New Orleans A breaker fuse at the house blew this morning under pressure from the coffee pot, microwave, and a space heater all singing their songs at the same time, which reminds me that when booking lodging on foreign travel, read the offering carefully and make no assumptions.
In 2016, the Organizers’ Forum journeyed to Douala, Cameroon in west Africa. We used the meeting to also bring as many of our affiliated organizers together as we could afford in order to have a historic first face-to-face meeting. We had staff on the ground detailed to locate housing. I laid out the minimal requirements for our work and the costs: Wi-Fi in the rooms and breakfast provided. Of course, we needed meeting space and some other things, but we have learned that those are the two necessities in making these meetings work. We ended up in a place where the price was right, the location worked well enough, the staff was attentive, the Wi-Fi was spotty in places, but that happens everywhere. Sadly, we had forgotten to ask a key question, mainly “Is there hot water?” Whoops, big mistake. We were lucky to be in an equatorial location, so most could suffer through a cold shower, and some swore they preferred it, but at the same time some of our frequent Organizers’ Forum delegates asked before the 2017 and 2018 trips, whether or not the hotel would have hot water. Like I said, don’t make assumptions about lodging. Check the website thoroughly, and ask repeatedly.
Closer to home, traveling in Mexico, it is unbelievable how difficult it is to verify whether or not heat is provided in the private, and many publicly available lodging options. Admittedly, many areas of Mexico are also on the warmish side, but Mexico City is a mile-high, like Denver, and many other cities and towns are on the high plateaus. Night time can be air-ish, as one of our great New Orleans organizers used to say.
Staying in Kampala, Uganda, hard on the equator, the hotel was run by a Catholic family-related NGO, which is just the kind of place that we like to support since they are companionably allied with our work. No air or heat there, but extra blankets were provided. The issue in Africa that is more central than air or heat is whether or not mosquito netting is provided in the sleeping quarters of each room. An extra blanket is inadequate protection against malaria, and mosquitoes were buzzing around in December after the rains in Nairobi as well.
In other countries, especially if you are using one of the travel websites like AirBnb or other room and housing shares, as you are making your way from place to place, city to city in a rental car, make sure that parking is provided. In Auckland, nothing was a bargain, unless it provided parking since that situation is impossible in New Zealand. Comments on websites helped us there, when owners were being forced to go out of their way to assure potential guests that they had fixed the parking situation for visitors.
Staying outside of the offerings of the big local and global lodging establishments is usually a better experience and of course more budget friendly to those of us working for dues-based membership organizations, but there is a reason they are successful. They check the boxes on the all of the basics. Going around them, don’t make assumptions, and make sure your checklist is equally thorough or you’re not going to be happy and could be miserable despite having saved some precious dollars.