Your choice of hotel will have a major effect on your holiday. It could make the difference between a memorable escape and a miserable time you’d rather forget.
Here are five things you should consider before you book.
1. Safety and security. You won’t enjoy yourself unless you are convinced that you are safe in your hotel. I once spent a sleepless night because I was on a street-level room in a dodgy neighbourhood, and could see and hear nefarious goings-on right outside. I left the next morning, surrendering a couple of pre-paid nights.
2. Comfort. This should be a no-brainer, but be choosy about the type of room you get and the facilities it has. You won’t enjoy yourself unless you are comfortable. Will the bed be soft (or hard, if you prefer it that way)? Do they serve the type of breakfast you want? Is it accessible?
3. Location. Quite simply, a great hotel in the middle of nowhere is useless. Check how far it is from public transport, the amenities you need and the sights you want to see. A bargain can turn out to be a burden if you are spending too much time and money on taxis or bus trips through gridlocked-traffic to get where you want to be.
4. Price. Of course you are going to look around for the best price. But, despite what some advertising tells you, the hotel booking sites and aggregators don’t necessarily offer the best deals. The hotel groups’ own websites and apps often match or beat the cheapest price you’ll find at a third-party site, and they will offer loyalty points that aren’t otherwise available. Check and double check.
5. Reputation. What do reviewers and other previous guests think of the hotel? I often choose hotels from the major chains — Accor, Hilton, Starwood and so on — because I know there is a guaranteed level of comfort and service, and there is a clear channel to follow if anything goes wrong. While I have stayed, and will stay, at family-owned hotels and B&Bs, I’m very cautious and generally only make a booking after extensive research. Or if there is no other viable or affordable option.
While you can’t always check these factors out in advance, the internet is your friend. Read the reviews at Tripadvisor and on travel blogs, but bear in mind that those reviews can be biased.
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Try to find a consensus from various sources — and learn to weed out the petty complaints and the issues that are no longer relevant. For example, the nearby construction work that bothered guests a year ago is probably now finished, and you’d be extremely unlucky to be burdened with the same party animal in the room next door.
Above all, do your bit to help those who follow you. If you have a bad experience, complain directly to the hotel or the group’s headquarters. Also make the effort to fill out surveys (although they are often far too long with many loaded questions), and warn others through online forums and social-media networking.
Like all businesses, hotels hate bad publicity. Especially with the big-name brands, your complaints will be taken seriously and action will be taken to correct or compensate.