Choosing the Right Hotel
It’s never very easy to make a safe selection of
hotels from a distance of several hundred or thousand miles. Unless
your buying a package vacation you’ll have the task of finding your own
accommodation - and doing so can be fraught with problems. Here are some tips
for finding a great place to stay:
Don’t rely simply on website photos and descriptions to give
you a good impression of the hotel. The notion that ‘the camera never lies’ is
entirely false. Clearly the owner of the hotel or whichever agency the owner
has hired to promote the place are only going to publish photos of the very
best bits, carefully short from flattering angles. If they show you a photo of
a view from one of their rooms, they’re going to pick a room that looks out
over the sea - not one that enjoys uninterrupted vistas of the dumpsters.
Likewise, examine website photos closely for manipulation. A common trick –
even among respectable hotels – is to ‘stretch’ room images to make them look
larger. You can spot this if you look carefully – scour the image for a power
point or an alarm clock, or something else with a distinctive shape. If it
looks weird, the image has been manipulated to make the room look larger. Also
bear in mind that it is standard practice to take room images from one corner
to maximize the amount of space visible. If in doubt, check the room
measurement – email the management of the hotel if you need to.
Try to get some independent verification of the quality of the
hotel you’re interested in. Clearly, the best type of testimonial comes from
someone you know, or friends of friends who have visited the place. If you
don’t know anyone who has been to the area you’re planning to visit, have a
search around the web for the hotel’s name and location – you might pick up
some interesting information.
If you’re heading to a popular resort find out which hotels
the large and respectable vacation companies use for their clients. If you’re
really unsure, book a room in a chain. Holiday Inns and Hiltons may not have an
especially local flavor, but they maintain the same standards of quality the
Don’t be afraid to politely pester the management with
questions via email. If they really value your custom they won’t mind replying!
Of course, you don’t have to stay in a hotel. There are other
Bed and Breakfast accommodation can represent great value for
money. Many B&Bs also offer evening meals, though you may not get the
choice of dishes you might find in a big hotel restaurant. The two big
advantages of B&Bs are price and homeliness. They tend to be cheap and they
don’t operate in chains – each one is run by someone who has a very direct
financial interest in you having a satisfactory stay. Of course, quality
varies, but in Europe and the States you usually get what you pay for in these
establishments. If you’re web searching, bear in mind that in continental
Europe (not the UK) they’re called “pensions”.
Holiday homes and cottages. There is an almost infinite range
of stand-alone holiday homes in all major western countries – everything from
tiny flats in central Rome to sprawling hunting lodges in the highlands of
Scotland. Because you have to cater for yourself, a little more work is
involved – however, the flip side of that is that if you have kids who are
picky eaters you can give them food you know they’ll eat every night. In terms
of pricing, a holiday home tends to work out a little more expensive than a
comparable hotel once you’ve thrown in the cost of food – but many people find
the small extra expense is worth it for the huge amount of independence that
having your own ‘home from home’ offers.
Camping and trailers. If you’re an experienced camper, great.
If not, don’t worry: you don’t have to rough it! Many popular tourist areas the
world over offer accommodation in this category, whether it’s a luxury safari
camp on the African savannah or a static trailer/caravan on the New Zealand
coast, there’s a huge amount of variety. If you enjoy touring with the family
it’s possible to hire fully fitted motorhomes in many parts of the world,
usually from hire companies close to major airports.
The basic advice when finding somewhere to stay is simple: do
your homework. If you use a little common sense, ask the right questions and
approach the whole thing with a positive attitude you’re very unlikely to have
major problems. Of course, don’t forget to take out travel insurance just in
case things don’t turn out quite as you’d hoped – better safe than sorry!