I hate to admit it but I happen to judge the place I’m visiting by the accommodation I’m staying at. It’s unfair but it does influence the overall experience. Few years ago we went for a short city break to Madrid and decided to treat ourselves to a very nice, although a bit quirky, hotel. The hotel was far from the city centre which meant it took us ages to get into town any time we wanted to visit a museum and have dinner in a local restaurant. We ended up spending most of the day in town and were coming back too exhausted to venture out again later in the evening. This time, even though the hotel itself was great the location was not convenient at all. We had the opposite experience in Nice, France, where we were staying two blocks away from the main square, but I can still remember the stale smell of our tiny hotel room.
I know it’s almost impossible to find a perfect accommodation in a perfect location when your budget is limited… For the last couple of years our best solution was AirBnB, where we rented apartments and private rooms instead of hotel rooms. This way we were able to stay in Manhattan during our New York trip in a lovely bright (and big for NY standards) apartment and we didn’t have to travel for hours every day to get to the heart of NYC. On our last trip to the US, we have decided to go for private rooms/Bed&Breakfast. It worked out even cheaper and it was a perfect solution for the road trip, as we stayed in one place for no more than 3 days. Thanks to that we met wonderful people, both fellow travelers (with whom we shared our experience during breakfasts) or our hosts who, as locals, suggested places to visit and bars/restaurants to go to.
While looking for a place to stay I always rely on suggestions from family and friends and the reviews from AirBnB, TripAdvisor and Booking.com. However, it takes time and skills to filter through the reviews that actually apply to your travelling style. I find it most difficult to find the perfect location – very often “close to city centre” does not mean it is a great place to stay as every district, even in smaller cities, differs significantly and so do people’s tastes. After so many years and so many travels I still think that in a good deal of cases I would stay in different places if I ever returned there. Does it mean my research methods are not efficient enough? I prefer to think that our tastes are a bit more original!
Location and appropriate standard/cleanliness are the most important aspects when booking accommodation. If it happens that a hotel staff is nice, welcoming, helpful and resourceful then perfect! If not, then it causes more trouble for the hotel/management and overall quality of the service than my personal well-being.
The view always adds value… both to the quality of the stay, memories you take out from the trip and your experience but unfortunately to the final bill as well.
If booking hotel we try to compare prices between the third party websites and directly on the hotels’ websites. Even though booking agencies/websites give some payment security it happens that rooms booked through third parties are of worse quality. We got a doggy little room with no windows when we checked-in to our hotel room in Lagos, Portugal, and only after a complaint we got a bigger and brighter one (with no view, but better!). The receptionist was very frank with us and said that we got the initial room because we did not book directly with the hotel. I’m not saying it’s a rule! I’m just sharing my own experience.
In some places and certain situations mobile apps like HotelTonight may come in handy as they provide discounted prices (for up to a half price) for hotel rooms on the day of your stay – just look for a room in the morning of your arrival. It’s not for everybody but when you have flexibility or you’re going to a place like Las Vegas where there will always be a spare room in one of the hotels, then it works great.