about and be proud of (unlike misusing prepositions).

7. Be creative. If everything (services, perhaps even your work) is going to be shut down for a few days, it may be time for an unplanned vacation. During the immediate aftermath of 9/11/2001, an executive at my wife's company really thought out of the box. The company jet was forced to land in a remote area of western Kansas. Instead of remaining there for an undetermined amount of time, he bought two vehicles so that the employees could drive back to the east coast. I do not know what happened to the vehicles. That may be another story.

Anything else? Comment.

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© 2008, Charles McCool

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