How to Find the Best Hotel Deals When Planning Your Next Trip
One of the most important parts of traveling is finding suitable accommodations that are both comfortable and affordable. This is not always easy. Sometimes, a hotel gets high reviews on a particular site, but you have a bad experience with it anyway. So, how do you judge whether a hotel is the best choice for you and your family?
Having traveled to 26 countries over the years I have seen a lot as it relates to lodging, both good and bad! Here are a few tips below that might help you have more of an advantage when trip-planning, so that you might avoid some of the pitfalls often encountered on vacation regarding lodging.
Don’t judge the hotel on price alone. If you are looking for a good deal, you’re not alone. But some of the worst hotels I’ve encountered have been from the lower priced chains or worse “unknown brand” type facilities. Remember the old adage; “You Get What You Pay For!” While there are certainly exceptions to this rule, it’s best to stick to the best-known brands. Notice the ones who advertise on network television and online. The ones that advertise the most are the ones with the money, and that generally means they have nicer accommodations and invest more in their business.
Read reviews with a touch of skepticism. Many reviews are pretty accurate, but a hotel review site is only as good as the site itself. Some hotels pay to get their business listing in business directories, for example. And just because some people leave a good review doesn’t necessarily mean they are completely honest or trustworthy. Ask others who may have stayed in the same hotel chain in the past and call the hotel to ask them more about their policies to get an idea of the way they run things.
Check out “virtual room tours.” Online virtual tours are available for many of the more upscale hotels. Take a virtual tour on the hotel’s site, when available, so that you can actually see what it looks like from the inside. Another benefit of these virtual tours is that you can share the links with your family and friends so they can actually see where you are staying. Perhaps, even the very exact room!
Ask about internet, wireless, spa facilities, and anything else that is important to you prior to booking. You don’t want to find out later that they don’t have working wireless in the room, especially if you plan to work on your trip. I know how to set up my mobile phone as a wireless router, but I’m different like that. So unless you plan to set up your own WAP, ask about the internet connection, how reliable it is, etc.
Book a hotel close to the activities you plan to take part in. This will save you from having to drive long distances to your destination once you get there. One major factor to consider is parking fees. Believe me, I hate paying parking fees more than anyone! Perhaps, the hotel charges what at first might look to be a ridiculous rate. However, after researching further this rate might actually be a deal if you factor in all nearby attractions that would cost significantly more if traveled to and from individually. Take advantage of local shuttle service (for both drop off and pickup) were hotel employees usually work for tips. While this is not always possible, it’s nice to locate close to your activities so that you can relax and focus on your vacation. Much of vacation fatigue comes from traveling too much to and from activities once there.
Always join the hotel loyalty program. Believe me, the points and rewards add up. Plus, it makes booking a hotel online (or from your app) a snap. It might seem trivial but, I firmly believe it gives the travel a little more credibility (no matter what your status) as well. Sure, it’s “Good to be King,” or Diamond, Platinum or Spire Elite Royal Ambassador! For me, I prefer HHonors and IHG Priority Club. One quick note that Ascend Properties from Choice Hotels are growing on me. For instance, The Hotel Utica is an amazing property with a staff that truly cares.
While I occasionally enjoy independent boutique and/or historic hotels such as The Fort Garry Hotel in Winnipeg, Manitoba or Stemmerman’s Inn located in Wilmington, North Carolina whenever possible, the reward points and upgrade perks at the major chain hotels always keep me coming back for more! There is nothing quite like the magical lake view at the Chateau Lake Louise or a concierge view from the Intercontinental – Kansas City at the Plaza while enjoying the famous and festive Christmas Lights! I could write an entire article (and just might) on all the upgraded ocean view rooms I have enjoyed during my lengthy travel career.
You might notice a few “major” chains not listed. That is for particular and well documented reasons. Some chains allow their “prestige” and or “pretentious management culture” to pervade the entire organization. I’m simply not paying for “I don’t care” attitude. In fact, I just had a conversation today at a Nashville hotel with an employee that left one of the “unnamed chains” for the very same reasons. Hopefully, hotel management will again listen to employees and guest surveys.
Seek out trusted travel review recommendations such as those on Skycap News or people you might personally know who recently came back from an area that interests you. I stress trusted and recent as “change is the only constant.” This can be especially true in once quaint tourist destination that has now been discovered and growing at a rapid pace. Many times the locally owned motel and hotels are demolished to make room for mega properties to better capture the tourist dollar.
Non-Seasonal Vacations that Make Sense Many of our regular readers will recall the January 5, 2016 Skycap News article where we shared some “tried and true” ways to travel on the cheap. By simply taking a contrarian approach and booking travel during off-season rates come down considerably. While this tactic is not for everyone, it does indeed work. For example, I have enjoyed Chateau Lake Louise in the summer months as well as when there was several feet of snow on the ground. Change things up and try this approach and see for yourself how the savings add up.
These are a few tips you can try to increase your chances of getting a good hotel that you can enjoy. There are, inevitably, some problems on occasion, such as not being able to locate the ice (a top priority to me), or swimming pools that are out of order. But do your homework, and you are less likely to encounter problems during your stay. Happy Trails and Sweet Dreams!