How to Avoid Paying for Your Already-Booked Hotel Room When Your Flight Is Canceled

jacoblund/iStock via Getty Images
jacoblund/iStock via Getty Images

The news that your flight has been delayed or canceled is the last thing you want to hear on your way to the airport. Flight disruptions are more than just inconvenient—they can be expensive. If you planned your trip around arriving at your destination at an exact time, rearranging your itinerary and rescheduling bookings can end up significantly stretching your travel budget. Fortunately, canceling accommodations at the last minute doesn't always have to lead to financial loss. According to Lifehacker, there are tactics you can use to get a full refund on your hotel room.

In some cases, hotels will refund your money without any hassle. Take a look at the fine print of your reservation confirmation: Many major hotel chains give customers the leeway to change or cancel their stay up to 48 to 72 hours before they arrive.

If you're canceling due to a change in flight plans, you're likely scrambling to figure things out with little time to spare. But missing the official window to change your reservation doesn't necessarily mean you're out of luck. Call the hotel's front desk directly and explain your situation. There's a chance they'll take pity on you and refund your money or allow you to tweak your dates at no extra cost. If the reason for your rescheduled flight is a severe weather event that's also affecting your destination, it's especially likely that the hotel will be understanding—and possibly even overbooked and desperate to make room for other guests.

Of course, after trying every trick in your arsenal, the hotel may simply refuse to accommodate you and force you to pay full price for a reservation you can't make use of. When that happens, it's time to look elsewhere for compensation. Under the Montreal Convention, a treaty that covers most international travel, you can receive a payout of up to $5870 to cover financial loss caused by international flight delays in some cases. Here's how to receive the biggest reimbursement possible for the cancelled flight itself at the same time.

[h/t Lifehacker]

The Surprising Reason Hotels Have Ice Machines

Ice machines can be found in virtually every American hotel.
Ice machines can be found in virtually every American hotel.
Imageegaml/iStock via Getty Images

For some, there is no bigger thrill while traveling than to discover an ice machine close to their room. Taken for granted at home, ice becomes a precious commodity in hotels. It’s become part of standard lodging accommodations, along with a clean set of sheets or an ironing board.

But ice wasn’t always a gratuity. In fact, the reason hotels have made free ice machines permanent fixtures is because ice once came with a price tag attached.

Back when the Holiday Inn was a burgeoning franchise in the 1950s, founder Kemmons Wilson noticed that rival hotel operations charged extra for ice. As someone looking to break into the hospitality industry, Wilson was looking to improve the guest experience and thought that gouging his lodgers for ice was a poor way to go about it. At a Holiday Inn, ice could be fetched for free.

Because the Inn was a franchise with a uniform set of standards, each new location that opened brought with it the same policy about free ice. Other hotel chains looking to compete with the increasing popularity of the Holiday Inn began to concede. Soon, ice was a no-charge benefit for virtually all hotels.

(Wilson had other thoughts about hotel surcharges. Some chains tacked on $2 extra for each child, a policy he did away with. The Holiday Inn became a massive success, though not all of his ideas landed. Wilson once wanted to install a trampoline in each location, an ambition that ended when a child hopped on one and crashed through a window.)

Of course, a machine handled by multiple guests needs regular cleaning and maintenance, and not all hotels necessarily keep up with the task. A 2012 CBC investigation found bacteria, including E. coli., on ice machines at six major hotel chains in Canada. Ice machines and dispensers should be cleaned monthly.

[h/t Reader’s Digest]

9 Royally Interesting Facts About King Cake

iStock
iStock

It’s Carnival season, and that means bakeries throughout New Orleans are whipping up those colorful creations known as King Cakes. And while today it’s primarily associated with Big Easy revelry, the King Cake has a long and checkered history that reaches back through the centuries. Here are a few facts about its origins, its history in America, and how exactly that plastic baby got in there.

1. The King Cake is believed to have Pagan origins.

The king cake is widely associated with the Christian festival of the Epiphany, which celebrates the three kings’ visit to the Christ child on January 6. Some historians, however, believe the cake dates back to Roman times, and specifically to the winter festival of Saturnalia. Bakers would put a fava bean—which back then was used for voting, and had spiritual significance—inside the cake, and whoever discovered it would be considered king for a day. Drinking and mayhem abounded. In the Middle Ages, Christian followers in France took up the ritual, replacing the fava bean with a porcelain replica engraved with a face.

2. The King Cake stirred up controversy during the French Revolution.

To bring the pastry into the Christian tradition, bakers got rid of the bean and replaced it with a crowned king’s head to symbolize the three kings who visited baby Jesus. Church officials approved of the change, though the issue became quite thorny in late 18th century France, when a disembodied king’s head was seen as provocation. In 1794, the mayor of Paris called on the “criminal patissiers” to end their “filthy orgies.” After they failed to comply, the mayor simply renamed the cake the “Gateau de Sans-Culottes,” after the lower-class sans-culottes revolutionaries.

3. The King Cake determined the early kings and queens of Mardi Gras.


A Mardi Gras King in 1952.

Two of the oldest Mardi Gras krewes (NOLA-talk for "crew," or a group that hosts major Mardi Gras events, like parades or balls) brought about the current cake tradition. The Rex Organization gave the festival its colors (purple for justice, green for faith, and gold for power) in 1872, but two years earlier, the Twelfth Night Revelers krewe brought out a King Cake with a gold bean hidden inside and served it up to the ladies in attendance. The finder was crowned queen of the ball. Other krewes adopted the practice as well, crowning the kings and queens by using a gold or silver bean. The practice soon expanded into households throughout New Orleans, where today the discovery of a coin, bean or baby trinket identifies the buyer of the next King Cake.

4. The King Cake's baby trinkets weren't originally intended to have religious significance.

Although today many view the baby trinkets found inside king cakes to symbolize the Christ child, that wasn’t what Donald Entringer—the owner of the renowned McKenzie’s Bakery in New Orleans, which started the tradition—had in mind. Entringer was instead looking for something a little bit different to put in his king cakes, which had become wildly popular in the city by the mid-1900s. One story has it that Entringer found the original figurines in a French Quarter shop. Another, courtesy of New Orleans food historian Poppy Tooker (via NPR’s The Salt), states that a traveling salesman with a surplus of figurines stopped by the bakery and suggested the idea. "He had a big overrun on them, and so he said to Entringer, 'How about using these in a king cake,'" said Tooker.

5. Bakeries are afraid of getting sued.

What to many is an offbeat tradition is, to others, a choking hazard. It’s unclear how many consumers have sued bakeries over the plastic babies and other trinkets baked inside king cakes, but apparently it’s enough that numerous bakeries have stopped including them altogether, or at least offer it on the side. Still, some bakeries remain unfazed—like Gambino’s, whose cinnamon-infused king cake comes with the warning, "1 plastic baby baked inside."

6. The French version of the King Cake comes with a paper crown.


iStock

In France, where the flaky, less colorful (but still quite tasty) galette de rois predates its American counterpart by a few centuries, bakers often include a paper crown with their cake, just to make the “king for a day” feel extra special. The trinkets they put inside are also more varied and intricate, and include everything from cars to coins to religious figurines. Some bakeries even have their own lines of collectible trinkets.

7. There's also the Rosca de Reyes, the Bolo Rei, and the Dreikönigskuchen.


"Roscón de Reyes" by Tamorlan - Self Made (Foto Propia).

Versions of the King Cake can be found throughout Europe and Latin America. The Spanish Rosca de Reyes and the Portugese Bolo Rei are usually topped with dried fruit and nuts, while the Swiss Dreikönigskuchen has balls of sweet dough surrounding the central cake. The Greek version, known as Vasilopita, resembles a coffee cake and is often served for breakfast.

8. The King Cake is no longer just a New Orleans tradition.

From New York to California, bakeries are serving up King Cakes in the New Orleans fashion, as well as the traditional French style. On Long Island, Mara’s Homemade makes their tri-colored cakes year round, while in Los Angeles you can find a galette de rois (topped with a nifty crown, no less) at Maison Richard. There are also lots of bakeries that deliver throughout the country, many offering customizable fillings from cream cheese to chocolate to fruits and nuts.

9. The New Orleans Pelicans have a King Cake baby mascot—and it is terrifying.

Every winter you can find this monstrosity at games, local supermarkets, and in your worst nightmares.

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