Allen On Travel

A 30 year veteran of world travel (but knows nil about Orlando-area attractions), Will Allen III writes about his weekly odysseys by air on business and how the airlines rob him--and you--of time, the most precious commodity on earth. Time: It's all we have, and the airlines routinely take it from us. This blog challenges the airlines to keep their basic promises.

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Location: Raleigh, North Carolina, United States

Born 1948 in Kinston, NC and raised there in beautiful eastern North Carolina, I now live in Raleigh and commute around the country and the world.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tattling About Toiletries

OK, I admit it: In the countless hundreds of hotel rooms rented over many decades I have very often filched some or most of the in-room toiletries provided for guests.

Well, the fancy or unique ones, anyway. The best of the best of such treasures invariably come from top lodging properties overseas, but I've been surprised once in awhile by what nice stateside hotels have to offer.

When I pack my bags on that last night to go home, I find it irresistible to raid the bath counter and see what's there that might be worth the extra weight. Sometimes it's soap (hand or bath); sometimes shampoo or hair conditioner; sometimes combs, shoe mitts, Q-tips, cotton balls, or even shower caps! Whatever gets palmed and packed, it can't be mundane; it's got to have special appeal, something that attracts my fancy.

Come on, who can resist a soap perfumed with real sandalwood or violet blossoms? Especially if packaged in a luxurious pastel tissue paper wrapper with a brilliant crimson-colored hand-tied bow of some exotic twine (yep, I've seen that very soap, emanating an alluring floral aroma of unknown origin, in a deluxe Hong Kong hotel--and took it home).

Soaps in weird shapes or colors grab my attention, as do strange or extraordinary fragrances. A plain-Jane thin bar of Hampton Inn soap? Forget it. Not worth the trouble. Ditto for Marriott Courtyard amenities.

In fact one of the uses I make of the luxe soaps is to keep one or two handy in my Dopp kit for those times when I find myself in a Best Western in rural North Dakota with those pitiful, dinky chips
of soap that BW maid service staff have been placing in guest rooms since about the early 1960s (one could certainly not call the microscopic bit they provide a "bar" of soap). When in such modest circumstances, what a pleasure it is to unwrap a beautiful soap from, say, the Grand Hyatt Bali before stepping into the shower. As the sumptuous fumes of my elegant soap from halfway around the globe waft up through the warm water, why, I can almost forget that I am residing in a Red Roof Inn in Chicken Foot, Arkansas. (Or was that Bentonville?)

Another use of those stolen soaps is to provide an uplift to mood at home. Washing with a
tropical scented soap acquired from an island paradise hotel in Fiji or Barbados can do wonders to pick up my spirits on a frigid mid-winter weekend. I also keep a supply of exotic soaps and grandly-packaged shampoos and such for spiffing up the guest bath when friends overnight. Why not give them a taste of what the best foreign hostelries have to offer?

Over the years, though, I've stopped taking home most shampoos and bath counter doo-dads other than soap because, well, because most of it is no longer worth the trouble (to me at least). It's not because of the absurd 3-oz. TSA liquid carry-on rule, either. Rather, it's that most of the counter-top goodies are not special enough to merit my attention these days.

However, one item that I almost always grab, even at the lowliest place of lodging, is the shower cap. Why? Because of its utility in my mother-in-law's kitchen. She goes through hotel shower caps like crazy covering bowls of leftovers and salads and desserts and so on. My wife's mom has amazed me demonstrating the usefulness of a round piece of plastic with an elastic band in her kitchen. I sheepishly admit that my wife and I have even tried it at home--to good advantage.

So, who else out there will admit to purloining the bits and bobs used for
grooming and hygiene that hotel marketeers use to lure us to their properties?

And is it thievery to take their bathroom baubles? I am not taking their fluffy towels or the flat-screen HD TV, after all. I'm merely making off with some of the consumables that I, you, everyone pays for in the room rate, right? If we don't take the soap, will they credit back a dollar or two per night? Answer: no.

So far I've never had a hotel GM interrogate me about the absence of a bar of their extravagant soap from a guest room I recently vacated. In fact many have asked me to return every week for a year or longer. I take that as a sign that my slight but nagging feeling of guilt for sometimes pilfering a few hotel toiletries is not, after all, eroding my probity.

Thus I will probably persist in cramming a stupid shower cap or two into my suitcase to present to my mom-in-law when next I see her. Mind you, I have plenty of extras. Let me know if you need one to keep the bugs off your salad bowl next time you have a picnic on the patio. It's very effective; you really should try it!


Blogger Justin Time said...

You forgot to mention what a great Christmas present a bar of soap can make, particularly if gift wrapped.

For the man or woman who has everything, what beats an emergency repair kit?

6/27/2008 3:20 AM  
Blogger CraiginNYC said...

Another great use for the shower cap - it makes a great "condom" for the TV remote, which studies have shown is the filthiest item in a hotel room.

6/27/2008 6:25 AM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...

To Justin Time:

Some of the fancier foreign hotel soaps already come gift-wrapped, saving you the trouble even to do that at Christmas!

To craiginnyc:

I never thought about how germy the TV remote could be, but it makes sense, and yours in a great idea--except that I hate the idea of holding a condom while I watch PBS.

6/27/2008 9:04 AM  
Blogger Cavalier92 said...

If it's a good quality, I'm taking home the extras!

The Nirvae line of shampoos that the upscale Marriotts use it perfect for me. I've even prevailed upon the staff for a few extras if I know I don't have any marriott stays coming up.

The best stuff ever is from The Lodge at Torrey Pines, which has some amazing rosemary-scented products which take me right back tot he sunsets over the ocean with the warm, spicy breezes blowing into the room!

6/27/2008 11:03 AM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...


I agree about the Marriott amenities.

Thanks for the tip about the nice stuff at The Lodge at Torrey Pines.

6/27/2008 12:56 PM  
Blogger Charlene Ann Baumbich said...

I never feel guilty for taking what is *given* to me to use. And you can bet your bippy that the shower caps I never previously touched shall heretofore never be left behind! Each of these ideas is brilliant.

6/27/2008 2:00 PM  
Blogger hulananni said...

My dresser drawers are delightfully scented with lemongrass soap from Ana Mandara Resort and Spa in Nha Trang Vietnam. Takes me there when I can't actually make the trip.

6/27/2008 3:44 PM  
Blogger lowtech said...

My dearest treasures from our travels are 3 little bottles, with dark green tops and labels printed in matching green, from the Victoria Falls Hotel. I took these with me as we left in 1994. Since then, Zimbabwe has been destroyed and without doubt that glorius hotel no longer exists in its original form. I have washed out the little bottles, and I look at them fondly as they perch on a shelf in my bathroom. Precious memories - more than just perloined toiletries!

6/27/2008 7:31 PM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...


My first visit to Vic Falls and Zim was early 1991, and I was lucky enough to stay at the magnificent Victoria Falls Hotel several times in the 1990s. I agree Zimbabwe was a special place, and when Mugabe is finally gone, I believe it will be again.

6/27/2008 8:04 PM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...


Thank you for the tip about the Ana Mandara Resort and Spa in Nha Trang. We are planning an extended trip to Vietnam in December, and we'll look into staying there.

6/27/2008 8:07 PM  
Blogger William A. Allen III said...


Loved your most recent blog post about the relief you felt upon discovering that some of your UA miles had expired. Amen to that! It happened to me a couple of years ago on both US Airways and United, and it felt like a burden being lifted.

6/27/2008 8:14 PM  
Blogger hulananni said...

Ah..,.the Victoria Falls Hotel in the 80s!.....we were the only ones in the very large dining room....the waiter was so proud of the local wine...'the best there is'. A picnic on a small island up the Zambesi was arranged for us by hotel (and everyday) is a day of sadness for Zimbabweans.

6/27/2008 8:15 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

I suppose everyone's heard the joke about the airline pilot who was killed in his garage; he died when a 500lb bag of hotel soaps fell out of a cupboard and hit him on the head.

But seriously, as the wife of a commercial airline pilot flying international routes only, I always ask my husband to bring home the bathroom ammenities. Not only do the soaps, shampoos and lotions come in handy in our guest bathroom, last year our family proudly donated 3 yard-sized trash bags to the folks at Luke Air Force base, Glendale AZ. The AF will distribute the items in the packs of service people being sent overseas. Additionally, every few months "care packages" are sent overseas to our service people so that they can experience a little bit of the "real" world.

Lori Lamb
Peoria, AZ

6/28/2008 3:51 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

As far as finding the old fashioned stretch top dish covers, there is a store that carries them, and many other long remembered things, called the Vermont Country Store. I have no connection to them except to enjoy looking at their catalog in years past and now their web page. I hope sharing this info doesn't upset anyone.
I've been seeing lots of places putting in dispensers of shampoo etc. in the showers to be "green."
Anyone else noticed this trend?

6/28/2008 4:30 PM  
Blogger Amy J Volkers said...

Another idea for the soaps/toiletries:

I'm sure you could just donate locally...

6/29/2008 4:16 PM  

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