Know before you Go: Travel tips for visiting the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island


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grand hotel exterior

Visiting the Grand Hotel is a treasured experience you’ll likely remember your whole life, and there are a few things you may want to know before you go, just so you can be prepared.

  • There’s no tipping. I know, weird, right? You expect that at a premium hotel that you have to factor in tips for everything from breathing to opening doors, but not at the Grand. You can spend those singles because there’s no tipping at dinner, the bellhops, the carriages, etc. For an island without cars, that’s the closest thing to Uber as you’ll get.
  • Go to the bathroom on the Mackinac City side. Make your potty stop before you get on the ferry. The boat ride is a short 20 minutes, but if you wait until you get to the island, I can promise you that you’ll smell the public restroom before you find it and there will be a line to get in. And then getting on the carriage ride behind the horse… and if it’s rained… well… it’s insult to injury if you’ve just exited the smelly restroom. Just sail right past all that humanity by pottying before you board.
  • Lock your bags. I know, I know… the TSA made everyone take the locks off their suitcases so no one uses them anymore. Here’s the thing though: there’s no luggage on the seated area of the ferry. Don’t even try to take your carry on with you because you’ll be subject to the (not so loud) whispers of the regulars who will tsk-tsk that you’d even dare such a thing. (And you thought airplane shaming was bad.) Also, when you board the ferry, the ferry staff will identify which bags are going to the Grand Hotel, and the bags just magically appear at the hotel. Completely awesome and convenient, right? Yes! But you are not with your bags. Also, when you check out, it’s ala cruise ship style. You’re going to leave your bags in the hallway and 2 hours later, they’ll magically appear in a tent for all the Grand Hotel bags. When we retrieved our bags, there was no attendant verifying that you are taking the correct luggage so… as long as you’re okay with your ipad hanging out in the tent all alone, you’re good. Me however, I’d like any thieves to choose another bag that’s easier to get into than mine. Super convenient service, but err on the side of caution.
  • There’s a dress code. Think country club all day long. Pack your pretty bathing suit cover up, there’s no one traipsing the halls in their bikini and barefeet. This is classy, y’all. And while I wore cropped jeans, they probably weren’t appropriate either and even paired with my wedged espedrilles, I felt a bit uncomfortable. Expect to see golf shirts, and Bermudas. Dinner will sparkle, but only if your men folk are wearing their suits or sport coats – otherwise they cannot be seated in the main dining room.
  • There’s a professional photographer at your convenience. It’s okay to leave your good camera at home. (I did.) Getting all glammed up for dinner makes for a nice holiday card photo so thankfully Grand Hotel has a talented photographer available to take that perfect family photo. The photos are available (again, ala cruise style) for purchase outside the gift shop the next morning. I recommend getting the digital files so you can print whatever sizes you want – although it is convenient to take home your prints on demand, or even order your cards on the spot.

Have you visited the Grand Hotel? What travel tips do you have for 1st time guests?

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