he heart of a luxury hotel often beats fastest in plain view. With gold keys shimmering on dark jackets, phones in constant use and service with a smile, vacations are made spectacular through the inside information and connections housed at the concierge desk.

They are the team I work with the most—often our most important Journeymakers—and I marvel at how they seamlessly track and execute as many requests as they do. In fact, concierge teams are so dialed in and helpful that I don’t bury myself in travel books as much as  I used to.

I’ve read that people find utilizing a concierge intimidating so I’d like to set the record straight. These Journeymakers can unlock a wealth of opportunities… if you let them.

They Can Make Arrangements in Advance of a Stay

Opening a dialogue with the concierge team before check-in leads to less stress in the days leading up to and during our holidays. As I type this, the concierge team at Four Seasons Hotel Denver has already arranged a nanny for my daughter and a late check-out so that I can attend my great uncle’s funeral—an unfortunate late addition to our vacation—as well as arranged for delivery of a rental car for our drive to Beaver Creek. They’ve also already advised regarding age-appropriate Denver attractions for my daughter and how to structure our itinerary. We land tomorrow and I can’t think of any details that I have to worry about thanks to these Journeymakers.

Ask Anything, But Be Specific

A good concierge will help you narrow preferences but lay them out in advance if already known, so that suggestions are a dead-on match with what you’re looking for. Do you want boutique or market shopping? Are you looking couture qipao dresses in Shanghai? How far are you willing to walk to a family-friendly Italian restaurant?

The Big Buddha and Po Lin Monastery are very popular Hong Kong attractions for a good reason.

To give you an example, during our last stay at the Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong we’d earmarked only three hours to visit the Big Buddha before my (much-needed) spa appointment. I told the concierge exactly what we wanted to do and he swiftly secured VIP dining reservations (which I didn’t even know existed and I lived in Hong Kong) at the Po Lin Monastery, pre-bought our tickets for the glass-bottomed cable car (skipping a major queue), rushed us into a taxi because the MTR train would take to long and told us what time to depart the area. And, I made it back to the spa with one minute to spare!

Restaurant Reservations Are a Specialty

If requesting restaurant reservations, do ask what the concierge personally likes to order. They typically know the places they recommend quite well—how else can you send a discerning guest there—and can secure excellent tables as well as hard-to-get-reservations at the hottest restaurants.

We asked our Hotel Regina Paris concierge for a brasserie with both escargot and amazing French onion soup. And, that’s exactly what we got at Chez Flottes.

French onion soup at a Paris brasserie called Chez Flottes

They’re Expert Problem Solvers

Did you lose a passport? Is there a medication that you need? I’ll never forget the kindness of Akhil, the concierge at Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Marunouchi. My daughter had motion sickness trouble on our inbound flight to Asia and I happened to ask if he could direct me to a chemist for medication before our departure. Presaging correctly that I wouldn’t be able to read the package, this Journeymaker left the hotel to get it for us. In addition, he even asked the chemist for the correct dosage based on my daughter’s age.

If You Have a Plan Already, Tell Them Anyway

Exhausted from a day of shopping, we stopped in the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong Executive Club for a drink and snacks. A privilege of Executive Club levels often includes a dedicated concierge. As we passed her desk, she asked what we were up to the following day, and I happened to mention we were headed to Ocean Park’s Panda Keeper for a day program. “Do you have tickets already,” was met with my reply of, “I was going to just book them online.” And, before my wine (pictured at the top) was half-empty she presented tickets that could be billed to our room at no extra charge. Perfect.

Ocean Park in Hong Kong offers a Panda Keeper for a Day program that we've done twice!

Ask About Queue Skipping Opportunities

I always ask whether or not local attractions offer special experiences to book that either skip queues or enhance the visit. More often than not, this need is presaged and presented to me in advance, but you it never hurts to ask just in case.

Tell Them About Special Occasions

Tap the concierge for help when in need of extra flair to recognize a special occasion, for example. If you can dream it—from simple to extravagant—a luxury hotel concierge can help make it a reality.

In fact, our next trip to Hong Kong ends one day before my daughter’s 9th birthday so while writing this post, it occurred to me that I should arrange a little gathering with her friends there at Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong (which was her first home and where we’re likely to be in residence).

Journeymakers throughout the hotel usually shower her with little gifts anyway but why not make it a party?

Luxury hotel concierge desks can help you celebrate a special occasion, or send treats just because.

But, when you really want to jazz up an occasion, a concierge can send you to dinner in a Rolls Royce Phantom, arrange helicopters, organize private boutique shopping experiences and then some.

Thank Them

I owe many thanks to the various concierge teams I’ve worked especially since I’ve become a mother. While gratuities and gifts are one way, I’ve been guilty of checking out of a hotel so quickly that I’ve forgotten to swing by to simply say a face-to-face, “Thank you!”

And, when that happens (or even if it doesn’t), I can type out a short note of thanks American Express Travel’s new Journeymakers website. Then, American Express Travel will actually mail these notes to the chosen Journeymakers in the form of a postcard. I absolutely love this idea and encourage you to take advantage of it!

A luxury hotel concierge can unlock a wealth of opportunities to take advantage of during a vacation... if you let them. Here's how.

What extraordinary arrangements has a concierge made for you lately?

*This post is brought to you in partnership with American Express Travel.

Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide, like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai, that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).

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