Know the Travel Terms

What exactly is a porte cochère or a pillow concierge? Here, we decode some common hotel lingo.

Oh, the honeymoon — the ultimate and greatest getaway ever. It’s the trip of a lifetime and because of that, quite possibly the most extravagant vacation you’ll ever experience. You’ll stay at a hotel that caters to your every whim, and indulge in spa treatments, decadent desserts and flutes of champagne. With such fancy trappings comes some special jargon. Learn the language of luxury and feel as if you were born into the fabulous life.


Although your image of Downton Abbey's Mr. Carson isn’t too far off, modern-day butlers may be male or female. Generally assigned to no more than three rooms at a time, butlers are the first line of service when it comes to meeting your expectations. They can fill in-house requests, like dinners and spa appointments, as well as handle off-site arrangements such as excursions. They are also the folks who make sure the rest of the staff — from housekeeping and room service to the beach attendants — are meeting your needs. It's a good idea to alert your butler to your preferences and desires before getting to the hotel. To that end, most resorts that offer butler service have questionnaires for you to fill out prior to your arrival. Also, let your butler know that you are on your honeymoon, and he or she may see it to it that special extras, like romantic bubble baths, chilled champagne and dinner-for-two, await you. Butler service is complimentary, though gratuities of about 5% of the room rate are customary, more for stellar service.


Much like a butler, the hotel concierge is free of charge and handles guest requests both on- and off-site. The biggest difference is the level of dedicated service. Concierges tend to be available for all hotel guests (or, in some cases, such as club floors, a certain number of guests). The other difference is that concierges rarely personally escort guests to resort appointments, like spa sessions or dinner in the main restaurant, as butlers do. In the past few years, specialized concierges have been making a big splash, with resorts offering beach, bath, romance and even pillow concierges! These titles simply mean that the hotel has a dedicated staff person to procure exactly what their title implies. As with a butler, if you plan on using the services of, say, a romance concierge to arrange a special dinner or star-gazing outing, it is best to contact the hotel prior to your arrival. Concierges are generally tipped $10 to $20 for each provided service.


Mixologists shake, stir and, yes, mix delightful concoctions of libations. Although they may have a more artisanal approach to creating cocktails, they are, simply put, bartenders. A sommelier is someone who has training in all things pertaining to wine. Taquilleros are well-versed in the world of tequila.

Porte Cochère

If you live south of the Mason- Dixon line, you may recognize this term. Many mansions and public buildings from the late 18th and 19th centuries had carriage entrances that led through into an inner courtyard. At your hotel, the term refers to the area just outside the main entrance, where you’ll find your airporttransfer pickups, as well as the meet-and-greet for off-site excursions. The staff here will also attend to your car.


In some cases, a valet does more than park your car. Dry cleaning, shoe shining and personal laundry may fall into this job description. At some resorts, the valet’s office may also receive gifts, packages and messages for guests; other hotels may use the business center or concierge for this service, so be sure to ask if you will require it.

Photo Credit: Secrets Resorts & Spas