What to Look For When Choosing a HotelBy Mike Cole
If you're planning an overnight trip but not a camping excursion, you're going to need a place to sleep. The internet brings an abundance of lodging choices right to our fingertips and it can be difficult to choose. Booking online can be a bit like rolling the dice, as you are leaving your experience in the hands of chance. There are a few top factors to consider when selecting a hotel.
Hotel rooms are like automobiles - there are different classes in different price ranges that equate to different driving experiences. Your personal budget dictates which class you are going to choose. The number one consideration is how much money you have to spend; after determining your budget, the following five factors are going to be the real differentiators in selecting a winner. Fortunately for today's traveler, online travel sites and computerized reservation systems have created a level of competition that allows you direct access to the best discounts hotels have available. Depending on the season, you may even be able to stay at a 5-star hotel for a 2-star price!
Facilities and Amenities
Amenities span the range of in-room conveniences such as hair dryers and coffee makers to on-site dining, shopping, fitness and indoor pool facilities. Just about every hotel room in the world comes with a television set, but not all offer internet connectivity. This is probably a must if you're travelling on business. If you're staying for a few days, or travelling with children, it's usually helpful to look for a room equipped with a refrigerator and microwave. Consider the purpose of your trip and how much time you will be spending in the room. Amenities, such as free hot breakfast, are the nice little extras that can tip your decision between two hotels at the same price in the same general location.
Hotels and motels are required to maintain at least a minimum standard of cleanliness, but some do a much better job than others. If you can, look at the level of maintenance on the overall property - if the whole place is in a state of disrepair, it's likely they're cutting corners on the washing and scrubbing too. Generally speaking, a higher price equals higher attention to detail. Not to say that you always have to stay in a brand-new hotel. On the other hand, some older hotels with a bit of wear and tear around the edges can be an excellent budget alternative to five-star joints. It all depends on the management. Look for customer reviews or other information that can give you clues about how clean is the property.
Browse for services according to your personal preferences and the purpose of your trip. For example, if you're on your honeymoon you might want a nice bottle of wine brought directly to your door, but if you just need a place to stay overnight on a quick business trip, you don't really need room service. Of course, some degree of customer service would at least be appreciated in the form of, at the very least, someone at the front desk to answer any questions.
If you're looking for true hotel-level service, beware of some extended stay or all suite hotels which may really be a time share or a condominium situation. These accommodations will offer a minimum amount of service, if any at all, and a frequent (but unadvertised) practice is cleaning the room and changing the bed sheets only once per week while you are there.
Depending on whether or not you're equipped with a rental car, this may or may not be a pretty important factor. Even if you're only on business, you've got to eat, so you'll want to be able to quickly and easily make it around the local area and do some basic shopping. Of course, if you're here on vacation, this is directly important. As close to the sand and surf as possible is really key if you're making a trip to a tropical getaway. You don't want a lengthy drive back to the hotel with sand in your shorts to be part of the itinerary.
See a bargain that looks too good to be true, like a $49 hotel room in Midtown Manhattan? Read the reviews by other fellow travelers! The hotel could be cursed by low water pressure or unbearably slow elevators which may or may not be a deal breaker for you. At least you will know in advance and be able to make an informed decision. Another thing to look out for at low-price sites is whether your "dream" room has a private or a shared bath. Contrary to popular belief, not all hotel rooms come with a bathroom just for you! Of course most do, but in historic and extremely expensive destinations (such as New York City) older hotels with shared "facilities" do still exist.
It's hard to recommend any one factor over any other and it's probably best to look at all of them together. What might be right for one visitor might not really suit the needs of another. However, you can usually boil the bare essentials of selecting a hotel into the above considerations. You may place one at a higher priority than another, but all of these are, generally, pretty important to most travelers.
About the Author: Mike Cole is a freelance writer who writes about vacation deals and the travel industry in general, often discussing specific aspects of the travel industry such as a travel agent at http://www.libertytravel.com/