I absolutely love hotels and I’ve been fortunate enough to stay in some pretty amazing ones. I often hear from family and friends that I always pick the “right” hotel. They say that whenever they’ve picked one it never ends up measuring up to what they expected, or missed a key detail they needed, or was just plain gross. Of course, this is not luck – it takes quite a few steps to ensure that I’m not booking myself into the next Bates Motel. Well, I’m here to help (I hope!) with some tips on how to book the perfect hotel for your next and future trips!
1. Location is king. I start with what might be considered the simplest step: figuring out where I need to be at. This might seem pretty straight-forward but I don’t mean just typing in the city you want to be in. You need to first narrow down the places that you HAVE to go to. If you need to spend time at a conference center in Toronto, you don’t want to try and book a room near Montreal because you’ll be going there one day out of a 7 day trip. Choose the “base camp” of where you’ll be at for the biggest chunk of the trip and search in that area.
2. Work within your budget. I have seen too many people (myself included) look at the beautiful hotels that are 3x your available budget, get frustrated, and just book whatever cheap hotel they came across next. This is a recipe for disaster. So before you start looking at the Ritz and Plaza’s of the world, choose only the pricing options within your budget. I generally use Expedia to find my hotels, however almost any site will have pricing options with the rest of their filter choices. Use these and find that you shed less tears for having not seen that amazing indoor pool with a freaking palace ceiling above it (I’ve blocked the hotel I saw this at because frankly, my dear, I give too much of a damn).
3. Narrow down the options. Now that you’ve chosen the hotels that will work for your location and within your budget, look at the ones remaining. Do you need to have (or feel that hotels should include because it’s 2014 and we aren’t heathens) free wifi? Do you need cheap/free/any parking close to the hotel? Does it need to be near a dry cleaner for the dress you spilled mustard on from that amazing hot dog you just HAD to have from the sidewalk vendor? Eliminate those that don’t have what you need no matter how pretty they are. All done? Good job! You’ve now narrowed down hotels to those that will meet your basic needs.
4. NOW look at the pretty. Check the hotel’s photos and reviews with not only the website you’re surfing to book through, but also TripAdvisor. If you do nothing else I recommend, USE TRIPADVISOR! I have rarely been let down by the reviews and photos posted on this site. And hey, if the extra pretty hotel is in your budget go for it. If it’s not, and you won’t be spending much time at the hotel anyways, don’t go for it. Pay attention to key points in reviews – is it perfect for a one night stay or a week? Are the beds comfortable or hard? Loud or quiet halls? These all feed into the hotel being Mr. Right or Mr. Not Even For One Night.
5. Check the mobile app of the site you use. So, you’ve chosen the location, the price, the amenities, the pretty, and now all you need to do is book the perfect hotel through the web, right? Nope! There are absolutely great deals to be had online at any given moment, however a little known fact of deals is checking your chosen website’s mobile app. As I said, I use Expedia and I’ve found offers for mobile booking. You may get extra points which can get you to higher rewards or you might get a crazy awesome discount. I’ve booked a $400/night hotel for around $189/night. That’s exactly how I planned a weekend at the Omni Shoreham in DC back in April. Nothing more than double checking the rate I found.
From that point on you should be pretty solid in the decision you’ve made and all you have left to do is send your new booking to your Kayak “My Trips” account and wait! I’ll be the first to admit that it isn’t a foolproof method but it has rarely disappointed. Do you have any tips or tricks for how to book the perfect hotel?
Wishing you a myriad of mobile-only deals,