I'll always take the complimentary bottle of champagne over the dripping ceiling. When planning a trip there is one area that I slave over: picking a hotel. A hotel is your home away from home and can be the difference in seeing your destination and seeing red. I suspect you, like me, have had some really great and some pretty terrible hotel experiences.One thing I pride myself on is that it has been a while since I have chosen a bad one (knock on wood).
You could say that choosing a hotel is not that difficult, simply look for the highest starred hotel within your budget and aim there for the best experience. This is a great starting point but I believe that to ensure a great stay you need to look deeper. Hotel rating systems are designed by the hotels themselves and are not a surefire indicator of quality or value. Do you know who the Chairman of the Five Diamond hotel rating committee is? Donald Trump! Talk about conflict of interest! I wonder what score he's going to give himself?! To me so much goes into a successful hotel stay that you cannot simply look at the property or the star rating.
I look for many key factors: service, room size, cleanliness, facilities, amenities, price and reputation. I believe that TripAdvisor taken with a grain of salt can be a great tool to learn about these various disciplines. I find that TripAdvisor can tell the "story within the story" of a hotel. I find that almost every hotel has at least one "Terrible" review swearing that the place is the devil. It is important to read and consider these reviews but I personally look for the aggregate. If there are say....20 four and five star reviews raving about the place for every one dreadful review chances are that one person is a bit of a grouch. If you see a big mix of three star, five star and one star reviews chances are that the answer is somewhere in-between.
I love looking at travel photo's and reading through at least a full page of traveler reviews. When I see common threads of people talking about the size of the rooms, speed of the wifi, quality and kindness of service, great breafkast and desirable location I know I have definitely found a contender. From here I begin to populate my short list and look into price comparisons amongst the contenders. One common thread I often find in the best hotels I've stayed in (upcoming post) is that the manager views and responds to reviews left on trip advisor. When you see a manager responding in a meaningful way it is a sign that at least the hotel is aware of the issues being raised and they are most likely addressing them in some form. Of course this doesn't automatically guarantee a great stay but it is a good indicator if combined with mostly positive reviews.
One of the greatest benefits to certain credit cards other than their initial point bonuses are the relationships they have with hotels. When it comes to the booking of an actual hotel it is important to inquire as to whether there are any promotions, services or amenities offered by using a certain card to book. Look not at your bank but your type of card. Visa Signature, World Elite Mastercard and American Express often run partnerships with certain chains where you may receive a variety of complimentary services. On our recent stay in San Francisco almost every desirable hotel was roughly the same price but through American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program we were able to get our third night free along with all of the perks listed below which made our choice a no brainer! Some amenities and services can include: early check in, late check out, $100 food and beverage credit, free wifi, room upgrade and more.
With anything travel related, you are potentially throwing away money if you don't research. Even if your card isn't offering any benefits there may be perks out there. Don't fret! Many hotel groups such as Kimpton offer free Wifi and preferred late check out to people simply for signing up to their loyalty program. By signing up you make yourself eligible to collect points on your stay which can add up to free stays. What's not to love?
Whats your favorite hotel of all time and why?
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