As some of you may be aware, I have enough allergies to various common foods to have earned the name “bubble-boy” from my friends. In fact, my wife’s friends used to semi-joke about me while we were first engaged that she should take a good life-insurance policy out on my, “just i n case”. She used to laugh at that, until she had to race me to the hospital a couple times, or stay up all night to make sure I didn’t stop breathing. Now it’s not a laughing matter. Now she’s paranoid for me wherever I go, always carries a spare epipen with her, and arranges our travel schedules around flights and hotels that can accommodate allergies.
Going to restaurants is especially challenging, so Deanna printed off special cards that clearly state, in both English and Spanish, my “Deathly” allergies. We give them to every waiter or waitress we have, and I’ve met the head chef or manager for most restaurants we go to. It’s really, to put it bluntly, a pain in the ass. I have to make sure I fly on flights that don’t have peanuts on their little cart of snacks, I have to make sure I don’t eat any food that has MSG (which eliminates more foods than you’d be aware of), I can’t even be near people eating pork much less eat it myself, and I can’t even eat food that has touched the same surface as a melon. But, perhaps the biggest travesty for my wife, is I can’t be in the same vicinity as chocolate, much less eat or touch it. This makes it especially difficult since many hotels will put chocolates on your pillow as a “Thank You”, which for me is an instant roll of the dice for whether or not I’ll continue breathing throughout the night.
This is why, recently, I’ve taken to flying only on Air Canada flights, since they seem to be pretty savvy on the whole “Peanuts are Bad” front. I also tend to eat at large chain restaurants, since they tend to have better procedures around handling allergies, and more to the point, they have more to lose if they ever got sued.
As far as hotels go however, I’ve really fallen in love with the Kimpton Hotel chain. They’re a chain of boutique hotels that are typically in heritage buildings, but are really well designed with modern interiors, wonderful amenities, and actually quite reasonable prices. Each hotel tends to have its own flair or motif, but all are across the board pet-friendly and, apparently, allergy-friendly.
Every Kimpton Hotel is advertised to have an official “House Dog” that calls that hotel home. If you’re traveling and want to bring your pet with you, any animal under 200 pounds is considered welcome. There are many services available to your pets, but what I appreciate is their Kimpton InTouch service.
Kimpton’s InTouch membership is equivalent to a CostCo card, except it’s for tracking your stays at a hotel. Your individual preferences for rooms, whether or not you want a complimentary curling iron or something included in your room, or (in my case) whether or not you have any allergies or other notes to leave for the staff on your arrival. Your InTouch membership also gives you free and unlimited WiFi access during the duration of your stay, which would otherwise cost you $10/day, so for geeks like myself, it easily pays for itself.
Since I had to fly down to San Francisco this week for business purposes, I booked with a Kimpton Hotel for my second time, this time at the Harbor Court Hotel (my previous stay was at the Sir Frances Drake Hotel). It’s a close walk to my office, which is important, but it also had quite reasonable rates. Upon booking, I entered in my InTouch membership information, which told them my preferences (for example, I had an ironing board and leopard-print bath robe waiting for me in my closet).
Upon checking in however, the concierge told me that, because I had an allergy to peanuts and chocolate listed on my account, they had the cleaning staff do an extra sweep through my room to clear its mini bar of any peanut or chocolate products, and also ensured that the sheets and pillows hadn’t come in contact with any chocolates since they were washed.
The extra attention to detail, and being able to sleep safely without Deanna laying next to me to make sure any chocolate residue doesn’t affect me throughout the night, is certainly worth it to me to stay loyal to this particular hotel chain.
And with that, I’m going to get ready to go to bed in my comfy room. Here’s some pictures I took of the view from my hotel room, at the time of check-in and just a few moments ago.
Update: I’ve been here for a few days so far, and already I know I want to stay at this same hotel when I come down for my next business trip in two weeks. Not only do they have fantastic complimentary coffee in the morning, but evenings from 5:00pm to 6:00pm they have complimentary wine (red, white and sangria) in their upper-lobby. A huge fireplace, comfortable seating areas, snacks and even an HDTV with an XBox360 and Rock Band fill the area. Every night has a mix of business people and travelers chatting, sharing stories, sipping wine and passing the time.