How to Choose a Hotel

Hooray! You’ve booked your trip and now it’s time to choose a place to stay. 

Oh, the opportunities! With a wealth of possibilities at the tip of your fingers, you can book your dream hotel within minutes.

Unfortunately, with all that variety comes overthinking. Simultaneously, the best and worst feature of this process is that there are so. many. choices!

And it’s not just the sea of hotel options that make the entire process incredibly overwhelming; it’s the vast ocean of amenities within those options that take it to the next level. It’s very easy to fall into the hotel website rabbit hole and come out the other side worse off than you began.

Considering that this decision can quickly make or break the well-being of your trip experience, it is important that you book wisely. But don’t forget that planning your trip is part of the experience, too!

Don’t sweat it! This doesn’t need to be a stressful operation. Break it all down until you know exactly what you’re looking for and you’ll have no trouble trusting your intuition.

To make it as simple as possible, we will divide it into four categories: location, amenities, value, and reviews. Follow along — you’ll be sinking deep into that plush white comforter in no time.

Metro Hotel, London, Canada.

Metro Hotel, London, Canada.

Location

The most important aspect in your search is determining where you’d like to stay. This can be daunting in and of itself so the more specific you can be, the easier it’ll be to narrow down your options.

Think about all of the places and things you’d like to see when you’re there. Most cities will have specific neighbourhoods so if you map everything out, you’ll be able to identify a central area. Likely you’ll be able to pinpoint a specific neighbourhood and reduce your options down to that area. 

From there you’ll need to be honest with yourself: is budget or location more important? Personally, I would rather walk a few blocks to my destination in order to save a few dollars, while others prefer to pay more for a superb location. 

Is the look of your hotel room more important than the cost?

Boheme AirBNB, Tulum, Mexico.

Boheme AirBNB, Tulum, Mexico.

Further, accessibility is an often overlooked and underrated piece to consider. It goes without saying that if you have specific needs for accessibility, you’ll need to do your research (and if you do, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that). But give some thought to how much access you’ll need to things like grocery stores, public transit, or the airport. Perhaps you found a beautiful hotel but it takes you two hours to get downtown — is it really that nice, after all?

Maybe you’re expecting to arrive late. It’s useful to understand how easy the check in procedure is. Some AirBNBs have a self check in options but others require a full guided tour through the building before you can set your bags down. 

If you’re driving, have you considered where to park and what that might cost you?

Plan out all the details before you dig into your search so you can easily weed out the ones that don’t suit your location needs. 

TIP: As you find rooms that catch your eye, open them in a new tab within your browser. When the time comes to start eliminating, you can simply exit the page and slowly narrow down your options until the winner is revealed.

Amenities

Well done! You’ve conquered the hardest part. Now for the fun stuff. 

First thing to remember is that the fewer frills you enjoy, the more money you’ll keep in your pocket. There’s a reason full-service luxury hotel rooms cost what they do. So before you go and check off every filter available, take a step back and be realistic with your actual needs. 

Unless you’re planning on spending your entire trip in your hotel room, you likely won’t have time to enjoy that full kitchen. Instead, maybe just focus on the places you’d get more use out of, like a really great pool or a highly-rated restaurant. If you’re traveling for work, a desk is useful. But probably not high on the list if you’re traveling for leisure.

Suites Malecon, Cancun, Mexico.

Suites Malecon, Cancun, Mexico.

Much like with determining a location, the more specific you can get with which amenities you’ll actually require, the more likely you’ll find the perfect hotel. So do you want to be pampered with luxury, surrounded by glamorous furniture and decadent shampoos? Or are you a bare essentials kind of person?

Browse the ‘filters’ area to eliminate anything that doesn’t suit your requirements and start opening those new browser tabs. 

TIP: Sometimes, the more ideal the location, the more expensive amenities tend to be. If you’re in a prime location, you may even have to pay for WIFI simply because people tend to pay a premium for ease of access. If you check just a few blocks away, prices may drop significantly.

Value

Okay, so there’s two parts to this one: monetary value and personal value. Both equally important when it comes to accommodations.

With monetary value, it’s important to recognize that more expensive does not always equal better quality. There are so many overpriced rooms out there just waiting for naive people to make hasty assumptions. Don’t be fooled! 

First things first: establish your budget! We touched on this briefly with location and we’ll do so again here. This piece is key because it’s going to ensure you stick to your guns and don’t get caught in the upsell. Hotel websites are notorious for adding “just a few dollars per night” for an upgrade, which ultimately turns into a double digit price increase once you finally make it to the payment. With your budget in mind, you can set the price limit filter to remove anything above your ideal price. 

Temptations will have nothing on you, my friend!

Anajak Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand.

Anajak Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand.

Second, shop around and get a feel for the average price per night for the location you’ve chosen. This will give you an idea of what your budget is going to get you. You’ll now be able to tell if something is way over or under priced. Use this knowledge to determine what your dollars are worth. More often than not, the $80 hotel holds more value than the $200 hotel when you factor in the reality that you may not use half of the fancy amenities that come with it (don’t forget that the spa option doesn’t come for free!) and you recognize that you’re paying an extra $120 for a couple of extra square feet or a slightly larger bed. 

Instead, look for freebies that others don’t offer! Is breakfast included? Do they offer restaurant vouchers? Is WIFI access free? These little perks can increase the value of a room exponentially. If you sign up for loyalty programs, you will often qualify for free upgrades or other unique experiences. It pays to ask!

Now, when we talk about personal value, these are the amenities or features that you may not necessarily need but those that make you feel good or come in line with the principles you live by.

For example, if you are conscious of the environment, you might spend a little more to stay at an eco-friendly resort. If you’re a penny pincher, budget-friendly places like hostels may be what you’re looking for. Perhaps it’s high quality customer service or you prefer character over function. Whatever you value, seek out a room that matches your style. 

TIP: Always ask for an upgrade at check in. The worst thing they can tell you is ‘no’ but the sky is the limit when it comes to ‘yes’ so don’t be shy! There might just be a bigger room with your name on it. Not only is this just plain awesome but think of the added value you’ll earn from a single question! 

AirBNB in Playa Del Carmen.

AirBNB in Playa Del Carmen.

Reviews

At this point, your browser should be full of great options that suit your needs, your values, and your location… and you didn’t even go over budget, did you? Dang, you’re a quick learner, huh?

So how do we whittle down these results into one bookable champion?

Well, this is a tricky one. You have to be careful not to believe everything you read. There’s something about the internet that turns people into Negative Nancys and they will prey on every little human error that they can find and blow it out of proportion. Because they can.

We could also say the same for positive reviews posted by friends of the manager. You just can’t be sure of the facts when its an open forum. Instead, develop a sense for reading between the lines by identifying trends from one site to another. 

If one Nancy reviewed somewhere as having “the worst customer service of any hotel in the entire world” but everyone else felt well taken care of, it’s likely that Nancy was exaggerating just a little bit and probably just having a bad day. But if 15 people have stated that the “free breakfast” is actually just a stale bagel with an upgrade fee, chances are they’re right.

Furthermore, everyone has their own expectations and opinions. Try to find reviews from like-minded individuals. If you’re in the market for a pair of skinny jeans, you’re better off getting recommendations from a trendy friend who has a similar style. The old man next door who only wears baggy sweat pants won’t be of much help. 

It’s the same on hotel websites. Some people love old school floral wallpapered rooms and will whine about how ugly modern rooms are, or vice versa. Take every review with a grain of salt and be thorough in your research. 

As you decide against an option, close the browser tabs, until you’re left with your perfect place.

TIP: Clear your browser cookies and do a quick search on all websites for the hotel you’ve chosen (including the hotel’s website) for the lowest price available for the same room. When you’ve found it, lock it in and step away. 

 
HOW TO CHOOSE A HOTEL

Time to start packing

You’ve done good work; don’t second guess yourself and fall back into the rabbit hole.

It’s time to move on to the rest of your travel planning!