For many people, choosing a hotel is simply part of preparing a trip, it is a decision like any other, just like buying a plane or train ticket! After all, what matters is what we do on the spot in the city we visit, right?
Actually, not quite! Good accommodation can make your trip even more enjoyable… and a bad experience can ruin your stay. This begs the question: how to choose a hotel? And whether you were looking for a hotel in Los Angeles, Paris or New York.
The choice of hotel, essential for a successful trip
You may not realize it, but choosing a quality hotel allows you to feel welcome, for example, to start the day with a hearty breakfast, to spend a good night’s sleep that allows you to better enjoy your days, to rest in a comforting cocoon in the evening, to receive plenty of advice and tips to enjoy your stay… Small things, in themselves… but which do a lot of good when you think about your trip as a whole!
On the other hand, poor accommodation can ruin your holiday.
I remember staying with a friend in a youth hostel when I was a student, the staff treated the travellers as less than nothing and I was treated to a wonderful “You slut, move your bag” as I lined up in the hallway in front of the reception for check-in. I still remember it and I especially remember how much it hurt me and ruined my early holiday.
Choosing a mediocre hotel sometimes means having bad nights of sleep because the neighbourhood or neighbours are noisy, being in front of the door late at night because the reception is closed and the night watchman does not answer, having the smell of pipes in the room or a bed with questionable hygiene, dying of hot or cold because you cannot control the heating or the air conditioning’…
I even had a few funny anecdotes: for example, I stayed in a hotel where the toilet bowl had been installed too close to the door, you literally had to twist yourself to enter the room ^^
It’s been a long time since I’ve made any “bad choices” so I’ll share with you some tips learned over the years to find the ideal hotel!
1. Choose the hotel… with transport in mind
The first criterion for choosing a hotel is often the budget – which is booked in advance or at the last minute. We have an approximate idea of the amount we don’t want to exceed… and we try to find the best hotel within the fixed budget!
There are almost always interesting promotional offers online, either on the hotel’s own website or through a third party website.
We sometimes have breakfast offered, a luxury room at the price of a standard room, free cancellation until the last minute, deferred payment, not to mention special offers like Last Minute offers on its hotels, with the concept of “Top Secret Hotels”: we do not provide you with the name of the hotel but simply all the information about its services and location… and in return for this mystery, you enjoy very attractive rates!
But if I can give you any advice before I throw you on the price, it’s to think about hotel AND transport. Sometimes you can find a good hotel but the flight prices are inaccessible… or the hotels are already full by the time the flight reservations open!
I have seen it, for example, with the Nuremberg Christmas market: many people book hotels far in advance… and when flights open, it is difficult to find an affordable hotel.
Depending on your destination and your flexibility in dates, it is sometimes interesting to book a hotel very early!
2. Choose a well placed hotel
Hotels located near a city’s main attractions are usually more expensive… but sometimes it’s worth the effort to do the math: a more central hotel will allow you to spend less time on transportation.
In addition, in some cities such as London, where the metro is very expensive, it is sometimes more interesting to stay close to the centre than to pay a fortune in transport when travelling far away.
Choosing a well-placed hotel also means saving yourself a lot of fatigue… and giving yourself the opportunity to return to the hotel easily if necessary.
I advise you to look at a transportation map of the city you are going to… and identify the best served areas. Then, look for opinions on these districts by typing their name on Google: it will allow you for example to identify very noisy districts at night.
Look at the exact location of the hotel, on Google Maps for example! It will allow you to identify speeches that are a little too optimistic… or cultural differences:)
I remember that in California, some hotels used to say “close to the beaches”… except that the United States is a country where EVERYONE uses their car. A stone’s throw from the beaches meant “5-10 minutes by car”… and when you are on foot, it makes a slight difference in travel time;)
Similarly, a hotel can tell you “Easy access to all the main attractions of Los Angeles”… simply because the hotel is close to a subway station, which then allows you to visit Los Angeles “easily”! That doesn’t mean you’ll do everything on foot;)
3. Identify the equipment and services that are important to you
We don’t all have the same expectations when we choose a hotel… and we also don’t have the same expectations depending on the nature of the trip and the people we are going with!
For example, for a wellness stay, you may want to look for a hotel with a spa and swimming pool. For a stay with friends, a hotel with a nice bar. If you like to party, you will appreciate a hotel with a reception open 24 hours a day. Wifi in the room, parking, air conditioning can also be decision-making criteria.
Similarly, if you like to have breakfast at the hotel, you will appreciate that it is qualitative, while people who prefer to go to the local café to immerse themselves in local life will not give it any importance.
Some will like to have a hair dryer, a bathtub instead of a shower or the other way around, a gym, a bathrobe, a coffee machine or a kettle, the possibility of smoking… A hotel that offers a shuttle service to and from the airport can also earn points, especially if you are loaded or if you are travelling with children !
This list of criteria then allows you to easily filter hotels on the site where you are booking. Also consider the possible additional cost of these services.
4. Think about the style of hosting you prefer
Some people like “big chain” hotels because they are “without (bad) surprises”, we know what to expect because they look alike from one city to another. Others swear by the “boutique hotels” where each room has its own personality. You can like a very contemporary style or a more vintage style.
Not to mention the alternatives to the hotel: guest rooms, serviced apartments, etc.
Look at the photos to get an idea of the place… and especially the photos posted by travellers, less “perfect” than the official photos provided by the hotel.
5. The opinions of other travellers, an essential criterion
For my part, opinions play a decisive role in the choice of a hotel! On most sites, results can now be filtered according to the rating given to accommodation by other travellers. The sorting can be more or less fine: sorting by note but also sorting by traveller profile (family trip, romantic trip, solo trip).
- View reviews on several sites: Google reviews, Trip Advisor reviews, Booking.com reviews, Last Minute reviews, etc. It allows you to cross-reference information to identify good plans… and bad leads! Similarly, in the event that there is a “false opinion”, the (people paid to write positive reviews), looking at several sites often gives a more reliable idea of service quality.
- Compare what is comparable: a leisure traveller, for example, does not necessarily have the same needs and expectations as a business traveller.
- Read the negative reviews: they are the most interesting… and I advise you to sort them out! There are always complainers who will complain no matter what happens, there are people who will criticize things that do not bother you personally (e. g. “the cot was not of good quality” => if you travel without children, it is not really a problem for you!)… But by reading a sample of the critics, we can often identify problems: a bad smell in the establishment for example…
- Limit yourself to recent criticisms (those of last year, for example): a hotel may have “started off badly” and have since been completely renovated, changed owners or corrected certain problems; conversely, the service may have deteriorated over time and a commentary a few years old no longer always reflects reality.
6. Look at the payment and cancellation conditions
I don’t like to cancel at the last minute, out of respect for the hotelier who won’t necessarily be able to “book” a room that was cancelled late… but it happened to me! A new job falling just in time for a stay abroad… I decided to postpone this trip until later. Being able to cancel your reservation free of charge is a real asset.
Similarly, being debited at the time of the stay makes it possible to spread out the expenses, by paying a part in advance (the plane ticket) and a part at the time of the trip itself (the hotel).
What if the hotel doesn’t match the description?
If, when you arrive on the spot, the experience does not live up to your expectations, I advise you to say so right away… instead of “revenge” later by publishing a murderous comment on the web.
The dialogue sometimes allows you to defuse a problem very quickly by getting a room change if the hotel’s occupancy rate allows it (especially when you come across noisy neighbours!).