Let’s face it, we all spend far too long researching the interwebs trying to find that all-elusive “perfect place to stay.” What if there was a simple set of requirements you could cross-reference to put you a step ahead of the next person? Would you use it?
Recently I was faced with the daunting task of finding a hotel for us for when we visit the Bahamas this Christmas. With so many options to go through I felt like I was suffocating…… so many pictures, so many reviews, which amenities do we really need? Arghhhh!!
It was in this moment that I decided to come up with a set of rules to narrow down my choices. I realize that you can’t always have everything on your list but the key is knowing what your deal breakers are and what you are willing to sacrifice.
What with those Star Ratings?
Do you really understand what’s the difference between a 3-star hotel and a 5-star hotel? Does it guarantee a cleaner, friendlier experience that is tailored to your needs?
I can assure you that most people are under a false impression of what these ratings actually mean. If you think that a 5-star hotel is going to be better than a 3-star hotel 100% of the time you are one of those misled folks.
So what do the star ratings really mean? Star ratings really only depict the types of services you can expect at the hotel. For example, the difference between stars could be something as simple as the addition of an in-house restaurant or a full-service business center.
Most websites put so much emphasis on these star ratings that we have been brainwashed into thinking that they are the quantifiable criteria to selecting a great hotel.
Choose a hotel based on the following criteria that suit your needs and forget about the star rating… To learn more about the specific star ratings and what they entail, check out the Hotel Ratings Wiki on Wikipedia.
1. Free Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi is a high priority, the faster the better! With the connected world we live in today it has become more and more important for hotels to offer free Wi-Fi to their guests.
Personally, I prefer a hotel that offers free high-speed wireless access in the room since my livelihood is reliant on being on the internet. Of course, that is not always possible but I will definitely choose one hotel over the other based on this simple amenity.
2. Central & close to public transport
As they say in real estate it’s all about Location, Location, Location! Do you really want to waste your precious time commuting from the suburbs for an hour just to save a few bucks? Not me.
If possible I will look for a lower star-rated hotel in a great location as there are many jewels to be found. Sometimes you simply don’t have the luxury of getting a place (e.g. New York – specifically Manhattan). In this instance, you want to make sure the hotel is in close proximity to a major public transit hub.
Finally, there are some cities that are so sprawling (e.g. Shanghai or London) that you need to focus on which part of the city interests you most. This will ensure you have ample time to see everything you want to see and allow time for exploration to parts of the city that are further out.
3. Good guest reviews
This is why Trip Advisor has been so successful… the quickest way to get an insider’s view on a hotel you have never stayed at is by reading the reviews.
There are some rules that I would like to clarify here – I like to think of reviews like judging a gymnastics routine. Eliminate the best scores and the worst scores and take an average of the rest (Nobody wants to rely on the Russian judge alone..).
4. Non-smoking rooms
If you are a smoker this one clearly doesn’t apply to you, to the rest of us this is up there with one of the most important factors when selecting a place to lay your head. After a long day of travel to get to a destination the first thing I want to do is have a lie down in my room to regather my strength. The worst nightmare is to have to deal with the stank of someone else’s smoke.
5. A private bathroom
A private bathroom is extremely important – do you really want to share your pooping experience with everyone down the hall? An en suite bathroom is especially handy when traveling through destinations where sanitation is not quite up to scratch. You will relate if you have ever had a case of Bali Belly……. that loose feeling ain’t pleasant.
6. Air-Conditioning/ Heating (dependent on the climate)
The climate is a huge factor in this one. Quite often we choose our holiday based on the weather. Whether it’s a sunny beach or a snowy peak, you’ll want to be comfortable when you retreat to your hotel room. A big mistake I’ve made is not looking to see if there is air conditioning in the room and arriving to find a ceiling fan.
7. Rewards/ Customer Loyalty Programs
Let’s face it, most of you are probably a member of at least one frequent flyer program but how many hotel reward programs are you a member of? Probably none…. In my experience as a travel agent for many years, I couldn’t believe that people weren’t taking advantage of these programs.
8. Value for money
It is true that price plays a very important role when making a decision on which hotel to choose. The key is to make sure you don’t confuse price with value. For me personally, I am happy to pay a slightly higher rate if I know that I can tick off each and every one of my “Must-Haves”, or if I am getting some added benefits to my stay like a free shuttle from the airport.
Don’t get sucked into booking a hotel just because it is the cheapest option.
9. Breakfast Included (or a cheap option nearby)
Perhaps not a requirement in your hotel but a good breakfast is a great way to start the day. Throughout Asia, this is a definite must while more difficult to find in the United States.
While an in-hotel breakfast might not be available I always look for a cheap option that is close by.
10. Size – It really does matter
Smaller, more boutique hotels often offer a certain charm that the big chains simply can’t. Whether a family-run guesthouse, a bed & breakfast or a quirky little hotel, you have the opportunity to get to know the staff on a more personal level.
That feeling of intimacy and personalization is something that the bigger hotels really struggle to provide.
These are not essential amenities but if you can get them included for no extra cost that is a bonus. Alternatively, if you have more than one hotel that can meet all your “Must-Haves” they provide a great tie-breaker.
- Air-Conditioning/ Heating (Dependant on Climate)
- Late Checkout
- Transportation – Free or Discounted Shuttle
- Free Parking
- 24-hour Reception
- Swimming Pool
- In-room Safe
Do you really need a restaurant in your hotel? Are you really planning on working out in the gym? These amenities don’t play a role in my decision-making process, although I can understand their value in certain situations.
- In-house Spa
- Room Service
- Hotel Restaurant
Finally, there are the “Special Interest” amenities – let’s say you have a family, you might want a kitchenette or inter-connecting rooms to keep everyone together.
Obviously, if you are wheelchair-bound you need to ensure that you find a hotel with sufficient access also. Here are some special interest requirements to consider:
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Business Center/ Conference Facilities
- Connecting Rooms
Do you agree with this list – what are the amenities you can’t live without? What do you look for in a hotel? What do you need (and what are you willing to pay for)? What isn’t important to you at all?
It really comes down to understanding what you want from your holiday. For example, you would probably want room service and a spa on your honeymoon.