To me, the most challenging part of travel prep is picking the right hotel. It is what I do as soon as I’ve zeroed in on a destination and firmed up my travel dates—flights come much later. Depending on whom I’m travelling with and where to, I pick the accommodation, which could be anything from a 2- to 5-star property. Regardless of a hotel’s luxury rating, here are a few things to consider before you book your stay:
1. The hotel’s overall ranking on your favorite travel website (MIne is Tripadvisor). Make sure the service you use ranks hotels based on authentic customer reviews. You can always use such websites to scan hotels based on price, star rating and availability. But it’s the overall ranking might help you find a 3-star boutique hotel that’s better than any 5-star in it’s area. You can also tell your friends about it and become a travel curator.
2. Star ratings and price don’t always reflect high quality or great location. During my first visit to the Yucatan province of Mexico, for instance, I selected a lovely 5-star hotel. But it was only when I got there that I realised it was far far away from the beach. Which brings me to my next point…
3. Always check your hotel’s location on a map. Most travel websites offer this feature. In case they don’t, look up a map online and find out where you’ll be staying, and where you’ll be travelling in that location/city, how far it is from the city centre and which restaurants are nearby. Discerning travellers are aware of their surroundings before they arrive at their destination.
4. Use travel resources to differentiate between management photos and traveller photos. If you’re picky about cleanliness and hygiene, this is a must. Often, photographs displayed by 5-star chains differ from reality; the hotel might even use old photographs if it hasn’t been renovated in a while. Traveller photos and reviews will always paint the real picture for you.
5. If you’re a frugal traveller, compare a room’s per-night price on the website with the price on the hotel’s website. You may have to pay a fee for the convenience, but it usually isn’t much. And if you’re travelling for a month or longer, you could end up saving a lot.
6. Don’t ignore traveller reviews. The dialogue between a disappointed traveller and hotel management tells you a lot about the hotel you’re about to stay at. It gives an insight into small, yet critical, details like whether there’s noisy construction work nearby or whether the hotel’s swimming pool is out of service.
7. Finally, when you check in, if you’re still dissatisfied, make notes about what went wrong and remember to share them with the community.