Author Archives: Today Living Group

Welcome to 2019! What will you do for vacation this year?

It may be cold, but summer’s not far off

If you’re like most people, you spend the holidays both reflecting on the year that was and thinking about the plans you have for the year to come. Which means that even though it’s cold outside, your thoughts may be turning to this year’s vacation(s).

If you’re thinking of spending time in Toronto as part of your vacation this year, you should probably consider executive suites (also known as ‘extended stay apartments’ or ‘furnished suites’).

Why think about executive suites for vacation?

  • You get (a lot) more for your money. Even the 2-star downtown Toronto hotels are listing summer ‘deals’ at $250/night, making them prohibitive for more than a night or two. For the cost of 3 nights in a small Marriott room, you can get a week in a (bigger, more attractive) downtown condo
  • You get a lot more space. While we do have some studios, we also have lots of 1, 2 and 3-bedroom suites, which means you can bring the kids (or the in-laws, or friends) and not have to eat snacks while you’re sitting on the bed.
  • Cleanliness. You don’t have to be a neat freak to feel a little icky about the fact that any hotel room has probably had thousands of guests before you. Furnished suites, on the other hand, have far fewer guests and are refurbished regularly. (Ours also have proprietary bedbug-safe linens, pillows and encased mattresses, which hotels just don’t offer.)
  • You can eat better. Toronto has all kinds of great restaurants, and you’ll want to try lots of them. But even the most hardcore foodies often prefer breakfast in their own kitchen, and sometimes it’s nice to have a homecooked dinner, even on vacation. Our suites have fully-equipped, full-size kitchens, which mean you can eat what you want, when you want (and for a lot less than room service).
  • Entertaining. When you’re on vacation, sometimes you just want to hang out and have a glass of wine with friends. Hotel rooms make it difficult to relax (someone always has to perch on the end of the bed), but furnished suites mean we can have appetizers and drinks ‘at home’ before we head out for the evening.
  • It’s easier to telecommute – and still remain productive. Our furnished suites have more amenities and room than most hotel rooms, which means that it’s easier to set up a temporary office. Many of our guests who come for a month or more tell us that the ‘apartment’ environment is more conducive to getting work done, which allows them to extend their stay.

So go ahead – enjoy the cold weather, the skiing and the snow. But it’s okay to daydream about the summer to come, and how you could be spending it in Toronto this year.

Thank you for supporting our food drive!

Helping out this holiday season

We delivered a car full of food to the Toronto Fire Department yesterday!

Once again, thanks so much to everyone who helped us make a contribution to the community this year. We appreciate your help!

Corporate housing: Definitely not a hotel

Today Living Group corporate housing

People who travel a lot for work will tell you that no matter how great the bathroom is, or how comfortable the bed, staying in hotels all the time can leave you feeling drained and stressed out. A nice bathroom just can’t compensate for the feeling of being stuck in a small box of a room night after night, eating expensive (and not all that healthy) room service or takeout food.

Furnished corporate housing can help:

  • Typical suites offer much more space than standard hotel rooms, making travellers feel more like they’re staying in an apartment rather than an anonymous hotel room
  • Having a proper living area separate from the bedroom allows guests to relax in the evenings the way they might at home, giving them an opportunity to de-stress before going back to work the next day
  • Fully-equipped kitchens mean guests can prepare their own food. More importantly, it helps them stick to whatever schedule they might have at home (i.e. having a kale smoothie for breakfast or warm milk before bed), which can also contribute to less stress
  • Suites allow for spouses or even, in some cases, pets to accompany guests, which reduces the isolation and stress that many business travellers can feel when they’re on the road alone for long periods of time
  • Suites encourage travellers to ‘settle in’ more than in a hotel
  • Suites offer many of the same amenities of good hotels, like weekly or biweekly housekeeping, linen service and thoughtful design

It’s hard for business travellers to be their most productive if they’re feeling tired, stressed or missing the people and comforts of home. Furnished corporate housing is a great way to set your employees up for success by making them as comfortable as possible.

 

Corporate travel: How to look like the smartest HR Manager in town

Money saving tips for HR professionals

If you work in HR, you know that one of the biggest challenges in your job is convincing the rest of the organization that you can make a real contribution to the bottom line. Too often, HR is seen as a ‘cost center’ rather than a ‘revenue center’ – and that can mean the HR department isn’t taken as seriously as other departments, or given a seat at the strategic boardroom table.

So how can you look like you’re just as focused on the bottom line and making a contribution to the overall health of the organization? If your company spends money on corporate travel, try implementing these 5 money-saving strategies – and then make sure everyone knows just how much money you just added to the bottom line!

5 ways to save money on corporate travel

1. Establish well-defined policies. Too many companies just let employees ‘use their own good judgement’ when it comes to travel-related expenses. But without sufficient oversight, this can lead to $200 steak dinners and late-night raiding of expensive mini-bars. By establishing some clear guidelines (like specific per-diem amounts, expectations regarding taxis vs public transit, etc.), you can control costs without taking draconian measures.

2. Negotiate, negotiate, negotiate. With all the emphasis on bargain-hotel websites these days, you might be surprised to learn that the corporate sales departments of major hotel chains are more than willing to provide discounted rates even for mid-sized organizations. If your staff travels to a variety of cities throughout the year, one call to a hotel chain that serves the regions you travel to most often could save you 20% or more on annual hotel costs.

3. Consider corporate credit cards. Using corporate credit cards for travel expenses – either providing them to employees who travel or using them to book travel from head office – delivers three key benefits: First, they provide you with better annualized data on where you’re spending travel dollars, which can help you cut costs; second, they reduce the reliance on cumbersome expense forms (which some employees seem to take forever to submit); and with a little research, you can find one which provides cash back or other benefits that can further cut costs.

4. Talk to the purchasing department. Your purchasing department is experienced in researching and negotiating the best prices from all kinds of suppliers – they may be able to help you find additional ways to save money on travel costs, or even help you with some hard-nosed negotiation. What’s more, they may already be working with travel-related suppliers who are motivated to provide deeper discounts in exchange for the promise of exclusivity.

5. Investigate corporate housing. If you have multiple staff members visiting the same city several times during the year, or you often host visitors from offices in other cities, it might be time to consider furnished corporate housing. In Toronto, corporate housing can be half as expensive as hotels, while providing guests with the ability to make their own meals – which can put a stop to those $200 steak dinners!

It’s freezing cold outside. What a great time to think about your summer vacation.

Today Living Group furnished suites in Toronto

It’s time to start thinking about what you’ll do in 2018

If you’re like most people, you spend the holidays both reflecting on the year that was and thinking about the plans you have for the year to come. Which means that even though it’s cold outside, your thoughts may be turning to this year’s vacation(s).

If you’re thinking of spending time in Toronto as part of your vacation this year, you should probably consider executive suites (also known as ‘extended stay apartments’ or ‘furnished suites’).

Why think about executive suites for vacation?

  • You get (a lot) more for your money. Even the 2-star downtown Toronto hotels are listing summer ‘deals’ at $250/night, making them prohibitive for more than a night or two. For the cost of 3 nights in a small Marriott room, you can get a week in a (bigger, more attractive) downtown condo
  • You get a lot more space. While we do have some studios, we also have lots of 1, 2 and 3-bedroom suites, which means you can bring the kids (or the in-laws, or friends) and not have to eat snacks while you’re sitting on the bed.
  • Cleanliness. You don’t have to be a neat freak to feel a little icky about the fact that any hotel room has probably had thousands of guests before you. Furnished suites, on the other hand, have far fewer guests and are refurbished regularly. (Ours also have proprietary bedbug-safe linens, pillows and encased mattresses, which hotels just don’t offer.)
  • You can eat better. Toronto has all kinds of great restaurants, and you’ll want to try lots of them. But even the most hardcore foodies often prefer breakfast in their own kitchen, and sometimes it’s nice to have a homecooked dinner, even on vacation. Our suites have fully-equipped, full-size kitchens, which mean you can eat what you want, when you want (and for a lot less than room service).
  • Entertaining. When you’re on vacation, sometimes you just want to hang out and have a glass of wine with friends. Hotel rooms make it difficult to relax (someone always has to perch on the end of the bed), but furnished suites mean we can have appetizers and drinks ‘at home’ before we head out for the evening.
  • It’s easier to telecommute – and still remain productive. Our furnished suites have more amenities and room than most hotel rooms, which means that it’s easier to set up a temporary office. Many of our guests who come for a month or more tell us that the ‘apartment’ environment is more conducive to getting work done, which allows them to extend their stay.

So go ahead – enjoy the cold weather, the skiing and the snow. But it’s okay to daydream about the summer to come, and how you could be spending it in Toronto this year.

 

6 tips for finding the right corporate housing/furnished suite/executive suites

The trick is finding a partner you can trust

How to choose the right corporate housing

So, you’ve been assigned to a project team in another city for the next 2 months. You’re excited, because it’s a great opportunity to build your skills and create relationships with some senior people, not to mention get to know a world-class city in a way that just isn’t possible when you just visit for a vacation. But the thought of spending all your time in a cramped hotel room – or, worse, traveling back and forth all the time – is putting a damper on your enthusiasm.

Corporate housing (also known as ‘executive suites’ or ‘extended stay suites’) is a great option for a short-term relocation – but how do you choose the right one, especially if you have to do it online, without being able to check out the space in person?

Here are 6 tips to make it easier:

  1. Ask around. Referrals are one of the best ways to find a great place to stay, because people who’ve been through the process can give you more detailed, relevant information (“I know you love eating out – this place is within walking distance to all kinds of great restaurants…”) – and will be honest if a particular place didn’t deliver a good experience.
  2. Talk to your HR or accounting department. Chances are, they’ve arranged short-term accommodations for other employees in the past, and they can steer you in the right direction.
  3. Make a list of the features most important to you. Do you like to be able to walk to work, shopping and entertainment, or do you need parking? Are you passionate about working out and would appreciate a fitness center in the building? Do you need a large area to set up a home office? Will you want to have a spouse or friends to stay during your assignment? The more you know about what you’re looking for, the easier it’ll be to make a shortlist of possibilities.
  4. Set aside some time to Google. Give yourself some time to Google ‘furnished apartments’ or ‘corporate housing’ in the neighbourhood you’d most like to live. The more you know about what’s on the market, the better equipped you’ll be to make a decision you can live with for 2 months.
  5. Make sure you see all the photos – and a floor plan. Photographs – especially small ones online – can be deceiving. What looks like a huge, light-filled living room in one photo angle can turn out to be a poky, privacy-free closet when seen in person. (Plus, the more photos a company provides, the more likely it is they haven’t got anything to hide about their properties.)
  6. Talk to a real person. It can be tempting, when you’re busy and just want to get things done, to book a suite online without talking to anyone. That’s fine for a night or two in hotel – where it doesn’t matter that much if the room turns out to be terrible – but it’s more dangerous when choosing a place to stay for an extended period. Even a 10-minute phone call will give you a good idea of what you can expect in terms of reliability and service when you’re actually in your new, temporary, home.

BONUS TIP: When you do make your arrangements, don’t forget to get all the details in writing!

6 tips for eating healthier when you’re away from home

It’s really just a matter of paying a little more attention

How to eat better on a trip

If you’re like most people, you’re probably familiar with the ‘vacation five’ – you know, those 5 (or 10) pounds you put on when you’re on holiday and not able to regulate your meals or portions they way you would at home.

Five or ten pounds doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you’re taking one or two vacations a year, plus traveling regularly for business, those pounds can start to add up. The worst part isn’t that your clothes don’t fit or that you don’t like what you see in the mirror – it’s that travel, especially for business, can take a lot out of you, and it’s even harder when you’re heavier than usual and not in good shape.

Of course, part of the fun of traveling is eating great food, so we’re not suggesting you take a melba-toast-and-grapefruit diet with you everywhere. But a few simple habits will help ensure that traveling doesn’t take more of a toll on you than it should.

1. Eat a good breakfast, and don’t skip right to a big brunch.

When you’re on vacation, there’s a tendency to sleep late and then fill up on brunch; when you’re travelling for business, you may just grab a coffee and then fill up on the pastries offered during morning meetings. Neither of these will set you up for a productive day. Instead, try to make time for foods that will set you up for success: Oatmeal, milk, fruit, even a handful of raisins and nuts (which you can bring with you) will provide the protein and fibre you need to get you through the morning without being tempted to snack on high-carb or high-fat items. (PROTIP: Rolled oats takes only about 2 minutes in the microwave and will leave you full for hours. Really – only 2 minutes.)

2. Skip the big dinners.

On business trips, you may have to go out for dinner with clients or co-workers, and that can often mean a big meal at a steakhouse or Italian restaurant. On vacation, it’s tempting to try all the great restaurants in the area. But several big dinners in a row are a ticket to weight gain, poor sleep, and general sluggishness. By all means, go out to dinner – but look for the lighter options on the menu. You don’t have to eat steak every night, even if it is on the expense account.

3. It’s okay to say no to coffee sometimes

You may feel like you’ve been drinking coffee all day, but coffee’s a diuretic, so you’ll end up feeling dehydrated and exhausted (but jittery). Limit your coffee intake, keep water handy, and consider ordering a green tea with soy milk (for extra protein if everyone makes a Starbucks run.

4. Get some exercise.

This doesn’t mean you have to do calesthenics in a hotel gym. If you’re on vacation, make time to walk (instead of taking a cab or driving) to see the sights. If you’re on a business trip, try walking to the office or taking a stroll after dinner. You’ll sleep better, too.

5. Limit the alcohol.

For some people, ‘vacation’ is synonymous with ‘drinking’ (this can be true for some people on business trips, too, though this is less common these days). But when the margaritas start at noon and continue til midnight, you’ll not only gain weight, but you’ll feel too exhausted to exercise the next day.

6. Make your own meals.

If you’re staying a regular hotel, this can be challenging. But if you’re staying in a furnished corporate apartment with a full kitchen, it’s much easier to ensure you’ve got access to healthy breakfast foods and that you aren’t ordering pizzas at 10pm.

6 Business Trip Sleep Tips

How to get a better sleep on business trips

Traveling is glamorous. Being exhausted isn’t.

Traveling for business starts out feeling kind of glamorous – until you have to fly across 3 time zones in 2 days and can’t remember whether it’s 7am or 7pm. When you fly between time zones, your internal clock gets out of sync with your day-night cycle, and sleep patterns get disturbed. Which means that just when you need to be most productive, you’re not at your best. Studies show that even one night’s lost sleep can have an impact on productivity, and there’s even a demonstrated link between sleep deprivation and the kind of rudeness that can impact your career.

So how can you ensure you’re less tired on your next trip?

Try these tips:

1. Plan ahead. Anything you can do to avoid last-minute travel stress (packing ahead of time, finishing presentations before you leave, printing your boarding pass online before you get to the airport, getting some exercise) will ensure your body isn’t using extra resources managing stress hormones – and that will help you conserve energy and ultimately sleep better when you get the opportunity.

2. Drink water – not alcohol and coffee. Dehydration can make you feel more tired and out of sorts. Drinking water will help you combat the drying effects of recycled airplane air, while alcohol and caffeine, which are diuretics, will make it worse.

3. Clear your head. If you’re prone to sinus trouble or allergies, flying and staying in unfamiliar climates can make it worse, which can lead to poor sleep. Speak to your doctor about the best ways to keep your sinuses clear when you’re travelling. (Many pharmacists recommend you use a saline irrigation system to help keep sinuses clear and prevent dryness.)

4. Light therapy. The more daylight you can get during the day while you’re working (either in the office or in your hotel room, or by taking a walk at lunch), the better your circadian rhythms will respond, which will help cue your body to sleep soundly when it gets dark.

5. Ask about ‘quiet rooms’. There’s nothing worse than having only 6 hours in which to sleep and losing 3 of those because the people down the hall are partying like it’s 1999. Some hotels offer designated quiet areas or floors – ask for these when booking. You might also consider alternate accommodations, like executive suites, which are less likely to have rowdy neighbours.

6. Eat right and exercise. It can be tempting to go out for drinks and a big fancy dinner with colleagues after you’ve finished your meetings, but you’ll feel better – and sleep better – if you eat healthily before 8pm and take a walk around the block before settling down for the night.

Think beyond the hotel room

Our clients say that one of the reasons they choose furnished suites rather than regular hotel rooms when they’re traveling is because they can establish more of a sense of ‘home’. Corporate housing allows them to cook their own meals (no weird restaurant food to keep them up at night), provides a proper bedroom, is often quieter than a bustling hotel, and often has even better amenities (like fitness centers or media rooms) than hotels. Just something to consider!

 

Family all coming to town? Executive suites may be the answer.

furnished accommodations are good for families

My aunt and uncle live just outside of New York City, but two of their children still live here in Toronto.

A couple of summers ago, their daughter got married, and my aunt wanted to be in town more often to go to dress fittings and food tastings and bridal showers. At the same time, their son had a new baby, so they wanted to be available to see the new arrival and help the new parents for the first few weeks. The distance between New York and Toronto doesn’t seem all that huge – until parents want to be able to be with their children, and grandchildren, for traditionally significant moments.

Neither of their children had a spare bedroom, so my uncle and aunt spent a fortune on hotels and on travelling back and forth between Toronto and NYC. At that time of year, even two-star hotels in downtown Toronto are easily $250/night, and of course all the airlines had bumped up their prices for the holiday season. By the time their daughter was married and the baby was a month old, they’d spent almost $10,000 on hotels and airfare.

This is where furnished corporate housing can be a lifesaver. A one-bedroom, furnished executive condo – right in the heart of the city, convenient to everything, including the island airport – could have cost them less than $3500 for a whole month. They could have saved more than $6000, between the hotel, room service, and all the extra money they spent on flights back and forth – and ended up with much more time to spend with their kids and new grandchild.

The good news? They’re expecting a second grandchild later this year, and have already booked a month at one of the TLG suites downtown!

Furnished apartments can take some of the stress out of long-term hospital stays

Today Living Group healthcare

Recently, a friend told me how worried she was about her mother. “It looks like my father’s going to be in hospital for another two months,” she said. “But it’s taking my mother 90 minutes to drive in to the city every morning. She’s 72 – she can’t keep that up for two more months.”

As the population ages, these situations are becoming increasingly common: One spouse is stuck in a specialized hospital for an extended period, and the other spouse is forced to commute back and forth every day, making an already stressful situation even worse.

Furnished apartments make sense in all kinds of situations

Many people think of furnished accommodation – often known as ‘executive suites’ – as something only used by business travellers or divorcing spouses, but our suites are a great option in many healthcare-related situations, too. Many of our suites have easy access to hospitals (some within walking distance), which means less time and stress lost to travel. Corporate housing suites have kitchens, so the non-hospitalized family members aren’t reliant on expensive (and sometimes nutritionally lacking) hospital or takeout food. Most important for many of our guests is that suites are larger than hotel rooms, which means that additional family members can come on weekends for a few days without extra cost, or even advance planning.

Here are just a few of the healthcare-related reasons guests have stayed with us recently:

  • The mother of a woman pregnant with triplets who was hospitalized with pre-eclampsia for 6 weeks before the birth of her children. The mother was able to stay around the corner and spend whole days with her daughter – which made a real difference to the daughter’s state of mind
  • A 50-something couple from Sudbury. The wife was being treated for brain cancer at St Margaret’s Hospital, and while she didn’t need to stay in the hospital, she did have to go there several times a week. She had the support she needed; they both experienced a lot less stress by not having to make multiple trips back and forth
  • A young woman and her mother stayed in one of our suites for a month while they recovered from cosmetic surgery procedures. They had come to Toronto to be treated by a well-regarded plastic surgeon, and staying in town made it easy for them to go to their follow-up visits. And it meant they didn’t have to do much housekeeping or driving – they were able to focus on their recovery
  • The adult children of an elderly couple who were in the process of transitioning from a large family home (which they had to sell) into a retirement home. Having access to an apartment in town for a month meant that the adult children could give their parents the support they needed without facing long drives home late at night – and the siblings told us they really enjoyed having time together the way they did as kids

When someone in your family is seriously ill or hospitalized, sometimes the biggest stress isn’t worrying about their health – it’s about how to manage the driving, the stress, the finances and the emotional health of both the sick person and everyone around them. Furnished accommodation can’t solve every problem, but it can certainly reduce some of the stress.