How to Choose the Best Hotel for Your Next Vacation

Planning a vacation is half the fun of taking one. All the dreaming and excitement that leads up to a big getaway can give almost as much pleasure as actually being there. But there are times when the best laid plans go awry, and if it’s your hotel, your dream retreat can turn into a nightmare in a blink. Here’s how you can avoid booking a hotel that doesn’t live up to your expectations:

1) Plan Ahead

It’s much more likely that you will end up in a dump if you are making spur-of-the-moment plans. By planning in advance, you can do the research that will help you to avoid the pitfalls of last-minute travel. And even if you do have to book at the midnight hour, you can still ask lots of questions about your accommodations. The more you query and research, even on short notice, the more likely you are to unearth something that the hotel may not be thrilled for you to know. Read on.

2) Read the reviews

While it might be time-consuming, you can get no better information about a hotel than reading the reviews of people who have actually stayed there AND taken the time to write about it. Just be sure to check the date of the post. If it’s not recent, it may not be relevant anymore and any issues that caused the reviewer dissatisfaction may have been already rectified. Also, be sure to read several reviews to get a balanced report, bearing in mind that a highly negative review that could be the result of someone who has an ax to grind.

3) Call the hotel

Rather than just book online or through a remote 800 number, take the time to locate the direct phone number of the hotel and talk to the front desk clerk. You can get more information from someone who is actually on site than from someone who isn’t. And the demeanor of the staff will tell you a lot about the demeanor of the place. The front desk staff convey the summation of the branding and training that the hotel has given them. How they conduct themselves can tell you a lot.

4) Ask the right questions

In addition to asking the front desk clerk about the types of rooms available and the hotel amenities included, you also want to ferret out any issues that may be happening with the hotel. First and foremost, inquire if there is any construction underway. Hotels often lower rates drastically during construction, but you want to be informed. The last thing you want to see when you open your shades to your ocean view is a backhoe. And construction workers start early. You definitely don’t want the music of the jackhammer rousing you instead of the gentle song of waves coming ashore. Also, find out if there will be any major events happening during your stay. The day of your arrival is not the time to discover that your destination is hosting the biggest diesel truck convention in the world, especially if they are all revving their engines and partying in your hotel parking lot. Better to know ahead and have the option of making other plans. Finally, ask about their cancellation policy.  Forewarned is forearmed.

5) Don’t be afraid to request an upgrade

Celebrating your honeymoon or 10th wedding anniversary? Getting away for a birthday or other special event? Don’t be shy about metaphorically cozying up to the front desk clerk and finding out if you can go from a partial to full ocean view or get a higher floor or bigger suite. Hotels’ best rooms often go unbooked, and you won’t get something if you don’t ask. It’s one of the great secrets of the industry.

6) If the room is substandard, let someone know ASAP

If your room is not cleaned properly or if anything is amiss, be sure to contact the front desk immediately. If you wait until the next morning in hopes that you will get a refund, chances are slim. Speak up asap and get what you need. If the time to cancel is already past, you likely won’t get your money back, but you can always change hotels the next day. In the meantime, bargain for whatever you can get--amenities, an upgrade, a room move, etc. And if you must change hotels, ask to see the room before you book.  

For more great tips on travel for business and pleasure, visit the Smart Voyager website.