One of the biggest parts of planning a trip is choosing a hotel. There are so many different options out there, and not all of them will be an ideal fit. So how do you pick a good one? Here are some tips to help you decide between the different kinds of hotel options, and the questions you should ask to help you pick the right one.
Figure out your budget
If you already know your budget, it will be much easier to narrow down your options. Try and figure out exactly how much you want to spend on accommodation for the whole trip. Once you’ve figured out the total budget for your trip, break it down to the maximum amount you’d like to spend each night. You may not be able to stick to this number if there are multiple destinations on your itinerary, but at least you’ll have a better idea of how the overall cost can be balanced out.
Pro Tip: Use caution when looking at hotels with extremely low prices. The cost of running a hotel is not cheap, and if the normal nightly rate is much lower than the average rates of similar hotels, it’s possible the hotel is cutting costs on things like housekeeping, maintenance or security.
Find the right neighbourhood
Next, try to figure out which area you would prefer to stay in. Take into consideration things like the safety of the neighbourhood and the cost of transportation to attractions, restaurants, airports, etc. I like to use Google Maps to pin all the important places on my itinerary and work out the approximate distance to and from each one.
If you don’t know much about the city you’re travelling to, check out the Travel Safe – Abroad website to see the local risk level. If you’re travelling within the United States, try using StreetAdvisor to see reviews of the local area. You can also see the walkability of neighbourhoods in North America using Redfin’s WalkScore tool.
Look at your options
Once you’ve decided on a neighbourhood and know what your budget is, it’s time to choose a hotel. When narrowing down your list of accommodation options, it’s good to know the differences between certain types of hotels.
Chain hotels carry the brand of a company that owns or manages more than one property, such as Hilton, Best Western, Sheraton or Marriott. These hotels are a good option for those who like reliability and can be ideal for business travelers or those who need to organize a large function.
Boutique hotels are small hotels, usually known for their trendy and sometimes eccentric designs. Basic rooms tend to be higher-priced than chain hotels, but offer much more character. Many boutique hotels hire local designers to decorate rooms and source locally-make products for guests to enjoy.
Resorts usually occupy a larger area of land than regular hotels and offer a wider range of amenities and activities for guests to experience. Resorts are usually located in rural or beachfront areas. Depending on the type of resort, these properties can be great for families or those wishing to enjoy a relaxing vacation. Some resorts offer an all-inclusive option, which means food and drinks within the hotel are included (restaurant options and hours may be limited).
Motels are generally designed for motorists. They’re similar to hotels except that the rooms almost always have outdoor entryways and most properties have a large central parking area. These are usually lower-budget options, and are great for those on road trips, however many can be in remote locations so guests should stay vigilant regarding personal safety.
Eco hotels are dedicated to environmental sustainability and are often involved in helping the local areas they’re located in. Though most self-labeled eco hotels are genuinely environmentally-focused, it’s a good idea to research the property to ensure that it’s as committed as it claims to be. Check out this great guide on how to find eco accommodation around the world!
Bed & Breakfasts are usually small properties with a limited number of private rooms featuring communal living and dining areas. They are often self-managed by a live-in host and though guests may be limited to coming and going within certain hours, they are a great option for those seeking a personalized local experience.
Hostels are usually the cheapest form of accommodation and feature mainly dorm-style rooms. Dorms often provide beds for between 4-10 people, though rooms in some hostels can accommodate many more. Guests can choose between female-only or co-ed dorms, and bathrooms are shared between roommates or entire floors. Other communal areas usually include a kitchen and dining area, lounge/tv room and outdoor patio.
Micro hotels have rooms that are smaller than the average hotel room and are usually offered at a much lower price. They can range from a mini version of a small hotel room to simply beds in a pod or capsule. These are a great option for budget travelers and those planning to spend most of their time away from their hotel room. They are mainly located in larger cities and airports, though more options are popping up around the world as the trend grows in popularity. Though rooms are private, these properties sometimes have shared areas similar to hostels.
Apartment hotels, also known as serviced apartments or extended-stay hotels, are becoming more and more popular, particularly due to platforms such as Airbnb. These suites are set up like a private apartment and include a full- or half-sized kitchen and living room. They’re a great option for families, as well as those planning long-term stays.
Holiday homes, also known as vacation properties, are houses or cottages that are usually offered as short-term rentals when they aren’t being used by their own private owners. These are another good option for families or larger groups.
Things to consider
Are you traveling with kids or pets?
Not every hotel is family-friendly, or allows animal guests. If a place does meet the requirements you need for your travel buddies, make sure you scan the reviews to make sure others have been treated well. Also be aware of any extra charges for things like cribs/cots or pet deposits.
Will you have to pay extra fees?
Always look for extra fees. Make sure things you’ll be using, such as wifi or parking are included in the rate, and if they aren’t, make sure you know how much extra they might end up costing you during your stay. If you’re using a third-party app to book your accommodation, make sure that the quoted price is the final price.
What time will you be arriving?
Be aware of how the check-in time for the hotel corresponds with your arrival time. If you arrive much earlier than the check-in time, try to get in touch with the hotel well in advance so they know to accommodate you if they have a room ready early. Be aware, however, that this might not be possible so it’s a good idea to look at alternative ways you can spend your time if you can’t get a room right away. Ask questions like:
- Does the hotel have a lounge area where you can wait?
- Are hotel facilities such as the pool open and accessible to you?
- Are there activities nearby that you can do, or places to eat?
- Will the hotel be able to securely stow any extra luggage and/or watch your pets during this time?
If the answers to the above questions are no, it might be worth either making your reservation one extra night in advance or looking at different accommodation options.
Have you researched the hotel?
It’s always a good idea to read reviews on multiple platforms before committing to a hotel. For instance, I like to read reviews on Booking.com because the site only allows people to leave feedback after they’ve booked and stayed in the property, but I also use TripAdvisor to look at pictures since they usually have more photos uploaded by travelers.
Make sure to always read both the good and bad reviews. Be especially wary of places that have reviews mentioning health or safety shortfalls, however, remember that people are more likely to leave a bad review than a good one, so focus on the content of bad reviews, rather than the number of them.
Roomer – This is an awesome website that allows travelers to purchase hotel reservations that others can no longer use. Not only can you help someone who can’t get a refund on their booking, you also get to see discounted rates on some great properties around the world. The search function allows you to compare rates from TripAdvisor and HotelsCombined, so you know how much you’re saving.
Day Use – This site lets you search for hotel rooms you can just use for the day, which is great if you’re on a short stopover or need somewhere to get a few hours’ sleep before the check-in time at another hotel. Many of the properties listed are 4- and 5-star hotels, with rates that are much cheaper than an overnight booking.
Home To Go – This is a search engine and booking platform specifically for Vacation Rental properties. It’s similar to Airbnb, and the search function allows you to compare rates on 6 other booking sites.
Ready for your trip?
I’ve created a printable travel planner that will help make trip planning a breeze. This 7-page PDF has spots to fill in hotel details that will be useful both before and during your stay, emergency info, must-do activities and more. It is available as an instant digital download in the Onwards + Upwards shop.
I’ve also written a guide on how to stay safe and healthy at your hotel. It is especially good for solo travellers to be aware of the questions they should ask before booking and what things you should check when you’ve checked in.
You can also check out my big list of the best free travel apps, which can help you plan every aspect of your trip. This useful post also includes some basic information on travel SIM cards and VPNs.
*Please note that this article was written prior to the Covid-19 pandemic so some information may have changed.