Ever notice the swank car buffed to a mirror shine posed just outside the door of most fine hotels? Think it’s just for the use of dignitaries, VIP’s and Donald Trump? Think again, that sweet ride is there for your use. Yes yours, and mine. Even with four sticky fingered children I have been welcomed into the buttery soft leather world of a fine house car. You’ll find one outside of almost all Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton properties, as well as most other five star hotels.
The car is there to ferry you to and from destinations usually within a mile of the hotel. Need a quick ride to dinner, Bloomies or Dylan’s Candy Bar? Just ask. They won’t reserve the car for you, even if you are Donald Trump, it’s dispatched on a first come first served basis. Need a ride to the airport? Book a car service or take a taxi, no amount of money or begging is going to get you to Delta Departures in the Rolls.
On a back to school shopping trip in NYC my daughter and I arrived at Bloomingdale’s in the style that we could never afford, we slipped out of the $400,000 Rolls Royce Phantom courtesy of The Plaza Hotel. Even in jaded New York City people stopped to look at which famous celeb might be getting out, I’m sure they were disappointed, but we felt like a million bucks.
In Seattle, the Four Seasons hotel has a brand new Jaguar XJ that they “love” to transport guests in. Their manager, Ben Trodd, says the more use the car gets, the better, then they know that their guests are happy. For anyone who hasn’t been to Seattle, it’s famously hilly. The term “skid row” came from Seattle as they used to skid the logs down the massive hills to the water. When I asked to take the car two blocks to dinner and told the driver I felt guilty about not walking, he looked at my four and a half inch boots and told me there was no way I could be expected to climb the hills in those gorgeous shoes. I considered proposing to him, or at least asking him to explain these things to my husband. During our stay the house car made it possible for us to see many more attractions than we would have if we had waited for a taxi (not as common in Seattle) or drove around looking for parking. On our last morning in town, my youngest son was desperate to go to the aquarium and touch a starfish. We had exactly one hour before we had to leave for the airport, the driver whisked us to our destination and picked us up 45 minutes later. It was the highlight of the little guys’s vacation.
A few things to know about using the house car:
1. It’s free, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t pay for it. Many people calculate the cost of a taxi ride and tip that amount. According the hotel staff, $5 – $10 is an average tip. I usually tip $20, not just because I’m so appreciative, but I have found that the staff will go out of their way to help make the car available for me and I don’t get as many dirty looks when the kids leave sticky fingerprints on the inside of the windows.
2. It really is first come first served. Since the car is only allowed to go short distances, the wait is never long, just plan to give yourself an extra few minutes and you can enjoy a top notch ride versus a taxi ride.
3. If you call the hotel and ask for a pick up from your destination and are willing to wait a few minutes, they are happy to give you a return ride. So if you’re meeting an old boyfriend for lunch and you want your “car and driver” to come get you, it’s not just worth the $20 tip, it’s priceless.