I always find that selecting the hotel is the hardest decision for any trip. It comes along with so many additional questions that need to be answered. I am not married to any hotel chain loyalty program so the field is wide open. Finding a hotel is like buying a house; although the commitment for hotel may only be one night the same rules apply…location, location and location!
For me it is a game of 20 questions or more:
- How big is the city?
- Where do I plan to spend most of my time?
- How long will I be there?
- What are my local transport options?
- What neighborhood do I want to stay in?
- Are there any restaurants and/or evening entertainment options within walking distance?
- Will I be driving? Is there a fee for parking?
- What are my hotel amenity needs?
- Do I plan on spending any time in my hotel room other than sleeping and showering?
- Is there any outdoor space?
- Do I want a pool?
- What time is check in / check out?
- Do I need luggage storage before check in or after check out?
- Do I need to be concerned about security?
- Does it include breakfast? Bonus points!
- Are there additional taxes or resort fees not included in price shown online?
- Is there free wifi?
- Is it possible to book non-smoking room?
- Is there an elevator to carry luggage?
- Is there air conditioning?
So with all of these questions I start the process by getting a basic understanding of major sights and neighborhoods to get a lay of the land.
Google Maps is an amazing way to get an overview of where things are located and I love the street view!
Lonely Planet will help you identify the top attractions you want to visit in that city.
Google the city or country you are traveling for tour itineraries. For example: “Mendoza tours” will give you a quick list of top tourism sights to consider.
Wikitravel will give an overview of the city districts and suburbs; following links to each district will have tourism sights.
Tripadvisor.com is an excellent source of independent traveller reviews. However I always take their reviews with a grain of salt as I don’t know what their baseline travel experience and expectations might be. It is like asking a waiter if a particular dish is spicy; it is all relative. I generally focus on a blend of the comments but love looking at the traveller photos that were posted.
When it comes to actually looking for availability and prices I personally like Expedia as it allows so many different sort and filter options. It always has a map view with $ so you can easily see the most inexpensive and most expensive areas. I avoid the pre-paid option unless there is a difference in price. Similar to my strategy with booking flights I try to book directly with hotels if possible. However Expedia is my second choice as it has great prices and you can earn points the help you get better rates in the future!
There are a few alternatives to staying in a hotel that I would recommend that you explore. Be prepared with specific questions if you are in need of any specific amenities. I do find that with these options I might need to be specific about your arrival time in order to be greeted and receive the keys. However in many instances the additional planning is well rewarded with local advice!
Airbnb is independent people renting their home, apartment 0r even a room as an option. This is usually at a reasonable rate lower than hotel prices but limited availability at times. This also gives you the option to “cook at home” which can be exciting adventure to the grocery store and save money.
Vrbo is again independent people renting their home or apartment usually for a week or weekend timeframe. I have used this several times for family vacations with great success. This again is a great option to allow you to “cook at home” and save some money.
TIP: Change your google browser to the country specific version of google browser then search for bed & breakfast. This may require a little extra effort in translating pages but I have found some local treasures through this solution.
For example: “Google Argentina browser” I find that “.ar” is the local country extension so I change my url to “google.com.ar”; then in the search “bed and breakfast Mendoza”. I will find local bed & breakfast places that do not appear on the US Google search browser. I also use this trick to search for hotels, tours, restaurants etc.
Sometimes all the other questions get tossed aside and it simply comes down to the amazing view you can enjoy from your hotel room. On several instances for me it has been location, location, location with a view please!