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How to Complain Your Way to a Better Vacation

I consider myself a pretty decent person, with realistic expectations of social courtesies—there’s nothing like being sandwiched on a rush-hour train to make you realize that you are an insignificant piece of debris in the grand scheme of life.

However, when I’m on vacation, I suddenly turn into The Travel Diva. Once we’ve splurged on a nice resort, I expect everything to go perfectly, that I’ll be wrapped in a warm paraffin wax of contentment for the entire time I’m there. I become so entitled that even the maid failing to replenish the bottles of lotion in the bathroom can prompt an annoyed call to housekeeping. Despite the pangs of guilt, the fact that my grievances are so often rewarded by generous hotel personnel has taught me that it literally pays to complain:

GIF: Meow3721

Rant: Our room was lovely, overlooking the pool, but at night I could hear loud frolicking and laughing in the hot tub, while I was trying to sleep. The Jacuzzi was supposed to be closed at 9 p.m. and this was long after that. I called the front desk to complain. I did that two nights in a row.

Reward: The first night, I received profuse apologies, and they sent a guard to have the perps jettisoned from the Jacuzzi. The next day, the hotel gave us giant cookies and a bottle of wine. If I hadn’t complained, I would not have enjoyed that yummy free snack (of course I might not have needed wine if I wasn’t so upset about the bad sleep). After the second night of after-hours raucous revelry, the resort took off an entire night’s rate from our bill. I slept a lot better after that. 

(See also: How to Complain Effectively—About Anything)

GIF: Giphy.com

Rant: Our daughter was scheduled for a tennis lesson.  About halfway through the lesson, someone else arrived and claimed the court, as the resort had double-booked it. Well, you would have thought I was Serena Williams’ mother, and that if my daughter didn’t get to finish her lesson, it would prevent her from winning the Grand Slam. There was no way I was giving up that court time without compensation. 

Reward: We got the (half) tennis lesson for free. But I gave the guy a really nice tip. Especially when he told me that I looked like I worked out a lot. 


GIF: Tumblr Easy

Rant: At one resort, our son’s stuffed bear disappeared from his bed. He was inconsolable. I made frantic, angry calls to the manager because, as mothers know, you can’t just replace a child’s favorite stuffed animal. It’s not like substituting a new fish for an old one that died (we tried that once). I was convinced that the maid had either taken it or lost it.

Reward: Later that day, they replaced the bear with a Toucan, which was sweet, but even an 8-year-old knows that a bird is not a bear. It was a rough night. I was ready to negotiate a fee reduction (or at least complimentary daiquiris at the bar), when the next day they found the bear. It had been washed with the sheets and they found it in the laundry. So not only did we get the bear back, but he was cleaner, and we also got to keep the Toucan. Score!

GIF: The Berry

Rant: I had a massage scheduled for 3:15. I had been looking forward to it for days. When I arrived, they said the appointment was for 4. I assured them that it was not, since we had an early dinner reservation that we had to drive some distance to get to. They said they made a mistake (and I had the email confirmation to prove it), but they were too booked to change it, so they’d try to do it by 3:45. I didn’t want to come back another day, so I agreed to the later time. They promised to deduct 15% from the treatment. When I came back later and was lounging in the waiting area, they told me it would be a few minutes, which turned into 15 minutes. That’s when I got all J-Lo on them: “Listen, I don’t want any more of your dried fruit or cucumber water! I’ve read that Elle magazine already! I just want my friggin’ massage!” By the time the therapist arrived, I was a wreck. She asked if I wanted to make it a shorter massage, since I was “in a hurry.” I replied, “Um, no, I actually need a longer massage now, because I’m SO MUCH MORE STRESSED OUT!!” 

Reward: They took 50% off the massage. But I tipped the therapist on the full amount. I may be a Travel Diva, but I’m a fair one. 


GIF: EyeRolls/Tumblr

Rant: In our hotel room, the side lamp wasn’t working. We asked them to have the light fixed. They fixed the light, but they folded up our wet towels, which we had left hanging on hooks to dry in the bathroom. I approached the front desk, in a huff. “You know, I tried to ‘be green,’ and not throw the towels on the floor, so we hung them up, but the maid re-folded them, so they stayed wet.” Travel Diva does not like to buff her body with damp towels, especially when she passed on clean, dry towels because she was trying to save the environment. 

Reward: Two complimentary water bottles from the lobby fridge. Yeah, that’s all we got. But considering water bottles at a hotel are about $5 each, it wasn’t a bad freebie for a fairly minor infraction. 


GIF: Tumblr

Rant: At one resort, housekeeping kept cleaning our room at the wrong time, no matter what signs I put on the door. The maid  invariably tried to enter while I was changing out of my wet bathing suit or in the bathroom recuperating from some bad shellfish. That’s when I cursed myself for taking French and not Spanish in school, because I would say something like, “Please come back in half an hour,” and the maid would say something like, “Okay, you don’t want room cleaned today?” I complained so many times that the resort manager set up a time to meet with me, like we were having an H.R. review. 

Reward: After the meeting, a huge fruit basket and a bottle of champagne arrived in our room. Finally, they were making up for the bad service! I opened the card, which was addressed to another guest, welcoming him to the resort. I felt bad that Mr. X didn’t get his stuff. That lasted about 30 seconds. Then I ate an apple and poured myself a glass of champagne.