Choosing the wrong hotel can have a major impact on your holiday. It can mean sleepless nights, or expensive taxi fares or being stuck in the middle of nowhere with no entertainment. Sometimes things go wrong suddenly, things that cannot be planned for a flood in the hotel, a traffic accident outside the door but with some research you should be able to find the hotel that’s right for you.
The most important thing to remember is not to book the first thing you see. This applies whether you are booking independently using the Internet or using the services of a travel agent. Earmark a couple of hotels that interest you, then spend some time doing a bit of research before you make that reservation.
There are loads of specialist websites – such as Helium – that give the low-down on hotels and guest houses; don’t just trust the agent’s recommendations, these sites enable ordinary people to write reviews on places they’ve stayed. The sites are independent meaning that there’s no bias.
If you are in the travel agent’s office, ask the agent to consult the “Gazetteer”; this publication contains the information the brochures don’t usually list and can sometimes alert you to possible drawbacks.
Draw up a list of your requirements and mark them “essential” or “desirable”. Now you can start to match your requirements against the facilities and location of the hotel. If you can’t find some points listed in the brochure or website, then telephone or e-mail the hotel and ask. For the time it takes to do this you could save yourself a lot of heartache. You may find that a hotel does not say that it has rooms that are accessible for wheelchairs but you find out it does when you contact them. Some hotels will be extremely accommodating so do have a try if there is somewhere that you’d really like to stay.
The following points are the ones that should be your main concerns:
Price remember to shop around. Don’t go for the first price. Visit a price comparison website that might be able to find a cheaper room rate for you. Looking to reduce costs by sharing bathroom facilities? How many bathrooms are on each floor? How many rooms share a bathroom you don’t want to be waiting to get into the shower when you have dinner reservations.
Location do you want to be in the heart of the city or somewhere more quiet? If you are planning a weekend in the country can the hotel meet all your needs? If they don’t serve meals, is there somewhere nearby to eat? If you are arriving by car is there parking provided? If you have no transport, is there a station or bus stop nearby? What’s in the area? Is it on a noisy main road? Or close to pubs and clubs that might be noisy in the early hours? Does it have a sea view? Use one of the great on-line resources to pinpoint the hotel location on the map, you zoom in close and see what’s in that locality.
Special requirements is the hotel able to cater for special diets? Are there grab rails in bathrooms for people with disabilities? Are there wheelchair accessible rooms? Can the hotel provide synthetic pillows and bedding for allergy sufferers? These are things you should check in advance rather than crossing your fingers and hoping for the best.
Business requirements Does the hotel have wi-fi facilities? Or Internet access in the bedrooms? Is there a desk to work at? Is the lighting adequate for working?
Sometimes you need to be realistic and understand that you might not be able to get exactly what you require; this is sometimes the case if you book late or if you want to visit at very busy times when special events are taking place. In those circumstances you should first ask the hotel if they can meet your needs. If they can’t meet them they are likely to be able to recommend another hotel that can; hotels do try to work together if possible and sometimes reciprocate when other hotels pass customers on to them.
If your needs still can’t be met fully, decide where you can compromise; you don’t need to start a new search, simply strike off those points that are merely desirable and focus on those first.
When your stay is over, don’t forget to come back to Helium and let others know about your experience; it’s only courtesy and you could save someone else from booking the wrong hotel!