Traveling off the beaten path sometimes means that you’ll end up staying somewhere unexpected. In the last 12 months, Judy and I have spent about four or five unplanned nights in hotels. In one case, it was because we encountered ice covered roadways. It didn’t make sense to put our lives in danger just to get home. In others, we’ve just decided to stay overnight and enjoy added time with family and friends, or simply to stay up late and get up early to experience new and different sites and tastes. If life is an adventure, then you need to be ready to expect the unexpected!
A few things make this easier. First, and perhaps most importantly, we don’t have kids or pets at home (often they are one and the same). As much as we both love dogs, we’ve consciously made a decision to not have a pet in the house so that we don’t have to worry about its care. If you do have pets (we’re assuming you’re not going to leave your kids at home alone!), then consider finding a reliable person who can walk and feed your animals on short notice.
Second, keep a small “go bag” in our car with essential toiletries and medications. This past Friday, we left town quickly to visit an ailing relative who lives about three hours south. Leaving directly from my office, stopping at home to pick up clothes and the Dopp kit wasn’t really an option. I was still in my work clothes, so we stopped to pick up some more casual shirts and jeans. Since we drive a convertible, we keep a couple of fleece jackets in the trunk. These helped ward off the unseasonal chill. The usual go bag wasn’t in the car, so we also raided the “samples” aisle to pick up a tooth brush and toothpaste, deodorant, shaving essentials and a few other items to make sure that we didn’t look ghastly in the morning. Those who have read the blog from the beginning know that we have no problem buying things on the fly, but having a few needed items in the car can make unexpected overnights that much easier.
Third, come up with one or two “go to” hotel chains you like that have the amenities you need at a cost you can regularly afford (and for which you can collect points for free or discounted visits). A quick check of the internet on your smartphone (or even using the chain’s app) can quickly result in a reservation confirmation. Don’t forget to ask for discounts…just because you’re calling last minute doesn’t mean you have to live with rack rates. In the aforementioned “ice” incident, we saw that one of our preferred chains was at the next exit, so we simply pulled in and asked the clerk what she could do for us. Perhaps because we were regular guests of this particular chain, she quoted a rate that was more than half of the rack rate and well in line of what we expected to pay. Most of us have some sort of discount available — AAA, AARP, government, etc. — use what works for you.
Don’t forget to use these unexpected visits to check out local restaurants, taverns, and other sites. Also, don’t forget to take a peek at the rack of local attraction brochures usually located just off the lobby in nearly every hotel. You’ll never know what you’ll find and you might even decide to visit again!