I was recently chatting with a friend who doesn’t travel much. I asked her what she’d be unsure about if she were to plan a trip, and the first thing she said was, “How do I choose a hotel?” She seemed a bit overwhelmed by all the variables that come into play, and safety was a concern as well.
Since I’ve been traveling for a while now, I hadn’t even really thought about the details of that answer. I just kinda do it and go with my gut.
So how do we figure this out for real, though? Ta-da, a post is born! I’ve had my share of mistakes, which include accommodation regrets; so when I plan, I am kind of fumbling through it too. But each time you try it, you get better at it, and I’ve picked up some tips along the way.
I tend to gravitate toward smaller, more boutique accommodations or otherwise unusual places, like bed-and-breakfasts, hotels retrofitted in other kinds of buildings, or even fancy hostels. Mostly because every single part of travel has the potential to be fun and picture-worthy to me, so I want my accommodation to be a little weird. My mom, on the other hand, goes for the chain hotels so that it’s one less thing to worry about when she arrives, which is totally fine too. Figure out your style, and have fun!
But without the chain names lending credibility, I really have to start from scratch each time. I like to do all my planning over the course of several weeks or months if there is time. I will start a list of any places that interest me, and later compare them and choose one. Here are some methods I use to search.
I might use search terms like “unusual hotels in [city name]” or even just the destination by itself, to see what comes up. Pinterest is so visual, that you really will get the coolest and oddest ones through this method. They also might be the most expensive too, though. Maybe. But no matter what, photos really help me decide where I want to spend my nights.
This is a fantastic way to find neat hotels or hostels, but it’s sort of a side factor of just googling for destination info. Most bloggers will hide their hotel recommendations among more substantial info, so you’ll have to read lots of non-accommodation-related text in order to find the pertinent information on where to stay. But the other stuff is almost always super helpful to your trip as well, so it’s okay. I like this method, because getting a personal review from a fellow traveler really lends credibility.
Hotels.com lets you put in your destination and dates, along with any other filters you might need, and you can see everything on a map. For visual people like me, this is beyond helpful. You can see how close each hotel is to highways, attractions, metro stations, etc. And they have the pins color-coded to show how well each matches your requirements. If you’ve been mapping your other desired sites as you’ve been planning, then you’ll know what’s nearby what.
Review Sites like TripAdvisor
This is usually one of my last steps, once I’ve found a place I’m leaning towards. TripAdvisor is great for reviews, because there are just so many of them. This way, the odd outlying review doesn’t hold as much weight. If there are just a few bad ones complaining about dumb stuff, you can usually discount them as people who are really hard to please and have too high of expectations for what they’re paying. If people are talking about bed bugs, then run the other way.
I’m fairly easy to please; I need it to be clean, quiet, temperature-controlled, and reasonably-sized, and that’s it. Some people just expect too much, and think that a living room-sized room isn’t big enough for their fancy selves, or they expected to sleep on a mattress made of cloud. No matter how you lean, the reviews should tell you what you need to know.
Reservation sites like Booking.com
I like Booking.com because that’s where I started, and I have an account there. It’s familiar, and the cancellation timelines are usually really good. You don’t even have to pay until you get there if you don’t want to. This is a site that I trust. I tend to book this way rather than directly with the hotel, as my rights feel more protected.
Things to look for:
- Price (duh)
- Cancellation timeline and fees
- Breakfast included?
- How close is it to transportation and other sites of interest?
- Good reviews?
- Needed amenities (parking, fitness room, coffee maker, wifi, etc.)
- Air conditioning if traveling in hot weather
- Bed setup
- Check-in/check-out times
Did I miss anything?
The search for a place to sleep shouldn’t be too complicated, but it can seem like a lot of brain work if you aren’t used to it. But it’s just another part of the fun of planning! Happy travels!