Many travelers don’t put so much effort into choosing the accommodation for their trip — especially if the purpose of their trip is sightseeing, work, or any other activity that doesn’t really depend on their hotel.
If you ask us, that approach is wrong. The hotel where you’d be staying during your trip can really make or break your experience.
Fortunately, picking a great stay is not all that difficult if you know what to look for. The good thing is that there are a few key variables that are universal and apply to hotels everywhere, whether you’re looking for Spokane, Washington hotels, hotels in New York City, Tokyo, or Paris.
Here are our top picks for what you should look at when booking a hotel for your trip!
Every seasoned traveler has had this experience. You’re planning your upcoming trip and looking for accommodation options. Then, you find the seemingly perfect hotel with great prices and outstanding reviews — only to discover that it’s located in the middle of nowhere on the edge of town. Ouch!
What we mean to say is: location is one of the most important factors you should consider when choosing a hotel — trust us! More specifically, booking a hotel that’s located close to your points of interest will save you tons of time, money, and effort during your trip.
Try to look at it like hunting for real estate. If you are looking for lake houses, you will probably go for a hotel near the water (Bonus tip: Lake of the Ozarks real estate are your friends there).
For example, if you’re heading somewhere for a brief business trip, you should consider booking a hotel close to the airport to minimize your commute. Alternatively, if you’re planning a relaxing getaway, booking a hotel in the noisy downtown area might not be the best idea.
2. Amenities, Comforts & Services
The second factor you should consider when choosing a hotel are the creature comforts and amenities that would be available to you.
The essential items you should look for start at the most basic level that will ensure your comfort during your stay. Ideally, these should include:
24-hour front desk service
In-room air conditioning
Once you start moving past these essential amenities, however, things may become a little counterintuitive in the sense that you should not necessarily go for the hotel with the highest amount of services and amenities.
That’s because in a lot of cases, you might end up paying for comforts that you will end up not using. For instance, if you’re only traveling for a business trip, you might not necessarily care for amenities such as a spa or an outdoor swimming pool. On the other hand, if you’re going on a family vacation, you should make sure you have family-friendly amenities at your disposal.
In other words, when choosing a hotel, you should align the available amenities with the purpose of your trip.
3. Dining Options
There is hardly a worse feeling than that of checking into a hotel and realizing there is not a single place where you can get a decent meal.
As such, you should carefully consider your dining options when choosing the hotel for your next trip. That applies to both dining offerings at the hotel itself, as well as other venues in the area.
Ideally, your hotel should at least offer breakfast, whether complimentary or not (usually depends on the conditions of your booking). Good hotels will also feature at least one full-service restaurant on the premises, as well as a bar where you can get an espresso in the morning and something stronger during the evening.
However, to make sure you enjoy a proper culinary experience during your trip (especially if you’re going somewhere exotic), you should research the area around your hotel of choice to check if there are good dining options nearby.
Our advice is: avoid the obvious tourist traps and opt for the venues frequented by the locals instead — you can typically discover such places by asking your hotel’s staff for guidance or searching on websites such as Reddit. That way, you will most definitely get the most value, quality, and authenticity.
4. Reviews & Reputation
This might sound obvious, but — be sure to check the reviews of the hotel you’re interested in before making a booking.
While reviews, whether on Google or Booking.com, may seem arbitrary, they can offer a wealth of insights and experiences that will help you make the right decisions. Inevitably, the majority of hotels have their strong and weak spots, and the reviews can help you figure out what those are.
Our advice is: don’t just look at all the positive reviews and confirm your bias. Generally speaking, people are more inclined to leave positive reviews if their experience with a hotel was satisfactory — all while not providing any concrete details.
What you should do instead is sort the reviews from negative to positive and explore all the negative impressions. It’s logical: if someone was very dissatisfied with their experience at a hotel, they are more likely to provide a detailed account of their issues. For example, a five-star hotel belonging to a major chain may be great for business travelers, but not so good for families. Or, the room service may be subpar for the money. Or, the rooms may be perfect in terms of design and features, but the housekeeping service is lackluster.
By exploring the negative reviews, you will get an idea of the operational challenges that the hotel might be facing and decide for yourself whether those drawbacks are a dealbreaker for you.
5. Payment Policies
Finally, be sure to check the hotel’s payment, refund, and cancellation policies before making a reservation. While these might not necessarily have a direct impact on the quality of your stay and your trip, they might have the potential to make your experience just that much better.
For example, some hotels — especially the more high-end ones — often require you to put down a security deposit for the duration of your stay that will be refunded to you upon your checkout. If you don’t have a credit card which you can use for the deposit, this might present a problem as you would have to use your cash for it.
Additionally, some hotels also don’t offer refunds on canceled stays or only offer a refund if you cancel your stay before a certain date. Research those details and keep them in mind should your travel plans change.