When you're a business womantraveler on the road with a transition day between meetings, what do you do? Fly back home and start out again before dawn the next morning? Or, take a more creative path - find the nearest lap of luxury and spoil yourself for a day?
It's tempting to take the easy path - stay on the plane and stick to the routine. Putting together the alternative, the "take care of yourself" option, requires more research, creativity and budget. Essentially the decision is this, what are you worth? Recently, I chose "pricey." And retreating to The Ballantyne Hotel and Lodge on the outskirts of Charlotte, N.C., on a rainy cold night when plane travel would have been dreadful, I decided I was worth it, despite the month's worth of groceries I spent for the refueling.
As an independent consultant who works really hard, my demands are few. So an easy morning with room service coffee and cheating the morning for a few hours are simple pleasures that break up the routine. The Southern-style professionalism in this Starwood Luxury Collection Hotel with Ritz-Carlton decor was comfortably welcoming. Thus bonuses were plentiful - marble bath and floors, the smallest room at 400 square feet, large picture windows and 10-foot ceilings, a view out over the golf course, a huge fitness center and indoor pools.
The Ballantyne is part of a 2000-acre planned community that replaced what I knew as the Harris farm out in the country when living in Charlotte as a teenager. Its commercial office park is said to be the largest speculative commercial park development in the nation, not surprising for one of the fastest-growing cities in the U.S. The immediate area caters not only to the residents attracted to the mixed-use community but the frequent business travelers in and out of Bank of America, Liberty Mutual and other high-profile corporate tenants.
Still budget-conscious, I found the $50 cab ride from the airport a bit scorching along with Charlotte's add-on taxes (sales, automatic room service fees and more) and avoided the four-diamond restaurant for a walk to the sushi bar across the parkway. You have to pay attention to details or the charges will amp up. Downtown at the Westin, where I stayed the next night on points, an $11 room service glass of wine would have been $22 by the time it was delivered with mandatory fees and taxes. The hotel was just fine all in all, with simplified more predictable business hotel decor and service, but I decided that bottled water that I had brought along would more than pay for itself.