Choosing the right hotel is always a trying task, and with the enormous number of promotions, deals and programs out there, it can be downright overwhelming. It does not help that these days most hotels have websites full of tantalizing photos and slick promotional copy that make you believe you will be bathed in luxury as soon as you step foot into the lobby.
Since every traveler has different needs when searching for a hotel, you will need to ask yourself what is most important to you. Here listed are some essentials which will help make your hotel search easier.
What matters most?
Before beginning your search, ask yourself what type of accommodations you want and what your budget will permit. Do you need a hotel with a spa and fitness center, or would you rather stay at a small property with lots of local charm?
Once you have decided on your top priority, then you can make a more targeted search. Following are the most common determining factors in choosing a hotel, as well as tips for finding properties that suit each particular need.
Price: Nearly every major booking engine gives you the option to sort your results by price. Do not limit yourself to a few cheap hotels. Make full use of the search engines and find what is available and test rates at the properties you are interested in, and then go straight to the hotel's Website to book directly - most hotels guarantee you the lowest rate when you book on their site.
Location: All major booking sites allow you to view search results on a map so you can see which ones are right on the beach or in the neighborhoods you prefer. Most also have the extra capability of searching for and mapping a hotel in relation to a particular point of interest. Good old-fashioned guidebooks are another useful source for finding hotels in a certain location.
Ambience and local flavor: If you would rather avoid the big chains, you are in luck - there are many inns and small independent hotels that do not appear on the major booking engines. However, finding them can take a little time and ingenuity.
Amenities: Most hotel booking engines allows you to specify certain amenities when you are searching, such as a swimming pool or restaurant. This makes the process easier by allowing you to compare with other hotels so you can easily weigh such factors as star ratings and room types.
Loyalty programs and frequent flier miles: If you travel a lot or are a member of a frequent flier program, it may be worth your while to join a hotel loyalty program. Not only can you earn points toward a future hotel stay, but you may also be able to accumulate airline miles if your hotel is partnered with your frequent flier program.
Eco-Friendliness: Travelers who are looking to minimize their environmental impact can search for green hotels through a number of organizations.
Family-Friendliness: If you are bringing the kids, you would want to check for both special deals and family-friendly policies.
Real life experiences
Few of us book a hotel these days without checking out reviews written by fellow travelers on certain booking engines. This is where you can learn the truth about how friendly the staff is, how clean the rooms are and whether the Wi-Fi actually works.
Many review sites also allow users to post photos of their hotel - which are usually more realistic and less glamorous than the professional snapshots you will see on the hotel's own Website.
Pick up the phone
Internet has its speed and phone carries its own reliability. Calling a hotel directly might get you a room at the last minute or during peak travel times.
National reservations desks often have a cap on the number of rooms they can fill at any given hotel, with the rest left to the hotel's own staff. Those working at the front desk have a better sense of the hotel's capacity and will be more likely to check for cancellations or no-shows. Whomever you call, having a list of prepared questions to help you. Avoid calling in the morning or mid-afternoon, when front desks are busiest.