8 Crafty Ways to Make Your Hotel Room Feel Like Home

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iStock

After a long day spent exploring a new place, nothing feels nicer than coming home to a spacious, comfortable hotel room. But that’s hardly the case for travelers on a budget, who instead get stuck with small bathrooms, thin walls, and old mattresses. For those times you’re not lodging in luxury, a little preparation is all it takes to transform your hotel room into a cozy haven. 

1. LIGHT A CANDLE.

It's hard to get comfortable in a place that still smells like the last people who slept there. Consider picking up a scented candle that reminds you of home to personalize your otherwise bland room. Just make sure to check with the front desk before lighting it, and be careful not to set off any smoke alarms when blowing it out.

2. PACK YOUR OWN COFFEE. 

Even hotels with bare-bones amenities understand that caffeine is a basic human right. Instead of brewing the generic, individually packaged stuff provided by the hotel, pack your favorite blend in a plastic baggie. The familiar scent of your go-to coffee will make waking up in a strange place a little more tolerable. 

3. STREAM YOUR FAVORITE SHOWS.

When staying at a hotel, pass on the pay-per-view and instead take advantage of the streaming services you're already paying for. If your room's television has an HDMI port, all you need is an HDMI cable or a cordless media streamer to set yourself up for a night of binge-watching—without the surprise bill the next morning.

4. BYOB (BRING YOUR OWN BLANKET)

Hotel bedding is often bulky, starchy, and tucked too tightly—and that's a best-case scenario. Forego the provided comforter and pack some of your favorite items from home for an easier night's sleep: Your favorite pillow and your softest blanket can make all the difference. And if you only have room for a single stuffed animal, we won't judge. 

5. THINK AHEAD BY BRINGING A POWER STRIP.

The bane of every modern traveler's existence is finding places to plug in all their devices. Instead of performing impromptu feng shui to utilize every available outlet in your room, simplify your life by picking up a power strip. No one should have to choose between charging their phone and keeping it by their bed.

6. KEEP YOUR FAVORITE DRINK ON HAND.

When returning to your hotel room after an exhausting day, nothing sounds better than relaxing with your favorite nightcap. This is the same reason why so many hotel guests succumb to high mini bar prices. If you pick up your preferred drink beforehand, that $14 mini bottle of vodka won't seem as tempting.

7. INVEST IN A WI-FI BASE.

This is a smart move for frequent travelers who end up paying hotel Wi-Fi fees on a regular basis. With a portable Wi-Fi base of your own you will no longer be at the mercy of unfair charges and elusive passwords. A life of guaranteed free Wi-Fi is definitely one worth living. 

8. ASK FOR DISHES. 

Most hotels are more than willing to provide dishes to guests who ask for them. This is a smart way to encourage yourself to eat the leftovers waiting in your mini-fridge instead of going out. It might even trick you into feeling like you're eating a home-cooked meal. 

9 Regional Pizza Toppings Worth a Try

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iStock

Some people can become so devoted to their favorite specific pizza toppings, that many online ordering apps allow you to preset your preferences with the expectation they’re never going to change.

Granted, pepperoni and mushroom with extra cheese never fails to satisfy. But in honor of National Pizza Week (which kicks off today), try ordering one of these regional specialty toppings that might totally change your pizza perspective.

1. Truffles // New York City

Fall is truffle season, and New York’s restaurants and pizzerias love to take full advantage of the fluffy fungi to add flavor. As supplies are shipped through the city's artery of eateries, you'll find several locations that add the shaved delicacy to pies. Yelp reviewers are fond of Song E Napule in the West Village.

2. Lobster //Boston


Karyn Christner via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

It’s no great surprise that crustaceans who were occupying the coast just a few hours prior to being served are going to be a town specialty. But Boston does a great job of incorporating shellfish into their Italian-inspired fare, too: One of the most notable dishes is at Scampo inside the Liberty Hotel (and former jail), where chef Lydia Shire takes a thin crust pizza and douses it with heavy cream, garlic, and the meat of an entire two-pound lobster.

3. Provel Cheese // St. Louis, Missouri

If you think you’ve tried every possible cheese variety on your crust, you might have missed St. Louis’s proprietary variation: Provel, a highly-processed blend of Swiss, provolone, and cheddar. Gooey, waxy, and thick, it can be found at area chain Imo’s, which also doubles as the cheese’s distributor.

4. Crab // Baltimore, Maryland


jeffreyw via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

While other area pie shops toss crab on their menu, no less an authority than Zagat declared Matthew's Pizza's crab deep dish pie to be well worth a road trip. It’s pizza so good that it helped fuel writer David Simon through a stint producing HBO’s The Wire. Simon once said "it’s unlike anything that calls itself pizza anywhere in the world."

5. Mashed potato // New Haven, Connecticut

New Haven was already renowned for its pizza before the proprietors of BAR decided to take the concept of comfort food to a new level. Their mashed potato pizza is topped with light, whipped spuds and bacon bits.

6. Salad // Los Angeles


David J via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

It seems like a cliché: of course image-obsessed L.A. would spare calories by dousing their pizzas with lettuce. But looks can be deceiving. Grey Block Pizza in Santa Monica uses covers its dough with cheese, onion, and sour cream, which is then topped with a chopped salad, lemon-olive oil dressing, and a layer of fresh avocados. It’s thick, crunchy, and has no ability to spare your waistline.

7. Barbeque // Memphis, Tennessee

Barbeque chicken pizza is everywhere, but if you want it done right, head to Memphis and opt for the pork. Coletta’s—the city's oldest restaurant—takes a standard crust and drowns it in pulled pork and their signature barbeque sauce. The pies are so good that Elvis Presley kept a running tab he’d have Colonel Parker (his manager) pay off monthly. If you’re not local, they’ll be happy to ship one to you.

8. UNCOOKED, A.K.A. OHIO VALLEY STYLE // STEUBENVILLE, OHIO


Daniel Oines via Flickr // CC BY 2.0

While some bloggers have compared this practice to topping pizza with a Lunchables box, there’s no denying it’s an intriguing take on preparing a pie. Pizzerias in Steubenville are fond of cooking the dough and then adding uncooked cheese and toppings post-mortem, allowing the heat from the crust to slowly melt the cheese or using a takeout box to effectively steam-cook the top.

9. Kangaroo //Sydney, Australia

The adventurous meat lover may want to venture to Sydney, where local establishments like The Australian Hotel offer pies topped with rich kangaroo meat. Slices of 'roo tenders are marinated in a pepper and onion olive sauce. If that's too tame for you, the Hotel can also serve up a Salt Water Crocodile slice.

Google Assistant's New 'Interpreter' Mode Can Translate 27 Languages in Real Time

Google
Google

Move over, Google Translate. The Google Assistant's new Interpreter mode can translate spoken French, Spanish, and 25 other languages into English (and vice versa) in real time, according to Gizmodo. The new technology, which will eventually be rolled out to Google Assistant devices and third-party smart displays, brings us one step closer to having a universal translator capable of interpreting all the world's languages—a device previously only seen in sci-fi worlds like Star Trek and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Currently, the Interpreter mode is only being used at three hotels in New York, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. During a demo at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, a Google employee approached the concierge and asked questions in German. The concierge, equipped with a Google Home Hub, used a voice command to prompt the device to go into interpreter mode. From there, the two were able to carry on a conversation back and forth. Although one error was made, the translated text appeared on the smart display, which provided enough context clues to figure out what the intended message was, according to WIRED.

Technology reporter Shannon Liao at The Verge tested it out with Mandarin. She writes that although it's not perfect, it's still "a pretty big improvement from not being able to understand a foreign language." One common complaint is the lag—users must wait a couple seconds for the Interpreter to issue a translation.

However, Google's product manager, Vincent Lacey, told Mashable that the Interpreter mode is faster and more advanced than that of Google's Pixel Buds—ear buds that provide real-time translations, but only to the person wearing them. With the Interpreter, all parties to the conversation will be able to understand what's being said.

Following the pilot phase at the three hotels, the Interpreter will be available on all Google Home devices as well as third-party smart displays by the end of the month, a Google spokesperson tells Mental Floss. It will also be rolled out to third-party smart speakers and mobile phones in the near future, according to Google. Interpreter Mode supports the following languages: Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.

[h/t Gizmodo]

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